Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Wine'ing Wednesdays: Tips & Recommendations for Buying Inexpensive Wines

This recession is not over yet and it’s making me thirsty! Below are some the best tips I’ve come across when it comes to buying great inexpensive wines.
  • Identify what you like and ask store what they suggest at your price point.
  • Ask to sample a wine before purchase
  • Buy in Bulk
  • Pay no attention to the bottle topper: cork, synthetic, screw tops ~ It doesn’t matter
  • If you think your fooling anyone by ordering the 2nd least expensive bottle. Restaurants are on to you (and everyone on else) and commonly mark up the least expensive bottles the most so you end up buying it anyway.
  • The depression on the bottom of the bottle (called the “punt”) is put there to strengthen the glass. Some say the bigger the depression, the better the wine since it shows the winemakers pride in protecting their wine.

And just a few of my favs from this Wall Street Journal article :

Look out for Animals: In the past few years, there has been a profusion of inexpensive wines with cute animals on the labels. We have tasted these wines and they are generally less attractive than the labels. Of course, some good wines happen to have animals on the labels — consider Stag’s Leap or Iron Horse from California, for instance — but, especially when it comes to less-expensive wines, we’d avoid wines where the cute animal seems to be the main point of the wine. A humdinger of a tale about the animal is often a clue that this is a wine to avoid.

More Booze isn’t always Better: Too many wines today have too much alcohol, which leaves them unbalanced. Sure, there are some classic wines with fairly high alcohol levels, but many of today’s regular table wines — Merlot, Chardonnay, Shiraz, Zinfandel — have levels at 15% or above. Some of those might be terrific, but if we had nothing else to go on, we’d look for alcohol content at about 14% and below.

Sometime Old Wine are Just Old: The vast majority of wines at the store are meant to be drunk right away, so you want to make sure the wine isn’t too old, particularly if you’re buying it expecting lively, fresh fruitiness.


1. Big House 2008 White (California); $10. Continues the solid trend of this label producing some of the best values in California.Dry, crisp and delicious, with mineral-infused flavors of oranges, honeysuckle and buttered toast. A blend of Malvasia Bianca, Muscat Canelli, Viognier and Roussanne.

2. Messias 2007 Quinta do Penedo (Dão); $6. A big dense wine, as tough as the rocks that make up the Dão soil. Its fruit iscertainly there, a welter of black berries and plums. But in this young wine, the tannins are still in charge. This is going to develop, opening up, becoming less mineral, over the next three years. Imported by Luiz’s Grocery And Liquors.

3. Pacific Rim 2008 Organic Riesing (Columbia Valley (WA); $14. Made with organic grapes, this hits just 10.5% alcohol and 3.8% residual sugar. Honey, jasmine and tea notes take the off-dry style to a refined level, with the sweetness perfectly proportionate to the acid.

4. Marlargo 2006 Fingers Crossed Red (South Australia); $15. This unlikely blend of 87% Shiraz and 13% Petit Verdot hits the right notes for a bargain sipper, boasting plenty of weight and an interesting juxtaposition of raspberry fruit with dark chocolate. Earthy notes provide depth, and the finish is surprisingly silky for a wine in this price range. Drink now. Imported by Marlargo Wines.

5. Rietvallei Estate Wine 2008 John B. Sauvignon Blanc-Colombar (Robertson); $9. Fruity, floral and feminine, this cheerful white blends Sauvignon Blanc and Colombar. On the nose—lemon zest, minerals and tropical fruit—and on the palate, fruity but crisp citrus flavors are balanced by fresh acidity. Want a go-to summer white for everything from grilled seafood to Indian cuisine? Check this out. Imported by Confluence Wine Importers.

6. Viña Requingua 2007 Puerto Viejo Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon (Curicó Valley); $11. A well-done, affordable Cabernet with all the qualities it should have. There are flowery, lavender notes to the black-fruit bouquet, and ripeness, depth and solid tannins in the mouth. The flavor profile of cola, blackberry and chocolate works just fine, and the finish is long and hints at bitter chocolate and tobacco. Imported by Puerto Viejo Wines.

7. Hecht & Bannier 2008 Rosé Syrah (Vin de Pays d’Oc); $10. Lovely lilac florals on the nose along with ripe raspberry and honeydew. Round palate with flavors of cherry and mango lifted by bright pineapple core acidity. Quite the lengthy finish for a rosé. Delicious; a steal for $10. Imported by Frederick Wildman & Sons, Ltd.

8. Segura Viudas NV Brut Reserva (Cava); $10. After a soda-like start that may seem aggressive, this one really settles into a groove. The nose blends citrus and wild greenherb aromas, while the palate has perfectly composed orange and peach flavors. The finish is solid and around every turn it holds the road. Great for the price. Imported by Freixenet USA.

9. Dao Sul 2007 Cabriz Colheita Seleccionada (Dão); $9. Rich, flowery wine that shows the potential for white wines in the Dão region. While it keeps plenty of lemon zest acidity, the apricot and peach flavors combine well with pears. There is spice from wood, but the fruit is the thing with this great food wine. Imported by Aidil Wines & Liquor Inc.

10. Rendition 2007 Petite Sirah (Alexander Valley); $9. Great price for a big, powerful red like this. Tough in tannins now, it shows classic flavors of currants, mocha, anise and pepper, and will develop over time. Classy and impressive.


Nikki T said...

I have to disagree with a few points made in the articles referenced: The animal label wines - nicknamed in the industry "critter wines" hardly reflect the quality of the wine, rather, they are just a popular advertising trend affecting all pricepoints. It's interesting: most wine purchasers are actually women... and cute animals on wine bottles just evoke a positive response with our kind. Critter wine recommendation: Monkey Bay Sauv Bl: From New Zealand, happens to have a cute monkey on the label. It's been recommended as a best buy in several reputable publications AND it's under 12 bucks. And for the punt on the bottle, yeah, it strengthens the glass, but zero correlation to the wine's quality. Champagne bottles do have a deeper depression, only for the simple reason the juice is under something like 80lbs pressure in there.

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