Finding good wine under $10


In tasting a lot of wine, one learns that price does not always dictate quality. However, in general, it can be a good indicator of what the bottle has in store. That’s why it’s exciting to find inexpensive wine that delivers well over its price tag. We can usually find a good number of wines under $20 that do this. Finding good wines under $10 can be more of a challenge. And since some of us are keeping our purse strings tighter, spending even $7 on a wine is an investment we would like to be sure pays off. 

Luckily, there are a few go-to regions or styles that consistently offer great value wines for around $10 a bottle.

cristalino

Cava – you cannot go wrong with most Cavas. Dry and crisp, this style of bubbly is a perfect solution for getting your bubble fix without breaking into the savings. Great as an aperitif, with some chinese take out, or in Mimosa form. Try Cristalino Brut Cava or Segura Viudas.

Vinho Verde – Refreshing. That’s the best word that describes this wine. Slightly fizzy, oh so slightly sweet, very low alcohol, crisp & fruity. We love this wine. It is perfect for lunch or on a hot day. Also makes a wildly good white sangria! Try Broadbent or Aveleda.

Chenin Blanc from South Africa – The most planted variety in the country, Southkanu Africa makes some pretty awesome dry Chenin Blanc. Similar to Sauvignon Blanc in  style, but with a slightly richer texture and lacking the grassy element of SB, Chenin is a great crisp, fresh wine. Some producers in the $10 range include Kanu, Indaba and MAN Vintners

Red cdrRhone blends – Rhone blends are great food wine and great party wines. An added benefit of being a blend is the ability to change the blend percentages each  year, depending on which grape variety fared best in each vintage. This creates  consistency in quality. Look for Cotes-du-Rhones from France – ‘05,’06 and ‘07 were excellent years.  Australia also make great value blends.

Spanish Monastrell – otherwise known as Mourvedre, the grape actually hails from Spain originally, but is now an integral part of the blends in the Southern Rhone, as well as Rhone blends around the world. In Spain, the vine thrives in the hot, dry weather of Jumilla and Yecla, where it produces dense, concentrated wines with lots of jammy fruit and low price tags. Spicy and smooth, these are great value wines. Try the Bodega Castano Monastrell.

Wine Education Wednesday – Ribera del Duero

Region: Ribera del Duero

Country: Spain (located north-central, in Castille & Lyon)

Grape(s): The wines of Ribera del Duero are almost exclusively red. White wines are rare and not exported. The reds come primarily from a variation of Tempranillo, which goes by the name of Tinto Fino or Tinto del Pais here. Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Malbec are allowed and often used in the blend.  Garnacha is used for rosados.

What’s it taste like:  If you’re buying a bottle at $20 or less, you’re likely to get black cherry and plum notes, with bright acidity and dusty, yet smooth tannins. You may find some to be smoky and others to be more jammy. It’s a good idea to read tasting notes on each producer. On the higher end, expect notes of tobacco, licorice, blackberry and minerals. Firm tannins, sometimes rustic, but also with an old-world elegance. The best wines of the area are refreshing, yet sturdy and complex, with an ability to age and mature gracefully. Power + Finesse is what the best wines offer.

Rules & Regulations: Ribera del Duero is a DO, or Denominacion de Origen, which is a quality level that adheres to specific standards set down by a governing body, or Consejo Regulador, for each region. It has been one since 1982. If you care to delve in and learn the nitty gritty on the DO system and Ribera del Duero's regulations, check out Wines from Spain (www.winesfromspain.com). They know their stuff.

Producers: Tpesquerahe most famous wine of the region is Vega Sicilia, possibly the most expensive and sought-after wine in Spain. Tasting this wine can be a magical experience. I had the honor of tasting both the ‘68 and the ‘70 in NYC once. This was 6 years ago and it is still fresh in my memory, ranking as one of the top wine tasting experiences ever. 
Other producers include:
Value ($20 or under): Torres Celeste, Vina Gormaz, Abadia Retuerta – these three producers create wines that generally show intense fruit and smooth tannins.
Higher End: Emilio Moro, Condado de Haza, Pesquera, Comenge,  Aalto

What are some of your favorite producers?

Best way to quickly chill a bottle of wine


In the heat of summer (extreme heat if you’re in the NW), we often find ourselves wanting a cold glass of wine, but realizing we lacked the foresight to have put one in the fridge earlier that day. In which case we need some fast measures to chill that bottle. Here are some of my favorite ways to do that.

Ice bucket & water – The most effective method is to fill a bucket with ice and some water and submerge your bottle in it for 10 – 20 minutes. Ice won’t cut it – you must add water to make it work and work faster.

Frozen bottle – You may be lacking ice or bucket or both. For these cases, keep an empty wine bottle in the freezer and pour the new wine into that (or at least enough for a couple of glasses). It won’t be ice cold, but it will cool down in about 10 minutes.

Ice Jacket – Invest in an ice jacket or two. Keep them in the freezer and when your need to chill that bottle down, slip it on the bottle AND put the bottle in the freezer (with jacket on) for about 10 minutes.

Ice cubes – It may seem wrong, but remember that wine is mostly water, so if you’re not digging deep into the cellar, throw an ice cube or two into that glass to cool it down. Think of it this way – If it’s not a wine you can put an ice cube in, it’s worth the wait to cool down… 

How has the economy affected your drinking habits?

 2 glasses
Wine Spectator recently released results from an online poll that asked: “What are you drinking now?” The responses reflected what the numbers have told us this past year as well: Consumers are abandoning the higher-priced or hard-to-get bottles and going for value. This typically means under $20, often under $15, occasionally under $10, but all with the same goal – To find that sweet spot where quality meets value.

We recently noted that this trend of consumers buying at lower price points has in fact brought prices down on some more spendy wines. We even added an option on our site to search by savings since some of the deals are so crazy good.

Now we want to hear what changes you’ve made – give us some stories and specifics. Have you sacrificed a $20 bottle for a $10 one? Switched grapes? Regions? Producers? Trying lots of new things?

This is what we want to know – What are you drinking and why? We’ll include some of your responses in our Wine Club Newsletter.

A Riesling to Try


A question I keep posing these days has to do with what one drinks when temperatures reach into the 100s. In the Northwest, temps are hovering at 102 degrees. This is an area where many homes lack air conditioning, so keeping cool requires fans, basements and cool drinks. When I ask what is most refresohne rieslingshing in this weather, an answer I frequently get is Riesling.

Riesling is a perfect hot weather drink as it is extremely refreshing, while still very fruit driven. The acidity and lower alcohol are a perfect match for quenching your wine thirst. Even when served ultra cold, Riesling’s layers of fruit and minerality can show through.

One to try is the Schmitt Sohne Thomas Schmitt Riesling QBA 2007. At $15, this wine is perfect for summer. Great acidity with ripe peach fruit backed by some good mineral notes. Fruity but crisp & a good, strong finish. Great for hot nights and/or spicy fare. 

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