Kitchen 'Rithmetic: Cheap Wine
When it comes to wine, how low can you go?
As part of its recent Cheap Living Guide, New York Magazine tipped its hat to cheap wine as a way to enjoy the good life on fewer dollars. Instead of a $1,350 bottle of 1985 Krug Brut, they argue, you can sip on a $13 bottle of New Mexico-produced Gruet sparkling Brut instead and be sitting just as pretty. (My vote also goes to Cristalino Brut Cava, a Spanish sparkler that goes for about 8 or 9 bucks.)
The most effective cost-cutting measure, however, would be to give up liquid grapes altogether, but here at Casa Appetite, we believe that a little vino goes a long way in the life-is-good department. And hey, the holidays are just around the corner; we’ll need to stock up on a lil’ cheer to entertain and get through the most
stressful wonderful time of the year.
I’m a big fan of cheap wine. Twelve bucks a bottle tops; eight to ten even better. Not all cheap wines are created equal, as savvy bargain shoppers know. Some are tip top; others are better poured into the compost pile. There’s no sure-fire method to find a diamond in the rough; you just gotta keep sipping until you find one that you love.
In lieu of a cheap wine black book, I’ll share a handful of bargain sippers I’ve found along the way. Please note, this list is far from definitive and a merely a sampler; please add your tried-and-true cheap quaffs in the comments area. The more sippy tips, the better.
In the under-$12 crowd, here are some that I consider smart picks, which I should define as pleasant, balanced and good value. They are not thought-provoking, revelatory wines, but they are good for every day and for inexpensive entertaining.
Goats Do Roam, Western Cape, South Africa
Parducci Sustainable White, Mendocino County, California
Bodegas Aldial “Naia” Rueda, Spain
Marietta Old Vine Red, California
Meridian Chardonnay, Santa Barbara County, California
Fat Bastard Chardonnay, France
Veramonte Primus, a Merlot, Cabernet and Carmenere blend from Chile
Various Garnachas from Calatayud, Spain, plus I’m a sucker for 100 percent Tempranillo from Spain
I’m also happy when I can find a Viognier under $12, but it doesn’t happen often.
If all this oeno-talk is whetting your appetite for some wine schooling, check out “WineWise: Your Complete guide to Understanding, Selecting, and Enjoying Wine,” a great new resource for getting practical about wine. A collaboration of Steven Kolpan, Brian H. Smith and Michael A. Weiss, professors of wine at the Culinary Institute of America, WineWise covers the basics with a highly practical bent, including the world’s major grape regions and appellations, at-home wine tasting tips, buying wine when dining out and an extensive chapter on -- you got it -- cheap wine. Each author shares his own hand-picked list of cheapies, which is worth the price of the book ($29.95) alone.
Bargain shoppers: Send along those cheap sips, cheap tips and other resources you find handy.
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