With the holidays a distant memory in the rearview mirror, it’s time to focus on a new year, new beginnings, and, unfortunately for many of us, a fresh new set of credit card bills from the past season. The reality of our over-giving and overspending is that we eventually have to make some budget-conscious decisions in the future, and that might include cutting back on dining out and food-related expenditures such as wine.
Wait a minute. Cut back on wine purchases? Not so fast! Enjoying a good bottle of wine is truly one of life’s simple pleasures. And because wine comes in such a wide range of price points there’s absolutely no need to eliminate it entirely from your budget.
Certainly, lower-priced wines raise the question of compromised quality. But with just a bit of pre-planning and consulting with those in-the-know and you may be pleasantly surprised to learn how many great wine recommendations are available in the under $20-a-bottle category.
BARGAIN-PRICED WHITE WINES
Solid, dependable white wine choices are easy to find and, more often than not, easy on the budget. Start with Riesling, a reliable white that comes in a variety of styles and sweetness levels and is packed-full of fruit flavors and floral aromatics.
The Heinz Eifel “Shine” 2014 Riesling (about $11) will put on smile on your face with its mouth-watering flavors and hard-to-beat price. It’s a bit creamy to start, with generous Granny Smith apple, green melon and peach that are beautifully balanced with transitioning, brisk acidity. The honey-like finish is persistently pleasant, with a touch of minerality as a reminder of the grape’s German origins.
Chardonnay is another versatile white wine to consider, with plenty of options at affordable prices. If you enjoy a big, bold Chardonnay in a full-bodied style, try the Harken Wines 2014 Barrel Fermented Chardonnay (about $15) from California. Ripe, Golden Delicious apple and pear flavors lead off, with a warm, round finish and accents of baking spice, butterscotch, and toasted oak. Serve it with rich, creamy soups or roast chicken, salmon or lobster.
For a slightly lighter style Chardonnay with more subtle flavors, consider the Argento Reserva 2014 Chardonnay (about $14) from Argentina. Tropical notes of starfruit and pineapple wrap around a core of pear and apple flavors and the soft, faintly buttery finish is derived, in part, from just a bit of aging contact with French oak.
Another excellent white wine choice is the Argento Cool Climate 2015 Pinot Grigio (about $14). White peach and tangy citrus flavors are highlighted with a touch of slate and herbaceousness on a linen-crisp finish. There’s a bright, fresh quality to this wine throughout, and that makes it an ideal pairing partner with salads, seafood, and shellfish.
AFFORDABLE RED WINES THAT DELIVER
If you think you have to spend a bundle to get a decent red wine, think again! In addition to those produced domestically, Europe and South America are great international sources for value-priced reds that are perfect for everyday enjoyment.
There are plenty of bargains to be had from Italy and the Borgo Thaulero Montepulciano D’Abruzzo (about $10) is a great example. Earthy aromatics and understated red berry and pie cherry flavors predominate, while great finishing acidity along with some mildly chalky tannins make it a nice choice for serving with beef or pork.
Also from Italy and worth considering: the Avignonesi 2014 Montepulciano (about $19). The wine’s red currant and cherry tomato flavors are framed with bright acidity and notes of white pepper and spice. It should pair perfectly with anything Italian, including crowd-pleasing favorites such and lasagna or spaghetti and meatballs.
Argentina’s Bodega Argento should also be your go-to winery for affordable red wines. Included in their current releases is the Argento 2013 Bonarda (about $14), a grape with Italian origins that is Argentina’s second most widely planted red grape. This wine explodes with ultra-dark cherry and black plum fruits, big mouthfeel, and a mile-long, slightly textured finish. It’s an overachieving little wine that delivers tremendous flavor for the dollar and should be near the top of your must-try list.
The Argento 2014 Malbec (about $14) is another South American wine worthy of a case purchase. Beautiful berry aromas are followed with generous flavors of dried plum and brambly blackberry fruit and the finish is accentuated with touches of pepper and spice. Soft tannins complete the package and make this highly enjoyable wine a ready-todrink choice.
AND DON’T FORGET THE SPARKLERS
Most people save the Champagne and sparkling wines just for holidays and special occasions, when there’s absolutely no reason why they can’t be enjoyed year-round. Sparkling wines carry an array of flavor profiles at extremely reasonable prices and can be served with an eclectic range of foods from sushi to crispy, fried chicken.
The Segura Viudas Non-Vintage Brut Cava (about $10) is a solid Spanish sparkling wine that’s always nice to have on hand. There’s very little fruit on the palate, except for a bit of lemon/lime citrus, and that opens the door to its steely/ mineral-like characteristics and clean finish with bracing acidity. Try it as an accompaniment to steamed mussels or fresh oysters on the half-shell.
And for a unique, refreshing sparkler, be sure to try the Domaine Bousquet 2014 Brut Rosé (about $14). Made from organically grown Argentinian grapes — 75% Pinot Noir and 25% Chardonnay — a sip is almost like biting into a crisp, Red Delicious apple. Candy apple, a whisper of faintly sweet cotton candy, and tangy orange zest on the finish make this fun wine a pleasure to taste.