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This article shared 1636 times since Wed Feb 5, 2003
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Good wine that's inexpensive tastes better than any wine ever.

There's not much more delicious than finding that steal on a restaurant's wine list or picking up a few lucky bottles on discount at Binny's or Sam's.

But it helps to know what to look for. The wine shop may be giving away the Central Coast chardonnay this week, but pal, that's generally a sink hole at any price. Too much extract, too much oak, too much alcohol—so what if it costs $20 instead of $30?

No, the goal is $10 a bottle for killer shit, $25 tops at a restaurant. It's possible, eminently possible these days, and I'd like to show you where to look in the world of wine.

First of all, forget California. Rinse it from your mouth. Sure, there are many little, secret California wines, red and white, for $10 or less a bottle, but they're impossibly difficult to find and in such limited release. (If you think that a $7 bottle of Clos du Bois sauvignon blanc is the nines, this would be a good time to turn the page.)

The one thing that California winemakers have proven is that they are the globe's experts at hyping wine prices. Nobody—not even a venal Bordelais—could get away with releasing a first-ever cabernet sauvignon at $100 a bottle.

Does it go without saying that you'd need to stay away from other wine-expensive locales too, places such as Burgundy or Bordeaux? Not at all. Even these districts produce solid wine—especially whites in Burgundy and reds in Bordeaux—that can cost $10 a bottle. Many Macon whites meet that bill (Macon-Lugny, Macon-Viré), as do bottlings from Bordeaux's various 'satellite' districts (examples: Cotes de Bourg, Cotes de Castillon) or wines labeled 'Premiéres Cotes de Bordeaux.'

You can find more values elsewhere in France, in the Languedoc-Rousillon, along the Rhone river, and often in Alsace. The Alsatians make a wine called 'Gentil,' a traditional blend of four or five Alsatian grape varieties. It's delicious, full-flavored, dry as a lick on chalk and great with food. And it rarely, if ever, costs more than $10 a bottle.

In Italy, look south. Many wines, especially reds, from the districts of Puglia (wine: Salice Salentino), Calabria (Ciro) and Basilicata (Aglianico del Vulture) are solid and richly flavored. Many Italian whites from the north cost in or around $10 a bottle—some pinot grigios, for example, or the odd Soave—however, I think the vineyards and winemaking both need to develop more in order to deliver on flavor.

You'll find more and more wine coming out of Spain that's both delicious and well made —and $10 a bottle or less, whites from the northwest (the district of Rias Biaxas) and reds from the central north (Navarra) and central northwest (Rueda, Toro). Portugal, too, produces a lot of non-sweet red wine that's a steal, especially from the Dao area.

But the rulers of Deal City are wines from South America and Australia.

As a collection, it's difficult to find so many wines at such low prices from one place as it is the reds and whites of Chile, Argentina and Australia.

It's best, because the pickings are so extensive and the wines so uniformly well-made, to buy by producer. In Chile, check out Calina, Caliterra, Carmen, Casa Lapostolle, Concha y Toro, Cousino Macul, Dallas Conte, Errazuriz, La Palma, La Playa, Luis Felipe Edwards, Montes, Santa Carolina, Santa Rita, Tarapaca, some Undurraga, Veramonte and Walnut Crest, an exceptionally fine value all around. That's a long list, but there are fantastic wines for the money from every producer.

The same holds true for Argentina, mostly with red wines over whites. Producers to seek out from there include Catena, Finca Navarrita, Graffigna, Navarro Correas, Bodega Norton, Santa Julia, Terrazas and Trapiche. The list isn't as long as Chile's, but it's just as sure-fire.

The wealth of Australian wines is also pickable by producer (Penfolds, for example, routinely scores), but it's also a good idea to shop by region. Southeast Australia and South Australia, for instance, both make a ton of good wine at low prices.

From South and Southeastern Australia, I've enjoyed the wines of Banrock Station, Lindemans, Wynns, Yalumba, Rosemount, Abbey Rock, Black Opal, Owens Estate, Oxford Landing, Stonehaven, Wolf Blass, Wyndham Estates and the fantastically priced (around $5) Yellowtail wines.

Remember, many retailers offer a further discount on a case or mixed case of wine, so that $10 bottle may end up costing you 50 cents or a dollar less.


See the front page, left side directory of for Dining Out listings.

This article shared 1636 times since Wed Feb 5, 2003
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