The era before the Internet and social media had a number of curiosities. These included shag carpeting, 8-track audio cassettes, the Nash, and discount stores called “fives-and-tens.” Many of these stores had lunch counters. Never mind that wine production predated all of these; its antiquity has obviously transcended the centuries. Tweet that!
But the concept of the five-and-ten is apropos when it comes to seeking out the best wines for the price. It’s hard to define the real “sweet spot” for value wines. There are many fine bottles that approach $15, or cost even a bit more. (Indeed, $15 might well be the new $30.)
Finding high-quality wine under $10, however, is challenging. Hastily grabbing a handful of wines in this price range will probably produce a clunker in the mix. The supermarket is loaded with “penny wines.” Most of that is truly cheap juice (The Brits call it plonk). It’s sourced from bulk fruit that could easily have taken a ride on a turnip truck.
So, Value Wine Chicago has made the quest of parsimonious imbibing a little easier. With all apologies to whiskey-loving Flo (“Kiss My Grits!”) and the five-and-ten lunch counters – because Al’s Diner would never be confused with a BYOB hot spot – here are five quality wines priced at $10 or less:
Falesco “Vitiano” Umbria Rosso 2008: A Tuscan blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Sangiovese, this wine has booming intensity. And that probably explains its 91 points from Robert Parker. It pairs nicely with a hearty, ground-meat dishes such as chili and Italian meat loaf. Price: $8.
Rock Rabbit Sauvignon Blanc, Central Coast 2009: A refreshing, citrusy Californian – great as an aperitif or with herbed goat cheese. Another nice pairing would be Blue Point oysters on the half shell with lemon and a touch of cocktail sauce. Price: $9.
Calina Carmenère 2009: The Carmenère grape was once a Bordeaux varietal. Like the Malbec, it has flourished in South America – specifically in Chile. The Calina’s inviting, slightly green and floral aroma is complemented by flavors that are fresh, plush and juicy. Enjoy with Coq au Vin or pan-seared duck breast. Price: $7.
House Red 2007: A Washington State blend that’s mostly Columbia Valley-grown Cabernet Sauvignon, it has nice aromas of lavender and spice, with dark berry flavors and integrated tannins. Serve with a grand presentation of a boneless, rib-eye roast. Price: $9.
Guigal Cotes-du-Rhone 2006: Medium-bodied and very earthy, punctuated with a nice spicy fruit that displays black and red berry flavors. It’s a 50-50 ratio of Grenache and Syrah. Nice mouthfeel with a subtle, dry finish. Good structure and and – Surprise! Surprise! – an outstanding value. Must be consumed over the holidays. Price: $8.