Nickel and dime: Five value wines for less than $10

Wine industry professionals have a tough time defining the difference between inexpensive wine and value wine. Every beverage director, restaurateur and retailer has different answers – none of them wrong or dismissive. There are common responses, though: head-scratching, chin-rubbing and glazed eyes.

And, one other consensus develops after all the fidgeting: It’s much harder to find consistently good value in wines priced under $10. That being said, it’s all the more satisfying when a delicious “penny wine” sneaks in under the radar, breaks through the clutter, or – insert an overplayed metaphor here.

Yes, it can be fun to sample through a flight of low-priced offerings. But a trial-and-error approach will probably lead to palate-pulverizing, stomach-rotting, liver-pickling agony. And who wants to travel 10,000 miles of bad road to a hangover without the good part?

Continue reading on Fine wines for the frugal: Top 5 under $10 – Chicago Budget Wine |

So, Value Wine Chicago has gone through the archives – and recently tasted some value wines below the cost-conscious curtain. Happily, it can be reported that a new Top 5 under $10 has emerged. The hope is that these selections will help readers/imbibers avoid the weary grab at the supermarket for just any old penny wine:

Terum Garnacha 2009/Las Rocas San Alejandro Garnacha: Both are worth noting because they express subtle differences, and yet remain stylistically true to the Spanish expression of this varietal. The Terum ($8 at the Bottle Shop in Wilmette) is fresh and supple, but not flabby. It’s terrific with roasted poultry, or some mildly seasoned grilled sausages. Las Rocas ($9) is no stranger to this parsimonious imbiber, and it even made a triumphant stand at Thanksgiving. But its spiciness and mid-palate richness drive it toward jalapeno/chive-marinated skirt steak, or Texas chili.

Falesco “Vitiano” Umbria Rosso 2008: Tuscany’s use of “international” grapes (Cabernet, Merlot) to mix with their native Sangiovese is well documented. But this practice often leads to stratospherically priced Super Tuscans.  This trio of Cab, Merlot and Sangiovese has lots of booming intensity and bang for the buck. Dark and red berry fruit dominate the nose and palate. An Italian-style meat loaf or rich, rosemary-infused short ribs would be great, hearty pairings with this muscular, Olds-442-style red. $8.

Montepalma 2009: Staying in the Mediterranean region, why not get on board with the Groundhog’s early-spring prediction and try out a cool, crisp white for the soon-to-arrive spring patio season? Nice acidity and subtle tropical fruit in this Verdejo/Viura blend – a perfect accompaniment for seafood-topped salads with vinaigrette-based dressings. Verdejo gained popularity last summer as a single-varietal alternative to Sauvignon Blanc. Blended with Viura, there’s a floral dimension, and a little spice. $9 at Gene’s Sausage Shop in Lincoln Square.

Casa Silva Carmenère 2009: Many of the vines for this elegant wine are more than 90 years old, transplanted from Bordeaux before phylloxera decimated French vineyards. Rich, floral aromas are accented by herbal accents and pepper. Great with braised meats, or roasted duck… and Chicago barbecue, too. (Note: In 2009, two of Chile’s leading universities, with funding from Viña Casa Silva, began a two-year study of Carmenère. The research focuses on the fruit’s late ripening – the main factor in why the French divested themselves from the grape entirely.) $9.

Gruet Blanc de Noirs NV:  Three words that seem incongruous: New. Mexico. Wine. Not just trying to find the obscure for the sake of it, this is good bubbly. Nice and taut, the dry toastiness truly resembles the French offerings. And, it’s much more interesting than bulk sparklers from California. $9.


About Thomas Caestecker

I have had the privilege to witness the wine industry through both the corporate and media lenses for several years. My conclusion: The value sector has the potential for real growth in the industry. Luxury wines are battered by the economy; inexpensive bulk wine is simply cheap. This blog's mission is to reveal competitively priced, under-the-radar wines.
This entry was posted in Full-bodied red wines, Mediterranean wines, Obscure red wines, Obscure white wines, Southern Hemisphere wines, Spanish wines. Bookmark the permalink.

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