Thursday, November 10, 2011
Some Great (Cheap) Wine Picks
The phone rings, then a text message, and sometimes I’m stopped at the grocery. It’s no sudden rush of fame but more likely after three years of wine writing I’ve become the ‘wine guy.’ And I admit I really enjoy it.
It’s usually a wine newbie, or even a really young (always over 21) wine drinker wanting a question answered or a recommendation. It’s happened a lot lately so that made me think it’s time again to offer up some really affordable choices and maybe repeat a few old ones.
All of these wines are under $15 (or less) and readily available in Indiana, Illinois and most Midwestern states.
Robert Mondavi Private Selection – This is the entry level wines for the iconic Mondavi line mentioned in my last column. I have tried one more of those wines since the last Grape Sense and the quality is very consistent. The Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, and Chardonnay are all consistently good value wines for $11. And better yet, the Mondavi Private Selection label is really easy to find.
Here is the spot where I should also repeat an oft-suggested label or two. Mirrasou wines are another great pick from the grocery or a liquor or wine store with limited selection. Smoking Loon, Bogle, and Blackstone are also palatable wines well under $15.
Banfi Centine Rose’ – Summer is not the only time of the year for dry pink wine. The Centine label is the value line from Banfi – which promotes itself as the world’s oldest winery. They do make some remarkably nice wine for, again, the $11 price point. I recently enjoyed the Rose which was very light in body with nice fresh red berry flavor and a hint of strawberry. The alcohol was a low 12.5 percent which makes it a great party wine. The Centine line also include a nice white blend and a Tuscan red blend which features Italy’s signature Sangiovese grape and Cabernet. These wines are also very easy to find.
Georges Duboeuf 2010 Morgon – The Duboeuf label is widely distributed and something you really should try. Duboeuf is king in France’s Beaujolais district but most people only think of the Nouveau when mentioning Duboeuf. I’ve never been a big fan of the Nouveau (wines that are bottled and sold within months of harvest), finding them rather uninteresting and bland. The Grand Cru Beaujolais is another matter. The Grand Cru (specific growing regions) offer bright fruit, smooth drinkability, and a light mouth feel. The Morgon is one of the top appellations for Beaujolais, I also like the Julienas for its earthy characteristics. The Beaujolais red wines are made from the Gamay grape. These wines are found under $15 and often around the $11-$12 price point.
Domaine de Noire ‘ Chinon - This is another French wine but from the Loire Valley region. This recommendation is less about the bottle I appreciated and more about the grape. Chinon wines are made from Cabernet Franc, a grape that has gotten little respect and little notice for too long in the wine world. Cabernet Franc might be thought of as Cab Sauvignon’s little brother. It’s certainly lighter and has a nice spice or pepper finish. It’s often used in blending Bordeaux-style wines. But the grape has gotten much more notice the last year or two for its flexibility. The de Noire was $16 and it is a label that is also easy to find. But pick up a Cab Franc wherever you can find one and give it a try. If Cab Sauv is a little too big for your taste, you just might like Cab Franc. I tasted some wonderful Cab Franc in Michigan last summer and it’s always on the shelves of most wine shops.
Howard W. Hewitt, Crawfordsville, In., writes every other week for 18 Midwestern newspapers. Check out is wine blog at: www.redforme.blogspot.com