Ten Under Ten: Value Wines for Vicious Times

Eco-friendly, good.  Wallet-friendly, even gooder.  Just because the economy has sluiced down the global dumper is no reason to sign the temperance pledge; instead, you need merely adjust your drinking thinking.

For example, some of the world’s most intriguing wine values are currently pouring out of Iberia.  For those of you who slept through geography or never heard of James Michener, that’s Spain (where fifteen percent of all the vineyards on the planet are) and Portugal.

Meanwhile, Australia continues to churn out millions of gallons of wonderful, extroverted wine at claustrophobically low prices.  South Africa, Italy, Washington State and virtually every other wine region with abundant water and sunshine is producing value vin while they jockey for position on the table of bargain hunters.

For us, that makes it win/win for wine/wine.

Granted,  we may have to give up luxury items like food and shelter and alimony payments, but it makes no sense in foregoing necessities like shiraz, especially when there’s competitive utility pricing at every neighborhood bodega.

Bordeaux and Burgundy? …You might have to wait this one out.

We may have to stop trading up, but we don’t have to stop drinking up.

Yellow Tail Cabernet Sauvignon/Shiraz, around $6:  Along with the other seven varietals in the Yellow Tail group, it’s hard to beat this South Australian label for sheer, uncompromising value-oriented scrumptiousness.  Laid back tannins and ripe black currant, plum and earth tones abound.  Bright, suitably acidic: A drink-now red that can stand up to whatever you throw at it from the grill or barbecue.

Trebbiano d’Abruzzo, Lillà, Abruzzo, 2009, around $8:  From the foothills of the Majellas, this crystal-clear, light dry white is an ideal seafood wine.  Crisp citrus notes with a characteristic almond taste on the finish.  Lillà does a bargain-basement Montepulciano, too.

Savia Viva Blanco Clásico, Penedès 2010, around $8:  A vintage dated sparkling wine for eight bucks?   Nope, but it’s made from the traditional cava grapes—macabeo, parellada and xarel-lo—and when devoid of the yeasty musk of cava, produces a lovely and refreshing still wine resplendent with green apple and yellow plum flavors and a bit of macabeo herbalness.

Covey Run Merlot, Columbia Valley, 2009, around $10 –Beautiful bargain here—ripe cherry, plum and violet notes and a juicy mid-palate with hints of cinnamon and raspberry carrying through the light oak finish.

Voga Quattro, 2007, around $8: A grape goulash—merlot, cabernet, shiraz and pinot noir all hodgepodged together—surprised they didn’t toss in some marinara sauce and call it Cinque.  The bottle looks like it should contain hair conditioner, not wine, but the stuff itself is not bad, full of chocolate-cherry and bit of  mint and earth.

Santa Sara, J.P. Vinhos, 2008, around $8:  A juicy, licorice-tinged red from Portugal’s ‘golden plane’ Alentejo, known for full-bodied wine and a weird local dish made out of pork and clams.

Ecco Domani Pinot Grigio, 2009, around $9:  A little Trentino chardonnay adds a creamy edge to the steel-chill of pinot grigio; light with a touch of pineapple and Granny Smith apple and a quick but smooth finale.

Vinho Verde, Provam, 2010, around $9:  Provam is a cabal of Monção vintners devoted exclusively to Alvarinho and Trajadura whites.  This one is crisp, clean and bright, reminiscent of apricot and nectarine.  Vinho Verde means ‘green wine’, a reference to the lush Portuguese countryside, the youthfulness of the product, maybe even Margaret Hamilton’s complexion—anything but the wine color, which is nearly clear and yellow if it’s anything.

Minervois Rouge Marielle et Frédérique, La Tour Boisée, 2009, around $9: A lotta name for not much cash; this nicely supple blend of the Languedoc trio, grenache, carignan and cinsault offers up blackberry jam, plums and peppercorns and a tannin level we’d call ‘civilized’.

Freixenet Sparkling Cordon Negro Brut, around $10:  The quintessential wedding sparkler when the bride and groom are not only paying for everything themselves, but are broke.  A great value if you don’t mind overlarge bubbles; smooth and slightly creamy with baked bread and buttered brioche aromas surfacing amid grapefruit and green apple.


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