April 2007                              


Wines of the month - Paul DeRose

When Cheaper Is Better – Under $6

Wine has been a staple of western civilization from its beginnings. This came in part out of popularity, but also out of necessity, where water that was safe to drink was often in short supply. Somewhere along the way, wine became the beverage of choice for kings and aristocrats, which elevated its status beyond that of a common drink. Only recently has the image of wine started to return to that of a simple, everyday beverage, as most notably marked by the “two-buck Chuck” phenomena. This revival can be attributed to the spread of modern wine-making methods throughout much of the world, which has enabled good table wine to be made more cheaply and in larger quantities than ever before.

These “cheaper-is-better” kinds of wines now seem to be coming from just about every established wine growing region that there is. Below I have listed some of the hot spots for these wines with a few examples.

Italy leads the pack here with a rich wine history, combined with a lack of wine pretension. Hot Spots: NE (Venezia, Veneto) and Southern (Apuglia, Molise) Italy. Chianti, Sangiovese and Montepulciano in red and Pinot Grigio in white are generally good. Brands: Citra, Cavit, Bella Sera, etc.

Australia certainly vies with Italy for the top spot on shear quantity, if not always on quality. Hot Spots: Whites are generally better than reds. Also Shiraz and Shiraz blends are good. Brands: Hardy’s, Black Swan, Banrock Station, Yellow Tail, etc.

Spain and Portugal have revitalized their wines in recent years. Unfortunately, they are not yet imported in large quantities. Hot Spots: Toro and Penedes regions in Spain and other relatively unknown areas. Brands: Borsao, Penascal, etc.

Romania and Bulgaria are just two of many former Soviet block countries who are starting to lift the quality of their wines as they enter the global market. These tend to be hit and miss, but when you find good ones, they can be incredible values.

Chile wines have been coming to the U.S. for many years, but their quality has improved more recently. Brands: Gato Negro, Concha Y Toro, Santa Carolina, etc.

USA : Unfortunately, the bargain era for our wines has come and gone. It was probably at its peak in the 70’s and 80’s. But, there are still some pretty good old standbys available, such as Mondavi’s Woodbridge and Beringer’s Stone Cellars, as well as some upstarts such as Charles Shaw (Two-buck Chuck) and Hacienda, just to name a few.