Over the winter I came across some excellent value wines perfect for weeknight sipping or pairing with winter dinners. Lots of regions produce some good quality, relatively inexpensive wines - some of the first to come to my mind are Languedoc-Roussillon and some regions of Portugal including Douro.
One of the first good value wines that I tried when the cooler months began was the 2006 Chesnelong Rendez-Vous from Languedoc-Roussillon. It’s a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Grenache, and Mourvedre, dark red with characteristics of bright and slightly tart red fruit, cherry, berry, spice, and a hint of smoke, with some “outdoorsy” earthiness and a bit of “animal” characteristic, making it particularly expressive of Languedoc-Roussillon. It’s an uncomplicated wine with a fairly smooth texture and bright acidity, making it very food friendly. At around $14, it’s a great buy. Lots of people are under the assumption that France produces only expensive wines - while it’s true that some very pricey wines of special significance are produced in France, it’s also true that good value wines are produced in France as well - look to Languedoc-Roussillon, Southern Rhone, South West France, and Beaujolais for some good quality wines often under $20.
I love Italian reds, especially when they’re properly balanced fruit/acid/tannin. Piemonte isn’t exactly known for its value wines - Barolo, Barbaresco, and other Nebbiolo from Langhe, as well as Gavi whites, tend to be on the pricey side. However, Dolcetto and Barbera provide a more reasonably priced alternative from Piemonte. I had the 2009 De Forville Barbera d’Alba last month and could hardly believe the wine was just under $20. It’s beautiful in the glass, a dark red with a slightly ruby colored rim, with characteristics of ripe dark fruit, berry, plum, and even some raisinated fruit, lots of oak and earth, some dry flowers, and a nice spiciness. The wine is very well balanced with enough acidity to make it very food friendly and versatile, and smooth tannin, and a long finish. This Barbera is absolutely delicious and I’d have this wine again in a heartbeat.
|2009 De Forville|
The most recent value wine I had was just a few nights ago - the 2008 Carm Douro Reserva from Portugal. Portugal produces some excellent value wines and sometimes I honestly ask myself why I don’t drink more of them. Another delicious wine under $20 and also very beautiful in the glass, it’s a blend of Tinta Nacional and other Portuguese grapes, dark red and showing characteristics of warmth, ripe fruit and berry, smooth spices, and a bit of pepper and herb, with nice balance, smooth feel, and a very respectable finish. I was really satisfied with this wine and it’s another I’d go back for right away.
Recently I was asked about finding alternatives to Pinot Noir as the price of Pinot is sometimes kind of high. My answer was that there really is no way of replacing Pinot Noir, but rather it’s best to look for value Pinots. I had a fun one for only around $15 this winter, and paired it with one of my favorite “easy” recipes - balsamic chicken stuffed portobello mushrooms. The wine was the 2010 Villa San-Juliette Fat Monk Pinot Noir from Central Coast, California. It’s fairly deep red with a youthful light red rim, and characteristics of ripe fruit, cherry, herb, smooth spice, earth, and some smoke. It’s nicely balanced and very smooth with a nice finish reminiscent of fruit and smoke. Very “New World” in style, it’s a good Pinot under $20.
|2010 Fat Monk|
An even less expensive American Pinot Noir that I had last week was the 2010 Martin Ray “Angeline” California Pinot Noir, made from grapes grown in Sonoma, Mendocino, and Santa Barbara. The wine is only around $12 and I never would have guessed it was so inexpensive. It’s a soft dark red color, youthful but ready to drink, with characteristics of soft dark and red fruit, berry, smoke, ash, earth, soft spice, and nice balance and smooth texture, very food friendly and versatile.