Deals to Drink

Like most folks, the majority of wines I drink are under $20. Indeed, if you think of wine as an “everyday” beverage as opposed to something for special occasions, thriftiness is essential. Naturally, since the price of wine is affected by economies of scale we’re not likely to find lower-priced wines from vaunted vineyards or older vines, nor can we experience the concentration brought by lower yields and meticulous vineyard management.

As such, the quality in lower-priced wines are much more dependent on nature—healthy, slowly ripened grapes from a good vintage can produce a wine beyond its usual pedigree. The best way to find a good value is to ask your winemonger about a wine that’s close to the quality of its region’s more famous vineyard sites instead of just what they’d recommend. This way, hopefully, you can get an honest recommendation for those overachieving wines we love to drink.

Villa Giada Pinot Grigio “Suri”
Friuli, Italy, 2009, $11
This Grigio’s virtue is its purity—very clean, refreshing, a great everyday wine. A nice wine to sip while preparing the evening meal.

Kientzler Edelzwicker
Alsace, France, $15
A field blend of Alsacian grapes, this is a sprightly white with a lovely floral component and terrific balance. A liter bottle, it’s the perfect size to stretch out for a couple days. Goes with everything.

La Grange de Piaugier
Côtes du Rhone, France, 2005, $12
The Grenache really sings in this wine, showing peppery berry fruit with a substantial mid-palate presence. Cook something with garlic, olives and peppers and enjoy a slightly chilled glass.

Bonny Doon Syrah “le Pousseur”
Santa Cruz, California, 2005, $14
Earthy aromas suggest a rustic wine, but the palate is rich and pliant, with great dark berry flavors and a richness beyond its pedigree. Try with anything off the grill.

Michael Kwas is wine director at L’Etoile restaurant. He writes this column monthly.

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