5 Cheap Red Blends

Great red wines for under $12 a bottle. Buy them by the case!


For someone who drinks a lot of expensive wine I can have decidedly plebeian tastes at times, and that’s the way things should be. We should not derive our satisfaction from wine from the price tag nor the point score for that matter. Both are just numbers, though the point scores do help to illustrate how much I like a wine in an easy to understand and communicate shorthand. Take today’s top wines. 87 pointers, which by my reckoning are wines that I can honestly say I really like.

So what does that mean? it’s an interesting question and one that reveals the fatal flaw in the entirely subjective rating system we have adopted for wine. Right here and right now it means I really like these $10 wines for casual sharing and by the grill. I could say that right? Not as easy as 87pts, and in a way not as communicative either, but that is neither here nor there. A few weeks back I tasted plenty of inexpensive red blends, wines that were fruity and for the most part carrying with them a hint of sweetness. Today I turn the tables.
I went looking for inexpensive red blends that are more akin to classic European table wines. Dry, maybe even austere. I didn’t exactly find that, both of the top wines have a touch of sweetness to them, but in a very traditional style. I loved them both for their exuberance and great fruit in the mouth. Things moved to a different level once I go the the marginally more expensive wine, from Europe. 
More to my palate, these were delicious, dry, somewhat earthy yet pure and bright wines. I would happily stock up on all and any of these wines, though for my money the 2011 Chateau de Brau Cabardes is an absolute value killer and the 2010 Kenwood Vintage Red is not far behind, if for a different purpose. Break out the kenwood whenever you grill some pork or beef this summer. The Cabardes would be better with some lamb or even meaty fish like tuna on the grill or paired with a simple summer lunch like chilled grilled veggies or some simple tacos!
In any event, what we have here are some great values which prove that you don’t have to spend a lot to drink well. Something I certainly can appreciate. The flip side however is that when you drink wines like this, the do make your special wines taste, well, that much more special. But I’m gonna save most of them for cooler weather and chill down another bottle of the Bere to serve with a little salumi this weekend. That’s living!

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Top Value Red Blends tasted in 7/2014

Indaba Mosaic (2013)
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Kenwood Vineyards Vintage Red (2010)
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Viticcio Bere Toscana (2011)
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Chateau de Brau Cabardes (2011)
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Rocca di Frassinello Poggio Alla Guardia (2010)
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  • Some really tremendous values: Trader Joe's Coastal Merlot. It's $5 and has both intense fruit and some complexity to it. Les Fontanelles. It's a French Languedoc wine that tastes for all the world like a Pomerol--for under $10. Trentadue Old Patch Red, a mix of Zinfandel and Petite Syrah that is better than many wines twice its price; it costs about $12.

    Jul 30, 2014 at 3:03 PM

  • $10 is my break point for getting into more expensive wines. Dip down into the $5-$9 range and see what you can find--there are a few that I think would score into the 85-88 point range. Some don't like them, but the zinfadel & petite syrah from Bogle are generally available where I live for 7.98 or 8.98, depending on the store (Costco). I like their big, bold flavors and it doesn't matter if they're not particularly harmonious. Ravenswood has a couple of reds that fall into that taste and price range, too. None of the wines you mention are on the shelves in my area except for the Kenwood.

    Jul 30, 2014 at 4:18 PM

  • I keep going back to Winking Owl Merlot from Aldi's grocery store! It's rich full bodied flavors always are intriguing. Plus the fact that it's only $2.98 a bottle, makes it my go to wine. I miss it even when I'm trying others!!

    Jul 31, 2014 at 11:51 AM

  • While I haven't tried the others, the Indaba Mosaic is one I found rich and bold, the kind of meritage I'd like to drink often. I thought it beat the pants off anything else that was a meritage I've tasted at that price range. Try it folks, its PDG!

    Jul 31, 2014 at 8:36 PM

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