With the economy the way it is, everyone is watching every penny. While we may all hope for a return to the days when we only sweated the big stuff, like quarters, the move to finding the good cheap alternatives to our favorite wines is in full swing. Now by cheap I don't mean poorly made, just great values.
France is probably the region that most people think of when the discussion gets around to fine (ie, expensive) wine, but the truth is there is plenty of good cheap wine coming out of France, and many are giving some of that nation's greatest wines a run for their money!
Bordeaux is the big daddy of French wine and everyone’s favorite, right? OK, so not everyone -- but we’re all on the lookout for values, and what’s more valuable than a good, cheap bottle of Bordeaux wine?
To begin with, you should check out the Côtes de Bordeaux for good, cheap wine. Not all Bordeaux is expensive, and in fact there are tons of small producers struggling in the shadow of their pricier cousins producing bottle of good, cheap bordeaux wine. For the most part, the wines of the Côtes tend to be softer wines than their more famous Left Bank counterparts due to their reliance on Merlot as opposed to Cabernet Sauvignon.
If you're a fan of Merlot (and well-made Merlot is certainly fanworthy), check out the wines of Buzet. Coming from just a little to the east of Bordeaux, the wines of Buzet tend to be a bit richer and fruitier, which suits their dependence on lush, ripe Merlot. These post Sideways day good, cheap Merlot wine is not surprisingly somewhat easier to come by than it may have been in the past.
Another option for good, cheap wine is Cabernet Franc from the Loire Valley. I know, it’s not a blend like Bordeaux, which tends to be based on either Merlot or Cabernet Sauvignon with several other minor blending grapes allowed. But this varietal wine from one of the parent grapes of Cabernet Sauvignon makes this the big daddy’s daddy! Cabernet Franc is lighter in body than much Bordeaux with a lovely, fresh red fruit character. It has been a darling of the wine trade over the past few years and really can be the best good, cheap wine in the market
If Bordeaux is the big daddy of French wine, then red Burgundy must be the big momma. Almost always rare, expensive, and complex, Burgundy has some big shoes to fill, and while the truth is there is no good, cheap wine that can take the place of Burgundy, you can always try great Cru Beaujolais. While the flavor profile is different, the weight, balance, and texture of Cru Beaujolais does mirror many a fine Burgundy. Beaujolais makes an especially good replacement for Burgundy when pairing with food, so you should keep that in mind.
White Burgundy, on the other hand, has some pretty impressive alternatives, though most are white Burgundies! That’s right, there’s white Burgundy and then there’s good, cheap white Burgundy. The famous White Burgundies are much like red Burgundy in that they are rare and expensive, but there are regions of Burgundy -- the Côte Chalonnaise and the Macon -- where Chardonnay is more plentiful and still deeply delicious. A killer source for good, cheap wine.
These lesser-known regions won’t remain a secret forever, so get them while the getting is good. And while I’m at I might as well spill the beans on a few secret appellations in the Côte Chalonnaise for red Burgundy as well. Rully, Mercurey, Montagny and Givry are the source for good, cheap red wines in Burgundy, but don’t tell any one! Many of these wines can compete with Burgundies that are several times more expensive, especially in their youth. It's the place to start if you want to explore the magic of Pinot Noir!