Someone recently asked me what I drink when I just want to drink. Well, actually they asked what I drink when I just want to get drunk, which, while a slightly different question, would elicit the same answer. I love great wine, but I am happy to tell anyone who’ll listen that great wine is only great with a little bit of perspective. I frequently like a little perspective with my dinner (to steal a great line from Ratatouille!).
So, what wines give me perspective? Well, they’re usually pretty inexpensive, and frequently on the lighter side, but not always. Since almost all white wines fit that bill, I’m going to focus today on the best red wines that thrill me on the cheap! With my old world palate it’s not surprising that my list is a bit skewed, but keep reading for a few surprising suggestions.
Join the chat on SnoothDo you have a go-to "just for fun" wine? Do you have any favorite bottles for under $15? Head to the Snooth forums and let us know. While you're there, weigh in on our Global Tasting Initiative or the best and worst names for wineries.
Sangiovese, the grape responsible for Chianti, is one of my go-to wines. A good Chianti, or even Sangiovese from California for that matter, can really hit the spot and works with the food I like to eat. I'm a big fan of salumi and preserved meats and the acid of Sangiovese is a perfect match.
Two to Try:2006 Castello di Gabbiano Chianti Classico
2006 Bonny Doon Ca’del Solo Sangiovese
I’m guessing that I’m not surprising anyone with my second choice. Barbera can be so fresh and fruity that I sometimes serve it with a bit of a chill. It’s one of a few grapes that I think can really benefit from a touch of new oak, but that’s certainly not a requirement. One of my favorite food and wine pairings is a nice Barbera with a plate of grilled vegetables and fresh mozzarella all drizzled with great olive oil.
Two to Try:2007 Montevina Barbera
2007 Burlotto Barbera
Pro tip: 2007 is one of the greatest vintages ever for Barbera.
Speaking of chillable red wines, Schiava, a pale delicate wine from the Trentino/Alto-Adige regions of Italy, is one of my all-time favorites. It’s a fresh, light bodied, strawberry and herb-scented wine that is perfect for just about any casual occasion. Schiava can be hard to track down, so I’ll recommend the next best thing – Bardolino! Either wine is lovely on its own, but Schiava with Polenta, sausages and wild mushrooms is a Trentino/Alto-Adige classic! Oh, it makes me homesick.
Two to Try:2008 Alois Lageder Romigberg Kaltersee Classico
2008 Albino Piona Bardolino
Want more? Check out Part 2: 6 More Wines for a Cheap Drunk
Two Fun Easy-Drinking Wines2006 Bonny Doon Ca’del Solo Sangiovese
This is almost a classic Chianti blend, with the feel of a big, powerful vintage. It's got a nice tannic bite in the mouth with dark earthy undertones to the rich flavors and a burst of spice on the finish.
2007 Burlotto Barbera
In the mouth this is perfectly proportioned with deep, lively fruit, a hint of round tannin, and snappy acides. The finish is dominated by the acids but with excellent length and reverb. Super Barbera.