Tasting inexpensive wine is always refreshing. Not because they wines always offer such compelling value, but rather because they allow one to keep things in perspective. Now I’m not going to say that any of the wines tasted for this article are worth twice the price, though in fact there are wines twice the price that are less drinkable than some of these wines, though I will say it is refreshing how attractive $10 wines can be today.
Seriously, a $10 wine is only supposed to be decent, and has no right to show off some nuance, complexity, or sophisitcation less it embarasses the big boys, and yet that’s just what some of these do. Wine is not priced on a smooth curve. In fact there can be little relation to quality when pricing wine, you just have to look at wines priced between $45 and $450 to see how little marginal utility you get by paying several times the price of the best value wines. And of course value wines can be found at $45 just as they can be found here at $10.
The best of these value priced Cabernets offer fresh fruit, and are well balanced with both varietal character and some complexity. A few wines fall into the usual traps that inexpensive wines are prone to fall for. Over-oaking for one and over-ripe fruit another. Most producers seem to be learning that the $10 Cabernet consumer is not actually looking for some faux $50 wine but rather just what that $10 wine should be. Once again we return to drinkability, and deliciousness. That’s all these wines need to offer to win an audience over, anything above and beyond is just frosting on the cake.
A few wines tip towards being something a bit sweet, which reduces the wine’s drinkability for me, but I know that many people find these wines more drinkable than dry wines so I try not to knock them if they are well made and balanced. And in fact I think that there are fewer sweet Cabernets today now that red blends has become a code word for sweeter red wines, leaving all these varietal wines for drinkers with a bit more of an understanding as to what one might expect from a varietal wines.
The truth is, counter intuitively I might add, that these wines seem to be getting better year to year. I say counter-intuitively in particularly referring to California’s wines since the great grape glut seems to have come to end and producers are finding it more difficult to find high quality juice at an affordable price. That might be becoming apparent with some of the highest volume producers already. Still there are plenty of enjoyable wines on the market today at $12 and under. Wines that are worth trying, if just to gain an understanding of what one should expect from wines that we are charged more for. If these $10 wines can deliver this much, $20 wines need to step up their game.
One note worth mentioning here. The $8 Trinity Oaks cabernet is delicious, and even though the Excelsior didn’t finish with the top group today it’s also a wine i would happily drink with friends. Just like with the prices, it’s good not to get too hung up on the point scores either! Sometimes that 86pt wine, a score that says ‘“ Like It” is just what one needs, and if you try some time, you just might find, you get what you need. Oh yeah. With $10 you can get what you need.