Wine Talk

Snooth User: Really Big Al

Value Wines - under $20 USD but worth much more!

Posted by Really Big Al, May 16.

Sometimes we get used to paying upwards of $100 for a nice bottle of wine from the wine shop.  Those are the 'good days' that we want to remember, but soon you notice your bank account is dropping faster than Trumps approval rating, so you start looking for more value-oriented wines that are tasty in their own right.

When you find a nice wine that is below $20 retail, please post a picture here and give us an idea of why it's worthy of you wanting to buy another bottle or two.  Does it pair well with a particular dish?  If you can describe some of the wine's complexity and virtues, I invite you to add that too.  

Here is a very tasty Bordeaux wine (on the left, a 2015 Chateau Grand Plantey) I bought this afternoon at a wine shop in Alexandria, Virginia.  Only $13, and yes - it's a 2015 vintage.  The shop owner recommends drinking this one now, or laying it down for just a few years.  I opened it and wow, I was impressed by the nose and the taste.  My wife says it lacks complexity and I'm ok with that.  I mean, hell - it's only $13.  I haven't yet tried the $15 French wine on the right.  Maybe later this week....

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Replies

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Reply by rckr1951, May 16.

I drink a lot of those Al.  Sort of a calling card when you live up here.

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Reply by Really Big Al, May 16.

You drink a lot of what?  Sub $20 wines or this particular French Bordeaux wine?

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Reply by rckr1951, May 16.

I drink a lot of:

Value Wines - under $20 USD but worth much more!
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Reply by Stephen Harvey, May 16.

Interesting observation from down under 

We have quite a large selection of wines that are under AUD20 which drink really well

Generally they are Riesling and SHiraz

The big wine companies seem to excel in this space and working in the industry as a bean counter it is e reflection of economies of scale

I am more than happy to drink sub20 when the value proposition is there or the occasion does not require a great wine eg sausages in bread at a barbeque

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Reply by rckr1951, May 17.

AL - I love to dig around, but there is a very good quality 2014 - the Chateau de Landiras Rouge.  It sell for about $14 and still needs about a year to settle in, but is drinkable now.

The 2014 Lilian Ladouys sells for around $20 and from my past experience is a great bottling for the money - this needs about 2/3/4 years to settle down.

Not to be outdone the 2014 Antica Masseria de Sigillo Primitivo di Manduria (Italy) is a great version of zinfandel.  Sells for about $14.

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Reply by GregT, May 18.

Those last two are both generally decent enough. I never got used to paying upwards of $100 for a bottle, and actually I don't. You should be able to drink really well for $15-30 if you keep your eyes open.

And unfortunately, the US does not excel in the space under  $20. There's a lot of wine under $20 but most of it undrinkable. Too bad. It improves quickly as you move up though. But I can't remember the last time I drank a US bottle that was supposed to retail for under $20. Last time I posted about finding something on clearance for $6, I got flamed because that wine was supposed to be over $30.

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Reply by dmcker, May 18.

Anybody who flames you for finding a bargain is automatically questionable.

Several of Martini's offerings are examples of what used to be some of my widely-distributed lower-end CA go-tos. Under $10 until last decade. Haven't had them for a decade or so (since they were bought up), but am I guessing right that the brand has fallen in quality?

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Reply by rckr1951, May 18.

GREGT - I agree with your thoughts on the US under $20 drinking situation.  It's why I buy from Spain, Chile, Oz and others that offer QPR for less than $20.

DMCKER - "Anybody who flames you for finding a bargain is automatically questionable." You're right.

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Reply by Really Big Al, May 18.

Great responses from you guys.  I too love the Spanish wines and find their price point here on the east coast to be quite a good deal.  I think I first started with Spanish wines at the Jaleo's restaurants in Crystal City (Arlington VA) and Washington DC.  

Now I did drink the second bottle you see at the opening of this topic.  This $15 wine was actually a bit better than the Bordeaux wine on the left (which I think lost its fruit after an hour in the glass) but it's just not the same as a $50+ wine by any means.  The 2013 Castelmavre 'Corbieres' is a nice red blend of 45% Grenache (20 year old), 45% Syrah (20 year old), 10% Carignan (40 year old).  I would say it's slightly more tannic than the Bordeaux wine and has a bit less fruit on the first taste, but it's more consistent over the life of the bottle being drunk (two days).

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Reply by jackwerickson, May 18.

For those that have a Costco they a couple I have tried Kirkland brand, the first is Chianti Classico reserve, they evidently buy it from Viila Caffagio which is a single vineyard and is 100% Sangiovese,the next is Chateauneuf du Pape which is $20 the Chianti is $9,investment had both of these,they also had a premier cru chablis around,have not tried it,but again a premier cru

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Reply by rckr1951, May 18.

It's amazing how their brand is growing - buying good grapes from all the world cheaply and then converting that to costs the way they do is pretty dynamic.

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Reply by jackwerickson, May 18.

RCKR if I am not mistaken the wine is bottled at the winery of Villa Caffagio I read that on the label. I am not sure of the other two,would assume the same is true

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Reply by jackwerickson, May 18.

RCKR read the other day Sams is going to try to duplicate what Costco is doing,the article indicated they were going after relatively high end wines,assume again it will follow Costco 

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Reply by MJET, May 18.

This 2015 Carlisle Syrah that is right around the $20 mark and always leaves a smile on our faces. It's young therefore we gave it an hour decant. Blackfruit forward, with good acidity, medium finish. Excellent QPR and mid week wine. 

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Reply by rckr1951, May 18.

MJET - I agree with that, but then, they are one of my favorite producers

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Reply by EMark, May 18.

OK, as a Social Security pensioner, I'm as interested in <$20 wines as much as the next guy.  However, the attitude that the old world < $20 wines are ipso facto better than the < $20 domestic wines does not seem reasonable to me.

It may very well be that the <$20 European wines that make it across the Atlantic are, generally, better that most of the < $20 European.  That does make some sense to me.  By the same token, it is reasonable to conclude that there is a lot of icky < $20 domestic wine out there.  However, anybody who lives in the U.S. who says he can't find reasonably good low-dollar domestic wine is just not trying very hard.

Jack brought up Costco.  I love Costco.  He mentions the Kirkland brand Chianti and the CdP.  I've never had the Chianti (Costco wants shopping at their stores to be a "treasure hunt."  Inventory at one store may not be at another.  What was at one store on one visit may not be there the next time you visit.)   In the past I have had the CdP.  No doubt about it, it is good wine and a reasonable QPR (however you define that).  Now, turn around the corner and look at the next bin. Do you see Kirkland Napa Merlot for < $20?  Kirkland Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel for < $20?  Kirkland Rutherford Cabernet Sauvignon for less than < $20?  Guess what.  They are all pretty darned good wines. Are they better than the Kirkland Chianti or CdP?  Who cares?

Believe me when I tell you, we can perform the same exercise at Total Wine stores.

As I am posting this, I am sipping Trader Joe's 2013 Reserve Mendocino Red Wine.  (Ooh, Reserve.  It must be good.)   I'm here to tell you, it's pretty darned good.  Not great, but, to me, better than most low-dollar Spanish Garnachas that are available to me.

Rant over..

;-)

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Reply by Really Big Al, May 18.

"Ooh, Reserve.  It must be good."

I love that statement.  Holy shit, it's raining hard here in Springfield VA right now.  I'm drinking a nice wine while Sandra is down in Fredericksburg VA with her girlfriend at some chamber music performance.  I cannot post the wine here as it's definitely not below $20.  But it is most excellent...

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Reply by GregT, May 18.

Emark - you're right to a large extent, and there's a LOT of swill in Europe. But the advantage they have is that in many cases, they've been farming the same land and making wine for generations. Then you get an energetic importer who finds a co-op and helps them tweak their wine. Suddenly it's pretty good and their price point isn't covering land purchases that must be amortized, or high-priced consultants, or any of those things that make a Napa Cab hit $100 in its first vintage. Those low-priced wines get imported, get ratings, and get distributed.

So it's far easier to find a good, well-made European wine with real character than it is to find one from the US. In the US, the big producers like KJ, Gallo, etc., tend to make very generic wine from grapes from say the Central Valley and they do it by formula so there's a brand consistency year to year.

We used to import wine that hit the shelves for under $20 because the younger sister and brother took over, pulled out of the co-op and decided to go it on their own. They've travelled to CA and elsewhere, they're aware of the wine world, and they think they have a unique vineyard and can make unique wine.

In Spain, under Franco, a lot of wine was done by co-ops and people were busy making crap. Now they can stretch out and they're producing really nice wine that we can't compete with because we're going to have to buy the land at today's prices. In Italy and France and Greece, there are similar situations. The US can make excellent wine at the top end when money isn't a barrier. At the low end, you have to get wide distribution and unless you've shown you can turn volume, you're not going to make a living as a husband-and-wife team turning out bottles for $20 ea. In places where land is cheap, like Michigan and Ohio, you can make your wine for less, but people aren't interested in that wine so much, and you're limited in what you can plant.

There are some great wines around - Qupe Central Coast for example, is an excellent Syrah. I get it for $12.99. Out east it's over $20. The Chateau St. Michelle lineup from WA is usually good and there are a few other producers up there who are OK, but there's also a lot of crap.

OTOH, from Marques de Riscal in Rioja, you can get the reserve for around $15. They've been making wine since the 1800s and aren't amortizing any of their acquisition costs any more. And that cheap wine can age for years. We don't have anything comparable.

Yet. Maybe in time we will.

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Reply by rckr1951, May 18.

RBA -  "Holy shit, it's raining hard here in Springfield VA right now." We've had 8"-9" in the last 4 days - temp has dropped to 40 df with more on the Sat/Sun/Mon.

GREG & EMARK - I didn't say I don't drink <$20 USA wines - there are just some wines from Euro that I enjoy more. on a continuing basis.  I do enjoy Ste. Michelle, some Columbia Crest offerings and there are countless Cali wines.

I do have a soft spot for Spain however, as well as the southern Rhone.

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Reply by jackwerickson, May 19.

RBA  "Ooh,Reserve. It must be good".  While most New World countries,including U.S. have no legal definition,anyone can use "Reserve" this is not true of several European countries,Spain,Portugal,Austria,and Italy. Their "reservas " have legal definitions,most of which have to do with aging for example Chianti Classico Riserva must be aged 27 months at least,Vin Nobile at least 30 months,  Brunello 5 years with 2 years in barrel or cask, Barolo at least 5 years, Barbaresco at least 4 years. I guess only the buyer can determine if that makes it good!

 

 

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