First published in West Hawaii Today August 21, 2018
As Labor Day approaches, signaling the end of summer, let’s put a few dollars back in our pockets with exceptional everyday wines that taste like they cost considerably more. Each noted selection is widely available for under $20 (many under $15).
I drink pink all year long, and I’m always looking for a delicious Rose that tastes like the best from Provence or Napa Valley, without the high price tag. So instead, I look to neighboring regions, like Languedoc-Roussillon in France or California’s Central Coast, for aromatic, affordable options. From Languedoc, Gerard Bertand Cotes de Roses ($16) layers wild rose, watermelon, and tangerine. From Rhone, M. Chapoutier Cotes du Rhone Belleruche Rose ($10) melds cherry, woody herbal notes and wildflowers. Dark Horse from Central California blends a little bit of everything in the vineyard, including Grenache, Barbera and Tempranillo, which creates a highly enjoyable, fruity palate quencher for about $8.
For a refreshing alternative to your Pinot Grigio or Sauvignon Blanc, try a briny, citrus and fresh herb filled Picpoul de Pinet from Hugues Beaulieu ($9), or floral and stone fruit filled Soave Classico from Inama ($17).
Chardonnay can be all over the board, especially inexpensive options, as many are overproduced with buttery, oak-chip infused intensity or flat, flabby palates. For consistently good bang-for-your-buck options with balanced fruit and vibrant freshness pick up a bottle of Decoy Sonoma County Chardonnay ($15), William Hill North Coast Chardonnay ($13), J Lohr Riverstone Chardonnay ($13) and Wente Morning Fog Chardonnay ($10). Each will not disappoint, especially when pairing with popcorn and your favorite summertime action flick, like “Mission Impossible: Fallout.”
My go-to red on any given night is Pinot Noir. However, a good bottle of Pinot Noir is going to cost you at least $20, as the difficult to grow variety requires extensive hands-on care, making it pricey. Instead of settling for a not-so-great Pinot Noir, try other light to medium bodied red wines that can be produced affordably, like a light bodied Barbera or easy drinking Merlot, Grenache or Syrah blend.
One of the best I’ve recently enjoyed is Italy’s Aia Vecchia Lagone ($20) layering Merlot with Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc, creating flavors of cherry, plum and toasted vanilla that danced on the palate. From Veneto, Italy Tenuta Sant’Antonio Scaia Corvina ($16) showcases floral roses, black cherry and wild berries. Easy and approachable, Syrah-based Cotes du Rhone from E Guigal ($17) reveals the earthiness and spice of the variety, with raspberry, pomegranate, and white pepper. Juicy plum and blackberry filled Malbec is a solid go-to for an affordable red wine option as Alamos, Gascon, and Piattelli are each available for under $15.
Great Bordeaux doesn’t have to cost a fortune, you just have to know what to look for. The designation of Bordeaux Superieur is often used to signal wines of higher quality, as these wines have met various requirements classifying them as Superieur, and often these wines are also quite affordable. Chateau Recougne and Chateau Argadens (both $15) over deliver on taste for the price, layering earthy, woody herb, and black fruit notes.