The other day I was riding in my car and I received a call on my cell phone. It was my friend Lee, and I could tell by the urgency in his voice that he needed help. “I’m at the grocery store and I’ve got to find a good cheap wine, any suggestions?” It turns out that Lee had a date that night, and didn’t want to “bomb” on his wine selection.
I get asked questions like this frequently, so I decided I’d write this article and try to address people’s concerns over selecting good cheap wines. First of all, for our purposes let’s define “cheap.” Now I could go on and on about individual definitions of the word “cheap” as it pertains to wine, but I don’t want to bore you. So, for the sake of these discussions, let’s define “cheap” wines as wines priced in the 5.00-12.00 per bottle range.
“Good” is a subjective term. So when we describe a wine as “good” what we’re really saying is that the wine is acceptable to the majority of people who drink that type of wine. I wouldn’t know a good Merlot from grape juice because I don’t drink Merlot. So, tip#1 is to try several wines in the 5.00-12.00 range in the category of wine that you enjoy. Determine which of these wines tastes best to you. O.K, O.K, my friend Lee didn’t have the inclination to start tasting wines in the grocery store, so what could he do?
My first suggestion is to stick to well known brands, preferably some of the larger vintners in California. Brands such as Robert Mondavi, Berengers, and even Sutter Home are dependable. These large wineries have both exclusive, select vintages, which tend to be pricey, and large mass produced vintages. Berenger’s Stone Cellars variety and Mondavi’s Woodbridge variety are mass produced, but reasonably priced and good. Fetzer is another good, reasonably priced California winery. Gallo, the grandfather of all mass produced wines, has recently introduced it’s “Gallo Of Sonoma” varieties of wines. These are quite good and easily fit our price range. Wine Spectator magazine has an excellent feature titled,”Great Wines For Under 20.00.” Check it out!
Ah yes, don’t let me forget box wines. Box wines have improved tremendously in the last few years. This improvement is probably due to wine’s increased popularity. At any rate, one can pick up a “box” which is usually the equivalent to 4 bottles of wine, for under 20.00!! Check with Boxwines.org for reviews of various box wines.
Hopefully, these few suggestions will be of help to you the next time you’re entrusted with “choosing the wine.”Apparently it helped Lee, he’s been dating the same girl for 2 months now!