Drink Like a Queen, Spend Like a Maid: How to Enjoy Great Wines for Less
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Drink Like a Queen, Spend Like a Maid: How to Enjoy Great Wines for Less

The reader will learn where to look for reasonably priced wines of great quality.

Financial collapse, plunging stock market, mortgage meltdown….the recession is causing all of us to rethink our budgets and reallocate our disposable income. Most of us are spending less money on the things we enjoy, including wine. As an owner of a discount wine store, Bin Ends, in Braintree, Massachusetts, I know that you don’t have to skimp on quality…in fact, we specialize in affordable yet high-quality wines.  A little bit of information can go a long way in helping you to drink fabulous, well-priced wine as well.

You may already be familiar with some of the great wine regions of the world – Napa, Bordeaux, Burgundy…they undeniably produce some of the best wines. Unfortunately, their stellar reputations enable them to command high, even astronomical, prices. So, what’s a person with discerning tastes and a limited budget to do? Get curious, get adventurous and go off the beaten path! Instead of the tried-and true, try wines with unfamiliar names from lesser-known wine regions. My favorite places to look for outstanding wines on the cheap are Chile, Argentina and Spain. Whether your preference is red or white, jammy or earthy, lush or light, you are sure to find something that suites your tastes. You may even discover some new favorites. People in the wine trade are onto these world-class wine destinations. It won’t be long before the rest of the world takes notice, so get them before they are too hot!

Argentina and Chile These South American countries, separated by the Andes mountains, have exploded onto the wine scene over the past ten years by adopting a few grapes indigenous to Europe and putting their own unique spin on them. The warm climates and great exposure to sun and ocean breezes produce big wines with intense, fruity flavors.

In Argentina, Malbec reigns. This red blending grape native to Bordeaux was rarely the star of the show until it came into its own in the Mendoza region of Argentina. It produces lush, jammy wines with lots of berry fruit up front and a peppery, spicy finish. Malbecs are great with steaks or just about any barbecued meats. Some of my favorites are the La Posta “Pizzella Vineyard”, Zolo, and for a real bargain, the Enrique Foster “Ique”. White wine lovers are sure to enjoy Torrontes-a grape native to Spain that produces unoaked, fruity and spicy wines that are great on their own and pair well with a variety of foods, especially Asian cuisines. Try the Crios or the Zolo.

Although most wines in Argentina are produced in the warm Mendoza region, Patagonia, in the South, has become the new home to one of the worldÂ’s noblest cool-climate grapes-Pinot Noir. Good, well-priced Pinot is hard to find; bargain-hunting Pinot lovers will adore the Jelu Pinot Noir. Redolent of berry fruit with a soft finish, this wine is a great expression of the Pinot Noir grape-without the steep price tag.

Chile has become the new home of the Carmeniere grape, an obscure blending grape also from Bordeaux. It produces full-bodied earthy reds with dark fruit and firm tannins, like the Viu Manent Carmeniere. This also pairs well with red meat and barbecue.

Argentina and Chile also produce top-notch Cabernet Sauvignons, Chardonnays and Sauvignon Blancs. Cabernet lovers who cannot afford Napa price tags should try the Bianchi and the Carlos Basso from Argentina and the Santa Rita from Chile. Viu Manent from Chile makes an excellent Chardonnay similar in style to those from California. For lovers of lively, crisp, fruity Sauvignon Blancs, I recommend the La Playa from Argentina.

Spain, Spain Spain!

Spain, to me, is one of the most interesting wine countries on the planet. With its numerous wine regions, grape varietals and various winemaking styles, it has wines to please just about every palate. Spain sealed its reputation in the wine world with its stellar wines from Rioja, Ribera del Duoro and the Priorat. Wines from these regions are generally not for the slim of wallet, but there are many lesser-known regions in Spain that are making affordable, high-quality wines.

Although a predominantly red wine country, Spain produces a few noteworthy whites that just happen to be budget friendly. Do you like to get a dinner party going with a bit of bubbly? Instead of Champagne, try Cava, the sparkling wine of Spain. Made in the Penedes region in Northeastern Spain with the native grapes Macabeo, Xarel-lo and Parellada, it is made in the Methode Champenois, which means its second fermentation-the one that produces bubbles-happens in the bottle, which yields a fuller-bodied wine. Stylistically similar to its French counterpart, it costs about one third of the price of a non-vintage champagne. Try the 1+1=3 Cava. Rueda, in the Northwest, has, in recent years, become known for its fruity whites, thanks to some forward-thinking winemakers who resurrected the native Verdejo grape. On its own or combined with Sauvignon Blanc, Verdejo makes wines packed with citrus fruit and bracing acidity. I love the Basa and the Sitios de Bodega Con Class.

Many great red wines from Spain feature two grapes also found in southern FranceÂ…Mourvedre-Monastrell in Spain and Grenache, known as Garnacha. The Monastrell grape is predominant in the Southeastern regions of Jumilla and Yecla. Wines made from the Monastrell grape are deep red in color, very full-bodied, fruit forward and high in alcohol content. Some of my favorites are the Castano Solanera from Yecla and the Altos de la Hoya from Jumilla. In the northeast, the regions of Catalyud and Campo de Borjo prominently feature the Garnacha grape, which produces powerful, fruity wines with a smoky, earthy finish. My favorites are the Tres Picos Garnacha from Campo de Borjo and the Las Rocas Garnacha from Catalyud.

Lastly, don't be afraid to ask questions when you visit your local wine shop. No question is stupid! Besides, there is nothing a wine geek likes more that to turn someone on to great wine.

Bottoms Up!

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