Great wines, good for your postholiday pocketbook

By Molly Steinbach
Posted 1/9/20

If you blew out your budget on presents for the family (or yourself) over the holidays, your wine habit doesn't need to suffer. Before you grab a bottle of something cheap and dodgy, let's talk about some great -- and great value --wines that will tide you over to the next paycheck.

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Great wines, good for your postholiday pocketbook

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I don't know about you, but I'm feeling a little light in the pocketbook right now. But not to worry! If you blew out your budget on presents for the family (or yourself) over the holidays, your wine habit doesn't need to suffer. Before you grab a bottle of something cheap and dodgy, let's talk about some great -- and great value --wines that will tide you over to the next paycheck.

All three of the wines on the docket today are from Europe. While there are certainly values to be had elsewhere, I find that the quality of inexpensive wines from Spain, Italy and even France outshines wines of a similar price point from many other regions. That will change if the currently proposed tariffs become reality, so … enjoy these wines before some of them cost twice as much, or disappear from our shelves entirely.

Our first destination is the Veneto region of northwest Italy and one of its signature white grapes: pinot grigio. I have to admit, this isn't usually my go-to white grape. Not because it can't make good wine - it can make spectacular wine when made with care -- but because so much of it, especially at the lower price points, tastes like bubble gum. (No, seriously, next time you encounter a glass of inexpensive pinot grigio, give it a good sniff -- Bubblicious.) But 2018 Riff Pinot Grigio delle Venezie isn't your ordinary $15 bottle of PG.

It's made by Alois Lageder, one of the most respected and conscientious makers of wines (some red, but mostly white) from the region. Even his top-of-the-line wines aren't outrageously pricey, but with Riff he allows those of us who have tightened our belts to enjoy a crisp, clean glass of Italian pinot grigio at its finest. Minerally, with chalk and flint, yet with pleasantly fruity hints of green pear and nectarine. It's also a great wine to pair with salad if you're regretting some of the food choices you made over the holidays.

Wandering just a bit west of the Veneto region, we come to Bardolino. Lying in between the ancient town of Verona and Lake Garda, Bardolino wines usually contain the same grapes as Valpolicella, its more famous neighbor to the east, but feature a lighter, less rustic expression of the grapes.

The 2018 Lenotti Bardolino Classico ($14) is a pale ruby color in the glass, and fruity and floral on the nose. Roses and raspberries and hints of cranberry adorn the palate. It's also organic (Riff is about to be certified organic, as well) -- so it's good for the planet as well as your pocketbook. I don't think I've ever met a more perfect midweek pizza wine.

For our final wine in the value for money tour, we're traveling to the place you might least expect: Bordeaux. Yep, home of some of the most outrageously highly priced wines in the world. And growing just down the road from them is Château la Freynelle ($14).

Is it as ethereally beautiful and complex as a 1982 Château Petrus? No. But it's also 0.4 percent the price. It's a tasty blend of merlot and cabernet sauvignon, with an abundance of leather, graphite, balsam and dark berry. No one will complain if you serve this on burger night next week. But they also won't complain if you serve it with steak au poivre at your next fancy dinner party. No one would guess it costs less than $15.

So there you have it. Three options that won't break your new year's budget, but won't leave you feeling deprived of good wine, either. Cheers.

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