For me, “bargain” doesn’t mean just dirt cheap – It’s a price/quality ratio.
So for me a bargain could be anything from a great £12 cabernet all the way up to some of the pinot noirs that are always expensive. You can find tasty ones that are £30/£20 that are still what I consider a bargain, but it’s that basic price/quality ratio.
Are you buying something that tastes twice as expensive as it costs? The range that I look for is in the £10-£15 range, sometimes up to £17 but I think at that price range you could find some terrific bottles. There is more competition than ever in the liquor store shelves. There are new countries and new wineries popping up every day it seems in terms of whose trying to get your wine £££’s.
At that price point, I think that wine makers have invested enough in cost that you are getting some good quality in the bottle but you haven’t gone over, say, £20/£30 where you are starting to pay for intangible factors like rarity, prestige, collectability or a high critic-score.
So, Chile and Argentina are terrific sources of great value price lines because they have this natural cost advantages. They have inexpensive labour; their land prices are not expensive either. They always have good vintage. Year after year, it’s always sunny and warm and the grapes ripen unlike cooler climates like Canada or France where you have to battle mildew and rot and that increases your cost of production. So that’s one region, but there are lots of others.
Another key insider tip that I really like is to look at wine producing countries that have a great reputation, but go down south. We generally know that red wine from Bordeaux and Burgundy tend to be very expensive. But if you go down the Languedoc or Province where it’s dry rosés, you are going to find some terrific wines. Similarly, if you look at Italy, Piedmont and Tuscany; they are going to pay up. But if you go Cecily, you are going to get some terrific wines but I think twined with that is look for the less fashionable grapes so Cabernet,; regardless of where you are, you are going to pay up but if you go with lesser known grapes like Argentina’s Maleic, Chile’s Cabernet, Cecily’s Nero Davila. I know they don’t seem as familiar but once you get to know them, you’re always going to be saving big time on your wines without giving up the taste. Well I think during the holidays, it’s really festive to bring a bottle of Bubbly and you don’t have to pay £20/£30 for champagne because a lot of other countries these days, Spain, Italy, and Canada produce terrific Bubbly’s for half or even a third of the price.
When I take a gift of wine, I don’t expect it to be opened. When I’m the hostess, I open it and so it is really up to the person hosting the dinner party. He or she may have planned out all the wines that go with the meal, in which case it truly is a gift that you don’t expect to drink. One of the things is though, say you’ve got a special bottle and you’ve slept it all the way back France or wherever you’ve been and you’d really like to share it with the host that night, call ahead and say “I’ve got this bottle. Do you think it will go with what you’re cooking because I’d really love to share it with you.” And make it explicit but also bring another backup bottle that is more of a gift. One of the wines that I keep recommended over and over again is Alamos which is made the winery called Katina in Argentina and it is a fleshy robust full body red wine.
If you like Cabernet or Merlot, you’ll love this Melbac from that winery. It’s only £8; you really can’t go wrong. Another favourite wine is from Chile and it’s from the winery Errazuriz which I know it’s a mouthful to remember or to pronounce, but once you get used to it, it will become a favourite brand, I’m sure. They produce a really terrific Cabernet Sorbet now. I know I said you pay up for Cabernet, but when you’re getting it from Chile, because of those cost advantages you will get a bargain. So it is about £8. For me it tastes like £20/£25, It’s fantastic. Pair it with like a juicy steak or prime rib or any hardy robust flavoured meal… It’s amazing. Again, I’m back to Chile again with Carmen Char Benet; buttery, round, rich. Perfect for roast chicken or pasta and a cream sauce; it’s a beautiful pairing. It’s just £7.
I think, you know what we produce here in our own backyards is fantastic and so it’s no longer the “right” decision to choose Canadian wines, it’s a delicious decision. Le Closure Dampino, this one, they make a range, is £20 and some people look at me and go “That’s not a bargain”. But I think it is because if you try to get the same level of quality from France, Burgundy in particular which is the home of Pinot Noir, you are going to start at £20/£35 and easily go over a couple hundred dollars. Again, bargain is that price/quality ratio and I think it’s worth really exploring the wines we make here even though they are not going to be “bottom of the barrel” pricing, so to speak. Yes and no; to be definitive. I think what we are trying to do is balance the flavours, textures, and weight that are in our glass and on our plate and so yes, a juicy steak will go with a robust Cabernet or Malbec.
Similarly, you know that Carmen, Char Benet, it’s lovely with roast chicken but I think cooking has changed and wine has changed and our tastes have changed. These days we are experimenting a whole lot more with different combinations. For example, I love a spicy dish with a really zipping Geverts deminar or Riesling; nice bright white wines. Similarly, I love planked salmon with a Pinot Noir; red wine and fish. There is breaking the rules right there but because that is a fairly meaty, flavourful fish and a very light red wine, they actually work together quite nicely.
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