Great wines that don’t break the bank
This is the season for savings. The tourist industry of the winter has gone back home, and the summer tourists are still contemplating plans for their next vacation to Utah. Meanwhile, us locals are here wondering where all the money went and are therefore left with an unfortunately modest wine budget. So, let’s save the First Growths for busier times and use this shoulder season to explore the great wines under $20.
There are a few rules of value wine hunting that I must share with you before we begin. First, the great values are not in the areas where the big names are. For example, there is really no good value champagne in Utah; it is only sometimes a value considering it comes from Champagne. There is, however, great value sparkling wine out there from lesser-known regions. It is also a value tactic to seek out small producers as Utah gives a 30 percent discount to wineries that produce fewer than 8,400 cases per annum. This is not a well-advertised fact so you may not realize that a particular wine is privy to this generous discount. You can, however, make educated guesses. For example, "Yellow Tail" makes a just a few more than 8,400 cases per year. Try stuff that you have never heard of before; it may be cheaper here than anywhere else.
All right, here is my list of a few of the best buys on the state’s shelves:
Burgans Albarino: Spain is probably my favorite hunting ground for great value. The Burgans Albarino, for just around $10, is as refreshing, balanced and clean as you will get for 10 bucks. Tropical fruit and crisp apple of this great bargain wine dominate the palate.
1+1=3: This cheeky name for a Cava does not translate to the cheap image that it might suggest. It shows great Cava character with bright mineral crispness and light fruit from this great producer of bubbly around 13 bucks.
Domaine la Garrigue ’04: This spicy red from the southern Rhone commune of Vaqueras shows all the great earthy flavor and texture that the Grenache grape has to offer without the price. For $16.95 it is tough to beat in the Rhone.
Ceago Chardonnay ’05: It is hard to find the detail involved in biodynamics at a price that doesn’t make you get a second mortgage on your house, but Ceago seems to do it. The Chard is one of their best wines, and at $15.95 it is pretty hard to beat. I know what you are saying. "Another chardonnay!? Boring!" This unique wine, however, is not over-oaked like many California chards and shows great varietal character.
Soracco Moscato D’Asti ’04: This semi sparkling sweet wine has as much fruit and ripe flavor as you could ever expect for 16 bucks. The rich nutty and fruity flavors are enchanting and not too sweet, doubling as a perfect wine for many summery desserts and is a great salad wine.
Rejadorada Tinto Roble ’04: Toro is one of the fastest-growing regions in Spain and the Rejadorada shows its character to a tee with big spice and peppery aromas. This full-bodied is one of my favorite buys at just around 18 bucks.
Good luck and happy hunting.
Zev Rovine is the sommelier and resident cheese monger at the Spotted Frog Bookstore Cafe and Wine Bar where he teaches weekly wine classes. His wine education comes from the American Sommelier Association in N.Y.C. and he tries his very best not to spill the Pinot on the bestseller section. If you have any wine queries or comments he is easily contacted via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org .
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