RECESSION…..it seems the word is impossible to escape these days. You can’t turn on the TV, pick up a newspaper or have a conversation without it coming up. Some economists argue we are coming out of it, others say it may last years. While of course we hope that this is a short lived situation, there is one major upside to this current state of our economy….VALUE WINE!!!!
This recession has reached all facets of industry, and the wine and spirits sector was hit as hard as any out there. There are many people, including myself, that consider wine as a part of everyday life. However when the cash flow slows down, it is a lot tougher to buy those bottles that are just out of your normal wine price range, and even tougher to make that splurge purchase on that special bottle. But the same way clothes shoppers may have taken a break from Nordstrom and Neiman’s to hit TJ Maxx or even Old Navy (gasp!), wine lovers are taking the less expensive road as well. And since the wineries and distributors are aware that is where they are making their money during these tough times, they have afforded us, the consumer, some great deals out there. The trick is to be able to distinguish the deal from the just average bottle of inexpensive wine.
For example, sure you can buy the Woodbridge Cabernet for around $5-7 a bottle at most stores. It is a staple inexpensive wine and is fairly drinkable for the price. But for the same $6-7 a bottle you can also pick up the Columbia Crest Two Vines Cabernet-Merlot Blend which includes Cabernet Sauvignon, Cab Franc as well as Merlot. It is a really fruit forward Bordeaux style blend that has great structure, a smooth finish and is quite food friendly. The same goes for Barefoot Cellars Zinfandel at $6 a bottle. While all of the Barefoot wines are decent, the red Zin is made from Lodi (California) fruit, the same area where some of the best Zins in the world come from! Then there’s McMannis Family Vineyards. Depending on the store, the wines are usually around $10 and can even go as low as under $8. Again, all their wines are quite good, but the Petite Sirah is a clear standout. Full of big fruit, chocolate and even hints of licorice, it drinks like a bottle twice the price.
You can also find a number of deals from less popular, yet up and coming, wineries from other countries (aside from France and Italy). There are some great Shiraz and Cabs coming out of Australia (Barossa being the best area in the region). Roo Estates is producing some very jammy and rich reds at under $8 a bottle. I am sure most people know the Yellow Tail label, which puts out a very decent entry level Shiraz and Cab. But if you spend a couple dollars more, still around $10-11 a bottle at most stores, and jump up to the Reserve there is a tremendous difference in quality…especially in the Shiraz!
It is important in the smaller market wine regions to know which specific areas are the good ones. Then it is worth taking a shot at something on the inexpensive side. For example, in Argentina you want to find Cabs and Malbecs from Mendoza. In Spain, Ribera del Douro, Rioja, Jumilla and Priorat are where the best reds are made and in Portugal there are some wonderful red blends coming out of Douro.
The most important thing is to keep trying new wines. Talk to your local wine merchant and see if they have something a little out of the ordinary on sale. Many times, if they have an excess of inventory, they may be looking to unload an older vintage. As long as it is within the last 5 years or so, and the wine has been stored properly, you can find some excellent deals that way as well. Just make sure if you take the wine home, open it and it is corked or gone (smells like vinegar or and old shoe), that they will refund you. After all, even the good deals should still bring full enjoyment!