Good Cheap Wine

Good Cheap Wine

Summer-wine, summer-wine, sum-sum-summer-wine. Thats what this feature is all about. Red wines for summer sipping, backyard barbecues, and picnics in the park. Usually at these events, we just want to relax, lay back, and enjoy ourselves and give into cravings for plain ol simple stuff. And, unless your with a Martha Stewart devotee, fancy gives way to plain and complexity succumbs to simplicity.

I know that when Im scarfing down that third burger with sweet relish and ketchup, I really dont want to take time out to pay homage to the winemaker or to think about vintages. I just want to have fun and drink a wine that goes with the moment.

For this tasting, we asked several wine merchants to suggest cheap wines, preferably in big bottles (1.5L), that would be fun to drink. So we collected eight wines that ranged in price from $3.99 (750ml ) to $11.99 (1.5L), made a big batch of burgers, opened good grocery store potato salad and cole slaw, sat out in the backyard, and ate and drank.

The first wine we tasted was a non-vintage Gallo Livingston Cellars Burgundy ($3.99). I already hear the snickering and see the raised eyebrow. But quite frankly all of us found this wine delightful. Clear ruby in color, the wine has a full nose of red cherries. This is a thin wine (so thin that its gulpable) and its sweet fruity flavors fade fast. But these characteristics, which might be frowned upon in more expensive wines, make this a perfectly wonderful wine for grilled burgers or franks smothered with ketchup, relish, or mustard. It could be served slightly chilled.


Our next wine was a 1993 Pepperwood Grove Pinot Noir ($6.99). Deep garnet in color it has an earthy nose with hints of celery. The wine is thin without much flavor and has a tannic finish. It was a real teaser whose bouquet and first taste seemed to promise more than it delivered.

One of the stars of this tasting was a 1995 R.H. Phillips Night Harvest Mistura ($6.99).This is a well balanced blend of Rhone varietals, Syrah, Grenache, Petite Syrah, and Mouvedre. Deep ruby in color, the wine has a rich nose full of red berries, pepper, and licorice. Full of plummy, jammy flavor, with a good mid-palate and nice acid, the wine is still somewhat tannic. Given its price, this wine represents a great value and should please even your most discriminating barbecue guests (you know, the one dressed in pleated kakhi shorts, etc.).




Our next two wines proved to be disappointments. Both were Montepulciano dAbruzzos.

The first was a 1995 Farnese Montepulciano dAbruzzo Farneto Valley ($9.99). Clear ruby in color with a pleasant bouquet of vanilla and berries, the wine was thin and watery with a tobacco earthiness. The second was a 1995 Villa Dina Tollo Montepulciano dAbruzzo ($7.99). Ruby red, the wine was dumb on the nose and thin on the tongue. As one taster said: “Mediocre at best.” Usually this variety when young is a delight to drink, but these are definitely not the best examples.

Our next wine was from France, a non-vintage Cuve George du Boeuf Vin de Table ($7.99). Deep deep ruby and opaque, this table wine had a fruity nose and also hints of bell pepper. The wine is very smooth but somewhat thin with a little tartness on the tongue. An OK wine.

Another star of the evening was a 1996 Carta Vieja Merlot Maule Valley ($9.99). Garnet in color with a black cherry and licorice nose, the wine is very smooth and, surprisingly for a merlot, peppery on the tongue. A little thin but still full of flavor with a slight licorice aftertaste on the finish, the wine is enjoyable to drinkand a good value.




For the final wine of the tasting, we chose a 1994 Dunnewood Cabernet Sauvignon North Cost ($12.99). The wine has a ruby color and a full bouquet of pepper and berries. Full flavored on entry and somewhat tannic, the wine is rich in fruit flavor, mostly cherry, and has an adequate finish. A nice wine.







Serving Notes

Like any good wine, a carefully selected jug wine should be served with confidence. If you feel a need to apologize or make excuses for it, maybe you shouldn’t serve your selection.

Please let us know what you think about these wines on our feedback page. In our next issue, we’ll publish some of your comments.

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