LIFE’S TOO SHORT FOR BORING, CHEAP WINE
I used to enter my local wine shop and head straight for the section in the back, as frill-free as an office mailroom, called “Cheap and Tasty.” Bottles stood in their cases, each marked $9.99. I found some fine wines this way.
Then, likely in time with a promotion, I started asking the sales staff to guide me through the shelves. “I’m making salmon with morels and peas,” I’d say, and then throw my price point down like a gauntlet. “And I don’t want to spend more than $12.” I drank some good wines this way.
But you become a thirtysomething, and you begin to realize what your mother said about quality over quantity was right. Then my wine drinking life shifted into something as revelatory as the first cherry blossom in full spring bloom. If you’re willing to spend $20, my wine guys told me, you reap the benefits of two worlds—the best of the bargain stuff and the lower range of the special bottles. I drank some really special wines this way.
“The great intersection of quality and value in wine occurs in the $15- to $25-a-bottle range,” writes Eric Asimov in the New York Times. “Here, you can find wines that are not merely sound or decent but fascinating, without breaking the bank. Can you find these sorts of wines for less than $15? Possibly, but the choices rise exponentially if you can commit to paying just a little bit more.”
These are the bottles of white to uncork on the warm afternoons ahead, all of which can be found at the grown-up (but not showing-off) mother-knows-best magic price point.
Editor’s Note: You may not find these at local grocers or even liquor stores, so shop online. Don’t be afraid to buy wine over the web. Most of them will come from reputable online wine shops who properly cellar and ship their bottles. That’s worth the etra cost of shipping. And you can even be sipping wine while you shop!
Finding its way from Greece through Slovenia to Italy, where it’s been cultivated in the cool northern region since the 12th century, these wines are dry and citrusy with a roundness of body and a golden hue.
Try: Dorigo Ribolla Gialla, $17 BUY IT HERE
Cremant de Limoux
With shelves crowded with lackluster $12 bottles of proseccos, you’d be wise to seek out Cremant de Limoux for a change. Before Champagne, there was this sparkling wine, made by 16th century monks in France’s Languedoc region. Victoria Moore of the Telegraph calls Cremant de Limoux not just “really, really good,” but “distinctive, with a fresh, edgy air of hedgerows and meadows and wild countryside that makes it completely right for a Jubilee party.” We’re in!
Try: NV Domaine Les Hautes Terres Crémant de Limoux, $22 BUY IT HERE
“It’s what Viognier wishes it could be,” Frasca Food and Wine master sommelier, Bobby Stuck, said of the group of grape varieties grown historically in the Mediterranean to Imbibe Magazine. Astor Wines describes a “benchmark bottle” of Malvasia from Croatia as having “peppery citrus and sea shells, gently folded with a typical note of saline.”
Try: Coronica Istrian Malvasia, $19 or Birichino Monterey Malvasia Bianca 2012, $18 BUY IT HERE
Picpoul de Pinet
Shuck a dozen oysters, sit by the sea in your swimming costume, and open a tall, slim green bottle of Picpoul de Pinet, a grape from the alluvial soils of the south of France with “stern minerality and zippy clean acidity,” “upbeat freshness,” and a “lemony zing.” Don’t mind if we do.
Try: Benjamin Darnault Picpoul de Pinet, about $10 or Dom. de Cantagrils Picpoul de Pinet 2013, $10 BUY IT HERE
Brought back from near-extinction from its home in northern Italy’s Piedmont region, some Italian wine experts call this somewhat obscure white grape the country’s best white wine. Buy two bottles: one to drink tonight, one to stash away for the future; as it ages it will take on increasingly complex savory notes and more of a saline character.
Try: Vigneti Massa Derthona Timorasso 2011, $25 BUY IT HERE
How to describe the grape that is trained to grow in curls in Santorini’s volcanic ash? “Beauty, purity, racy acidity, refreshing: they really show island living,” Laura Maniec, owner of Corkbuzz Wine Studio, told the New York Times. Frequently described as intense and earthy, this is another one to drink poolside while snacking on herb-flecked grilled shrimp when you can’t make it to the Aegean in body but can conjure it through the cup.
Try: Hatzidakis Assyrtiko 2014, $20 or Sigalas Assyrtiko 2014, $20 BUY IT HERE