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Tasty Affordable Wines

Updated on November 5, 2009
Red Grapes by Farlane
Red Grapes by Farlane

Affordable Luxury: Enjoy Wine Like a Prince on a Pauper’s Budget

Everybody’s heard about them – ultra-expensive wines from so-called ‘cult producers.’ They’re pricey, they’re rare, and they’re exceptional. Or at least that’s what wine writers tell you, since industry insiders and billionaires are the only people who ever get to taste them. Ordinary wine drinkers can only dream about that bottle of Plumpjack or Petrus, but even if you aren’t Robert Parker or Bill Gates, you can drink like they do. Consider these wines - they all retail for less than twenty dollars, but they drink like a million bucks.

Simi Zinfandel, Dry Creek Valley, 2006, $17.99

Sonoma County’s Dry Creek Valley is home to dozens of award-winning zinfandel producers, including the iconic Ridge at Lytton Springs. Simi joins those ranks with this complex, layered wine. Jammy black raspberries lead to notes of cedar and smoke, with an interesting hint of vanilla. This is a big wine that needs big food; try it with burgers or ribs.

Thorn-Clarke Shotfire Shiraz, Barossa Valley, 2006, $18.99

This corner of southeastern Australia produces some powerful, collectible, expensive wines, including many age-worthy shiraz bottlings. Thorn-Clarke’s entry is savory and deep; mint and oak flavors accent an underlying palate of boysenberry jam and chocolate. It’s rare to find a wine that’s perfect for Cajun food, but pour this beside a spicy sausage gumbo.

A to Z Wineworks Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, 2007, $17.99

Oregon’s Willamette Valley has become the source of distinctive, delicious, and desirable pinot noir, including the legendary Domaine Drouhin Oregon. From that impressive lineage, A to Z’s founders developed a mission to create, in the words of its motto, ‘Aristocratic Wines at Democratic Prices.’ With the 2007 pinot noir, they’ve accomplished the mission. Cola and cherry flavors are wrapped in layers of smoke and cocoa, supported by smooth tannins and mouth-watering acidity. There’s no better match for Thanksgiving turkey, but it’s equally ready for summertime – think tuna steaks and grilled mushrooms.

Chateau Tour du Haut Moulin, Bordeaux, 2005, $19.99

2005 has been touted as the vintage of the century in the Medoc, and widely held as the best year since the legendary Bordeaux vintage of 1982. Collectors have driven prices through the roof, but the so-called ‘cru bourgeois’ have flown a bit under the radar, and they’re still available for ordinary wine lovers who want a taste of this extraordinary vintage. Chateau Tour has crafted an accessible but concentrated example, with an elegant, tannic structure that’s drinkable now, but also capable of ageing for many years. Expect dark fruit with earthy hints of coffee, spice, and leather. Bordeaux and beef are a perfect pair; open this for a filet-worthy special occasion.

Bodega Colome Amalaya 2006, Argentina, 2006, $14.00

Argentinian wines should certainly be considered, when you're looking for a great deal on a very nice wine. This one gets a 90 from Wine Spectator, and solid reviews from everyday folks as well. It's a combination of primarily Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon, with smaller portions of Syrah and others, making a very nice blend.  It offers fruity aromas, resembling cherries and raspberries, and a subtle vanilla scent, at a price that will allow you to enjoy it every day.

So get out your scepter and put on your princess shoes… you can drink like royalty on commoner’s budget!

You can find lots of great wines - often at great discounts - online.

Check out's 90+ Rated Wines Under $20, for more great wine suggestions at surprisingly low prices.

Tips for buying in bulk

When you find that special wine that matches your budget, and really pleases your taste buds, you'll want to stock up on it. Pick up a case at your local volume liquor store, where they offer case discounts of 10-20%. And, be sure to store it appropriately, so it's as delectable when you break it out in the future, as it was when you stashed it. Check out these great tips on storing wine, along with some recommendations on wine coolers/wine fridges you might want to consider.

Looking for a gift for a wine-loving friend? Check out this article on gifts for wine lovers.


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