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1WineDude's Top 10 Budget Wine Picks

(images: piperreport.com, amazon.com, storeappeal.com)

It is with much trepidation that I publish this post.

Not that I don't enjoy giving wine advice. I love it, acutally.

I especially love when people tell me that they truly enjoyed a wine that I recommended to them. When I hear that those wines opened people up to new culinary and epicurean levels of enjoyment, I am one very happy wine dude.

It's just that I prefer to give this advice one-on-one, and tailor it to an individual's or business' specific needs. Once I publish this sort of stuff in one way or another, I invariably get flamed from people who feel that I snuffed/ignored/disrespected their favorite budget wine pick.

BUT... you folks keep asking me for it, so I'm gonna bite the bullet and go ahead and give you -


To make the cut, the wine needs to a) have a decent enough amount of production / distribution that most people won't have a difficult time finding it, b) offer a consistent level of quality bang-for-the-buck, & c) cost less than $20 USD. The wines are offered in no particular order. Where I have previously reviewed the wine on twitter, I've included a link to the 'mini-review.'

  1. Smoking Loon Viognier (CA) - Good varietal character, a nice into. to a Chardonnay alternative if you're willing to branch out.
  2. Hess Chardonnay (CA) - Not too oaky & well put-together.
  3. Chateau Ste. Michele Gew├╝rztraminer (WA) - Consistently yummy. Mini-review
  4. Salmon Run Riesling (NY) - Contains some of the best aspects of this underrated varietal, at a low price.
  5. Quinta da Aveleda Vinho Verde Branco (Portugal) - Improbably cheap, with nice spritz and refreshing fruit. Mini-review

  1. Banfi Centine (Italy) - "Super Tuscan" type blend for the rest of us. Mini-review
  2. Ravenswood Old Vine Lodi Zinfandel (CA) - Dark and jammed with fruit. Mini-review
  3. Firesteed Pinot Noir (OR) - An elegant introduction to OR Pinot.
  4. Misterio Malbec (Argentina) - Black as tar and tasty. Mini-review
  5. Francis Coppola Diamond Claret (CA) - Accessible Bordeaux-style blend at a fair price. Mini-review

The more astute readers out there will already have noted that the vasy majority of these wines are made in the USA. To be honest, the list would more accurately be titled "DUDE'S TOP 10 BUDGET WINE PICKS IF YOU LIVE IN THE U.S." There are only 3 non-USA producers in my list, representing (in order of appearance) Portugal, Italy, & Argentina.

The reason for this is twofold:
1) I live in the U.S., so I'm giving you what are good budget picks available to me, and
2) Aussie, NZ, German, French, and Spanish wines are not currently offering particularly good value for money in the U.S. (my opinion). The ones that do are notoriously difficult to locate (which usually ends up driving up their prices eventually anyway).

I'd like to think that this could be a bit of a wake-up call to budget importers and producers from those countries who want to succeed in the huge U.S. wine consumer market... but my Google Analytics reports suggest that I don't yet have that kind of influence on the world's wine blogging readership :-).



Wine Whisperer said...

Good Top 10 and a great blog. I'm sure everybody that drinks wine has there own picks. It's like doing a list of Top (fill in the blank) Best Rock Albums Ever.
But, Midnight Cellars Full Moon Red (Paso Robles, CA) seen at $9.99, Three Theives Tempernillo (Napa) in a litre and a half screw cap jug at just under $10. And Casa Silva Carmenere (Chile) under $20 and absolutely excellent. They're Sauvignon Gris at $14 is good, too.
I post wine related stories you might enjoy at www.grapevineradio.net.

Joe Roberts said...

Thanks, Cliff. Dig the site, btw.

In my sleep-deprived new-dad stupor, I didn't even consider asking people to contribute to the list with their suggestions. Might even be fun to get a poll going and see which budget wine gets the readers' vote as delivering the best-bang-for-the-buck...


Leif Erik Sundstrom said...

I don't know if I really agree with you claiming there are no good French or Spanish values anymore. In fact I feel the best values on the market are coming from these countries and fairly easy to find too. Two quick examples I've noticed in most all wine retail outlets in my home town:
Clos de Vents Corbieres ($10) great value and example of the region; Garnacha de Fuego, from Jumilla ($7)... The list goes on too. And many can be found locally or online fairly easy. Perhaps our palates simply differ, and I'm all for supporting wineries locally (especially as the Euro sky rockets) but Spain and France are still incredible sources for value wines.
I'd love to be proven wrong, but until then I stand by these two sources.

Thanks for the blog though!

Leif Sundstrom

Joe Roberts said...

Thanks leif!

I appreciate the counterpoint. I've found - especially in PA, where the state controls the sales of all wine - that low-cost Spanish and French wines are quickly becoming not-so-low-cost.

This could be the fault of the state-run liquor monopoly, however. For on-line wine sales, it may be a very different story indeed - but I'll not be able test that in the short term (and considering the government of the state of PA, probably not in the long term either! :-).

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