Champagne Taste on a Beer Budget


  As a responsible Southern girl, one of my recurring New Year’s resolutions—along with drinking more delicious wine—is to save more money. Crazy as it may seem, I’ve discovered that these goals go together like biscuits and gravy. And I’ll tell you why.

Right now, we live in a time where there is more good quality, reasonably priced wine available than ever before. Winemaking technology, consumer demand and viticultural know-how have replaced a good bit of plonk on the shelves with wines that taste good and won’t break the bank. (Don’t believe me? Ask your Momma about the Wild Irish Rose days. She’ll tell you how times have changed.)

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Fortunately for us, too, there are more wine choices available now from all kinds of places, in all price ranges. So join me in making a resolution to drink well—and save some pennies while you’re at it.

Here are some tips to get started:

  • Break your routine.
    Always get that California Cabernet Sauvignon that costs $15.00? Or buy something with a label you recognize? Try something different next time you shop. For instance, if you like big reds, try a Malbec from Argentina or a Carmenere from Chile. You can often find either for $12 or less, and each has delicious berry notes not unlike those of a Cab. For the record, Chile also makes some delicious Sauvignon Blanc, which can be had for as little as $9 or $10 a bottle.
    If the task is too overwhelming to tackle alone, visit a respected wine shop and let them know what you like—and be a straight shooter about your price range. A good wine salesperson will be more than happy to help you find a wine you love within your budget. And if they ain’t, high-tail it out of there.
  • Hit value-priced regions.
    Spain, South America, and South Africa offer some of the biggest bang for your buck today. Spain in particular offers deliciously aromatic, crisp white wines that usually cost well under $20, as well as tasty reds made from Tempranillo or Monastrell. My go-to party wine is made from Grenache, a Spanish grape that makes a juicy, fruity red wine with some real body to it. Aletta, Evodia and Tapena all offer quality bottlings costing $9 or less.
    Southern Italy and Southern France, especially the Languedoc, are also treasure troves for good, inexpensive juice. If you like your reds to have some bite and acidity, try an Italian Aglianico. Like smooth, full-bodied whites? Mark my words, you’ll fall head over heels for Grenache-Blanc from the south of France.
  • Form a good, old- fashioned tasting group.
    The best way to try lots of delicious wines on a budget? Share the cost—and the fun, for that matter.
    Tasting groups usually work in one of two ways: each participant brings a bottle within a set price range, or else members pool funds to buy fewer, more expensive bottles for the group to taste. Each time your group meets, you can focus on a different region or grape varietal, or on something fun and kooky like “Wine That Tastes More Expensive Than It Is.” All you need to get started are some friends, and a few wine glasses.

With these tips, you should have no trouble drinking well and saving some dough in the New Year. Cheers, y’all!

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