The under-$10 wine price point
Heard a colleague talking about the magic $12.99 wine price point on the radio the other day, and while there surely are many good everyday wines to be had below the $13 cutoff, so long as there are still under-$10 wines out there I’m going to round them up and taste them every once in a while. The search is getting tougher, but nevertheless here’s a handful that broke through the holiday surfeit.
As you may know, prices are adjusted monthly by the LDB, meaning that some of the wines that came in at or below $10 before the celebration season have suddenly risen by two, three, or more dollars. At the time of acquisition, every one in this collection was priced at $9.99 or less; quite a few are LTOs (“limited-time offers”, especially the Obikwa portfolio, which by now may have slipped back over the mark).
We may as well start in South Africa, where good buys are regularly found. The Obikwa line covers the four major—and favourite—grape varieties; we’ll start light and move up to heavy.
Obikwa Sauvignon Blanc 2009 ($8.99)
Lemon-fresh, crisp, and citric. Just the thing for chicken roasts (or even thawed leftover turkey), cream-sauced pasta, salads, polenta, rice casseroles—all that hearty stuff.
Obikwa Chardonnay 2009 ($7.99, LTO)
Definitely the best buy of the post-holiday period. A steal; if you caught it when it was first offered, you may have bought a case or two. I did. Good, fresh fruit with just the tiniest hint of oak. For cold poached chicken, potato salad with debreciner sausage and sharp mustard, grilled ham and Swiss cheese sandwiches, a hearty quiche, and caldo verde.
Obikwa Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 ($8.99)
A very dark, hearty wine with lots of sweet berries for the front of the tongue and a smooth finish. The one for pasta with multi-meat sauce or cheese and crackers, as well as rye bread with cream cheese, stewed fruit on the side.
Obikwa Shiraz 2009 ($8.99)
You’ll enjoy this ruby-red, pleasantly spiced wine with antipasto, ham and scalloped potatoes (made with aged Cheddar), or mac ’n’ cheese, as well as roast potatoes, baked onions, and garlic—anything hearty and wintry.
The Obikwa line consistently delivers fresh, clean, uncomplicated wines at very reasonable prices. A box of each under the stairs will cover you off for meals and guests till the arrival of spring, easily. On to other vineyards”¦
Concha y Toro Frontera Chardonnay 2010 ($8.99)
A southern-style Chardonnay from Chile, quite different from the Obikwa, above. Redolent of fresh-cut apple; well built and lively, very clean. The mistake would be to serve it too cold. An ideal accompaniment for prawns, mussels, or clams (or a combination, as in bouillabaisse or fish chowder). Also fine with fried catfish and collard greens, fritters, and grits, í la Florida chef Jim Shirley.
All the rest are $9.99.
La Bastide Vin de Pays d’Herault 2009
If I had to pick three top wines from this case lot, this charming country wine would be one, maybe the top one. It starts with a fresh cherry, Pinot Noir–style nose, and is cool and fresh in the mouth (in fact, 15 minutes in the fridge or half an hour on the back deck is about right). A fruity, light, pleasant finish and excellent value.
Back to South Africa for the next three before we return to Italy, Spain, and South America for the rest.
Robertson Sauvignon Blanc 2010
A consistent food favourite, it’s the opposite of New Zealand–style Sauvignon, meaning short on the grassiness but still light and limey, bright and fresh. Drink it now, and right through spring and summer. The lovely bit of bite makes it particularly pleasant with slightly oily fish or smoked salmon, mussels steamed in a bloody caesar sauce, quiches, and alfredo-sauced pasta.
Robert’s Rock Chenin Blanc/Chardonnay 2009
I love the blend; not many outside South Africa do it. Take a deep whiff of the papaya and floral aromas, then taste the bright green, appealing fruit. So far as I’ve been able to determine, this is a year-round bargain. I like it with harissa chicken, pickled eggs in adobo chili brine, creamy lasagna with pistachios and blue cheese (no tomatoes), a tray of mixed baked vegetables, roast apples.
Robert’s Rock Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot 2009
A medium-weighted light-dinner wine with a slightly spicy aftertaste that wants to keep your pasta puttanesca company, or a well-made pizza with lots of onion and garlic and meat, even a couple of anchovies bubbling beneath the cheese.
Tormaresca Paiara Puglia IGT 2008
Fine fruit (negroamaro and Cabernet Sauvignon), tangy and bright—like what we think we remember good Chianti used to taste like. A solid hard-cheese wine, very fresh in front with an easy, sweet finish and a peppery aftertaste. It’s precisely the sort of thing Nook on Denman ought to have on offer for its lovely pizzas, but its wine “specials” are routinely beyond my purview.
Castillo de Monseran Viura n/v
Described on the label as “a soft yellow aromatic wine”, this is another grilled-or-baked-fish wine, from Cariñena in Aragon. Well chilled, it also works nicely with fresh oysters with several dipping sauces.
Castillo de Monseran Garnacha n/v
Typical Spanish approach to Grenache, with big fresh berries, a lovely middle, and an easy finish. For ravioli with mushroom filling or empanadas, or a lightly toasted whole-wheat sandwich with Havarti cheese and that fabulous kaiserschinken ham, made here in Vancouver and available at many of the good delis.
Baron Philippe de Rothschild Mapu Carmenere 2010
From the Chilean “branch plant” of the iconic French operation, a southern take on what has become B.C.’s new red wonder-grape, here solidly entrenched. It wants to be decanted, just to let the nose dissipate a little, then on come the cherries and berries. Also best with a little bit of chill. Very fruity, quite light, perfect with the chocolate hit of the season—Brix Chocolate, the medium-dark one.
Next week, we return once more to the best-of-the-year roundup. What with holiday schedules, a couple of “interludes”, and at least one missed column, we’ve still got a few to cover off.