Great Value Wines: Amazing Quality at Budget Friendly Prices
January can be a much undervalued month. The calm after the storm of festivities, the impatient anticipation for a pay cheque and guilt advertising on how to lose the seasonal weight gain (that’ll teach us to enjoy ourselves). In reality, it can be one of the best months to bargain buy. Great value wines especially can be found often during this season.
My preference for whites in January is to look for aromatic wines with ripe fruity flavours. That search either brings me to the hotter regions or the more aromatic grape varietals: the Mediterranean’s Viognier with its musky apricot fruit and good examples from Australia, California and Chile. Or Torrontes from Argentina with its floral perfume of jasmine and musky grape flavours – or the ever reliable Gewurztraminer. While there are very decent examples from Chile, South Africa and New Zealand, my personal favourites have the French connection and come from Alsace. Gewurztraminer is perfect with Asian fragrant food where Chinese Five Spice, Star Anise and fresh ginger is used in the cooking. Equally good with pungent pongy wash rind cheeses like Pont l’Eveque, Munster and Taleggio. Or from warmer regions, I enjoy the savoury and herbal style of whites from the south of France’s Mediterranean coastline and the Rhône.
Just like the mood for food can change with the weather, when the skies darken, so does my choice of wine colour and I see red.
There is just so much choice. A very rough guide is that keenly priced wines universally are meant to be enjoyed young. Red wines from the Americas, Antipodes and South Africa which don’t have Europe’s ancient tradition where wines are a part of the region’s cuisine. Instead, they are regarded as a drink and can be enjoyed solo. Unlike their European cousins where the local wines are an integral part of the regional dishes and recipes. Europe’s red wines are often assertive in acidity or astringent tannin, all the better to work on the food rather than the gums.
Below is sample of some wines I have tested, tasted and scored highly that represent good value for their quality.
Gewurztraminer 2014, Arthur Metz, Alsace, France
12.5% ABV – €13 at Dunnes Stores nationwide
A winter white when a little ginger spice is needed to kill the chill. Instead, chill the wine and savour the delicate royal jelly and Turkish Delight delicate flavours that ripple over the taste buds and linger long.
Food friend: go Alsatian/Irish with a washed rind cheese dipped in a little pile of cumin seeds, Gubbeen, Ardrahan or Milleens.
Chatelaine 2015, Saint Auriol, Corbières, France
12.5% ABV – €12.99 at SuperValu nationwide
Corbières, more famous for its rich full-bodied red wines can produce fragrant medium bodied whites. A memory of a Mediterranean summer with scented honeysuckle and ripe yellow fruit.
Food friend: try with baked hake on a bed of yellow peppers, garlic and bay leaves.
Chardonnay Brut 2013, Crémant du Jura, Philippe Michel, Jura
12% ABV – €10.79 at Aldi nationwide
Zesty and lively. Chalk dry with tangy freshly squeezed lemon palate. A simple and a fun fizz from a region that gave us the rarified Vin Jaune and Vin De Paille.
Food friend: feast on a platter of shellfish. Ideal for a Kir Royale, just make it blush a little with a few drops of Crème de Cassis.
Vinsobres 2015, Celliers de Dauphins, Cru des Côtes du Rhône
14.5% ABV – €12 at Dunnes Stores nationwide
From the quirky named village, Vinsobres or “sober wine” and one of 15 Cru villages named on the label rated above the generic Côtes du Rhône and Côtes du Rhône Villages. Muted aromas. A mellow palate of fresh red berry fruit with gentle tannins, smoothly textured and balanced alcohol.
Food friend: pair with an earthy root vegetables and lentil moussaka.
Porta 6 2015, Vidigal Wines, Lisboa, Portugal
13% ABV – €10 (offer from €12.95) at O’Brien’s Wine
Made with mostly Tinta Roriz (Tempranillo in Spain) this black beauty is generous and giving. Ripe and juicy blackberry fruits with soft tannin delivering instant gratification. Like a blackberry pie without the pastry.
Food friend: confident by itself or bring to a party.
Carmenere 2015, Misiones D Rengo, Valle Centrale, Chile
13% ABV – €8.50 at Dunnes Stores nationwide
Fresh raspberry scents and flavours with a contrasting and attractive leafy character. Medium-bodied and moderate alcohol with mouth-watering acidity adding to the excellent balance.
Food friend: perfect with a plate of charcuterie.
Passori 2015, Rosso Veneto IGT, Italy
14% ABV – €10.99 at selected Spar, Eurospar, Londis and Mace
A happy marriage of Merlot with Valpolicella’s signature Corvina grapes with the attractive fruity fragrance of rich raisins from “long hang” late harvested grapes. The vanilla pod and spice from a little oak aging. Equally delicious on the taste buds showing plump plums and refreshing acidity.
Food friend: match the baked fruity ripeness with some gamey venison.
Châteauneuf-du-Pape 2015, Cellier des Princes, France
14.5% ABV – €16.99 at selected Spar, Eurospar, Londis and Mace
Made mostly with local Grenache for red berry fruit and warming alcohol and a little addition of the classic blend of Syrah for backbone, blackberry fruit and refreshing acidity and Mourvedre for a hint of leather and firm tannin. Soft ripe fruit with a warm earthy and herbal terroir character.
Food friend: serve with Szechuan sizzling beef.
Liam Campbell is one of Ireland’s most experienced wine writers. His work has been featured in the pages of numerous publications, most recently as the Wine & Drinks Editor for The Irish Independent, as well as in Irish Homes, Easy Food and The Dubliner magazines.
Besides writing, his involvement in the world of wine goes deeper: he’s an approved WSET educator and holder of a WSET Diploma, Diploma in Craft Beer & Cider, and he has worked as judge in international wine competitions and as a wine consultant.