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Special announcement: Corkmasters.com
How low can you go?
San Francisco de Mostaxal 1999 Vino de Eyzaguirre Colchagua Valley Merlot ($7.99)
Wine Lovers' Voting Booth: Butter, no butter?
A message from WineLibrary.com
Last Week's Wine Advisor Index

Special announcement: Corkmasters.com

Three out of four wine drinkers prefer Real Cork in their bottles. To see the latest independent international survey of wine drinkers, visit Corkmasters.com, by clicking through
Real Cork. Irreplaceable.

How low can you go?

If there has been any consistent trend in the world of wine over the past generation, it has been the inexorable rise in prices. When I started writing about wine in the early 1980s, the conventional wisdom among most retailers - at least in my part of the world - was that consumers would resist paying more than $6 a bottle for any but the most special occasions.

Nowadays, it's almost impossible to find good wine for LESS than $6, and frankly, the cutoff point for wines of real interest seems to be approaching $10 in the U.S., 7 pounds sterling, or the rough equivalent in other countries.

It's not easy to talk about good cheap wine without drifting toward snobbery, a direction that I think most of us would prefer to avoid. And with modern technology in place in virtually every world wine region, it's certainly possible to produce inexpensive wines that are sound and without technical flaws.

If we consider wine just another beverage, then it probably makes sense to purchase the least expensive palatable brand available. But if we approach wine as a hobby interest, something not just to drink but to enjoy thinking about, then it's fair to judge a specific wine on the basis of whether it's, well, interesting.

A I pointed out a while back, in a January 2000 article about "plonk," the old British slang term for cheap, forgettable wine, there's no shame in a wine being cheap, but no good wine should be boring.

In the quest for wines of interest in the single-digit price ranges, I've had good luck in the wines of less sought-after regions - there's not much chance of finding an excellent Bordeaux or Burgundy for $7 or $8, but the pickings may be better in the Languedoc and Provence. The same goes for Italy, where Calabria and Apulia may offer bargains difficult to find in Tuscany or Piemonte. Spain, Portugal, Greece, Eastern Europe offer fruitful hunting grounds for the careful shopper, and so does South America, source of today's burlap-wrapped bargain, an $8 Merlot that's far from boring.

My notes are below. For more notes on some of the more interesting wines of modest price I enjoyed last year, you'll find my annual listing at

Vino de Eyzaguirre San Francisco de Mostaxal 1999 Vino de Eyzaguirre Colchagua Valley Merlot ($7.99)

Clear dark ruby, reddish-purple at the edge. Ripe black cherries and herbs, a hint of tarragon in the fresh and appealing scent. Juicy and full, bright fruit and fresh acidity. Surprisingly balanced and interesting for a wine of this price. U.S. importer: Cabernet Corp., Novato. Calif. (April 14, 2002)

FOOD MATCH: Bright, full fruit makes it almost more than a match for a thick but delicately flavored celeriac, potato and leek soup, but the flavors work together well.

VALUE: It's hard to find a much better wine at this low-end price.

A message from WineLibrary.com

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Wine Lovers' Voting Booth: Butter, no butter?

For weekly subscribers who missed this question in Friday's edition: Some people love the butter flavor that malolactic fermentation imparts in many "New World" Chardonnays. Some find it offputting, preferring the "Old World" style of White Burgundy. What's your opinion? Just for fun, we've set up this week's Wine Lovers' Voting Booth topic to find out, as we ask, "Do you like 'butter' in your Chardonnay?"

You're invited to drop by the Voting Booth,
to cast your ballot.

Last Week's Wine Advisor Index

For Monday-only readers who'd like to read specific daily Wine Advisor articles, here's last week's index:

Butter in your wine? (April 12)

A top-rank South African red (April 11)

What's Rosso Piceno? (April 10)

Regulating wine (April 9)

Pair o' Merlots (April 8)

Complete 30 Second Wine Advisor archive:

Last week's Wine Advisor Foodletter, Favorite recipes: Radicchio risotto:

Wine Advisor Foodletter archive:


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Monday, April 15, 2002
Copyright 2002 by Robin Garr. All rights reserved.

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