This article was published in The 30 Second Wine Advisor on Wednesday, Oct. 31, 2007 and can be found at http://www.wineloverspage.com/wineadvisor2/tswa20071031.php.
Cheap wine and pizza
What's wrong with cheap wine? At least among a certain segment of the wine-loving community (let's not call them "snobs"), there's an attitude that no inexpensive wine - and certainly no wine made in large quantities by an industrial-scale producer - can be worth drinking.
I've never had a problem with inexpensive wine. Even in these inflationary days when it's hard to find wines of much interest for less than $10, I'm always on the lookout for modestly priced wines of real value. But quality has to be there, or more specifically, the combination of quality and value that wine geeks call "Quality-Price Ratio" or "QPR."
Personally, I can't deny an intuitive preference for artisanal over industrial producers; and, unfortunately, based on hard experience, I harbor a growing cynicism about the chances that an under-$10 bottle will please me.
Still, it can happen. And when we get to that mythical economic bottom line, the question is not who makes the wine, nor how much it costs, but whether the wine is good.
What constitutes "good" in an inexpensive wine? It's probably not reasonable to expect a wine with the kind of mind-blowing complexity and harmony that makes us hear choirs of angels sing. But it's not too much to expect a wine to be (1) balanced, (2) interesting, and, for extra credit, (3) food-friendly. Life is too short to drink boring wine, and if I simply want an alcohol-delivery system at the lowest possible price, I'd probably be better off going with a pint of the cheapest available vodka.
Still, let's not underestimate the simple pleasures of a well-made, modest wine, well matched with appetizing fare.
In my quest for wines like this, I try to improve my odds by hunting for bargains among the wine regions and grape varieties that have consistently pleased me, and conducting triage in the low-cost sector by trusting the producers and importers who've earned my respect with consistently good wines over the long term.
This approach worked reasonably well with today's featured wine, a generic Chianti called "Caposaldo" from an unknown producer (identified only on the back label, in tiny print, as "I.C.R.E." of Terrossa di Roncà near Verona, a long way from Tuscany), brought to the U.S. by a large New York importer, Kobrand Corp., whose portfolio includes plenty of more-than-respectable wines.
My tasting report is below, but to make a long story short, it's a good Chianti, not a great Chianti, on the light-bodied side but certainly both balanced and interesting and characteristic of the region and its grapes. It went well, as a basic Chianti should, with a sizzling pizza, and it was a fine value at its $8.99 local retail price.
E-BOOK ON CHEAP WINE
He has published a fine E-book called "Fool-Proof Wine Values" that incorporates the results of his extensive tastings into a useful consumer guide, featuring reports on 147 inexpensive wines from 44 producers that meet his tough criteria:
Taste like wines priced in the $20 to $50 range
"Fool-Proof Wine Values" is a downloadable E-book, available online as a PDF document (but you can print it out at home if you prefer to read it on paper). Ed sells it for $19, with his 100 percent, 60-day, no-questions-asked, money-back guarantee.
If you're regularly in the market for good, inexpensive wines, I think you'll find this E-book will pay for itself in your next few visits to the wine shop. You can buy it and download it immediately using this link, which will return a commission to help us pay the rent at WineLoversPage.com:
"Fool-Proof Wine Values"
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Caposaldo 2005 Chianti ($8.99)
Clear, dark garnet, with reddish-violet glints against the light. Black cherries, warm dried plums and a whiff of spice on the nose; dark fruit and good, fresh acidity on the palate, adding a drying touch of soft tannic astringency in the finish. Youthful, simple, but nicely balanced, rational 12.5% alcohol, and fine with food. A modern Chianti blend of three-fourths Sangiovese, just a bit of white Malvasia, and 10 percent each of the Bordeaux varieties Cabernet Sauvignon and Malbec. U.S. importer: Kobrand Corp., NYC. (Oct. 30, 2007)
FOOD MATCH: Mouth-watering acidity makes it a fine match with the tangy tomato sauce, mixed toppings and creamy mozzarella cheese on a well-made "Quattro Stagione" pizza from a good local shop.
VALUE: Balanced and food-friendly: What more can you ask from a generic Chianti for well under $10?
WHEN TO DRINK: Not a cellar keeper, but it should fare well on the wine rack for a year or even a few years.
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