Best wines for your buck
The biggest mistake most people make when buying wines is the assumption that price is the only indicator of taste. Sure, $50-100 bottles will have an exquisite taste, however, that doesn't mean you can't find a wine with just as good a taste and finish for half the price.
The key to finding a great wine for cheap is to do a bit of research and learn a little about the grapes.
When shopping for a bargain wine in a fine retail store, don't be afraid to consult with the shop owner, the sommelier (wine expert) or person on the floor about great wines for your budget. If the store you frequent doesn't have a wine expert, don't worry! Most of the wines listed below can be found in large scale supermarkets and franchised stores, like Total Wine. For more personalized recommendations and a vast selection of bargain wines, visit wine.com.
Robert Mondavi Private Selection Zinfandel, about $16. This red wine can be found at almost every store in the country and is widely known as a quality product for cheap. This wine, which has the dark fruity flavors and an almost clove spice finish typically found in zinfandels, is perfect paired with hearty meat dishes, like beef stew or succulent steak.
Columbia Crest Shiraz & Merlot, $8-12. This world renowned vineyard located in Washington has been receiving awards and accolades for years, including the producer of the best wine in the world in 2009 by Wine Spectator. The merlot and shiraz reflect the winery's craftsmanship with robust spice and fruit flavors and an almost velvety finish. Pair these dry, heavier red wines with lighter meats, like lamb and duck or with hearty vegetables like mushrooms and eggplant.
Porca de Murca Douro, about $6. This red wine is an absolute steal and has the flavor, texture and personality of a wine three times its price. This rich red, grown in Portugal, is a blend of Port grapes, so it has the cherry flavor associated with many ports with an almost earthy, smooth finish. Pair this with pot roast and root vegetables or any other strong flavored meats.
Llama Malbec, about $12. Malbecs have recently surged in popularity among foodie circles and chefs, and there's no surprise why. This bargain red wine is known for a lower price tag and almost violety taste. This aromatic wine smells like roasted coffee beans and spices, but has a velvety taste of blackberries and oak. Pair this with more sour dishes, like sweet and sour chicken.
Ravines Dry Riesling, about $16. Another finisher on Wine Spectator's top 100 wines of 2011, this drier riesling has a crisp, apple finish and an almost citrus, lime character that is hard to find in most drier sweet wines. This riesling is produced in upstate New York, where conditions are similiar to that found in most German riesling vineyards. To find this white wine, you'll have to put yourself on a waiting list due to overwhelming popularity. This wine is great paired with Asian flavored food.
2010 Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc, about $22. Although this white wine is a little over $20, it's well worth the slightly higher price tag. This bottle, named one of the top 100 wines in the world for 2011, is full of citrusy flavors and a pure and smooth finish. With each sip, you'll taste peach, lime and almost floral elements. This sweet, light and refreshing wine is best paired with light summery dishes, like salads and chilled soups.
Logan Chardonnay, about $16. This white wine hails from California and has the buttery finish and sweet fruit flavor found in the best chardonnays. This particular chardonnay has almost a sweet, honey smell and is fermented in an oak cellar, giving it just a hint of oak flavor and smell. Pair this chardonnay with soft cheeses, like Brie and goat cheese or with tart tomatoes.
Chateau Ste. Michelle Cold Creek Vineyard Riesling, about $18. Chateau Ste. Michelle is one of the most popular wineries in Columbia Valley, Washington and has a vast selection of amazing wines for under $20. This riesling, which is sweet, tangy and clean, received a Wine Spectator 90 point rating and a Wine Enthusiast 93 point rating for its flavor, finish and price. Pair this sweeter white wine with spicy foods, like Thai, for a great contrast in flavors.
Roederer Estate Brut, about $18. This top rated wine (rated over 90 percent by the biggest wine publications in the U.S.), is the perfect blend of dry and fruity with a rich, almost cinnamon like flavor. Pair this popular sparkler with rich fruity desserts, like creme brulee, baked apple pie or creamy baked pear.
Mum Napa Brut Rose, about $18. This sparkly wine, made from ripe pinot noir grapes and a hint of chardonnay, has delicious black cherry and strawberry notes, as well as a very elegant finish. In addition, this wine received top marks from Wine.com. Made in Napa Valley, this sparkling, yet robust, wine is perfectly paired with a variety of foods, like crisp gingerbread cookies and even Thai food! Now you can enjoy amazing wine all for under $20.