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Wine Bargains for $12 or Less

Fine Cooking Issue 64
Photos: Scott Phillips
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Sauvignon Blanc

2003 Geyser Peak Sauvignon Blanc, Sonoma County, California

Price: $9

What it tastes like: Crisp, lip-smacking pink grapefruit and gooseberry with herbal notes.

Why it’s such a bargain: It’s a dead ringer for good New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc for at least half the price.

Great with: Nibbles before dinner, goat cheese, simply dressed salads, salmon with herb butter sauce and a side of sautéed vegetables.


Mionetto Prosecco di Valdobbiadene, Veneto, Italy

Price: $10

What it tastes like: Crisp green apple, citrus, and toast; gently sparkling.

Why it’s such a bargain: Sparkling wine is a great way to start the meal, but many are expensive. Prosecco delivers all the fun of bubbly at a fraction of the price.

Great with: Oysters, shellfish, smoked salmon, light nibbles.

Côtes du Rhône

2000 Jaboulet Côtes-du-Rhône “Parallèle 45,” Rhône, France

Price: $10

What it tastes like: Ripe black fruits with notes of wild herbs, earth, and just a touch of oak.

Why it’s such a bargain: Pedigree. This simple Côtes du Rhône hails from one of the Rhône Valley’s very best producers. The quality shows, yet the price is modest.

Great with: Meat stews, grilled beef and pork, and meat-based pasta dishes.


2001 Blackstone Merlot, California

Price: $10

What it tastes like: Rich plummy fruit and soft tannins.

Why it’s such a bargain: One of the best when it comes to good Merlot for not a lot of money. An instant crowd-pleaser.

Great with: Grilled salmon or swordfish; soft enough to sip before dinner.


2003 Mönchhof Estate Riesling, Mosel, Germany

Price: $12

What it tastes like: Crisp, green apple, peach, and lemon-lime flavor notes with a hint of mineral. Light (only 9% alcohol) and delightful.

Why it’s such a bargain: This is one of the great white wine values in the world. The grapes grow in one of the best and most spectacular vineyard sites in Germany.

Great with: “Problem” foods: salads with intensely flavored vinaigrettes, asparagus, artichokes, and egg-based dishes. (Low alcohol and high acidity make this possible.)


2002 Bonny Doon Vin Gris de Cigare, California PinkWine

Price: $10

What it tastes like: Refreshing, strawberry, lime-zest, and floral flavors and aromas.

Why it’s such a bargain: Values in pink wine are hard to find because the good ones can be pricey, and the inexpensive ones can taste like soda pop.

Great with: Almost any picnic fare or light meal, from roast beef sandwiches to cold chicken to salads. Delicious on its own, in warm weather.


2002 Rosemount Estate Grenache-Shiraz, Australia

Price: $8

What it tastes like: Juicy, ripe berries, red licorice, and baking spices—yum!

Why it’s such a bargain: This delicious, inexpensive wine is really easy to drink. A great one to uncork for weeknight dinners.

Great with: Meatloaf, burgers, pizza, spaghetti with red sauce, roast chicken.


2001 Chateau St. Jean Chardonnay, Sonoma County

Price: $12

What it tastes like: A balance of succulent apple-pear flavors with creamy spice notes and not too much oak.

Why it’s such a bargain: There’s an ocean of Chardonnay on the market, but not all of it delivers the goods. This one does, for far less than many other high-profile brands.

Great with: Grilled fish with rich sauces; roasted chicken marinated in lemon, rosemary, balsamic vinegar, mustard, or a combination.


2001 Altos las Hormigas Malbec, Mendoza, Argentina

Price: $11

What it tastes like: Plums, cherries, and notes of violet, green herb, earth, and wood.

Why it’s such a bargain: In a country where beef is king, Malbec is the drink of choice. It’s one of the world’s great red wine values, too.

Great with: Any red meat; full-flavored dishes with tomato or meat-based sauces.

Pinot Grigio

2002 Campanile Pinot Grigio, Friuli, Italy

Price: $9

What it tastes like: Zesty pineapple, mango, green apple, and citrus; mineral notes, too.

Why it’s such a bargain: Lately Pinot Grigio has been all the rage with white wine drinkers, but many are dull. This one has lots of personality and a small price tag.

Great with: Smoked salmon and trout, fresh shellfish, or lightly prepared fish like sole with citrus-based sauces.


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