Despite the premise of this column, finding a white wine under $10 isn’t all that difficult. Honestly. Plenty of regions make cheap wines: Mass-produced bottles from California line the bottom shelves, there’s enough Italian pinot grigio and Australian chardonnay to last generations of ladies’ nights, and cheap sauvignon blanc is as plentiful as lemonade.
Yes, friends, most of the world’s white wine is inexpensive. Finding interesting white wines on the bargain shelves, however, is another story. It’s a struggle to find the combination together in any aisle, but nowhere is the dilemma more prevalent than in the South African wine section.
If you’ve ever spent time browsing the shelves of zinfandel, you’ve probably noticed the term “old vines” before. It adorns most labels like a stamp of approval, instantly suggesting the notion that the wine inside is better than other bottles. What’s even crazier is that we’re expected to admire and value them like we’re expected to always respect our elders—with no questions asked.
We often believe things improve with age. When cooking, an older cast-iron skillet is far superior to a worn non-stick frying pan. Antiques and collectibles are usually worth more than their shiny new replacements and even sex is rumored to get better with time. Things are no different when it comes to wine. We all know collectors pay outrageous amounts for bottles from legendary vintages. MORE
By now, the secret is out: Everyone knows Spain is a reliable source of good value and high quality wines. Store shelves everywhere are stocked full of them: Crisp, refreshing whites like albariño and big bold reds, as well as sparkling cava that is far cheaper than Champagne.
If you already know a thing or two about red wines from Spain, you’re probably most familiar with tempranillo, the great indigenous Iberian grape. By far the most high-profile Spanish wine in the U.S., tempranillo yields huge and intensely flavored wines, often with a good deal of oak aging. Earthy, rich leather and fresh tobacco leaves are typical aromas of these often-tannic wines. If you’re even more of a wine hipster, you’ve surely sipped some in-the-know reds from Bierzo, Ribeira Sacra, or Priorat. MORE