Every year when New Year’s comes around, some people (like me) feel they are fine just the way they are. Other (more self-aware) people feel as though the new year brings a necessity for change in the form of the New Year’s Resolution. You might want to quit smoking, look better naked or – perish the thought – resolve to drink less in 2013.
I have a solution for you. Drink less, but better.
Quit buying those bottles of cheap Australian or American wines. Say goodbye to those bargain bin wines on clearance at your local liquor chain. Say farewell to those critter labels that look much better on the shelf than they taste in the glass. Drink better wine in 2013.
Where to start without breaking the bank
Some wine producing areas produce excellent gems in the $20+ category, and this is where wine starts getting interesting and discussion worthy. In that $20 range you get wines from places like Barossa and Victoria in Australia, cool French whites from the Ctes du Rhne and Chablis regions, reds from Ctes du Rhne, Ripasso-style wines from Veneto, good Chianti from Italy, and mind blowing riesling from Germany (and Canada). The list goes on and on.
So are there good wines for less than $20? Of course.
To get good wine in Canada for less than $9 is a tough go. Our tax structure, the size of our market and the distance from most wine producing countries pretty well ensure that most wines in that price point are mass produced wines from giant, industrial-scale wineries the size of an oil refinery. These “bulk wines” can be good – they just aren’t often really, really good.
Buy fewer, but better bottles
Instead of buying three or four bottles of $10 wines for your weekend pleasure, get an infinitely better $20 wine. I promise you will enjoy it far more and you will probably remember it better. Rather than a $15 wine you sort of like or buy out of habit, splurge on a special bottle in the $25 to $30 range.
You will start getting wines that exhibit more of that elusive thing wine lovers talk about called terroir (the sense of place or origin of a wine that is the sum of influences on the wine such as climate, soil, history, skill of the people involved, and so on). You also start getting away from bulk commercial wines and get into wines that change from year to year (that thing we call vintage variation) and wines that can and do cellar well. (Maybe you resolved to be more patient in 2013 too?)
James Oatley Tic Tok Shiraz, Australia
A modern style of shiraz with a great meatiness about it. A little smoky, but still big and lush just like shiraz should be. $16
Sterling Vintner’s Collection Merlot, California
Proof that good wine can be reasonably priced. This merlot is anything but flabby with soft tannins, good structure and, above all, it’s tasty. $19
Bonterra Organic Cabernet Sauvignon, California
Yes, its organic wine, and it’s an excellent expression of cabernet. Big, but not too big, with spices, red fruits and some oak. It’s ready to drink now, but can handle a year or three in the cellar. $22
La Catuja Priorat, Spain
A stunning deal and a solid example of this still-being-discovered region of Spain. Spicy, big, and ballsy, it’s an excellent and cellar-worthy alternative to malbec or other red wines you might be tiring of. $25
Errazuriz Wild Ferment Pinot Noir, Chile
Burgundy in France doesn’t have a stranglehold on good pinot noir. This Chilean wine evokes terroir, is nice on the palate, and quite elegant. Perfect with food, too. $25
El Petit Bonhomme, Spain
A tasty blend of monastrell, grenache and syrah, wine like this should be your everyday wine. Good fruits, a little spice, decent balance and it’s also only $14.
Louis Lator Bourgogne Chardonnay, France
A terrific bottle with wonderfully restrained oak character, this elegant chardonnay is complex and crisp with fresh citrus flavours. A steal at $22 and worth trying at least once.