Wines Under $10 Just good, solid choices for everyday enjoyment
By Denman Moody
Author, The Advanced Oenophile
One of my wealthiest friends told me that he thinks a popular article would be on under $10 wines. In fact, he had me do a tasting once of “The Best Wines You’ve Never Heard Of”, and most of them were in the $10 range.
If one purchases a Chateau Latour 2005, every bottle will be made up of the same percentages of grapes. If one purchases a Caymus Special Selection or Phelps Insignia, each bottle will have the same makeup as the next. But when there are 50,000 plus cases of a wine that sells for, say $8 per bottle, this is not necessarily the case.
To name a California wine Cabernet Sauvignon, it must have at least 75 percent Cabernet Sauvignon. However, it is possible that the best blend that an $8 wine producer can come up with is 75 percent Cabernet Sauvignon and 30 percent Merlot. If he/she runs out of Merlot, there is nothing that prevents the last cases from being a different makup, as long as there is 75 percent Cabernet Sauvignon. With the less expensive wines, there is usually no claim on the back label of the percentages of different varietals. This may be one reason why.
This is certainly not a huge negative, since any good producer is going to attempt to make all 50,000 cases as good as he/she can under the restraints of the relatively small retail price. It’s just something that everyone should know, and it is one explanation of why there is generally more variation between bottles in cheap wines than in expensive, low production wines.
In addition, the best wines from California have a place-name such as Napa Valley or Russian River Valley, or even Lodi. The less expensive wines generally have only the word “California” on the label, usually underneath the wine name. This means that the grapes could come from any place in California — even the least desirable. But once again, most producers are making the best wines they can for the price, so in many instances, only a California appellation appears, but in fact many of the grapes are from one or more famous appellations.
Although Connoisseurs prefer the best wines, which are usually relatively expensive if not ridiculously expensive, most of the ones I know love finding great values. In fact, one of the things I enjoy is selecting the best wine on a wine list at the lowest price. And as a matter of fact, one of the reasons for the BYOB craze that’s going on these days is the fact that so many restaurants still charge the ridiculous 3X markup on their wines. Understanding this, some of the best restaurants in Houston are now only marking up their wines minimally, and it is paying off richly for them, and some of the BYOBs are full every night — sometimes with customers bringing $50 and $100 wines to enjoy with their meal.
My favorite Under $10 wines don’t exude complexities, nuances or great structure, perfect balancing acidity or lengthy finishes. They’re just good, solid wines for everyday drinking :
White: (The first two can sometimes be closer to $11)
•Dashwood Sauvignon Blanc (New Zealand)
•Zenato Pinot Grigio (Italy)
•Wente Chardonnay Morning Fog Hogue Riesling (Where’s the acidity? It doesn’t matter. They sell over 60,000 cases a year to an adoring group of off-dry Riesling sippers)
•Chateau Bonnet (Entre du Mers, France— a real eye-opener)
•Stella Pinot Gris (Italy) — Wow, only $6.99 and with my favorite stopper, a screw cap
•Ruffino Lumina Pinot Grigio (Italy)
•Ravenswood Zinfandel Vintner’s ReserveBogle Petite Sirah
•Morrow Bay Cabernet Sauvignon
•Conch Y Toro Casillero del Diablo Cabernet Sauvignon (Chile) Gonnet Cairanne Cotes-du-Rhone Villages (France)
•Perrin Reserve Cotes-du-Rhone (France)
•Chateau Penin Tradition Bordeaux Superior (France)
•Chateau Trocard Bordeaux Superior (France) —The ’09 is a $20 wine with a $10 price tag.