November 9, 2015
Although the holiday feasting season is upon us now through the end
of the year, it is important to remember not every gathering of friends
and family is a formal occasion. 'Tis also the season of spontaneous
conviviality. The good host always wants to serve tasty wine but is ever
mindful there are budget considerations when a crowd gathers for a
holiday happy hour.
When the need arises for some very good budget wine, the following
five brands are tried and true, consistently producing delicious wines
at modest prices.
Banfi Centine — This is the entry-level brand produced by the notable
Tuscan winery Castello Banfi. Best known for its exceptional Brunello
di Montalcino, Banfi also makes the inexpensive Centine wines that come
in three flavors: rosso, bianco and rose. You have probably figured out
the rosso is sangiovese-based, the bianco pinot grigio-based and the
rose is primarily juice from sangiovese. These wines are reliably
delicious and priced around $10 a bottle, a little more or less
depending upon where you live.
Barefoot Cellars — These are probably the finest $7 wines in the
world. What's remarkable about Barefoot is the consistency despite high
production levels (in the millions of cases a year). All of the wines
are multi-vintage blends, which allows winemaker Jen Wall and her team
to tweak the wines to hit a predictable taste and level of quality. The
straight-up cabernet sauvignon and merlot are quite good, the riesling
is always aces and they even make a quaffable prosecco.
Cupcake — This brand is from The Wine Group portfolio and specializes
in wines from around the globe: a delicious sauvignon blanc from New
Zealand, excellent prosecco and pinot grigio from Italy and so on. The
wines are all priced well below $20 a bottle and they always deliver.
Perfect for a thirsty crowd.
Jacob's Creek — This Australian winery has a long history of
exceptional shiraz, cabernet sauvignon, merlot and riesling in the
$12-$15 range. The wines are well-balanced and flavorful, with nary a
dud in the brand's broad portfolio. What really sets them up nicely as a
party wine, though, is their easy drinkability. No rough edges to be
Sterling Vintner's Collection — Sterling is a powerhouse Napa Valley
winery with plenty of expensive offerings, but its Vintner's Collection
value line is hardly a black mark on the brand and may include some of
the finest $15 wines on the planet, including a delicious pinot noir
that beats all comers at the price. The chardonnay and sauvignon blanc
are winners, too.