• This is my second installment of Wines on the cheap tip.

    I’ve had my years of affluence and my years of absolute poverty. Strangely enough some of the most relaxing, peaceful, blissed out times I’ve had were when I had only the change in my pocket to my name.

    I had one year when I first moved to San Francisco where I reported a total of $15,000 for the year. I would cut coupons, make one pot of pasta for the week, and buy really bad wine in an effort to save money.

    One time it was a gorgeous day..

    Side note: As soon as I finish this post. I am rewarding myself with a picnic (a glass or two of wine is definitely on the menu) in this early spring 80 degree weather we are experiencing in the city.

    ..so it was a gorgeous day not unlike today, and all I wanted was to enjoy some white wine on the front steps with a book.

    I had about two dollars and the local mart’s decent white was eight.

    So, to make up the difference. I held a sidewalk sale. I took some clothing, some DVDs, and some books to the street and sold them at a buck or two a piece. With each passerby I said I was only out until I had enough for my bottle of wine. About three random and entertaining conversations later I packed it all up and quaffed a cheap Pinot Grigio on the steps of my flat whilst reading a fantasy novel in the sun.

    It was glorious.

    I think back on that memory with a smile and a humbling sense of self respect for my ability to enjoy even an inexpensive bottle of wine.

    This post goes to those starving students, the new families, the struggling artists and those who like to save money. Almost everyone has, is or will be there at one point or another in their life, and I want to tell you about wines that will make you feel like you are living above your means even if you aren’t.

    Perhaps my absolute favorite winery for consistent amazing quality and for being so damned cheap is Viu Manent.

    Its a Chilean winery from the Colchagua Valley. Their wines are more often found at liquor stores and real food stores than chain grocery stores.

    I’ve found that year to year every varietal is fabulous for the price and always inexpensive. They are generally found between $6 and $9 line priced.

    I’ve included the tasting notes they provided on their entry level Malbec to give you an idea.

    Tasting Notes
    Intensely violet in colour, on the nose this wine exhibits classic Malbec notes of blueberry, black cherry and spices. In the mouth lush flavours of plum and blackberry, combined with notes of chocolate and Coffe Mock. A fresh acidity and soft tannins combine to give a long, elegant finish.

    Sourced from our San Carlos and El Olivar Estates, both located in the Colchagua Valley. Harvested from Malbec vines with an average age of 15 years.

    Their second tier wines are called Secreto, because the %25 blend of varietals they use in combination with the varietal on the label is a secret.

    The Secreto wines are of a higher quality, but also of a higher price. They tend to be between $9 and $13.

    Gallo (infamous for their monopolistic tactics and crappy wine) has the buying power to give a decent product for a price that’s dirt cheap. I have consumed a few bottles of their $3.99 Pinot Grigio.

    I’ve found that the safest bet for wine that tastes good and won’t put you out for more than some of your change jar is Pinot Grigio (also called Pinot Gris.)

    If you purchase Italian Pinot Grigio than it’ll be crisp and clean, occasionally with a hint of sour. California on the other hand tends to be softer and with more tropical fruit flavors on the palate.

    Planet Wine is a wine distributor/negociant. They import wine from France (predominantly), and sell it to grocery stores and wine shops directly. This cuts out the middle man giving you a large savings. Add to that an ability to chose delicious wines, and viola bargain city.

    One of my faves is Ortas, Cave de Rasteau, Côtes du Rhône. Its a blend of Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre, and runs for around $11. While being fruit forward, it still retains a nice balance of acidity and earth making it oh so good.



    To wrap up this excerpt from my repertoire of wines. I give you Yellow Tail Tree-Free Chardonnay. For about six dollars the tree free (unoaked) version of their Chardonnay is a brilliant deal. Clean and bright it goes against the entire line of Yellow Tail.


    Me advocating my love of this steal of a deal by no means endorses the rest of the Yellow Tail flavors! Its an anomaly, a paradigm, a bastion of goodness amongst a rubble of self loathing. Okay I’m exaggerating, but it is quite good for the price.

    Rest well this eve, drink unabashedly, and glow in your ability to drink like a king (or at least a ragamuffin king)

    – Jonathan Hood