Wines of Worth: Drinking Well on a Budget



We all know them – maybe we’ve even been one ourselves. That person, come January, who swears off alcohol in a New Year, new start, liver cleansing, clean living kick. Yes – post-holiday restraint and moderation is a smart and healthy move. But – really?! No wine?!  The thought to me always sounded a bit too – un-moderate. Wine, in many cultures including my home, is a part of daily life. Grapes ARE key members of the fruit group, right? Numerous studies have shown that wine – in moderation – leads to a healthy, lengthy, and much more fun life. According to science, a daily glass for women (two for men) can keep your heart healthy, help you lose weight, reduce forgetfulness, boost your immunity, and help prevent bone loss. Pay attention all you January resolutioners – it doesn’t get better than this!

However, what many DO need to cut back on after a holiday season of excess is expenses. That’s why I’ve put together a baker’s dozen fantastic value wines for under $15 (somewhere in BC), so you can boost your health, and your bank account, this month. You’ll notice that there are no Pinot Noir – the heartbreak grape is the budget break grape as well. Nothing from BC makes the cut. And there is a high proportion of Spanish wines on this list – fantastic value for quality on this market.

I have been known to buy each category leader below by the case to stock up at my house. For health reasons, naturally.



Real de Aragon
Cava NV
Penedès, Catalunya, Spain
Yes, there is cheaper Cava out there, but for $15, this is a stellar superstar. AND the pretty label is sure to brighten your day long after the bubbles are gone. From the highlands of Catalunya, this crisp sparkler charms, from the first nutty, green apple whiff to the tart quince and lemon palate, though the persistent finish. Bright and friendly, but serious. And seriously good. 89 points.



Cono Sur
Bicicleta Viognier 2011
Colchagua, Chile
I could have just written this column in 2 minutes by saying “go out and by Cono Sur Bicicleta series wines”, and spent the rest of my evening enjoying wine. The familiar Cono Sur bicycle wines have been freshened up with a new label and name, refrencing both the omnipresent bicycles around the vineyards and the winery’s commitment to sustainability. Their Viognier never fails to impress – sweet nectarine and guava on the nose, focused beads of bosc pear though the finish and a nuzzle of peach fuzz on the palate. A lick of flint balances out the tropical fruit, and there’s an easy balance with bright acidity throughout. 87 points.

Miss Molly Hoity Toity 2011
Franschhoek, Western Cape, South Africa
This lithe white with the loopy name and lackadaisical canine on the label will stick in your head, and on your palate. Chenin Blanc is here plumped up with 15% barrel-aged Viognier. Just off-dry, with fragrant peach skin fuzz and dried apricot aromas, delicate gingersnap, and a fresh peach and creamsicle palate. The oaked Viognier weight and mouthfeel nicely counters the ripe tropical fruit. 87 points.

Terra Andina
Semillon-Chardonnay 2010
Central Valley, Chile
Muted petrol is overtaken by a gush of sweet pear and cantelope. The palate is spiced persimmon and cream, over white peaches. Nice bright finish and mouthfeel. 87 points.

Vinho Verde, Portugal
Refreshing and zesty, with a natural, slight touch of lively spritz on the palate, this light bodied blend has crisp citrus, mineral, green apple and a touch of sweet gooseberry and mild melon. A low alcohol content (9 percent) ups the quaffing quotient. Pair with a garden party – these colourful bottles can be prominently displayed as the artful centrepiece. 87 points.

Miguel Torres
Vina Esmeralda 2011
Penedes, Spain
How outrageous is this blend (and outrageously delicious)? 85% Moscatel, 15% Gewurztraminer – from north eastern Spain. Zippy, bright lime, white flowers, white peach – this is spring in a glass. Consistently terrific value. 88 points.

Orvieto Classico 2011
Umbria, Italy
Sometimes people hesitate to spend money trying a new grape, or new region. But when a wine is priced so reasonably, and it’s this intriguingly delicious, you can afford to jump right in! This blend of Grechetto, Procanico and Verdello carries a nice weight to the palate while remaining fresh and lively. Ripe pear, lemon zest and green hedge are tied together with a mineral twist. 87 points.



Bodegas Atalaya
Laya 2011
Almansa, Spain
Atalaya Winery is based in Almansa DO, directly north of Jumilla, and founded by the well known winemaking Gil family. Higher altitude vineyards (800m) provide temperature relief and preserve fresh acidity, while limestone soils share their minerality with this dense red. Laya is a blend of 70% Garnacha Tintorera and 30% Monastrell, with 4 months aging in French oak. Dense and alluring violet, anise, blueberry, blackberry and savoury spice held with sweet plush tannins, meld together with power and finesse. Espresso-shellacked short ribs would sing in a duet with this. 88 points.

Negroamaro 2011
Puglia, Italy
Long a budget mainstay on our market, this deep, dark wine is from the fascinating and flavour packed black Negroamaro grape. Black fruit, dark chocolate and rustically, alluring spice fill out this fleshy wine. Almost embarrassingly good for a tenner. 87 points.

Castillo de Monséran
Garnacha 2010
Cariñena, Aragon, Spain
This stellar everyday drinking wine is suitable for everything from burgers to pasta to pizza to poultry.  A perennial party and restaurant by-the-glass favourite, this is teeming with fruity raspberry and peppery spice aromas, and a bright, medium bodied, old-world styled sipper of dusty raspberry, cedar and plum. If you find some quarters in the couch and really want to go all out, the Old Vine Garnacha from this producer is $14. 88 points.

Vintner’s Collection Merlot 2009
Central Coast, California, USA
Shocked? Yup – a more than decent Cali Merlot for $15. I know! What less could you expect however from a pioneering producer making wine in California since 1969. Sunbaked plum, violets, dense cassis and herbal eucalypt spice, cased in (but not overwhelmed by) toasty oak notes. 87 points.

Catena Alamos
Malbec 2011
Uco Valley, Mendoza, Argentina
Hiding resin notes on the nose kept me sleuthing back, searching deeper, and coming across black currant, peppery spice and booze-plumped blueberries. The dense palate is textured with perfumed sweet cassis, and twine-tied taut with structured tannin. Nice black licorice finish. 87 points.



Bodegas Hidalgo
Manzanilla La Gitana
Manzanilla-Sanlúcar de Barrameda, Spain
$15 for 375ml
La Gitana, with the charming gyspy girl (gitana) on the label, is the most popular Manzanilla on the Spanish market and is the top selling wine in Seville. Its dry delicacy, sea salt freshness and lingering tanginess make it a natural pair for almonds, olives, sardines and cured meats (hola Jamon). The light body and vibrant acidity and salinity also make it a beautiful pairing for sushi. 89 points.


DRINKing Guide:
*Asterisks denote wines that are only available at the winery or select private liquor stores. Some may be in limited quantities. All other wines are available through BC Liquor Stores. Prices may vary.

Written By:

Treve Ring is a wine writer, editor, judge, consultant and certified sommelier, and has been with EAT Magazine for over a decade.\r\n\r\nIn addition to her work with EAT, she is a Wine Critic and National Judge for ...

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