Over the past 15 years at least a couple of major things have changed. A lot more people are enjoying wine and budget price wines have been improving over the years. Technology has a lot to do with it; but so does the fact that winemakers have been replanting vineyards with grapes that make better wine. Just like plant breeders go all-out to offer more robust, more fragrant roses for gardeners, grape scholars and scientists have helped winemakers improve their vines.
So basically winegrowers are learning how to get more flavor from the grapes they grow by careful timing of watering and pruning. Money matters too. When wines cost $7 or $8 a bottle and above, winemakers can afford to use the better-quality grapes than they used too.
These changes probably mean that today's under $10 wines would have cost $15 five years ago. Or your $15 wines are hitting a quality level that is worth seeking. Then apply that to a $20 bottle and so on.
Just to think that the price for a high quality Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon or French Bordeaux is roughly $50.
But we are talking the budget wines here… and their advancements!
When you walk down the wine aisle will you will see dozens upon dozens of sensibly priced wines on the shelves, yet picking one amongst the often-whacky labels—including everything from funky monkeys to long-tailed eagles—can be a royal pain. In regards to the style or the appeal of the wines in the bottle can be night and day.
So how in the heck do I find a wine I like?!? How do I find the winners?!?
Here are a few tips to follow to find a really decent wine of good quality.
Choose a grape you previously tasted but this time from a country you've never tried. For example some of the best budget or value wines have recently come from Argentina (try Chardonnay or a Malbec) , Chile (try its Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Chardonnay too). In Spain lower-priced wines from Rioja make good-value (usually the classic Tempranillo grape). Also, South Africa (Chenin Blanc, also known as ‘Steen’ sometimes) are a great opportunity to enjoy.
In the same way; try up-and-coming grapes and wine styles now before they take off in appreciation and reputation (and price). If you enjoy Cabernet Sauvignon style, try a Malbec—those again from Argentina are good values. Vinho Verde is a light, refreshing white wine from Portugal that's famously inexpensive.
Also, just because it’s pink does not mean it is White Zinfandel.
Don’t pass over rows of massively unrecognized and underpriced rosé wines—many of that are enjoyably dry and crisp. Just so you know…this wine generally goes really great with lightly seasoned fish or chicken dishes.
Riesling, too, is so under-appreciated and that the price remains low for many of these well-designed and delicious wines. Riesling is very versatile. It can be bone dry, semi-sweet or very sweet. So have fun with that. Remember hot and spicy food goes great with Riesling
By the way…A quick very basic food pairing hint…match ‘Power with Power’
You can't really judge a quality of a wine by its label, but the label might tell you a bit about the style of wine inside If you see a wine label with a beautiful pastel collage of flowers on it, it’s not going to be a big, heavy concentrated red wine…but you never know… Likewise, a wine with a huge red or dirty old truck on it is unlikely to be anything too light-bodied or sweet.
Look, If you see the brand..Barefoot, Robert Mondavi, Jacob’s Creek, Lindeman’s, Beringer, Kendall Jackson, Echo Domani, Chateau St, Michelle, Yellow Tail, Concha Y Toro, Gallo…even Joseph Drouhin brand is in the budget price game now. Those wines are standardized uniform and consistent, regular- even unvarying.
While it's tempting to stick to your "same old same old," usual’s… it's worth rolling the dice to find a new favorite at a low price. It's great to know that with all the good wines out there at this price range, the odds are now better than ever that you'll find winners.