Twitter Cheap Wine Challenge

Buying wine can be a tricky thing because unless you've tasted the wine before, you're going in blind.  You can do research or get friendly tips, which definitely helps, but you still won't know if the wine will be worth YOUR dollars.  Taste is subjective, and while your girlfriend might have loved her $65 Don Melchor Cabernet Sauvignon or your buddy may have loved his $7 Ruffino Chianti, you may not.  But no matter what you pay for a wine, it's always important to get your value out of it.  I've spent $60 on bottles that I thought were worth $100, $50 on bottles I thought should be $10, and vice versa.  That's why it's so important to remember that price and value are two completely different things.

In the spirit of getting the most out of your money, Raelinn Schmitt of Wine Ophelia has started the Twitter Cheap Wine Challenge.  The contest is open to all bloggers, and all that has to be done is to share your favorite nationally available and priced under $10.  All entries must be in by January 15, with a huge blind taste challenge on January 21 to determine the winning wine.  Here's my wine choice:

The NV St. Cosme Little James Basket Press was a wine I bought at Binny's Beverage Depot last year for $8.99.  I went for it based upon it's unique nature.  It's a south Rhone red wine made by Louis Barruol (no relation to Billy Baroo) from 100% organically grown Grenache out of a solera system, known best from sherry and marsala production.  Different vintages are combined so that you get a steady product every release, making this a non vintage wine.  Each release is a compilation of older vintages and 50% current vintage.  It comes with a medium-full body with loads of fresh fruits like cherry and blueberry, along with licorice, black pepper, and exotic spices like clove and cinnamon.  The finish is medium plus in length (a good ten seconds) and it's topped off with a stelvin enclosure (screw cap) making it easily accessible!  Try pairing this with anything from the grill, especially lamb- the char, smoke and game will meld well with the wine flavor.

I have a hard time picking out favorite wines, but when I thought of an interesting and good wine that I've tried recently, Little James was the first to come to mind.  I even used it to help build out my last client's inventory at Catbridge Cellars, which is comprised of mostly of earth friendly (sustainably, organically, and biodynamically grown) wines.  I don't have this wine listed on my Best Buys just yet, but it will be soon.   Hope it's on everyone else's after this tasting too!

Chateauneuf du Pape and Alternatives

Many of us enjoy Chateauneuf du Pape along with other Rhone wines.  Unfortunately, many of these wines can be expensive.   There are ways, however, to enjoy wines similar to your favorites without the big price tag.

For those of us who are not familar with Chateauneuf du Pape (CDP), it is an area in the southern Rhone Valley, France, which lies between Orange and Avignon.  Pope Clement V moved the papacy here in 1308, and his love of wine helped improve viticulture in the area.  The grapes and wines improved over time to become a world renowned product.  It is made in both white and red styles with Grenache being the primary grape, though up to 13 varietals can be used in the blend.

Since CDPs can go from $30-200+, it can be difficult to drink as much as one may like.  That is where the alternatives come in.  Look for Gigondas, Vacqueyras, Rasteau, and Lirac wines.  These are all towns in close proximity to CDP which produce similar wines though Lirac produces lighter styles.  The pictured wine is Domaine de la Maurelle Gigondas 2004 which I purchased on special at Binny's for $15.  It had very good cherry, leather, earth, and was easy drinking.

You can also look for Côtes du Rhône, and Côtes-du-Rhône-Villages for better quality.  My favorite for under $15 is Guigal Cotes du Rhone.  Good hunting!