What is considered cheap or inexpensive depends on who the consumer is. It is a very relative term. For example, to some people an inexpensive wine is one with a price point under $50, for others it may be one under $10. The definition of inexpensive or cheap is as individual as the person making the purchase. For the purposes of this discussion, I am considering a value of under $20 as an inexpensive bottle of wine.
If a wine is too cheap there are those who believe that profit is being achieved mainly by producing large volumes sacrificing quality. Producers operating in this manner have minimal control over the quality of the grapes or the manner in which they are produced. Under these circumstances vintners purchase grapes from a number of different growers whom they have limited or no influence over how the grapes are produced. However, each producer should be judged on their own merits.
I love the challenge of scoping out good inexpensive wines, especially those that need to mature for a few years before enjoying.
Finding the Diamond in the Rough
There is certainly some luck involved in finding great inexpensive wines but there are ways of putting the odds in your favour. The clues are often right under your nose starting with the label on the bottle. Don’t forget to check out the label on the back of the bottle as well. The label will provide the name of the vintner and often identify the varietal(s). Selecting a varietal you enjoy will increase the odds of you selecting a wine to your taste.
It will also identify any quality designation that the wine has been provided by the nation where the wine was produced.
The country of origin will also provide clues as to the wine’s flavour and intensity. Generally speaking, wines produced in hotter climates have more intense flavour.
The label will also display any sustainability or organic qualifications that the wine has.
Information regarding the wines offered for sale will often be provided by the seller. Look for information in brochures, catalogues, or stock cards that may be available in the store or on the merchant’s web site.
Many wineries have their own web site which may provide detailed information pertaining to the various wines they produce, including such information as the varietal(s) contained, how the wine was aged, tannin content, acid levels, etc., all of which impact the flavour and help determine if the wine may be a good fit for you.
However, when all else fails or you like to select wines solely on how the label inspires you, simply standing and gazing at the wines on the shelf may be the only information you need. This is how my wife does it and though I am aghast at this process I cannot argue with her success rate. Her most recent victory was in selecting a 2019 Fantini Sangiovese which is now our general house wine. The price is a whopping $8.95.