Wine on a dime! Best wines on a budget

Illustration by Sarah Bradbury

By Chris Breen

Welcome to Wine on a Dime! This weekly column is all about wine, specifically wine that is cheap and delicious, because what else could one need in life! Each week, in addition to highlighting a few wines that I have been drinking, I will include tips for buying wine, so that in no time you will leave the Barefoot behind and know how to find that good-good glou-glou (french for drank) for less than a Hamilton.

Wine on a Dime and the Piolog does not condone underage or reckless drinking in any form. It’s wine, not Burnetts.  

This week, we are focusing on reds from the south of France. If this region were a Beyoncé album, it would most definitely be “4.” Like “4,” France’s southwestern corner is often forgotten or overshadowed but is comparable in quality to its more celebrated neighbors. Because of the quality of the wine and the fact that these wines are generally inexpensive, the South of France presents great value all around.  

Before I start with tasting notes for the wines of the week, we need to talk about something important. o important that I want you all to imagine hands-clapping emojis between each of these words: always smell your wine! That Franzia Sunset Blush might just smell like plastic bag, but real wines all have their own unique aromas. If you are not smelling your wine you are not getting the full experience! Smelling wine can even be just as enjoyable as actually drinking wine.

Chateau de Gaudou 2015 Cahors

This Cahors is a blend of two grapes, Malbec and Merlot. On the nose there is a spicy earthiness that gives way to an all out berry bomb. This wine smells like if your grandmother spilled XXX Vitamin Water in her cedar closet, but in the best way possible. Upon tasting it, the spice is definitely there, and I picked up fresh tart raspberries and lots of blackcurrant. If you do not know what blackcurrant tastes like, that is totally cool. In my science-backed estimation, I would say it is like if a blackberry, grape and blueberry were in a throuple together and had a baby. Because this Malbec is begging to be paired with pizza thanks to its pepperiness and fruit-forward flavors, this is a surefire “Friday night in” wine; throw on those sweats, hop on that Domino’s delivery grind and invite a friend over to just relax and drink some Malbec because you deserve it! $10.00 at E&R Wine Shop on SW Macadam.


Domaine Rouge Bleu’s 2013 Dentelle

The Dentelle is a Carignan and Grenache blend. This wine smacks you in the face with aromas of cherries.  However, while on the back of the bottle it says red cherry (implying more tartness), what I picked up was more of a super juicy, peak season black cherry. There is a subtle savory note of spice; I would call it nutmeg. Carignan is one of the few red wines that is socially acceptable to enjoy chilled, and I am all about chilled red wines. When chilling a red wine, however, its usually served right under room temperature, warmer than one would serve a white wine. I think that chilling this Carignan could turn it into a versatile weekend wine, equally as ready to be your pre-game go-to as it would to be your Sunday afternoon picnic pick-me-up when paired with some charcuterie; the charcuterie will help bring out the savory spice in the wine. $9.50 at E&R Wine Shop on SW Macadam.

And now it is time for your first wine on a dime pro-tip: buy your wine from real wine shops. Wine shops can feel stuffy and uninviting to the uninitiated, but in my experience, bottle shop employees are always approachable. Buying cheap wine at somewhere like Fred Meyer’s is like playing Russian roulette, but the odds are worse. Do not get me wrong, Freddie’s and Market of Choice have some great wines, but independent wine shops have more control over what is on their shelves, meaning the chance you will be stuck with some second-rate swill is seriously reduced. They will help you find quality on any budget, so it’s best to be open with the wine shop employees that you’re not down to drop your whole paycheck on their favorite bottle of rosé from Timbuktu, they will be more than happy to help. So head down to a local bottle shop, strike up a conversation with the people there and see what you can learn; odds are it will be about much more than whatever bottles are on the shelf!

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