10 Great Cheap Wines to Check Out This Fall
Don’t want to crack open that Burgundy you’ve been saving for a special occasion? Or maybe you’re just on a budget and don’t want to splurge? Nowadays, with an abundance of good, affordable wine options, there’s nothing wrong with grabbing a bottle under $20. But what about that precarious $10 and under category? Cheap wine can often feel like a gamble, running the gamut from “polished” to “unpalatable.” The foolproof way to avoid that hangover-in-a-bottle is to consult with the staff at your favorite local wine shop.
One retailer we love to visit is Ball Square Fine Wines in Somerville, mainly because of wine buyer Dan Lech’s uncanny ability to sniff out bargains in that $10 sweet spot. Here, in his words, are ten inexpensive wines you should hunt down this autumn.
1. Mont Gravet Cotes de Gascogne Blanc
Origin: Gascony, France
A wellspring of value, the whites from Gascony in southwestern France are often a concoction of local varieties such as Petit Manseng, Ugni Blanc, and Sauvignon Blanc. This one happens to be 100-percent Colombard. Is that a good thing? In this case, heck yeah! This unoaked white comes off as a cross between waxy Semillon and vibrant Gruner Veltliner. In short, Mont Gravet is a dry white that stands at attention and gives a fine salute to the palate. Green herbs, yellow fruits, and stony minerals are the code descriptors, but delicious is the only one that counts.
2. Ducourt Bordeaux Blanc
Origin: Bordeaux, France
There is something so refreshing and stimulating about the verve of a clean, dry white wine that I crave it year-round. This snappy little white Bordeaux is just that kind of number. A traditional blend of Sauvignon Blanc (60%) and Semillon (40%), this “basic model” from Bordeaux powerhouse Ducourt has a green grape tang, zippy grass notes, and an overlay of ripe stone fruits. The Semillon adds a nice boost to the texture, and the crisp, dry finish makes for easy drinking from one sip to the next.
3. Fazi Battaglia Verdicchio
Origin: Marche, Italy
A light, refreshing white that impresses with its simplicity. Made from all Verdicchio from the Castelli di Jesi Classico, Fazi Battaglia shimmers in the glass. The nose hints of red and green apples with no one note overpowering the senses. The palate is snappy and lithe and there’s a cleansing minerality on this finish.
4. Broadbent Gruner Veltliner
Origin: Niederösterreich, Austria
Need to add something to your white wine repertoire? Enter this utterly righteous Austrian Gruner Veltliner. If Gruner is new to you, then definitely make its acquaintance. The collective Austrian winemaking community has finally figured out what they want to do with this grape, particularly Broadbent. Packaged in a one-liter bottle— that’s one extra glass for no extra charge—this sprightly, unoaked gem is tinged with salinity and has aromas of melon and white peach.
5. Thomas Losen “Edition” Kabinett
Origin: Mosel, Germany
The quality-to-price ratio really shines through in this lovely and surprisingly complex riesling. This Kabinett is fruit forward, but not sweet, with an invigorating tingle on the tongue and stone fruit aromas. After time in the glass, the wine mellows and opens with classic petrol notes and minerality. The long, lingering finish calls for another sip.
6. Verget de France Vin de France Red
Origin: Rhone, France
Merlot and Syrah are unlikely bedfellows, but they play surprisingly well in this juicy, all-season red. This is like a beguiling mix of Beaujolais, with its just crushed berry notes, and Bordeaux, with its food friendly structure. Give it a slight chill, turn the screwcap, and enjoy on any occasion where a red is called for. This Vin de France red is truly a revelation.
7. Renzo Masi Sangiovese di Toscana
Origin: Tuscany, Italy
This juicy, concentrated red is produced from vineyards owned by the Masi family in the Chianti Rufina district. For whatever reason these berries don’t make their Chianti cut, but boy do they deliver. The wine has a brilliant, pure purple hue, a nose exploding with black cherry fruits, and a finish that is herbal and refined. This is all the Sangiovese you’ll need, and at nine bucks? Done deal!
8. Oveja Negra Carmenere/Merlot
Origin: Maule Valley, Chile
Carmenere—historically mistaken for merlot—has a natural tendency towards the earthy, leafy elements of the red wine spectrum. While merlot in the southern hemisphere gets ripe, pure, and plump. If you put those two elements together you get Oveja, a mildly fruity, complex wine that can be enjoyed on its own or as a sophisticated food partner.
9. Artazuri Garnacha
Origin: Navarra, Spain
Garnacha, like Zinfandel, shows best when its vines are old and gnarly. Navarra in northern Spain, not far from Pamplona, is rife with old vine Garnacha. The Artazuri Winery, established in the late 90’s by the owners of Bodegas Artadi in Rioja, captures the true essence of this old vine fruit. This vintage is beautiful, with concentrated red fruits, white pepper notes, and integrated texture that one can expect from old vine fruit. This all-purpose red is like Spain’s version of a Côtes du Rhône.
10. Badenhorst “The Curator” Red
Origin: Swartland, South Africa
From way down south comes this lush, spicy red blend featuring Syrah, Mourvedre, and just a little bit of Cinsault. The price hardly captures the extent of its structure and quality. This inky wine has characteristics of black pepper, telltale South African leather notes, red fruits, and blackberries. “The Curator” is the perfect wine for cool autumn evenings.
All of these wines are available at Ball Square Fine Wines, 716 Broadway, Somerville; 617-623-9500 or ballsquarefinewines.com.