Most people, I reckon, live by the notion that wine can cost a lot. We are used to treating wine differently; good quality beer, whisky and vodka can cost us far less than a bottle of expensive wine. In a country straddling on high duties and taxes on wine, most of us have reconciled to the fact that we have to shell out a decent amount of money to enjoy a nice bottle of wine.
On the other side, the good news is that winemaking has improved tremendously around the world over the past two decades. There is a bewildering diversity of wines and styles available today and with the help of better technology and know-how, winemakers are putting out an array of smart wines that do not cost an arm and a leg. Indian importers work tirelessly to discover these wines and make them available to wine consumers and enthusiasts in India with the hope of taking forward this immensely fast emerging culture of wine appreciation.
For those who would rather be sensible about their wine spends and find satisfyingly well-made wines, here are some value-for-money options to consider.
Finding good quality cheap Bordeaux is difficult but not impossible. With a huge surplus of unsold wine, France can be a happy hunting ground for bargain-hunters. Also, looking for regions other than Bordeaux and Burgundy, such as the Southern Rhone for its easy drinking reds from the Grenache grape blends, Loire Valley for its exciting crisp dry Muscadet whites and the Languedoc for its delicious white and red blends,will make for better value.
Let’s face it, we Indians love our Sangiovese wines. Italy boasts of over 10,000 indigenous grape varieties and a vast array of styles across many its many regions. Value for money can be had, but not that easily as the best wines can be really expensive. For best value, look towards far north in Veneto for its Soave and Valpolicella or the far south in Sicily which is increasingly making some superb wines for better value. For Tuscany fans, branded wines are the way forward.
Moving to the New World from the Classic European worlds, Chile is a hot favourite among those seeking sweetness of fruit and straightforward clean fruit-forward wines. There is no debating that Chile offers superb value for its wines so they are a good bet. What is better – they make wines from virtually all the popular key international grape varieties – names that everyone recognizes, and also offers the wine world its own indigenous grape variety Carmenere which resembles Merlot due to its soft ripe fruit and round tannins.
Argentina makes more wine than its neighbor Chile but is yet to make a noise as loud as Chile in the wine world. While the quality in their wines can be inconsistent, there is no doubt that some of their wines are both delicious and great value finds. Malbec with its ripe damson fruit, soft silky tannins and often an attractive savoury finish, has built a formidable place for itself in the wine world.
With a lot of progress in tow, South Africa has produced, in a short span a time, a reasonable number of very smart commercial wines. Shiraz and Sauvignon Blanc grapes do pretty well here. And although I am not a huge fan of the Pinotage- their indigenous red grape variety, their appeal around the world including in India, has been commendable.
Australia makes some serious complex superb quality wines, the prices for which are comparable to only the most expensive wines around the world, however its reputation for offering ripe fruity tasty wines with simple flavours that novice consumers seek, precedes itself. Australia is a star when it comes to providing value for money. And whilst far too much of large-scale South Australian multi-regional blended wines has been seen moving off the Indian retail shelves, there are some superb medium to small scale wineries that produce Bordeaux-like blends in Margaret River. Hunter Valley Semillon, Clare Valley Riesling, Chardonnay from Adelaide Hills, Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon andBarossa Shiraz - Australia truly has it all!