Although the holiday feasting season is upon us now through the end
of the year, it is important to remember not every gathering of friends
and family is a formal occasion. 'Tis also the season of spontaneous
conviviality. The good host always wants to serve tasty wine but is ever
mindful there are budget considerations when a crowd gathers for a
holiday happy hour.
When the need arises for some very good budget wine, the following
five brands are tried and true, consistently producing delicious wines
at modest prices.
Banfi Centine — This is the entry-level brand produced by the notable
Tuscan winery Castello Banfi. Best known for its exceptional Brunello
di Montalcino, Banfi also makes the inexpensive Centine wines that come
in three flavors: rosso, bianco and rose. You have probably figured out
the rosso is sangiovese-based, the bianco pinot grigio-based and the
rose is primarily juice from sangiovese. These wines are reliably
delicious and priced around $10 a bottle, a little more or less
depending upon where you live.
Barefoot Cellars — These are probably the finest $7 wines in the
world. What's remarkable about Barefoot is the consistency despite high
production levels (in the millions of cases a year). All of the wines
are multi-vintage blends, which allows winemaker Jen Wall and her team
to tweak the wines to hit a predictable taste and level of quality. The
straight-up cabernet sauvignon and merlot are quite good, the riesling
is always aces and they even make a quaffable prosecco.
Cupcake — This brand is from The Wine Group portfolio and specializes
in wines from around the globe: a delicious sauvignon blanc from New
Zealand, excellent prosecco and pinot grigio from Italy and so on. The
wines are all priced well below $20 a bottle and they always deliver.
Perfect for a thirsty crowd.
Jacob's Creek — This Australian winery has a long history of
exceptional shiraz, cabernet sauvignon, merlot and riesling in the
$12-$15 range. The wines are well-balanced and flavorful, with nary a
dud in the brand's broad portfolio. What really sets them up nicely as a
party wine, though, is their easy drinkability. No rough edges to be
Sterling Vintner's Collection — Sterling is a powerhouse Napa Valley
winery with plenty of expensive offerings, but its Vintner's Collection
value line is hardly a black mark on the brand and may include some of
the finest $15 wines on the planet, including a delicious pinot noir
that beats all comers at the price. The chardonnay and sauvignon blanc
are winners, too.