A Word on Wine: Iberia!
Adam’s recent comments on wine from Trader Joes certainly gets you ingestible bottles for under $10 but is there any romance there? I don’t think so! For that think further afield, let your mind wander to places you want to visit, grab an Atlas (ok, just google “world map”) and think fun, wine and sun. Where did that take you? Hawaii? Never mind, let me make a suggestion Iberia!
OK, where? You know, the Iberian peninsula down below France. Yeah, Spain and Portugal – that’s what I said. These two countries are the source of some of the best wine values in the world right now. Although both countries have achieved greater renown on the world wine scene over the past decade, they still provide great wines that don’t command big prices. You should be able to find many wines from the region in a local wine shop, Whole Foods or, I admit, even Trader Joes.
On the affordable wine front you can find excellent stuff from the Douro region of Portugal (where Port comes from) such as Charamba or Altano which should be $6-9 wherever you find them. They’re great potluck wines that can come out with almost anything, so stick one in the cupboard for whenever you need it.
If you’re preparing Gabi’s Meyer Lemon Pad Thai search out a Vinho Verde, also from Portugal. This “green wine” will have a tiny bit of bubbles to go along with a fresh crisp taste and often a hint of sweetness that will work superbly to lubricate things along as you cook for your date and then sit down to the meal. A relatively widely distributed Vinho Verde is Broadbent which you’ll almost always find for $10 or less ($7 at The Wine Mine) and there are many others in that price range.
Over in Spain you can find any number of interesting wines that you can actually think about if you feel like it (unlike Cycles Gladiator). Look for a wine from the Bierzo region made from Mencia. In the lower price range this grape produces red wines that are not too heavy, somewhat fruity with a good acidity that makes them good food pairers. One example is Cuatro Pasos which I’ve seen at Whole Foods for $12 but can be found for less.
You’ll be able to find many other examples of bargains that taste great and have a sense of place to them – look for a Monastrel from Jumilla, Garnacha from the Navarra region, a Tempranillo blend from Rioja, you get the picture. Bring out that map again and plan your next journey when you aren’t so broke.
Oh and before you visit a a wine shop or supermarket brush up on your history to make sure you know the approximate dates of the Roman, Germanic and Muslim/Moor periods of influence in Spain. I hear this is a great conversation starter with whomever catches your eye while you’re shopping. If I’m wrong you just have another tidbit of information to think about while sipping your new bargain finds from Iberia.