Finally, some good news, at least for us wine lovers: It's going to be a serious buyers' market in 2009. The signs are already there, in massive markdowns on high-end stuff at a recent Haskell's sale and an upcoming one at Wine Street Spirits.
It won't be across the board, but everyone in the biz agrees that there will be bargains galore in coming months.
Still, January is a lean month for most of us financially, a time to scale back even in a good economy. So I've put together a mixed case that should cost no more than about $100, including tax, or an average of $7.50 or so a bottle. The usual caveats apply: Prices will vary, sometimes a good bit, but none of these should be over $10 and they should average out in the $7 to $8 range. Few if any stores will have all of these wines, but I've tried to select bottles that are readily available, and
provided backups of the same ilk and price range for each. Also, a good merchant will give you a 10 percent discount on a mixed case.
These are not profound wines, but they provide tremendous oomph for the moolah, and in many cases a great intro to a varietal or regional blend worth exploring more deeply:
Bodegas Luzon Jumilla: No. 1 on the Wine Enthusiast's recent Top 100 Values list, and it's hard to argue, given the rich flavors and endless finish on this monastrell- syrah blend from Spain (backup: Campos Reales Tempranillo).
Bodega Norton Malbec: Dark berries, dark chocolate and light prices make for a near-perfect amalgam (backup: Trapiche Malbec).
Bogle Petite Sirah: Smoky and stout, this brooding red delivers a lot of intensity and complexity for the price point (backup: Guenoc Lake County Petitie Sirah).
Banrock Station SE. Australia Merlot: There's way more spicy, plummy, toasty goodness here than one would expect for 6 bucks or so (backup: Hardy's SE. Australia Stamp merlot). This candylike offering can serve as our dessert wine.
Cycles Gladiator Cabernet Sauvignon: Starting jammy and finishing mellow, this is a cab to hail (backup: Fat Cat Cab).
Cristalino Brut Cava: Perhaps the best bargain in its field, this spritely bubbly is almost too quaffable (backup: Freixenet Brut Cava).
Gazela Vinho Verde: A fresh, brisk-as-can-be reminder that summer will come again (backup: Pavão Vinho Verde, also from Portugal).
Hogue Fumé Blanc: A crisp, smooth everyday sipper from Washington (backup: Veramonte Sauvignon Blanc from Chile).
La Vielle Ferme Rouge: This Rhône blend is a perennial bargain, light enough for cocktail hour, but acidic enough for dinner (backup: Paul Jaboulet Aîné Parallèle 45).
Sebeka Western Cape Chardonnay: A creamy, rich, smoky South African chard with more depth than similarly priced U.S. offerings (backup or alternative for those not so wood-inclined: Grant Burge Barossa Vines Unoaked Chardonnay).
Snoqualmie Riesling: Another Washington offering with lively pear flavors and a wonderful finish (backup: Hogue Johannisberg Riesling).
Solemne 2-2-Tango Torrontés: An aromatic Argentine delight with just the right fruit-acid balance (backup: Alamos Torrontés).
Bill Ward • firstname.lastname@example.org
Read Ward on Wine at www.startribune.com/blogs/wine.