Wine Price Cheats
The famous wines can be a bit spenny. If your disposable income has turned negative on account of everyone testing positive, try these cheaper alternatives. Our wine price cheats give you our insider tips on how to drink great wines for affordable prices.
If you like…
Try Valpolicella Ripasso. It’s Valpolicella (same grapes as Amarone) washed over Amarone skins. Win-win!
Blanc de blanc Champagne
Try Cava, or one of the great French Crémants from Alsace, the Loire, Burgundy, or the wonderful Blanquette de Limoux. For God’s sake (and I know she’s reading this) don’t try Prosecco. However, to replace expensive traditional blends, source grower-Champagnes from family producers in the Côtes-des-Bar region. They are mainly made from Pinot Noir, so have a delicious red berry crunch. Did I say “don’t try Prosecco”?
Try a good Touraine Sauvignon (if possible, from Oisly), or Menetou Salon. I would suggest Quincy, but it’s a 70s TV show and not a gorgeous sandy-soil Sauvignon from a neighbouring village. Alternatively alternatively, a Scheurebe “trocken” from Germany. Named after its inventor, Dr Shy. Not so shy, it turns out.
High-end Left Bank Bordeaux (Médoc et al)
Try Bordeaux wines from Blaye or Bourg. Same weather, same grapes, same snooty attitude! (Fact check: slightly less snooty attitude.)
Pricey Right Bank Bordeaux (Saint-Emilion, Pomerol)
Try one of the satellite villages – Lussac Saint-Emilion, Montagne Saint-Emilion, Lalande-de-Pomerol etc). Better still, go for a Merlot from Italy, Chile or Spain. What they don’t tell you is that Right Bank Bordeaux is 85+% Merlot. They are really not trying that hard on the whole “blending” thing.
An AOC Ventoux might hit the spot. With the 40€ you save, you can buy drugs!
Expensive Côte d’or Burgundy
Tough luck. There’s nothing quite like it. You have to keep shelling out €60+ a bottle for that stuff. Get cheaper tastes. Some people may suggest New Zealand Pinot. These people are called Kiwi wine marketeers.
Try a Langhe Nebbiolo, Because Barolo is a Nebbiolo wine from *checks notes* Langhe.
Try Armagnac. Same process, same grape varieties, same hangover. But from a chronically unfashionable wine region.
White Rhône wines
Try whites from the south of Italy, and Sicily. Fiano, Cattarato, Insolia etc have the over-ripe peachy pear flavours and full-bodied goodness of expensive French classics – but the Naples Euro goes twice as far as the Avignon one. Languedoc Viognier is also a great substitute, but it seemed a bit… obvious somehow.
Try Cabardès or Malpère from the Languedoc. The combination of Rhône Valley grape varieties (Grenache, Syrah…) with the Bordeaux cultivars of Merlot and Cabernet is sensational. The only problem is finding the è accent on the keyboard. Oh! I found it! è è è è
Try Coteaux du Layon from the Loire Valley (just 2 hours on the TGV north of Bordeaux). True, there isn’t as much botrytis cinerea (noble rot), but it’s 10€ for a 50cl bottle, not 60€, so there’s that.
The “red Muscats” of Maury or Banyuls (from Roussillon) have all you need for a fraction of the price. Even better (but without an expensive counterpart) is the “tuilé” (roof-tile colour) version. That’s it. That’s the fact.
Californian reds and whites
Try South African ones. Distinctly un-European, oaky blockbusters – but arguably underpriced, as it’s a country that is trying to regain its reputation. Also try a Coffee Pinotage if you usually drink expensive Claret with an espresso thrown in.
make economies elsewhere in your life and keep drinking Tokaji. C’mon! It’s Tokaji! [Sotto voce] do you really need that health insurance?
Alsace “noble grape varieties”
Hop over the border to the Pfalz in Germany. Everything is the same, except the prices and the nostalgia of past glories that would make a Tory MP cringe.
If you are mad broke enough to take any of this advice, please let me know how you got on.
Cheaper cheers! Sean.