Wine Bargains No. 9 and No. 10 leave two to go

WineI’m closing in on my bargain case of quality wine for less than $100. I tasted and tested several contenders over my vacation week and made two outstanding selections: The 2011 Piazzo Barbera from the Piemonte region of Italy, and the 2011 Montes Classic Series Cabernet Sauvignon from Colchagua Valley, Chile. Both sell for less than $10 a bottle and are fantastic values.

With the new additions there are 10 bottles in the case. I’ve spent a total of $84.30 for an average per bottle cost of $8.43 — a price range that makes the thrifty Wine Goddess smile in delight (there’s money left over to buy her flowers). That leaves me with $15.70 to purchase my final two selections at an average price point ($7.85 apiece) that is considerably below what we’ve paid for the previous 10.

Can I do it?

You’ll find out next week.

Here is why I selected the aforementioned wines.

No. 9: Piazzo Barbera, Italy, $8.49 — Wine expert Matt Kramer describes the Barbera varietal as the “Cinderella grape of Italy.” For decades this workhorse red grape was planted through the Piedmont in northwest Italy to create “cheap, everyday, scullery maid-sort of wine,” writes Kramer in his book, Making Sense of Italian Wine. He adds, “But, a la Cinderella, there was a real beauty lurking beneath, just waiting to be discovered.”

Winemakers have brought out the best in Barbera by cutting back yields to create rich, lush, intense fruit.

What I like about Barbera, and especially the Piazzo bottling, is the high acidity which makes it a great wine with all kinds of food. Certainly it makes pasta dishes with rich tomato sauce much better. It’s also a great pizza and bruschetta wine. But I enjoyed this with a simple shrimp marinara dish that the Wine Goddess prepared on a pleasant August evening. A tossed salad and warm, crusty bread accompanied the meal. The Barbera’s dry, smooth cherry/strawberry notes were dense one the nose and clean in the mouth. There was a hint of cinnamon on the finish. For the price I paid for this wine, it proved to be an exceptional value.

No. 10: Montes Classic Series Cabernet Sauvignon, Chile, $9.89 — Where are you going to get a Robert Parker 90-point rated Cabernet at this price? From central Chile where the dry climate helps produce some of the country’s most prestigious red wines. Remove the cork and you can smell the “heat” in this bottle. Montes is a drier but much spicier Cabernet than most fruitier California versions. That’s not to say there is no fruit flavor in the Montes. There is. It comes across as a berry rhubarb taste and a wee bit tannic. This bottling definitely can be tried now, but it also offers a few years of shelf life.

We enjoyed the Montes with a breaded veal chop, grilled zucchini, mashed potatoes and a tossed salad with feta cheese and apple slices. Delicious! No doubt this wine could command twice its price on store shelves and it probably will in the future. Load up on it now.


A case of bargains

The Wine Novice’s 12-bottle case of quality wine for under $100 is filling up:

Week One

1. Castano Monastrell, Spain, $6.49
2. Alamos Chardonnay, Argentina, $7.99
3. Mark West Pinot Noir, California, $7.99
4. La Carraia Sangiovese, Italy, $9.99
5. Casillero del Diablo Red, Chile, $8.99
Week Two

6. Aveledo Vinho Verde, Portugal, $8.99
7. Flaco Tempranillo, Spain, $6.49
8. Project Paso Zinfandel, Paso Robles, $8.99
Week Three

9. Piazzo Barbera, Italy, $8.49
10. Montes Classic Series Cabernet Sauvignon, Chile, $9.89
Total spent to date: $84.30