Just as rich people so often resemble each other—the same clothes, the same haircuts, the same Botoxed non-lines—so can some of the priciest wines taste much the same. Made from the same grapes, by the same globe-trotting winemaking consultants; the terroir of the place can be lost in expensive technique. The question when tasting these wines might be: Is it a fancy Bordeaux or a Napa Cabernet? The answer might be: Who knows? The good news, for both purists and cheapskates (so often the two seem to be synonymous: How many free-spending vegetarians, for example, do you know?), is that cheap wines can sometimes give a true(r) taste of a place than a pricey "designed" wine.
I decided to seek out as many wines as I could find that actually manage to convey a sense of terroir. I limited my search for authentic bottlings to long-established, though still obscure, parts of the world—places like southern Italy and Bierzo, Yecla and Rías Baixas in Spain, as well as certain parts of France, Greece and the Douro Valley in Portugal. I chose these places because they have three things in common: a long viticultural history, sometimes dating back thousands of years; distinctive varietals that have recently been rediscovered or markedly improved; and an ambitious new generation of talented producers who are employing modern winemaking and viticultural techniques to indigenous grapes.
Some winemakers in these regions are on a quest to create something authentic, while others may have a more pragmatic motive—to make money by selling lots of inexpensive wine. But whatever their reasons, they are making something that never really existed before: good cheap wines with terroir—wines that don't come from a marketing concept but a particular place on the map.