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Grilling season is here—the weather’s warm, the charcoal is available, and with any luck you’ve delegated some nearby child to scrub off all of last year’s grilled-on gunk with a handy wire brush. One hitch: according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, prices for beef and pork are up a good notch over last year.
Faced with this, I have the following advice: Buy affordable wine. More specifically, buy good affordable wine. And buy it in bulk, or at least by the case (most wine stores give a discount on case purchases, usually 10 to 15 percent). You won’t have to worry about running out the next time you have a picnic, and the extra dollars you save can be rerouted toward an additional sparerib or two. Here, in a bargain-hunting spirit, are five great bottles, all well-suited for big, charred chunks of meat:
2012 Tilia Malbec ($9) Plummy and dense, this red from Mendoza (the heart of Argentine wine production) is hard to beat at its under-$10 price point.
2012 Li Veli Susumaniello ($11) An obscure Puglian grape once used largely to provide intense color in red wine blends, Susumaniello can also—if you keep the crop levels low, as Li Veli does—produce a deliciously smoky, blackberry-scented wine on its own. (If this wine proves hard to find, Li Veli’s robust Primonero, a blend of Negro Amaro and Primitivo, is also worth seeking out.)
2011 d’Arenberg The Stump Jump Red ($13) Chester Osborne at d’Arenberg has a genius for dreaming up esoteric wine names (The Cenosilicaphobic Cat, anyone?), but his rich, peppery, and more directly named Stump Jump Red, a blend of Grenache, Shiraz and Mourvèdre, is as easy to like as it is to pronounce.
2011 Cachette Côtes du Rhône ($14) This screw-cap-sealed, Grenache-based, Southern Rhône red blend has plenty of spicy, red fruit flavor—it doesn’t hurt that the vineyards for it are located a short distance from the famed Châteauneuf-du-Pape region.
2012 Cameron Hughes CAM Collection Lake County Cabernet Sauvignon ($15) Lake County, north of Napa Valley, produces some very good Cabernet. Moreover, prices are usually quite a bit lower than equivalent Napa versions (vineyard land is radically cheaper, for one thing). This cassis-scented bottling is an excellent introduction.