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Faced with rising beef and pork prices, F&W's Ray Isle recommends some affordable wines for grilling season.
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.