When BYOB-ing to a drinks party, it’s easy to get it wrong. No one wants to go overboard and dust off the Napoleonic-era bottle of claret bequeathed to them by a wealthy grandparent, but likewise it’s important not to be the shame-faced dinner party guest caught smuggling in a warm bottle of generic New World red.
Is it possible to purchase decent wine cheaply? The simple answer is yes.
“Most budget wines are essentially alcoholic fruit juice,” says wine expert Matt Day. It needn’t be this way. “‘Real’ wine is wine that you will actually enjoy drinking,” he says.
“And though this definition changes depending on who you are speaking to, for me, this is when you can taste the place where the wine is grown and the passion of the people who make it.”
Here’s Esquire’s definitive edit of six fantastic affordable wines, accompanied by Day’s first-rate tasting notes.
Sancerre Domaine du Nozay 2011,
“Still very much a family-run business, wine is personal to Domaine du Nozay, and you can taste it. This high-spirited, single vineyard sancerre is precise, mineral and refined — a great antidote to the ubiquitous Kiwi savvy blanc. Try it with a pungent goat’s cheese for a true taste sensation.”
Schloss Schönborn Erbacher Marcobrunn Riesling Kabinett 2007,
“A ridiculously cheap wine given this estate’s pedigree. This off-dry kabinett has an aromatic honeyed nose, with ripe fruit and a classic petrol-y mature riesling finish. Great with Asian dishes and rich meats such as duck or goose.”
Nuiton-Beaunoy Hautes-Côtes de Nuits 2010,
“If you can’t quite stomach sickly New World chardonnay, then try this. The emphasis is on clean stone fruit, with a brief period of oak ageing to add roundness. A taste of ‘real’ burgundy for pennies — 1,500 to be precise. Try with roast chicken or rich shellfish such as lobster or scallops.”
Bodegas O Fournier Urban Malbec 2010,
Uco Valley, Argentina
“Bodegas O Fournier is a boutique winery in Mendoza producing elegant wines that are fairly Spanish in style. The blackberry and plum fruit aromas are intense but fresh with a touch of spice. This wine makes a glorious match for a good slab of steak cooked on the barbeque.”
Pierre-Jacques Druet Chinon Clos de Danzay 2000,
“At just over a tenner, this is my bargain of the year. An amazingly complex red made from the under-appreciated cabernet franc grape. This mature wine has heady aromas of blackcurrant and tobacco. Perfect with hard, mature cheese or with simple roast beef.”
Cape Mentelle Cabernet Merlot 2010,
Margaret River, Australia
“Western Australia enjoys a cooler climate not dissimilar to Bordeaux, and, unsurprisingly, cabernet sauvignon and merlot thrive here. Cape Mentelle is one of Australia’s best producers and this wine is rich with plenty of cassis fruit and cedar spice. Great with a Moroccan lamb tagine.”