Get a great value on holiday wines

Getting a good value on vino brings out the spirit of the season.

Bliss 2008 Mendocino ChardonnayWinemaking techniques have really improved over the past few decades, so it’s fairly easy to avoid evil gut-rot that causes horrible headaches after a couple of glasses, but harder to avoid wines that are simply ordinary.

Most of the cost of a wine that retails for $10-$12 reflects the bottle, transport and mark-ups by the distributor and retailer. What’s left has to cover the wine itself, marketing the brand and the winery profit.

How these costs are allocated can vary considerably, and, if most goes into the wine, it will be very drinkable. If not, it can be distinctly ordinary. The wines selected here are all produced by family-run enterprises of varying size, which have an established commitment to their wines, and are perhaps less bottom-line focused than the multinationals.

$11.99-$12.99 Bliss 2008 Mendocino Chardonnay
Distributed by Grapevine. Lightly oaked and refreshingly fruity.
Sold at A Wine and Spirit Shop, Reilley’s and Rollers

Instead of the mass-marketed brands, try the Bliss 2008 Chardonnay from Mendocino, the second label, launched five years ago, from a family that has been farming the area since the 1940s and producing their own wine (Brutacao) since the ’80s. It’s made in a style that’s increasingly popular, with only a fraction of the wine exposed to oak. The result is a clean, dry, refreshing wine with clear fruit flavors that can be enjoyed on its own but still has enough character not to be overpowered by party food.Vignale 2007 Pinot Grigio

$11.99 Vignale 2007 Pinot Grigio
Distributed by Palmetto. Moderately intense flavor
with a nice balance of fruit and acidity. Sold at Rollers

Pinot Grigios come in a broad range of flavors, from the very light to the much more intense. The mid-range Vignale 2007 Pinot Grigio comes from the Campagnolo winery, in operation for over a century. In recent decades the owners have expanded from making their own wines to also selecting and bottling wines made by local producers, of which the Vignale is an example. It has an attractive bouquet that is unmistakably Pinot Grigio, and is relatively low (12 percent) in alcohol. It’s pleasantly rather than assertively fruity, and, while dry, has an appealing hint of sweetness in the finish that nicely balances the acidity.

Roncier Red$10.99-$12.99 Roncier Red
Distributed by Grassroots. A Pinot Noir blend
from Burgundy in the lighter style. Sold at Belfair
Fine Wines and Spirits, Low Country Liquors and Rollers

The Roncier is a light, dry, red wine made mainly from Pinot Noir. The label on the bottle is seriously uninformative (French Red Wine!) and reflects the idiosyncrasies of French wine law. It’s produced by Maison Tramier, a familyowned Burgundy producer and négociant (bottler), and was first introduced in the ‘60s. They purchase local wine that cannot be labeled Bourgogne for various reasons (such as too large a crop of grapes per acre), blend wines from different sources and different years to provide a consistent taste, and end up with a real bargain that has a very clear Pinot Noir bouquet and a clean finish. If you’re serving it at a party, you might want to add Pinot Noir to the label!

Bogle 2007 Petite Sirah$8.99-$12.99 Bogle 2007 Petite Sirah
Distributed by Southern Wine. A more fruity wine with
a more assertive flavor. Sold at most major wine stores
and supermarkets

The Bogle 2007 Petite Sirah is a wine with a bit more power. The grape originated as a cross between Syrah and Peloursin in southern France, where it was called Durif and was never very successful. It likes a hot climate, and has prospered in California in areas such as the Sacramento River valley, where the Bogle family has been farming since the mid-1800s. They planted grapes in the ‘60s, built their first winery in the ‘70s, and have developed into a major enterprise: They have 1,200 acres in vines but still focus on value wines. This wine is easy to drink; the tannins are softened by a hint of sugar in the finish and well balanced with the dark fruit flavors.

Colosi 2007 Sicilia Rosso

Years ago, many Sicilian wines were fun to drink as a tourist, but not something you’d want to bring home. The last few years have seen dramatic changes, of which the Colosi 2007 Sicilia Rosso is a good example. The winery is run by the third generation, and their Rosso is made from Nero d’Avola, one of the traditional Sicilian grapes.

$11.99-$12.99 Colosi 2007 Sicilia Rosso
Distributed by Carolina Wine Source. A wine with an
unusual character; good with party food. Sold at A Wine
and Spirit Shop, Belfair Fine Wines and Spirits and Rollers

It has been “tamed” by not letting the grapes get too ripe so that the tannins are a bit softer, but it still has plenty of dark fruit character with a hint of spiciness. It makes an agreeable change from wines made with the standard grapes and would be particularly good with party food.

These are not the only enjoyable wines to be found in this price range. Your favorite wine store will be happy to recommend others!