Some people seem to operate under the misconception that wine writers and other industry insiders won't crack open their greedy lips for anything less than a 95-point wine. I call BS.
While I will admit (with no shortage of gleeful pride, by the way) to having washed down a takeout container of Thai chili mint noodles with a pricey bottle of JJ Prum Gold Cap on more than one occasion, for the most part my everyday wine situation is decidedly more pocketbook friendly. For most “pros,” yours truly most definitely included, top shelf wines are for “tasting” and usually spread amongst friends at a get together or study group (yeah, I know, #nerdalert); the rest of the time, I grab my weeknight bottles at the grocery store like every other wine-loving Tom, Dick, and Shari. Here are a few of my current favorites…
Montcadi Brut Cava, Catalonia – $7
If I was stuck on a desert island and had to pick one thing to bring, I would quickly blurt out “Champagne!!!” and not realize until well after the bubbly was gone that I should’ve said something smart, like “radio” or “boat.” Until my bank account is healthy enough to support a daily Bollinger habit, I get my kicks with this off-dry Montcadi Brut Cava from Fresh & Easy. It’s light, citrusy, and easy to drink whether you’re serving it with roast chicken, potato chips, or a House of Cards binge session.
*Rumor has it the Montcadi is being phased out at F&E, but my store still has some on the shelves. So… hurry!
d’Arenberg Stump Jump G/S/M, McLaren Vale – $13
d’Arenberg is the forward-thinking Australian producer responsible for delicious and awesomely titled wines like “The Garden of Extraordinary Delights” and “The Swinging Malaysian” – both highly rated and scrumptious Shiraz – but when I don’t have an extra $80 burning a hole in my pocket, I grab a bottle of Stump Jump instead. This blend of Shiraz, Grenache, and Mourvedre bring together thebest of each varietal for a peppery, chocolaty, herbaceous, black cherry infused result that is delicious with lamb meatballs or the gyros I get from our friendly neighborhood food truck.
Terrazas de los Andes Reserva Malbec, Mendoza – $20
This Malbec from Terrazas de los Andes (the same producer behind the “Cheval des Andes” I adore) has all the jammy berry and cherry notes you need a wine to have when it’s going to stand up to a smoky BBQ sauce, and that’s what this bottle usually ends up being served with in my house. Little wisps of smoke, chocolate, tobacco, and pencil lead waft through the background, giving this Malbec the heft to replace (even if just temporarily) your favorite pricier Cabs. I love the herb and floral notes, too, and have no problem finishing my glass – or the bottle – long after dinner is done.
Les Costieres de Pomerols Beauvignac Picpoul de Pinet, Languedoc-Roussillon – $11
Total Wine lists this as “Hugues Beauvignac Picpoul” – frankly, I don’t care what their little sign says, so long as I can keep drinking it with my health-kick kale salads and shrimp with zucchini noodles. When my palate is all but blown out from tastings and “research” (oh, do I love my job!), this wine is there to calm things down. It’s gentle on both the nose and the palate, with a bit of stone fruit, citrus, and melon, with just enough acidity and minerality to perk up my poor, beleaguered palate.