I like to drink wine, but of all the essential criteria for being a foodie or gastronome or epicure, I’m weakest on the wine side of things. I’ve enjoyed some of the best of the “B” wines: Bordeaux, Burgundy, Barbaresco and Barolo. I visit wine shops and buy my fair share. I’m willing to follow the sommelier’s suggestions.
But at the end of the day, I’m not really sure that I can really distinguish a great wine from a good one. Or a good one from a passable one. I don’t taste tobacco and cranberries and leather in my wines. I can distinguish some fruit, acidity, tannins, and the finish. I’m particularly susceptible to tasting grassy flavors, as one of my dear friends has learned.
Ultimately, I’ve realized that I don’t need to buy $50 pinot noirs. I don’t need to focus on that amazing malbec from Argentina, that’s a steal at $25. I want a wine that cost me five bucks.
Hello, Trader Joe’s.
Trader Joe’s, home of the legendary Charles Shaw label (and affectionately referred to as “Two Buck Chuck”), has more wines priced less than $5 than any other place I know. Yes, I’m sure most of it is swill (and I do not care for the Two Buck Chuck that actually costs three bucks), but I’ve decided to try some of their selections.
So yesterday, during my lunch hour, I headed to the new Trader Joe’s on Wake Forest Road and bought 16 bottles of wine, including the following:
- Contadino Pinot Grigio — $4.49
- Zarafa Sauvignon Blanc — $3.99
- Chiusa Grande Tommolo Montepulciano D’Abruzzo — $5.99
- Il Valore Sangiovese — $3.99
- Epicuro Aglianico — $5.99
- Vintjs Cabernet Sauvignon — $5.99
- Hans Lang Rheingau Pinot Noir — $6.99
- Blue Fin Pinot Noir — $3.99
- La Granja Tempranillo — $3.99
- Black Mountain Pinot Noir — $6.99
I bought two bottles each of the first six wines listed above and one of the last four. I paid a total of $89.26, including tax, for this wine, which represents an average price per bottle of $5.58 (or $5.18 before tax). This is my kind of price point!
So I cracked open the La Granja Tempranillo last night, as I wanted to try one of the very cheap samples to see how bad they really could be. And what the hell, it was actually decent. No, it was better than decent, it was tasty. It was a bit tight, but opened up pretty quickly. It had a fair amount of fruit. It went well with my pasta. I actually said, “Wow!” when I sipped it, not because this was some kick-ass wine, but because it was a drinkable wine for FOUR FREAKING DOLLARS!!!
We’ve got friends coming for Thanksgiving, and I’ll not force my cheap wine on them, but for my wife and me, this may be just the way to go. Will report back after guzzling some more of this swill. Very tasty swill, at that.