Thanks, in part, to innovations in winemaking technology over the past 20 or so years, you don't have to spend a fortune to drink good wine or stock a wine cellar. And, perhaps, like me, you don't have the fortune to do so, even if you wanted to. I'm happy to report that you can buy bottles of very good wine for under $20—in some cases, under $10. Here are a few of my current favorites:
Priced at $8.99, Cono Sur Bicicleta Viognier from Chile's Colchagua Valley is a steal. Tropical-fruit scents emerge upon opening, followed by peach, apricot and nutty flavors. Great with sushi and other Asian cuisines.
Crisp acidity and tropical pineapple and passion-fruit flavors burst from a bottle of New Zealand's Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc ($15.99). This zesty white is one of only a few I've found that loves asparagus.
Torrontes from Argentina is almost always a good bang-for-the-buck, and that's the case with Kaiken Terroir Series Torrontes ($13.99). Lychee, white peach and apricot notes please the palate, and the slightly off-dry sweetness and fruitiness of this Torrontes makes it a nice match with spicy dishes.
Another terrific Cono Sur wine is its Cono Sur Bicicleta Chardonnay ($8.99) from Chile's Valle Central wine region—a well-balanced wine that is aged in stainless steel and shows peachy aromas, bright fruit flavors and solid mineral underpinnings.
Established back in 1693, winemaking at South Africa's Fairview vineyards has a long history. Pinotage is the only grape variety that is authentic to South Africa, and to taste a good one, pick up a bottle of Fairview Pinotage ($13). Dark fruits dominate this subtly oaked Pinotage, followed by clove and cinnamon notes. Drink it with beef and lamb dishes.
Made from 100-percent Spanish Tempranillo, Bodegas Bilbainas Viña Zaco ($13.99) pours into the glass looking nearly neon cherry-colored, and with intense aromas of black fruits and anise. It's a robust, well-rounded wine that pairs well with grilled meats and poultry, and is a nice partner for tapas.
With the U.S. dollar getting stronger against the Euro, wines from Europe are becoming a little more affordable. One bargain from France is Chateau du Juge Bordeaux ($11.99). This pleasant, everyday Bordeaux comes from the right bank of the Garonne River Valley and is remarkably harmonious and well-structured for the price. I like to drink du Juge with steak frites, but it also pairs well with pasta Bolognese.
It's back to Argentina for one of my favorite value Malbecs: Achaval-Ferrer Malbec ($19.99). This Malbec sells in Utah for about $5 less than elsewhere, so take advantage of the deal. Founded by winemaker Santiago Achaval and partners, Achaval-Ferrer is known for its old-vine fincas (estates) and for being one of Argentina's premier winemakers. Achaval-Ferrer is dense and solid-bodied, with black-and-red-fruit flavors and aromas, good minerality and smooth, silky tannins. It's a no-brainer to enjoy this wine with grilled or smoked meats.
New to Utah stores are wines from Sonoma's Haraszthy (pronounced "hare-ass-tee") Family Cellars. One I really enjoy is Haraszthy Old Vine Lodi Zinfandel ($11.99). A Sonoma wine family for six generations, the Haraszthys know a thing or two about Zinfandel. This one is flavor-packed with fruit—raspberry and blackberry, most notably—with a subtle minty finish. It's a good barbecue wine.
Finally, we all need to have a bottle of Port at hand, and Cockburn's Special Reserve Port ($18.99) is an economical place to start. Cockburn's celebrates its 200th year of winemaking this year, so toast its birthday with this rich, luscious Special Reserve Port.