How much should you pay for a good bottle of wine?

John Wilson: You might find a gem for a tenner, but it’s rare; spend €15-€25 instead

 

My friend Gary asked me a seemingly simple question last week: “How much do I have to pay to get a good bottle of wine?” It wasn’t the first time I have had this query. My answer was €15-€25. A year ago, I would have said €12-€20, but prices seem to have increased over the past 12-18 months, possibly due to Covid.

Gary shops in Aldi and is very fond of its Ventoux Rosé (€7.99). He is also a regular in O’Briens and from time to time ventures into his local independent wine shop for a special occasion wine.  

The sum of €10 is the maximum many people will pay for a bottle of wine, and most consumers shop in a supermarket. Therefore I taste as many circa €10 wines as possible and try to feature a few online every week. The optimist in me is always looking for that amazing bargain, a €10 wine that tastes like €30, but it rarely happens.

Modern winemaking techniques allow a large-scale producer to create something consistently drinkable for very little. But when you buy a wine for €8, at least €4.75 of that is tax. By contrast, an artisan wine, made in limited quantities, from grapes grown in one vineyard, costs money to produce. Unless they are lucky enough to live in Champagne or the Côte d’Or in Burgundy, most small producers do not make a fortune; many struggle to earn a living. 

Essentially, these are two different products under the same name, like inexpensive mass-produced cheddar and artisan cheese. We need both. As for Gary’s Ventoux Rosé, I have tasted it and it was very pleasant. I imagine it was perfect when enjoyed in the sunshine with family and friends, but then, wine is all about time and place. 

These four wines are all relatively new to the market: one under €10, two less than €20, and one for €23.95. Maremma is a large, relatively new wine region of Tuscany that includes a few sub-regions producing very posh, expensive wines. The Aldi version is not one of those, but it is a very decent, well-priced red.

I am a fan of the Filliatreau wines, now imported directly by Whelehan’s, which has a great range of new wines arriving in at the moment. The Lena Filliatreau featured here is a classic Loire red, light and refreshing, perfect for the summer months.

The Moristel (another rediscovered old variety) falls into the same category of sunshine drinking. The Colli Tortonesi region is making a name for itself (amongst wine buffs) as the home of Timorasso, a white grape variety that almost died out in the 1980s. The Rosso, made by a small producer, is worth the extra few euros.

Maremma Toscana Riserva 2016 Castellore


14%, €9.99
Medium-bodied with soft, ripe dark cherries and cassis overlaid with subtle spicy notes. Try it with a posh cheeseburger or bean- and tomato-based casseroles. 
From Aldi, aldi.ie

Principo Moristel 2020, Bodegas Pirineos, Somontano
13.5%, €17.90
Lively fresh damson and blackcurrant fruits with a nice seam of acidity and light tannins on the finish. This would go nicely with charcuterie, risotto primavera or spring green vegetables. 
From A Taste of Spain, D1; Green Man Wines, D6, greenmanwines.ie; 64wine, Glasthule, 64wine.com; Baggot Street Wines, D4, baggotstreetwines.com; Clontarf Wines, D3, clontarfwines.ie; Sweeneys D3, sweeneysd3.ie 

Saumur-Champigny 2018 Lena Filliatreau
13.5%, €19
Succulent, crunchy raspberry and redcurrant fruits with a racy acidity. Serve very lightly chilled with a plate of charcuterie and semi-firm cheeses or a rack of lamb with a herby crust.
From Whelehan’s Wines, Loughlinstown, whelehanswines.ie

Oltre Torrente Colli Tortonesi Rosso 2019, Piemonte
14%, €23.95
Bright, concentrated red cherry and redcurrant fruits, subtle herby notes, with good structure provided by some fine, perfectly integrated tannins kicking in on the finish. Try it with meaty pasta dishes or a slow-roast shoulder of lamb with rosemary.

From Pinto Wines, D9, pintowines.ie; Baggot Street Wines, D4, baggotstreetwines.com; 64wine, Glasthule, 64wine.com; Lilliput Stores, D7, lilliputstores.com; This Is It, Ennistymon, thisisitennisytmon.com; Love Supreme, D7, lovesupreme.ie; Loose Canon, D2, loosecanon.ie; Thenudewineco.ie; Martin’s Off Licence, D3, martinsofflicence.ie; Jus de Vine, Portmarnock, jusdevine.ie.

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