- The Underground Wine Letter - http://www.undergroundwineletter.com -



A Trio of Terrific Under The Radar Wines For Under $20


As many of the top wines in the world escalate to dizzying prices, there is another world below the clouds that gets a lot less press. That is the great values that exist in wines for the wine drinker, and not collectors and big numbers wine critics. I am first and foremost a wine drinker. Why? Well, that’s simple. For me, wine is just another food group. But, that’s not a negative. To the contrary, I love food and I love wine. To me they are interconnected. I have spent my life looking to find the best of both. And, of course, I have my favorites. But, my favorites represent my taste and my ability to afford them. And, no question, some have escalated dramatically in price over the course of my adult life.

As a result, for many things, prices are now well beyond what many of us can afford or want to pay. In the world of food and wine, if  Beluga Caviar and Romanée Conti are now beyond your budget, what should you do? Well, if you have not heard of either one, like probably 99.9% of the world’s population, that’s easy. Nothing! But, if you are in the other 0.1% and now cannot afford these rarities, then what should you do? If you don’t care, then do nothing. But, if you are now totally despondent, then what are you to do? Maybe you should stage a protest, fast, pray, cry, or commit hari-kari? Geez, I think not. Get real! The simple fact is that, in the world of wine, really good wine has probably never been more affordable. There are still many under the radar wines that have not yet received the recognition they deserve. You just have to tune up your palate, cast your prejudices aside along with your big numbers song book, and get with the program! Don’t be intimidated and trust your taste. This is the way I have approached wine since I first began drinking wine many years ago.

Some have said that today is the worst of times and the best of times. Perhaps that is true. But, in the world of really good wine, I would argue that it is the best of times and the best of times. Why? Because, in the very ancient days, wines were not that good. Today it is a different story. Now the best wines are extraordinary. And, many of the best wines have prices to match. But, many of these same wines are over-hyped, over-rated, and over-priced. Most of these wines exist at the top of the big numbers rating scale. This is the micro segment of wine that has many gullible followers. Underneath this is a great sea of wine that is terrific and reasonably priced in relation to other top quality foods. These wines are produced in most of the wine growing regions of the world. How can this be, you might ask? The reason is simple. We live in a time where, for most wines, supply exceeds demand which has the effect of keeping prices down.

So as much as I love some of the greatest wines of the world, so do I love many of the other wines of the world that are below the radar. For my entire adult life, I have never stopped looking for the wines that are under the radar. But, it is a moving target. There was a time that California Cabernet was under the radar. Even the great Bordeaux and Burgundy wines were under the radar 40 years ago when I first started drinking wine. My friends and I wasted no time in making sure that we fully participated in the moment. (I wrote about these wines in the original issues of The Underground Wineletter. These are now being reproduced in Retrospective Reviews on this website.) Today the world has moved the price of many of these wines that I wrote about into the stratosphere. And, these wines have been joined by many new comers. In my opinion, a few of these newcomers may be justified, but most are not. However, that is only my opinion. In the end, it is only the market that counts, so let’s see where that takes us in the future (that is a story for another day).

Nonetheless, beneath the anointed few, today there is a netherworld of wine where, even the most jaded wine drinker can find great enjoyment and value. In order to enter this world all you have to do is be adventuresome and not be intimidated by wine commentary that often has nothing to do with reality (click here [1]to read an article on that subject.) And, like I have said, drink what you like and like what you drink (click here [2]to read my article on this subject.)  I have mentioned many great value wines in previous notes. This will continue to be a focal point of my wine commentary. You see, I drink wine more than I taste wine and there is a difference. I like wine with food. I like to match food with wine. I get no enjoyment from taste and spit exercises (click here [3] to read about how some wine critics “taste” wine.) 

Massive “tastings” are no fun for me and virtually worthless. Been there, done that. So let’s move forward together. Here are three new wines that I think represent terrific value and are, for me, a pleasure to drink with the appropriate foods as determined by your personal taste. I have drunk these wines with a wide variety of foods. In fact, I would say that with this trio of wines at your disposal, there is virtually no food that would not match well with at least one of them. Go ahead. Venture out. Take the challenge. Give these wines a try and see for yourself! I think you will be very well rewarded! And, please remember that you will get several dollars back in change from a $20 bill! That is even more incentive.

hands-glasses [4]

2010 Chariot Gypsy Red Wine California.
This wine is made by Jim Neal Wines in Healdsburg, California. The 2009 was really nice. (To read that review click here [5].)  The 2010 is even better. The blend is also different with Cabernet and Merlot being predominant along with a few other varietals. The wine is delicious. It has a deep color and a lovely perfume of plums with floral cedary nuances. The flavors are gorgeous with supple berry fruit accented by a tinge of green olive and spice. The wine is supple and lush with sweet fruit backed by a bright acidity which is very harmonious and adds a degree of freshness that is most appealing. This is a gorgeous, sexy wine that is a great value. And, I might add, with a slight chill this would be fabulous with Thanksgiving turkey and would certainly not break the bank – Highly Recommended.  $4.992-yellow-stars

2011 SauvignonRepublic Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough New Zealand.
This wine is very consistent and a great buy. (To see my notes on the 2010 click here [6].)The 2011 is particularly juicy, vibrant, and crisp. In the article linked above there is a great recipe for filet of sole that would be a perfect match for this wine. You really should try this wine and make the filet of sole to accompany it. Pale yellow in color the wine has a gorgeous grapefruit perfume accented by a faint tinge of herbs. It is lip smacking good with juicy grapefruit flavors accented by a faint herbal nuance and a hint of melon and guava. Zesty, fresh, vibrant, and crisp this is simply irresistible and a great bargain – Outstanding.  $6.99 Best Buy Sauvignon Republic, Healdsburg, CA3-yellow-stars


2010Panilonco Lion Chief Chardonnay Viognier Reserve Colchagua.
Panilonco Lion Chief is a great value brand consistently making very good wines at very affordable prices. The wines are made by Vinedos Errazuriz Ovalle S.A., San Ignacio, Santiago, Chile. (To read an earlier article featuring several Panilonco wines click here [7].) This is a very attractive blend of 80% Chardonnay and 20% Viognier. It is light yellow in color and has a lovely floral perfume with hints of citrus and pear. On the palate it is elegant with subtle floral nuances and hints of citrus, peach and apricot. This is a delicious wine that is light, but flavorful and is balanced by a lively crispness on the finish – Highly Recommended.  $3.99  Best Buy  Evaki Inc., San Luis Obispo, CA 2-yellow-stars





In Vino Veritas,Sig

John Tilson