Did the world's wine companies suddenly have an epiphany? Or did some of the better places wake up and realize that the majority of wine lovers don't cruise home to their 20,000-square-foot houses to casually pop the cork of a nice $100 bottle of wine? For some reason, winemakers have been trying to dominate the upscale .01% market, leaving the bread-and-butter territory to Australian companies with cute animals on the label. But something happened, and hallelujah! We have recently been inundated with really good wines under $12.
The first one to grab our attention is from Argentina. Bodega Ruca Malén's Yauquen Malbec/Cabernet Sauvignon ($11.99) reflects the owners' and winemakers' French wine background. It's an elegant wine with just the perfect flavors for grilled beef. Close your eyes, and you might guess you are drinking a $25 Bordeaux! At the other end of the stylistic curve, anyone who loves the old style Sonoma Zinfandels – thick, dense, jammy, and packed with dark berry aromas – will think they've stepped through a time portal to the mid-Sixties when they taste the new Barefoot Zinfandel ($6.99). Its only downside is it's a little too oaky, but then, so were the old Sonoma Zins. Columbia Crest is always dependable, but they have knocked it out of the park with their Grand Estates Amitage ($11.99), a brilliant blend of Merlot, Syrah, and Cabernet Franc. Finally, anyone out there who, like me, thinks Texas summers demand cold wines must try the bone-dry Spanish Rosé called El Coto Rioja Rosado ($8), a full-bodied wine with extravagant strawberry and cherry aromas.
The Yauquen is available at Central Market, and all the rest of the wines are widely available at wine shops.
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