People working in the wine industry often tell you that price has nothing to do with the quality of wine. I disagree. An $80 bottle is better than a $3 bottle every time. Having said that, I’ve found many $20 bottles show better than lots of $60 bottles, and many $12 bottles taste better than a lot of $30 bottles. The point is, if you do your homework, under-priced wines are easy to find. Knowing this, I decided to do my homework in the under $4 price range to see if I could find a true gem quietly hiding on the bottom store shelf next to the dusty cork stoppers.
The requirements for this test were simple: each wine had to come in a regular 750 ml sized bottle, and cost under $4. I wanted to test the cheapest stuff available without going to Mexico. At this price, I could afford to try a lot of candidates so I was fully expecting to have a few good suggestions to pass on. After all the bottles, after all the hope, here is my suggestion: spend more.
Anyone who tries these products and then claims he doesn’t like wine is like the guy who only rides “It’s a Small World” and claims he doesn’t like Disney World. It only takes another $4 to open the door to so many wonderful and truly top notch wines (I’ve recommended several of them in previous columns). Split the cost with a friend and move up to the next tier. After all the tasting, I arrived at only two wines under $4 that I can name here. One just makes the cut while the other is the big surprise of the entire experiment.
Crane Lake 2008, Cabernet Sauvignon ($3.99): I’ll give a slight nod to this bottle. If you’ve just lost a bet and need to save that $4, the structure in this wine is slightly bolder and more complex than the other similarly priced wines. But that’s really like saying it’s the valedictorian at summer school.
Charles Shaw (Three Buck Chuck) 2007, Sauvignon Blanc ($2.99): This is the one bright star of all the wines sampled. Filled with citrus and summer, its acidity is nicely balanced. A crisp finish leaves just enough fruit and a hint of sweetness. Let me be clear, this is not just the best of a weaker lineup; this is a darn good wine.