Why I love wine snobs (and wines under $15)

By Dennis Vasconcelos

As long as there has been wine, there have been those who turn up their noses at inexpensive, relatively unknown bottles of that delicious fermented grape juice. We all have those friends who proudly proclaim, “I never buy wine under $50.” To them I say, “Thank you.” Their snobbery means fewer people buying my wine, and less of a chance that its price will increase; once a wine becomes popular, thanks to the masses, the price invariably shoots up. That’s no secret ~ but one secret of buying in the inexpensive price range is that you have to find a good wine that nobody knows (so no matter how much your friends beg you for the name of what they’re enjoying at your dinner party, don’t tell them…and make sure to hide the bottle). Obscurity is good.

The other secret is to become acquainted with the wine guy (or girl) at your favorite liquor store. There is no better resource than someone who works in the industry and has nothing to gain by selling you a wine that you don’t need. Look into their eyes as you ask for their suggestions. You’ll be able to tell if they have a true appreciation for their bottled wares (of course, if those eyes are glassy and you catch a whiff of slightly stale wine and it’s only noon, you might want to find another wine guy (or girl).

Don’t get me wrong. There are plenty of great expensive wines out there. A small percentage are even worth the money. But I drink quite a bit, so I need to save my money for a liver transplant. That said, I’ll go against my own advice and share with you two of my favorite wines that get me up when my wallet is feeling down.

Wine: Villa Maria Private Bin Sauvignon Blanc
Region: Marlborough, New Zealand
Avg. Retail: $11 – $13

This wine practically explodes with refreshing citrus and melon fruit flavors (in fact, the Villa Maria vineyard consistently pumps out a variety of fantastic vintages ~ I’ve yet to taste a bad one) while finishing dry and crisp with grassy undertones. It pairs perfectly with any shellfish or seafood dish as well as with chicken and white sauce pasta dishes. Most wines from this area have been switched over to screw caps, but don’t let that fact deter you ~ corks’ll just have to learn to share the spotlight. This Sauvignon Blanc is the perfect wine for any season or any occasion. Enjoy. Twice on the weekends.

Wine: Concha Y Toro, Casillero del Diablo Cabernet Sauvignon
Region: Maipo Valley, Chile
Avg. Retail: $10 – $12

Loosely translated, the wine’s name means “Cellar of the Devil,” a moniker used in the 19th century to discourage the theft of wine by vineyard workers. This classic, well-structured Cab is full of black currant, ripe cherry, and dark plum…united by a touch of toasted oak. It’s a medium bodied wine with smooth tannins, complex flavors and a long finish. Serve it with hearty cuisines like roasts, stews, game and spicy pasta dishes. And then invite me over. Really.

Remember, drinking wine has nothing to do with the price, label, or which mindless heiress proclaims it her drink of choice this week. If you don’t like it, don’t drink it. It’s all about enjoying life and learning new things along the way.

Until next time, Salud!