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Need Inexpensive Wine Recs

Hi, I'm throwing a wine-tasting party for a group of mid-20 somethings that's basically a "Wine 101." Everyone will bring a bottle and I'm trying to get all the basic categories covered. Since the majority of the crowd are not familiar with wines, I will need to make recommendations for affordable, common, but good ones so my guests can find them easily and don't have to spend too much (under $25). Since this is an intro to wine party, we won't be doing any blends. Basic categories I've thought of so far

Sauvignon Blanc
Chardonnay
Pinot Grigio/Gris
Cabernet Sauvignon
Merlot
Sangiovese/Chianti
Shiraz/Syrah
Pinot Noir
Riesling
Gewurtzraminer
White Zinfandel (I never drink this, but I know at least a couple of the guests are big fans, are there any decent ones?)
Muscat/Moscato
Port (can be more than $25 since I will probably be purchasing this one myself)

Need your input! What are some of your inexpensive favs? Thanks!

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  1. Sauvignon blanc: I'D say New Zeland's Kim Crawford.
    Chardonnay: Burgundy will exceed your budget but a good Californian should do.
    Cabernet Sauvigon: I really like J. Lohr's Seven Oaks
    Chianti: How about Brolio
    Shiraz: Out of Australia Wolf Blass has a good one or anything Penfolds. You could also try a french Syrah.
    Pinot Noir: That one could be a bit tougher though Argyle in Oregon does some good Pinot. Could also go for Churton out of NZ or Coldstream Hill or Scotchman's Hill from Australia.
    Riesling: I'd say Donnhoff from Germany if you can find some or some Hugel or Willm from Alsace.
    Moscato: I really like Italy's Nivole. Slightly fizzy and full of apricot and peach flavors. To my knowledge, it's only available in half-bottle.

    2 Replies
      1. re: Campofiorin

        Campofiorin, there are many Chardonnays from Burgundy for under $25. The problem in recommending one is that most are small production and you may not be able to find it. Better to go to a good merchant and ask for their recommendation out of the stock they have on hand.

      2. Have you checked out Andrea Immer's book, Great Wine Made Simple? It could be a great resource for setting up your party & lists good buys in each category.

        4 Replies
        1. re: floofy cricket

          Checked out the summary on Amazon.com, looks very useful. Also interested in her book "Great Tastes Made Simple." Thanks for the rec!

          1. re: floofy cricket

            You might also check out Windows on the World by Kevin Zraly. It's an excellent intro to wine. Jancis Robinson may have an intro book also.

            I am sure you know this ... but there is a lot of variation within varietals. For example, California Chardonnays are very different from French ones. Same goes for French Burgundies vs Cal. Pinots vs. Oregon Pinots. The students may find it interesting to compare the same grape done in different parts of the world.

            Finally, in terms of finding wines, one idea is to suggest your students go to a good wine store (you might give them suggestions about where to do) and the manager to suggest wines that are good examples of, say, California Cabernet, etc. The sales people in a good store will be familiar with their stock and will not steer them to something that is good, but different from a traditional wine. Plus, having them go into the store and ask for help may help make them less intimidated about wine stores. Just an idea.

            1. re: Darren72

              Darren72, this is a fantastic post!

              1. re: mrspvr

                I just have to chime in about "Great Wines Made Simple." It is the best beginner book that I have come across, and I still refer to it as a teaching tool whenever I have to do a wine seminar or lecture. Buy it. Whether or not you follow the tastings, you will be introduced to an approach that will serve you for the rest of your wine-loving life.

                Cheers!

          2. I just gotta speak out in favor of pink wine!

            I'd downplay the White Zinfandel, but include some quality Rose' (aka "pink wine"), especially if your tasting is in the summer - hot weather, garlic, and dry crisp pink wine are made for each other.

            The grapes used for White Zinfandel make a really wimpy wine, but a better grape results in a much nicer beverage. (Such as a pink wine from pinot noir, cabernet sauvignon, grenache/garnacha, mourvedre, or other type of grape.) You might even be able to convert the White Zin drinkers!

            My favorite pink wines are from France or Spain, but there are some really good American pinkes available. And good pink wine is suprisingly affordable. The best ones I know (Domaine Tempier Bandol from France and the amazing Torbreck Rose from Australia) are about $20 a bottle. Tavel, another great French pink wine, is about $15. Most good pinkies are $10 or less (like the tasty and likeable Toad Hollow Eye of the Toad for about $8).

            Weimax Wines has some starter info on pink wine:
            http://www.weimax.com/weimax_r.htm

            And there's lots more information, albeit aimed at UK drinkers, at Drink Pink:
            http://www.drink-pink.com/

            Anne

            3 Replies
            1. re: AnneInMpls

              Leave out White Zin but don't forget Zinfandel. Go for one of the less powerful, more assessable fruity offerings.
              Try the Ravenswood Sonoma. It is full of fruit and easy to drink.
              Rosenblum makes some good ones as does Seghesio.

              1. re: Wineman

                Seghesio Zinfandel is my favorite Zin, and it's under $20 (they also make a $40 one that I haven't tried). So easy to drink, very much a crowd pleaser, and good with food or for chugging.

                And Ravenswood always cracks me up with their slogan "No Wimpy Wine!" But I still like Seghesio better.

                1. re: Pei

                  Pei, if you love Seghesio, you should try one of their more expensive wines for fun. I guarantee that it will be worth it. I like Home Ranch, but there are a few in that range, and I have never been disappointed. I'm not even a fan of the grape!

            2. Here are my current inexpensive favorites:

              Merlot - Bears Lair (California) - about $4 at Trader Joe's
              Shiraz - Columbia Crest Two Vines - about $7
              Malbec - Norton - regular about $8, reserve about $14
              Chardonnay - Vendange - (had this on a Southwest flight recently, so couldn't be expensive)
              Chardonnay - Bogle - about $8
              Riesling - Chateau St. Jean - $10 to $15
              Sauvignon Blanc - Monkey Bay - under $10

              I see that you are in Texas and probably not within reach of a Trader Joe's. Other than the Bear's Lair, I've seen these in regular grocery stores or wine stores as well.

              1. A few slightly more unusuals that a group of 20 somethings might not have tried yet. I was introduced to all of these within the last year, and have found that it's hard to find wines in these varietals. My best guess is that because these grapes aren't as popular and widespread, they haven't been mass produced to death. It's easy to find a horrible chardonnay or cabernet sauvignon, but I have yet to find a bad wine with the following names, even at under $20. These are the wines I tell my friends to get when they tell me they have no idea how to pick wine, because it's truly difficult to get a bad one.

                Gruner Veltliner (a great wine for people who like gewurtztraminer, pinot grigio, or pinot gris)

                Brachetto d'Acqui (light fizzy pink wine that blows lambrusco and rose out of the water, for me at least. They're what a little girl in ringlets and pink ribbons would drink, were little girls in ringlets and pink ribbons allowed to drink wine).

                And you've forgotten the bubbly: was that intentional?

                1 Reply
                1. re: Pei

                  I simply had to cut the list somewhere, that's the only reason why I've excluded sparkling wines. Perhaps next time!