Affordable red wines, Gnarly Head Cabernet Sauvignon, Fratelli Montepulciano d'Abruzzo, Milton Park

These three Reds will tempt your tongue and keep your wallet in the black

Wine Reviews / Food & Drink Channel / Bullz-Eye Home

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I love drinking expensive (and well-made) wine as much as the next guy. But what really gets me excited is a bargain, and in these tough economic times, a bargain is more important than ever. Most of us can’t spend $20 or more on a bottle of wine every night of the week, but if you like some vino with your meal, you want something decent. There are plenty of wines out there whose taste is as cheap as their price. The key is to find wines that over-deliver for their price. So I’m recommending three Reds that can usually be found for less than $10, while also offering excellent value.

Gnarly Head Cabernet SauvignonThe 2006 Gnarly Head Cabernet Sauvignon is made from fruit sourced in Mendocino, Paso Robles, Monterey and Lodi, with small amounts of Petite Sirah and Malbec, both from Lodi, blended in. About 100,000 cases of this wine were produced, and the suggested retail price is $12.

Blackberries and dark plum, underscored by cedar, highlight the nose of this Cabernet. The palate is diverse and layered, featuring hints of jam as well as chicory and mocha notes. It has a fairly rich mid-palate that packs a ton of flavor into a modestly priced package. The tannins in this wine are firm but approachable. The finish is loaded with earth and spice notes, particularly black pepper, which is abundant. While this wine will match well with a burger or other meats, I found I liked it best with dark chocolate.

One of the standout features of this Cabernet is that it has none of the green vegetal notes that are sometimes associated with Cabernet Sauvignon in this price category. When 100,000 cases of a wine are produced, it’s a clear sign that the intent is for it to be considered as an everyday drinker or house wine.

Fratelli Montepulciano d’AbruzzoThe second wine is the 2006 Fratelli Montepulciano d’Abruzzo. This offering is 100 percent Montepulciano, and the 1,200 cases produced of this wine were aged in stainless steel. The suggested retail price is $8.99, but it’s often available for even less.

As soon as you pour this wine, the aroma of dried cherries wafts from the glass. From the first sip, both raspberry and cherry flavors resonate. The finish has a bit of tartness, and the cherry notes take on a pleasing sour tone. Black pepper and a touch of earth also emerge. This wine has nice acidity and will be a great match for food. Whether you pair this with a dish of pasta, strong cheese or even an Italian sub, you can’t go wrong with this wine.

What I like best about this bottle from Fratelli is that it’s very easily accessible, yet it provides just enough complexity to keep things interesting. This is especially true when paired with food. For around $8 a bottle you won’t mind opening this any night of the week. It’s also a good choice to pour at a large gathering.

The third wine I’m looking at is an Australian Shiraz. This is an interesting category for bargains. There are a lot of low-priced wines coming out of Australia, from the massively produced and industrial-tasting Yellowtails, to the smaller releases. In both cases there are hits and misses.

Milton Park ShirazThe 2007 Milton Park Shiraz is made from fruit sourced in southeastern Australia. Minimal aging in American oak was utilized. The suggested retail price for this wine is $11, but it’s commonly available for less than $10.

Blackberry and plum jam notes fill the nose of this wine. Subtle aromas of vanilla are also present. Take the first sip of this wine and it’s immediately recognizable as an Australian Shiraz. Lots of rich, berry fruits fill the palate, along with prominent black pepper notes. The finish brings out additional spices in the way of nutmeg and clove, as well as more than a hint of licorice. All these characteristics are framed by good acidity, something often missing in Shiraz priced under $10.

What I like best about this wine is that it so clearly outshines the vast majority of Australian Shiraz’ in this price range. While it offers the big fruit flavors so often associated with these wines, it’s also well-balanced.

I find each of these wines to be excellent values for about $10 or less. The Shiraz is the most suited for solo sipping, while the Montepulciano craves food more than the others, and the Cabernet is the most versatile. Check these out, if you’re looking for a bargain.

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