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The 4th Annual Cheap Wine Tasting, Miami, Florida

By Simone Zarmati Diament

O ne of the many messages I got last week was from Mike Bittel of Sunset Corners Fine Wines & Spirits, a store renowned for its high-end fine boutique wines.
It intrigued me because Mike's messages are usually about rare and expensive wines. This one was about a "Cheap Wine Tasting," actually about The 4th annual Cheap Wine Tasting, an event sponsored by a "group of friends and wine lovers who are committed to finding the best bang for the buck!" read the message.
This year, the tasting took place at Emme and Etienne Pedinielli's home. The Corsican-born an entrepreneur who has lived and worked for four decades in the US, is now retired and dedicates a healthy amount of his time to good wine.
It all started four years ago when Emme Pedinielli helped volunteers at the Biltmore Wine Festival Great Wine Auction in benefit of United Way. "We tasted those expensive wines, sometime over-priced, that we would never be able to buy, and so we decided to gather with our friends and find cheap good wines that we could drink every day," explained her husband Etienne.
"The rules are pretty simple," says Emme about the group of 20. "We each bring a bottle - only red wine - to taste and a bottle to drink with dinner. It must retail between $5 and $15, and must have been purchased within seven days of the tasting." But the rules are so strict that a sales receipt must be shown at time of entry, which, if it doesn't match the purchase, might disqualify the participant. The score card gives points: the cheaper the wine, the bigger the point, and the winner gets to keep the Cheap Wine Trophy in their home for one year.
"It's a fun evening," writes Bittel, "complete with tasting sheets, computer analysis, a trophy, much teasing and good cheer! I for one, went to the tasting, with hopes that I might make some new discovery, a great inexpensive wine that I was unfamiliar with."
Some of the wines were so good that Bittel bought them for the store.

Here is a list of the wines at the Cheap Wine Tasting 2004 (provided by The Board of Directors of The Annual Cheap Wine Tasting):

Sagelands VineyardsCabernet Sauvignon2000USA6.29
Two Oceans VineyardsMerlot-Shiraz2002S. Africa6.99
Chateau La Botte Bordeaux2000France11.99
Barossa Vines Shiraz 2001 Australia 9
Nathalie Blanc-Mares Syrah-Grenache 2000 France 9.98
Boekenhoutskloof Cabernet Sauvignon 2001S. Africa9.99
Vinsa Vineyards Mancheula 1998 Spain 5.67
Vandage Vineyards Cotes de Bergerac 1996 France 7.5
Tour PrignacMedoc 1999 France 7

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