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Great Wines For $10 and Under
By Leo Bueno


Anybody can pay fifty bucks to buy a fine bottle of wine; the trick is paying $10 and under and getting a good bottle of wine. Let's face it, if a wine is really "great," nobody would be stupid enough to sell it for ten dollars or less. Welcome to this column, where we'll focus on good juice under $10.

I am a value advocate, and have always taken great pride in popping-open low-priced wines that friends and family enjoy. Not only do I make no apology for paying little money for good wine, but I derive a sense of accomplishment from revealing that the product I have brought to the party, which holds its own with the high-faluttin' stuff, is, well, cheap--and good value at low price points (that's the wine industry term for the cheap stuff). Let the snobs bask in the cache of high prices. What matters is the stuff inside the bottle, not the print on the label or on the price sticker.

Below you will find some products available around town which will deliver a good bang for the buck (yes, it's a cliché, but it works here).

2001 Osborne Solaz, Spain $6
[Available at Milam's]
A blend of 80% Tempranillo and 20% Cabernet Sauvignon we had at Diego's Restaurant in Coral Gables. Although I knew Osborne is a Spanish producer, my brain said Bordeaux. Osborne, with its unmistakable bull silhouette trademark, is best known for its Sherries, Brandies and Ports. It has a long wine-making tradition, dating to 1772. On closer scrutiny, the Solaz showed maybe just a little hint of sugar which negated the Gaelic character. The finish was a little short, the nose not very pronounced, but it was well-balanced on the mouth and paired beautifully with the hearty Spanish cuisine we had. I went to the Miami Springs Milam's to look for a bottle. I wanted to try it again to confirm my initial impression. Milam's only had the 2000 vintage, which I picked up anyway. We put both the empty and the new bottle on the checkout conveyor. The cashier unwittingly rang the empty bottle through the optical scanner: $5.99. I pointed out that she had just charged me for an empty bottle. She backed out the charge and rang the 2000 bottle: There, that's what I call value.

Rex Goliath Central Coast Cabernet Sauvignon, California $8
[Available at Wolfe's, Top Hat, Crown, Art of Wine]
Even though I seldom buy wines I have not tasted, the giant 47 pound rooster profiled on the label attracted my attention. I was about to buy a bottle almost as a joke several months ago at Wolfe's. Jeff had an open bottle and I tasted it; thought it was a great value at 8 bucks and bought it. I have given this wine as a gift with good results. Folk who like California Cabs will enjoy this product, even though they will realize it is not at the top end of the price scale. One of my coworkers visited his family in California and picked up a bottle of the stuff at a local market (sold there for 5 bucks; we pay a hefty premium at $8). Everyone apparently enjoyed the juice.

1999 Vina Mayor Crianza, Ribera del Duero, Spain $9.99
[Available at Costco's]
A smooth, ruby-colored, well-balanced wine, with a good nose and the unmistakable taste of tempranillo. When decanted, this wine, as well as the subsequent years, can pass for a high-end, much higher value wine.

2002 Urban Oak, Argentina $10
[Available at La Estancia Argentina]
This is a balanced blend of Tempranillo, Malbec, Merlot and Syrah, smooth textured with tastes of black currant and pomegranate.

2001 Castle Rock Pinot Noir, Sonoma County, California $10
[Available at Wolfe's]
People pay lots of money for the Pinot nose; this wine had it at a good price. Cool it a bit before serving, lest you find it a bit high on the acid

2000 Fuentespina Tempranillo, Spain $10
[Available from Berries To Wine]
This was an interesting product; tasted as if it had been aged in wood, but it was not. The vanilla flavor purportedly came from the grapes, obviously not from the oak it never saw.

I tried the wines that follow last year at trade shows held at the Biltmore Hotel. The prices are suggested retail prices indicated by the distributors:

2002 Excelsior Cabernet Sauvignon, South Africa $10
People pay lots of money for the Pinot nose; this wine had it at a good price. Cool it a bit before serving, lest you find it a bit high on the acid

Los Caminillos, Bodegas Francisco Casas, Spain $7
Lacks a bit of acid, but overall pleasant.

To submit information and tips for this column, please e-mail to: editor@southfloridagourmet.com
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