So I’ve been trying a lot of different wines lately and purposely trying to step away from my comfort zone of Washington Wines and have really started taking a more serious look at other countries for some alternatives and to taste the various regions in what they have to offer. For awhile I was caught up into the whole price thing – as if somehow the price of a wine will make it taste better. Sure there are great wines at prices well above $25 dollars but who can afford to drink those on a daily or weekly basis? That really got me started on this path I’m on now to find some of the best wines possible for $10 dollars or under. Yes, they do exist and I’m trying my best to help weed out the crappy ones on both yours and my own behalf. When you get time, you should read this article that talks about how the price of wine can influence people into thinking a wine is good or bad: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/01/080126101053.htm I’ve been on a virtual world-tour lately of wine which branches from Italy to France to New Zealand to Argentina and have found there are some really great values out there which deserve your attention. Here are my tops picks right now: - Naiara 2005 Malbec – Argentina - $9 From the country of Argentina which is currently selling for about $9 bux here at the local Fred Meyer who recently got it in. If your favorite store doesn’t have it, you should see if they can order it or seek a store out which has a wine steward in it and I’m sure they can order it. Malbec is a grape varietal from the Bordeaux region of France which unfortunately is mainly used for blending purposes and is rarely made as a straight-up bottle of wine. It has a thicker skin than cabernet or merlot grapes and does extremely well in the growing conditions of Argentina. In fact, you could say that this varietal alone is really putting Argentina on the map of the wine world and they’re doing some tremendous things with it. As these wines catch on we’ll see the prices start to slowly climb with demand so make sure to get in early on the wave of excellent Malbec wines from this region. There’s some tobacco components coming through on the nose along with dark plum, a slight hint of vanilla, soil, cinnamon and smoked paprika. Mix that up with a very slight hint of sweaty arm-pit and you have an intense aroma that is very pleasant. This wine will pair VERY well with any hearty pasta and red sauce dish or veal. I’d also have no problems having it with Meatballs and fresh parmesan cheese. It has an incredibly rich purple color to it and is very pleasant on the nose. I would even drink this wine with a spice-rubbed, grilled flank steak using Cayenne pepper, salt, pepper, paprika, cinnamon and garlic powder. - Cavatappi 2006 Sangiovese – Mattawa WA - $10 Forget any pre-conceived ideas you may have about affordable Sangiovese wine because the flavor of this scrumptious wine tosses out the rule book (and burns it to be never found again) on what we’ve come to expect from so many of the Italian-style Sangiovese wines. Rather than having the bright fruit on the pallet like so many wines of this heritage have, this one tastes like an old sock left out in the mud for two weeks, filled with wet cedar chips. I like it! Dark, earthy notes of this wine make it an obvious choice for fall stews and hearty soups. I’d have no problems pairing it with beef stew, pot roast and rosemary, roasted garlic mashed potatoes and even braised lamb shank. If you want to stick with the pasta, I’d go for ricotta-cheese and veal-stuffed ravioli with and herbal-infused red sauce and grated truffles. (you could substitute any good, “earthy” mushroom here if you’re on a budget such as cramini (baby Portobello). - Robertson Winery 2005 Chenin Blanc– South Africa - $10 If you’re interested in tasting other parts of the world then you owe it to yourself to seek this wine out. Here’s a white wine that has some really good structure, balance and acidity that make it a shoe-in for shellfish or fresh-water trout. Unlike most American-made Chenin Blanc I’ve had, this one has a ton of mineral deposit flavors in it, almost like sucking on a rock from a crystal-clear river in the Mountains. Balance that with some good fruit on the mid-pallet, floral fragrance on the nose and you have the makings for a great wine that will surely delight those who enjoy seafood. - Bosco Montepulciano d’Abruzzo 2001 Italian Red Wine – Italy - $9 Okay, so here’s a wine that completely blind-sided me and it’s from Costco of all places – in fact, I think Costco may have some sort of exclusive distribution deal with this wine. No I can’t pronounce the name very well but who cares? You could call it anything but late to dinner. If you want a bold wine with TONS of flavor of dark plums, deep red, soiled cherries with a slight hint of oak, than this is your wine. It has a scrumptious mouth-feel - very velvety – and the finish is quite long. I would easily pair this with any kind of meats which have been stewed or braised in red wine and of course any red-sauced pasta dish. This wine will hold up VERY well to incredibly rich dishes as well and on top of that, it’ll also compliment all sorts of grilled, hearty meats. Grilled corn on the cob with a bit of charring on it, dirty rice, roasted potatoes with Rosemary, oregano and Extra Virgin Olive Oil would make great sides.