Wine bargains under $20
Wine raconteur Clare Burder (right) has made a career out of celebrating great vino at all price points – and teaching people how to follow suit with gusto.
Clare runs The Humble Tumbler, offering short courses and masterclasses in wine and food, along with craft beer, whisky, spirits and sake. Her events are fun and approachable, reflecting her country upbringing on the isolated Whitlands Plateau, high above the King Valley (where teenaged Clare helped her dad plant a 40-acre vineyard in 1998). Clare went on to launch her own Whitlands wine label – Eminence.
These are Clare’s favourite wines in the under-$20 bracket. She says they all punch above their weight, making them excellent value for money.
The north-eastern Italian region of Soave grows two grapes mainly, Trebbiano and Garganega. This wine, by Verona producer Monte Tondo is 100 per cent Garganega. It’s bone dry with lip smacking tension, a little texture and altogether pretty wonderful for the price. Flavour wise it’s pretty simple and light – ripe citrus, fennel bulb and almond skin, wrapped around a fleshy pear character. Honestly, it doesn’t need food. But hey, if you insist, keep it light and fresh – roasted fish on a tangy butterbean mash with herbs, or a slab of fresh goat chevre.
Good pinot under $20 used to be a myth we could only dream about. Well, it’s happening and it’s happening good. Sticks has been killing it lately, helped along by the very kind 2012 vintage in the Yarra Valley. It’s seen about six months oak but is really focused on the pinot noir fruit character which in this case is all about cherry and raspberry rounded off with some lovely spice hits and a lick of earthiness, just to keep it from being too simple. Drink with duck rillettes or Gruyere cheese. Or both.
Oh Grenache! Come closer with your silky red fruit, juicy mouthfeel and white pepper stylings. At the plusher end of things is this excellent wine from the Cirillo family in the Barossa; a classic in the making we suspect. Grenache like this is so appealing because it’s got enough weight and texture to assure you you’re drinking red wine, but not the dryness, astringency or oak influence from the bigger reds. It loves crumbly cheddar, although if you insist on eating an actual meal try a paprika-rubbed lamb or braised rabbit.
Chapoutier is a large French (Rhone Valley) producer who also has vineyards in Australia. There’s a lightness in this wine, owed to the cool climate of the Victorian Pyrenees where these grapes are grown and further amplified by the fact that this wine also is unoaked. It’s well balanced and has that wonderful sense of completeness which Shiraz has in spades, without the tannic uppercut. Flavour wise this is about dense dark fruits with some varietal pepper; its warming & mouth filling with a supple finish. This is definitely a meat wine – try slow cooked beef cheeks.
$20 for 375ml
I sense whole generations are missing the wondrous world of Rutherglen fortifieds. This one is the entry level Muscat from 5th generation producer Campbells. The fortification (adding brandy spirit shortly after the ferment begins) makes these a bit boozy but hey, no arguments here. It’s quite dashing actually – very sweet but inherently balanced. Caramel, toffee, raisin and a touch of oak, finishing long and dryer than you might expect. It’s great with blue cheese, cheddar (think of it as liquid quince paste) or salted caramel and chocolate soufflé.