In the U.S., more has always been better. More expensive, nicely-packaged anything tastes/looks/feels better and a low cost product cannot possibly be better than one $4 more, right? Sometimes, in wine, that’s true. But the recession is converting less-is-more into more-for-us. Coupon-ing is shabby-chic (not shabby-cheap), grocery store private labels sales are on fire and finding bargains isn’t just something starving students celebrate. Retailers are happily obliging. So do you walk past a $6.99 wine stacker at a grocery store fearing what lurks in the bottle? A few years ago, you probably should have, but retailers are clamoring for their share of your dollar. By squeezing the wholesalers and cutting their profit margins, their prices are falling… making $6.99 – $8.99 the hip, new price point.
Charles Shaw and Two-Buck Chuck popularized and nationalized the cheap table wine trend several years ago, launching $1.99 bottles at Trader Joe outlets across California. By the time they landed in other states, taxes had padded $1 onto the bottle but $2.99 ain’t too, um, shabby, either. He achieved this feat by buying bulk juice or wine from California’s burgeoning open market, blending for flavor (sometimes), using inexpensive bottles and closures, and employing one purveyor — Trader Joe’s — as his clearinghouse. It’s brilliant. And quite successful.
But few wineries can do this, especially in California. So to find the high-quality $6.99 bargains, your mind must travel…outside the country. To Spain mostly. That’s where I’ve seen the best $6.99 bargains lately. They have less expensive land, affordable labor and favorable government regulations. But I’ve also seen some deals from Argentina, Chile and obscure areas of Italy, but those are more challenging to uncover.
I was meandering around Whole Foods in Tampa yesterday, figuring out how I would blow $50 on cheese, and came across their mountain ‘o $6.99 wine. Check these out… a perfect example of how you can drink well on a $6.99/bottle budget:
Protocolo 2008 Rose (Spain)
Monte Oton 2008 Garnacha (Spain) — Review of the 2007
Mezzacorona 2008 Pinot Noir Trentino (Italy) — Review
Garnacha de Fuego 2008 (Spain) — Review of the 2007
Dona Paula Los Cardos 2008 Malbec Mendoza (Argentina) — Review of the 2007
La Playa 2009 Sauvignon Blanc (Chile)