Great Wine Without Breaking The Bank

Posted by on Nov 21, 2011 in Wine Store Blog | 0 comments

Great Wine Without Breaking The Bank

Great wine is not necessarily reserved for the cellars of the elite or the deep pockets of the rich. A superb bottle is usually more attainable than you think, and can almost always be incorporated into whatever budget you have. The most important thing when deciding on a wine is to be honest with yourself: what kind of wine do you enjoy? (It's OK if you don't know!) Once you answer that question it is easy to find something you like for an affordable price. Wine tastes are near-endless, and so are the deals out there. This article will give you a basic outline of the tastes associated with the different grape varieties and their associated regions so you know what to look for and where to find it. Time to start filling that empty wine rack!

The Red Grapes


Classical Home
Merlot is one of the most popular red wine varietals (single-grape wine) in many markets worldwide. It comes from the Bordeaux region of France, and because of the grape’s early-ripening properties, it is mostly blended with Cabernet Sauvignon, which is sterner and later-ripening. Some well-known examples are Chateau Petrus and Chateau Le Pin.

Wine Style
COOL CLIMATE — Medium-bodied wines with moderate tannins and aromas of plums, red currants and leaves. It is usually un-oaked or oaked (cedar, tobacco, spice).
HOT CLIMATE — Full-bodied wines with moderate tannins and aromas of plum, mulberry and prune. It is usually oaked (vanilla, mocha, toffee, smoke).

Cabernet Sauvignon

Classical Home
Cabernet Sauvignon is one of the most widely recognized grape varieties in the world. It is grown in nearly every major wine producing country, and its climate spectrum is arguably the widest of all the noble grapes. It was actually discovered relatively recently (17th Century) by a chance cross of the Cabernet franc and Sauvignon blanc in southwestern France. Up until even more recently it was the world’s most widely planted premium red wine grape in the world; however Merlot took over the title in the 90’s. Some of the most classic and expensive wines are Cabernet Sauvignons, wines like Château Latour, Chateau Margaux and Château Mouton-Rothschild.

Wine Style
COOL CLIMATE — Medium-bodied wines with high tannins and aromas of blackcurrants, black olive, and some green mint. They are usually un-oaked or oaked (cedar wood and cigar-box aromas).
HOT CLIMATE — full-bodied wines with high tannins and aromas of ripe black fruits (blackberry, black cherry, blackcurrant). They are usually oaked (vanilla, smoke, mocha, clove).


Classic Home
Syrah is a dark-skinned grape and comes from the Rhône valley region of France of the same name. Legends of Syrah’s origins come from one of its synonyms, Shiraz, a city in Iran; legends claim the grape originated in Shiraz and was then brought to Rhône. In 1999 DNA profiling revealed the origins of Shiraz to be the offspring of two obscure grapes from southeastern France, Dureza and Mondeuse Blanche. Syrahs are usually characterized by being strong, dry red wines with one of the highest serving temperatures for wine at 18 degrees Celsius. Some examples of fine Syrahs are the great wines of Cote-Rotie and Hermitage, or blended with other grapes to produce simpler wines such as the Cotes-du-Rhone or Chateauneuf-du-Pape.

Wine Style
OLD WORLD – Medium to full-bodied wines with high tannins and very earthy, spicy flavours (black pepper, licorice), sometimes exhibiting aromas of wild forest fruits and violets. They are usually oaked (cedar, chestnut, bacon fat, smoke).
NEW WORLD – Full-bodied wines with high tannins and dark berry fruit aromas (mulberry, blueberry, and blackberry). They are usually oaked (Dark chocolate, coffee, vanilla).

Pinot Noir

Classic Home
Pinot noir is a black variety which comes from the Vitis vinifera species of grape. Although usually grown around the world in cooler regions, it is primarily associated with the Burgundy region of France. Pinot Noir is an exceptionally fickle mistress, known to produce some of the finest wines in the world, but also known as being particularly difficult to cultivate and transform into wine. Some well-known examples would be Romanée-Conti, Clos de Vougeot, and Le Chambertin.

Wine Style
COOL CLIMATE — Light-bodied low tannin wines with vegetal and red fruit aromas (compost, red currant, cherry, rhubarb.) They are usually oaked (spice-box, tobacco)
HOT CLIMATE — Medium (sometimes full) boded wines with medium tannins and ripe red fruit aromas (cherries, strawberry, raspberry.) They are usually oaked (vanilla, smoke, cinnamon).

The White Grapes


Classic Home
Like many of the other noble grapes, Chardonnay is a varietal that also comes from the Burgundy region. These days Chardonnay is known and grown wherever wine is produced. In fact, Janice Robinson, a British wine critic, states that for new and developing wine regions, growing Chardonnay is often seen as a “rite of passage” or an easy segue into the international wine market. Chardonnary is one of the three major grape varieties planted in the ‘Champagne’ region of France known for producing light, ‘sparkling’ wines which are usually carbonated. Some well-known examples are Chablis, Le Montrachet, and Pouilly Fuissé.

Wine Style
COOL CLIMATE — Medium-bodied dry wines with green apple, citrus and stone fruit aromas. They are usually un-oaked or lightly oaked (hazelnut, hay, almond)
WARM CLIMATE — Full-bodied, dry or off-dry wines with buttery, tropical fruit aromas which are usually full or lightly oaked (vanilla, coconut, toasty).

Sauvignon blanc

Classic Home
Come from The Loire Valley, in the Bordeaux region in France where it produces the classic and expensive wines like Sancerre and Pouilly Fumé. The name Sauvignon blanc means ‘wild white’ due to its being an indigenous grape in South West France, but wine critics characterize the grape as ‘crisp, elegant, and fresh.’ A truly complementary grape, chilled it can be served with dessert, fish, or cheese, and is one of the only wines that can pair well with sushi. It is also one of the first wines to be bottled with a screwcap. This is usually not the type of wine you find aging on an enthusiasts rack; it does not usually benefit from aging.

Wine Style
COOL CLIMATE – Medium-bodied wines with high acidity and intense fruity and vegetal aromas; for example, grassy, tomato bush, green pea, gooseberry and citrus. These are almost always un-oaked.
WARM CLIMATE –Medium to Full-bodied wines with slightly lower acidity and aromas of passion fruit, kiwi and melon. It is sometimes lightly oaked (smoky, toasty, vanilla pod).


Classic Home
Riesling is the only non-native French noble grape variety. Its origin is in the Rhine region of Germany. Like Sauvignon blanc, it was one of the first wines to start being produced with a screw cap. It is of a highly aromatic grape variety, displaying almost perfumed scents and high acidity. Although being 20th in terms of the most grown variety in the world, wine enthusiasts include it in the “top 3” in terms of importance for quality wine. It is one of, if not the most ‘terroir-expressive’ grape, meaning that Riesling wines are very much influenced by the wine’s place of origin. A truly interesting varietal, some German Rieslings enjoy strong ratings from wine critics at ages exceeding 100 years.

Wine Style
COOL CLIMATE – Light bodied wines with high acidity ranging from dry to intensely rich and sweet. The fruit character can be floral or fruity (limes, grapefruit, pear, apple) and develops honey and kerosene aromas with age. These are always un-oaked.
WARM CLIMATE – Dry, medium bodied wines with aromas of peach, orange peel, rose petal, tropical fruit. Similar honey aromas to the above are found with age. Again, these are always un-oaked.


Alright, by now you should have a clear understanding of the tastes associated with the major types of wine—the hard work is done. Now you just need to start fine-tuning the available tastes out there to the preferences of your palate. Match the flavors you want in your wine with what you would expect from that region. So for example, as a general rule of thumb, a warm climate is going to give you more tropical flavors in your whites than a cooler climate would. On the money side of things, keep in mind that some regions are simply cheaper produce wine in. Areas like Argentina, Chile, Southern France, Spain, and South Africa. This does not mean that the wines will be necessarily low quality; hopefully just low in cost! The preceding in mind, do not discount the more established regions either, as they will often have discounts as well.

Head over to your local vineyard, winery, or wine store. Set a price point you are willing to aim for, and when you do find that diamond in the rough, be sure to stock up, because you never know when you will find that magical bottle again.

About Dave Keighron

Dave Keighron has written 63 posts in this blog.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title="" rel=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>