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Vine Lines: Give yourself a break with these inexpensive wines

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So for many of us, the holidays are over, and it’s time to pay the piper.

Holiday bills, if they haven’t started to roll in yet, will soon. And you know you spent a little more on that perfect gift for dear old dad than you intended, but that new snowblower really made his day. Ditto the diamond pendant for mom, the designer dress for your sister, the weekend getaway for your spouse, and the new iPad minis for the kids.

So it’s time to start scrimping a bit. And if that weren’t enough, now it’s January, typically the coldest month of the year. The good thing is, that makes it likely you’ll hunker down at home and NOT go out and spend any more money. At least, not any more than you absolutely have to.

Which is where this column comes in. After the excesses of the festive season, it’s often time for a lot of people to rein things in a bit, and go for value and comfort. So I’ve compiled a list of acceptable wines at decent prices that might help you get over the monetary set-back of the holidays. Because while it’s certainly sensible to cut back a tad if you’re feeling pinched financially, it makes no sense whatsoever to do without. That’s just adding insult to injury.

Again, these are only serviceable beverages. But what they deliver for bargain-basement prices makes them worthy of note. And they may help you through the doldrums of the potentially dreary days ahead. Especially if you pair them with inexpensive comfort food that’s perfect for winter — stews, shepherd’s pie, hearty soups, slow-cooked lesser cuts of meat steeped in thick, rich gravies or sauces.

I’ll leave it up to you which wines would go best with which foods. But here are some picks to help ease the post-holiday, empty-pocketbook, winter-sucks-and-I-hate-it blues.

The first wine that jumps immediately to mind is the Fuzion Shiraz/Malbec from Argentina. Like most of the rest of these, it’s a little rough around the edges. But it delivers a big dollop of flavour for only $8.54 a bottle.

Same with the Lindeman’s Cawarra Cabernet/Shiraz from Australia. At $9.99, it offers full fruit flavour and plenty of punch for the price.

I’d also be remiss if I didn’t mention the Finca Los Primos Malbec from Argentina. A bit edgy, with plenty of depth, black fruit with fennel on the finish, this wine is a deal for $10.95. Getting up there, I know, when we’re trying to save money, but really — the Finca Los Primos is more than worth the extra buck.

While it’s hard to find whites around the $10-or-less mark, I wrote a few months back about the joys of the Citra Montepulchiano D’Abruzzo (red) and the Citra Trebbiano D’Abruzzo (white). From Italy, I served these wines both for a jewellery party I hosted AND for a wine tasting I conducted in late November at The Green Spot. And in both cases, these wines were a hit.

When I first tried them, I was anticipating a lousy wine experience because A) they were really cheap (more on that in a moment) and B) I usually don’t love Old World wines. But ever on the lookout for good deals, I knew I had to give these a go.

When I poured each of these on subsequent nights, I was surprised. The Trebbiano, the white, didn’t have much of an aroma, but once I tasted it, the texture and taste won me over.

It was light-bodied and not strongly flavoured a bit of grass, herbs and citrus — but the wine was smooth. It was delicate. And it was not the least bit sweet, a real bonus in my books. And for $9.23 a litre — a LITRE! — this wine, and its red partner, are a steal.

The Montepulchiano smelled like a cross between Old World and New World — it had faint hints of the earthiness that is so much the hallmark of Old World wines, and the intense fruit and spice I associate with New World products. Its flavour was all Old World, but the texture suggested New World — medium-bodied and smoother.

It was great with pizza (the Trebbiano was great with fish and with chicken), and with other Italian dishes with which I’ve since paired it. For the price, the Citra wines are more than worth trying. Again, I emphasize that they’re really dry REALLY dry but they won’t leave you high and dry, if you get what I mean.

For a couple of reasonable whites — I was really hoping to stay below $10 for this column, but the cheap whites I tried just didn’t cut it — Zucchardi’s Santa Julia Pinot Grigio from Argentina for $11.03 is a really good bet for delicacy and flavour, as is the Cono Sur Organic Chardonnay for $12.99.

Anyway, here’s hoping these products help you keep the wolf from your door and allow you to enjoy yourself while doing so.

Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition January 5, 2013

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So for many of us, the holidays are over, and it’s time to pay the piper.

Holiday bills, if they haven’t started to roll in yet, will soon. And you know you spent a little more on that perfect gift for dear old dad than you intended, but that new snowblower really made his day. Ditto the diamond pendant for mom, the designer dress for your sister, the weekend getaway for your spouse, and the new iPad minis for the kids.

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So for many of us, the holidays are over, and it’s time to pay the piper.

Holiday bills, if they haven’t started to roll in yet, will soon. And you know you spent a little more on that perfect gift for dear old dad than you intended, but that new snowblower really made his day. Ditto the diamond pendant for mom, the designer dress for your sister, the weekend getaway for your spouse, and the new iPad minis for the kids.

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