The good news is — especially if you’re looking to stock up — it’s possible to spend about $10 a bottle, or even less, for a quality wine to refresh yourself while you're bingeing every movie remotely based on Richard Matheson's I Am Legend, or to pair with that last package of frozen chicken pot pie, the one that was buried behind the frozen kale and riced cauliflower casserole.
These wines were available at Dallas-area supermarkets when I looked recently. So far, no one has decided quality cheap wine is worth hoarding.
La Cornada Tempranillo ($5, 13% alcohol)
Aldi is renowned for its great cheap wine in Europe (its £11 Champagne wins awards), but it's still trying to figure out how to do wine in the U.S. Would that it did more of the La Cornada, a Spanish red made with tempranillo that tastes like Spanish tempranillo (some cherry, some spice) — an amazing achievement. Yes, it's simple, but it's not stupid. I did a virtual tasting with a wine geek friend last week, and he was stunned it was worth drinking.
Sunshine Bay Sauvignon Blanc ($8, 12.5%)
This Aldi New Zealand white is much better made than the other cheap, Bay-named Kiwi sauvignon blancs on supermarket shelves. For one thing, it's not bitter on the back or thin and watery. It's very citrusy, as is the style for these wines, but like the La Cornada, not stupid, and well worth buying in bulk.
Farnese Fantini Trebbiano ($10, 12%)
Trebbiano is an Italian white grape much maligned by wine snobs. So why can't Jimmy’s Food Store keep this wine on the shelf? Because it's well-made, clean and enjoyable, with sort of tart, lemon-lime fruit. Chill it and either drink on its own or with takeout roast chicken.
Matua Sauvignon Blanc ($12, 13%) and Matua Rose ($12, 13%)
Know two things about these New Zealand wines: First, they're made by one of the largest producers in the world, Treasury Wine Estates, but don't taste like mass-market plonk. Second, their price can be as little as $8 a bottle, given the machinations of supermarket wine pricing. The sauvignon blanc is more round and interesting than the Sunshine Bay, and the rose is crisp, fresh and strawberry-like.
Charles & Charles rose ($12, 12.6%) and Bieler Pere et Fils Sabine rose ($12, 13%)
These two pinks are made by Charles Bieler, who is as committed to rose as I am to cheap wine. The Charles & Charles, from Washington state, is made with Charles Smith. The Sabine, named for his sister, is from Provence, and puts most $20 Provencal roses to shame. The former has tart berry fruit and an almost orange-ish taste; the latter has darker berry fruit and the telltale Provence crispness. Like the Matua, the price can be as little as $8.
Herdade do Esporão Alandra Red ($9, 13%)
This Portuguese red blend is made with three grapes almost no one outside of Portugal has ever hard of, which is one reason it doesn't cost $15. Look for a floral aroma and dark, almost cassis fruit. The wine is almost rustic, but in a pleasant, Old World sort of way.
Badenhorst The Curator Red ($11, 13.5%) and MAN Chenin Blanc ($11, 12.5%)
South African wine has never made much of an imprint in the U.S. These wines may change that. The Curator is a nicely done Rhone-style blend, with rich, dark fruit, soft tannins, a pleasant mouth feel and not a trace of the skunky aroma some South African reds have. The MAN is a white made with a grape common in South Africa; the result is fresh, crisp and enjoyable, without any cloying fruit or sweetness.