I like an icy vodka gimlet or a crazy fruity tiki drink as much as the next girl, but let's switch gears for a minute and talk wine.
Myriad choices face the cheapskate wine drinker in this golden age of mass produced mediocrity. Nothing announces "I don't really like you that much" quite like a bottle of Two (or Three, depending on your location) Buck Chuck presented to the host of the party where you're about to consume three plates of shrimp cocktail and meatballs and all of his microbrewed ales. Conversely, the host who offers the same proclaims "My friends you are lushes, and I'm not hocking the title to my car to get you drunk".
So what's a responsible cheapskate to do? When faced with row upon row of off-the-rack $8 cabernets and all you know is that you need one, what do you grab? My goal is to guide you through the Yellow Tails and the Jacob's Creeks and the Red Bicyclettes of the supermarket aisle and help you avoid plunking your money down on disappointment. We'll also look at some wines to seek out when you need something less generic but still cheap. The bottle will never cost you more than $15 (come on, we all have to splurge a little sometimes!).
First up on the hit list is Pétit Bistro's Pinot Noir. You might not be seeing this yet in your market, but they're coming for you. The French have apparently caught on to the idea of marketing their wines under the name of the varietal. Labouré-Roi is a Burgundy-based French négociant, which essentially is someone who takes grapes or juice from several vineyards and blends them together with the goal of creating a trademark "style" (Louis Jadot and Georges DuBoeuf are two other familiar examples of négociants). The Burgundy region of France is well known for the exquisite pinot noirs it produces. Many of them are very expensive, and there is generally a good reason (or a somewhat reasonable explanation for) why.
The vintage is 2005. The label is...sigh...whimsical. The copy on the back of the bottle is cringe inducing:
"...Miles may be gone, lost in the vineyards of France...but I remain faithful to my own true love -- Pinot Noir: smooth, seductive, sophisticated..." Maya reflected. At that moment, her eyes locked with those of a handsome stranger who casually sauntered into the Petit Bistro. "Mind if I join you?" he asked. Maya gestured to the empty seat beside her and motioned to Louis, the resident bartender-philosopher. "Maya certainly has a thing for guys who like Pinot Noir..." Louis mused as he poured a glass for her new friend.
And the wine is - there is no better way to put this - ham-handed. Brutish and unlovely. Medium-bodied and not entirely undrinkable, it sports something like a generic deep berry flavor and not much else. Indistinct. None tasting would have pegged it as a pinot, but never came to a conclusion about what it was more akin to (a mediocre merlot blend of some kind?). It absolutely refused to interact with the food and left behind the distinct aftertaste of marketing.
My conclusion: If your gut says don't trust the $11 Burgundy*, don't fall for the friendly label.
Good match for: Eh, crack this one open at 3 a.m. when the Two Buck Chuck runs out.
*Impress your friends: A red Burgundy is always a Pinot Noir.