With the holidays over and big credit card bills about to arrive, let’s talk about how to get you through the throes of January — including a sneak peek into topics I expect to cover in the next few months.
Pinot noir has remained the “it” grape for a decade now, and that appears unlikely to change this year. However, gamay noir, the grape of Beaujolais, has some of the qualities of pinot noir. Fruity, light and high in acid, gamay is spicier than pinot — a trait that you might find appealing. Besides Beaujolais, gamay is grown in the Loire Valley.
While finding a drinkable pinot for under $15 is about as easy as finding a franchise quarterback in the sixth round of the NFL draft — Tom Brady being a notable exception — you can find great-tasting gamay from both areas for $15 or less.
For winter reds, southwest France has a trove of hearty wines. Gaillac and Côtes de Gascogne are appellations to watch for. They’re less known than Cahors or Madiran, but are churning out some serious juice.
Spain always has so-called bargains, but while many have the right price, the quality is often not there. For now, its neighbor Portugal has the edge as it continues to make strides throughout most of its wine regions.
California’s best buys are all over the map, yet some of the more impressive wines in the $15 range are field blends by reputable producers. This is true for reds and whites.
Winemakers on the Chilean coast are doing an impressive job with white grapes, sauvignon blanc in particular. On the other side of the Andes, Argentina continues to make pleasant, aromatic white wines from the torrontes grape.
Like California, Australia’s best buys are by and large blended wines. South Australia, the most prolific state when it comes to wine, has a lot of these because its varied climate lends itself to growing a variety of grapes.
This shopping list should keep you busy for a while. I will be going into greater detail down the road, but in the meantime pay your favorite wine store a visit and stock up for the rest of winter.
Also, if you have not yet established a relationship with a wine retailer, make it your 2013 wine resolution. Finding someone who will steer you right will pay off in spades.
And happy New Year!
Pamela Busch is a wine writer and educator who has owned several wine bars in San Francisco, including Hayes and Vine and CAV Wine Bar & Kitchen.