Tasting Wine: A few good inexpensive reds

On tax day, some of you will pay and others will gleefully be awaiting a refund. Given today’s economic uncertainty, a lot of people are watching their spending. But that does not mean you need to give up drinking wine. Nor does it mean you should consider getting the stuff that comes in gallon jugs, either.

With the dollar being in its current state, imported wines are getting more expensive. Good, reasonably priced California wines are hard to find. Yet there actually are some really tasty inexpensive wines available; a little creativity is often involved in obtaining them. You have to look beyond some of the usual Cotes-du-Rhone and southern Italian suspects.

We all have different preferences and standards, but I always appreciate finding well-priced wines that are really good — not just good for the money. Granted, the term inexpensive is relative. Taking inflation into account, let’s call it $16 or less. Here are three wines I’ve tasted in the last month that struck me as very good values.

Casa Santos Lima, Quinta de Bons-Ventos, 2005 (Extremadura, Portugal)

Casa Santos Lima is a family-owned property that has been making wine for generations, yet its first commercial wines were released in 1996. Made from castelao (aka periquita), camarate and tinta miuda, it undergoes carbonic maceration and is aged in oak barrels for three months. This is a spunky wine, with bright pomegranate juice flavor, a little spice and a touch of juniper berry. Suggested retail: $13

Marc Bredif Chinon, 2005 (Loire Valley, France)

By Chinon standards, Bredif is a pretty big operation and it is owned by Baron de Ladoucette, one of Pouilly Fumé’s largest producers. As a rule, large producers have the advantage of money and access to more fruit sources, allowing them to make a consistent product, which Marc Bredif does from year to year. Medium-bodied with violet overtones, chocolate covered raspberries and subtle tannins, this is an elegant wine with some depth. Suggested retail: $16

Le Fraghe Bardolino, 2006 (Veneto, Italy)

Le Fraghe is actually a farm that has been in the Poggi family since 1880. It took 104 years for the family to thinkabout making wine, and even today the production is small. Made in a 15th-century farmhouse by Mathilde Poggi, this is a light albeit flavorful wine with a good balance of strawberries, minerals and spice. Suggested retail: $15

Pamela Busch is the wine director and proprietor of CAV Wine Bar & Kitchen in San Francisco.

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