Sometimes you just don't have the money: rent's due, you had to gas the Hummer, or the heroin addiction is acting up again. Whatever the reason, you find yourself forced to cut back on the wine budget and navigate the world of value-priced wines.
It can be a tricky business. The wines I normally review on this site hover in the ten to fifteen dollar range. They're mostly good, with some exceptions being some California and Australian wines I bought from the local supermarket. The wine's I've picked up from my local wine merchant, Dorn's, are solid wines, well-balanced given the wine's intent (a drinking wine as opposed to a food wine). Recently, however, I noticed a big run on dirt-cheap wines. I don't know whether even to classify them as value-priced--$2.99 for 750ml goes beyond value-priced, I would argue, and right on into the realm of cheap-ass wine.
But why not cheap-ass wine? We're facing tough economic times. I've an adventurous food spirit. And if I can find something drinkable for less than five dollars a bottle? Well, I can halve the wine budget at your next party.
First up, a 2003 Three Thieves Syrah, bottled in a screw-capped, one-liter jug by Rebel Wine Co. and sold for $5.99. If you want to skip the tasting notes, I'll leave you with this small adage: be wary of wines packaged like moonshine or maple syrup.
Color: Dull, deep red fading to brick at the edges. A slight browning that suggested oxidation and age.
Nose: Slight smokiness coupled with dark fruits and deep berry aromas. Plum, strawberry
Palate: surprisingly silky mouth feel, with roasted caramel sweetness (could be antifreeze), and a hint of roasted root vegetables
Finish: Not too bad, after a couple sips. The initial alcohol heat dissipates rather quickly leaving the mouth mostly clean with a lingering sweetness.
This isn't horrible wine. It's not great, but it's not too bad, either. And after half a glass, it drank just fine paired with seared scallops and sauteed asparagus tips over ziti with olives and capers. It's a fine food wine and really could be served at a party where you've decided to play grown-up. Just not one with actual grownups, because they aren't that much fun anyway.