By Rick Riozza

With the world interrupted, we wine columnists are really under pressure to cheer matters up.  One thing that always works is a good wine at a low price.  That begs the question: Can I get out to the store to buy that bottle of wine?  The answer currently is yes; we’re still allowed to shop for items that are ordinary and necessary.  Wine fits that bill!

Below, please find a couple/three of my go-to table wines that allow me to keep a few more sheckles in my pocket. Of course, some of my wine friends may do a soft shudder when I disclose these value wines to the readership—as there may be a real run on the wines, risking an empty shelf.  But c’mon! Look at the times we’re in.  In vino amorem! —in wine there is love!

As we’re wont to start things off, let’s open matters with a nice tasty sparkling brut rosé.  We have always touted enjoying a brut rosé sparkler for every occasion: it’s festive, it’s rosey, pretty & bubbly, it’s clean & bright, and it offers light flavors of delicious red fruits.  It starts the party as an apéritif, opens the meal with a toast, lasts through an array of dishes with great pairing, and works as a fine after-meal drink.


One of the tastiest brut rosés on the market under $12 (only $7.99 for a 6-bottle mix or match at Ralphs) is the Gran Sello Brut Rosé Cava from Spain.  Deep salmon in color, this Cava sparkler has notes of strawberry, tart apple and lemon. The palate is bright with apple flavors and lime following with fresh bread and mineral notes. Great crisp acidity!

It’s made from 100% Trepat grape, which is usual for rosados produced in the Catalonian region of Spain.  It’s a nice grape to add to your wine vocabulary.  The wine is imported by Guarachi Wine Partners Inc. of Woodland Hills, CA, should you wish to order it.

Next on the value wine chain is my favorite value Sauvignon Blanc.  Most of the time when I recommend it to my customers, they’re in disbelief—some actually shun off my comments without even considering my integrity.  I have to plead with them to re-think their wine sensibility—if they’re still around to listen (do I have fun in my wine aisles, or what? —or do I need counseling myself ?).

Anyway, the best under $5 bottle of Sauv Blanc ($2.99 with six-pack) goes to Gallo Family Vineyards California Sauvignon Blanc.  It offers a bright balance of fruit flavors—honeydew melon, citrus & ripe apple.  It’s light with a crisp finish served chilled.  It tastes way above its pay grade.  Perfect cooking wine as well, meaning using it both in your recipe and drinking whilst cooking!

Moving on to a Cabernet Sauvignon, we know that a cheap tasting Cab can really ruin not only a fine steak dinner, but can both figuratively and literally put a bad taste into a wine drinker’s sensibility when it comes to a red wine.

Quoting The Spruce Eats, “Cabernet Sauvignon reigns king over the world’s red wine grapes. Typically viewed as a fairly robust wine with good tannin structure, solid acidity, dark fruit aromas and flavor components, dry in style and range from medium-bodied to full-bodied. The most common aromatic and flavor components found in Cabernet Sauvignon are plum, black cherry, blackberry, blueberry, warm spice, vanilla, black pepper, tobacco and sometimes leather aromas and or flavors.

Thanks to the tighter tannins in a Cab Sauv, this wine is built to match fat and protein. Red meat, in particular, is its first love. Everything from burgers and brats to prime rib and grilled game, hearty, sausage dishes, lamb and strong-flavored cheeses.”

So… how easy is it to find a good Cab that meets all of the above?  Not that easy.  The cheaper Cabs tend to be one-note ponies; however, many folks who continue to buy cheap Cabs are used to simple fruit tastes.  That’s not a slam—drink what you like, certainly!

For those who have ventured into better Cabs, and wouldn’t mind maintaining that level of complexity, but don’t want to spend that much money either, can find solace at the black cat night club.  Ahhh—actually, that would be enjoying a bottle of Gato Negro Cabernet Sauvignon from Chile.  It’s a wine produced by the famed Chilean San Pedro Winery.  They make very good stuff—and some very high-end stuff, and this is their value-priced Cab that shows, in easy terms, many of the notes and complexities mentioned in a good Cab above.

It’s ridiculously priced under $6.  Dark plums, dark berries, a touch of chocolate, nice and dry, with good acidity and enough tannins to handle steaks and ribs.  It’s one of the lightest medium-bodied Cabs around but it has some tasteful heft.  I’ve had no complaints recommending this wine, especially at that price!  Unfortunately our store has discontinued carrying it—I’ll try to get it back.

Finally—a nice shout out to Columbo V.Q.P.R.D. Marsala Fine Dry.  In my “Marsala & Me” article of a few months back, Marsala wine was well described and recommended.  At $6.99, this is a good versatile wine as an apéritif on ice; a dessert wine; and a great cooking wine.  My sixteen-year-old granddaughter, Chloë, has been having a ball with this bottle and coming up with marvelous Marsala mushrooms dishes and many other Marsala themed meals.  Buon Appetito! Saluti! e Ciao!