Better wine on any budget – A starting point: Find a name you can trust

Fine wine is a rich man’s game.

Now we’ve got that out of the way we can all pack up and go home. Well, not quite. The enjoyment of a deliciously crafted, beautifully structured wine can be experienced by anyone and on any budget.

As a general rule, the standard of good quality wine will increase with it’s price. However, that is far from the end of the story, most notably because – not all wine is ‘good quality’ in the first place, with the market saturated by anonymous labels and ‘quantity over quality’ branded bottles.

As I will undoubtedly mention many times on this blog – a little knowledge can go a long way when it comes to choosing and buying wine. In this case, if you can learn a little about a few quality vineyards and/or winemakers, you can use their knowledge to lead you on the road to better drinking.

Finding a collection of names you can trust is imperative to consistent quality wine buying on any budget.

All renowned winemakers have extremely well established reputations, and it is hugely beneficial for them that these reputations are upheld throughout the entire breadth of their enterprise.

A fine example of this is Peter Lehmann of the Barossa Valley. This South Australian’s delightful top wine – Stonewell Shiraz – averages at about €35 per bottle on release – not a bank-breaker for any wine collector, but certainly more than many people would normally splash out for a bottle of Aussie red. However, when it comes to producing Barossa Shiraz, Lehmann’s reputation is now so strong that he has crafted no less than 15 other Shiraz and Shiraz blends in his range, in an attempt to capitalise on the varied tastes and budgets of the drinking public. Can’t stretch to €35 for Stonewell, how about €16 for The Futures? Still a bit rich, how about €9 for his everyday drinker? And so on.

There is no doubting that Lehmann’s wines improve massively along with your available budget, but he remains a man whose business mind understands the need to cater for every pocket whilst his winemaking mind refuses to skimp on quality.

This model is particularly apparent among many good (to great) New World producers. Just looking at Chilean wine houses and a few names immediately spring to mind: Errazuriz, Casa Lapostolle and Concha y Toro for example, these are all great producers whose top wines rarely fail to impress at the very highest level, yet quality can be found in abundance throughout their entire range.

That’s not to say that this buying technique is ineffectual for European wines, it is just a bit of a bigger minefield to navigate. For example the great Burgundy powerhouse – Louis Jadot – provides an almost certain stamp of quality. Although a bottle of 2006 Batard-Montrachet Grand Cru will set you back something in the region of €180,  I recently picked up a case of rather delicious 1999 Beaune 1er Cru for a mere €16 per bottle – It might not be anywhere close to the refinement of Jadot’s top wines but it’s at perfect drinking age and is from an incredibly trustworthy producer.

So, that was easy, we can now all drink better wine. Again, not quite. This is just one piece of advice to keep tucked in your back pocket, a good starting point that is particularly useful for guaranteeing that you always have a quality stock wine to rely on.

Great wine is by no means only produced by a mere handful of highly successful, well respected, vineyards. It can be found all over the world and be produced by anyone – from the biggest names in the industry, to the smallest independent wine houses. Discovering these great wines is really where our wonderful journey begins and relies heavily on two things – taking and understanding advice from a myriad of resources and, most importantly, your own taste buds and opinions.

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  1. CJ’s avatar

    Very informative. Thanks!

    1. The Drinking Man’s avatar

      You’re more than welcome. Let me know of any delicious discoveries of your own.

    2. Grogger’s avatar

      Thoroughly agree! Along with the Stonewell Shiraz, we’d recommend collecting d’Arenberg’s Dead Arm. Only £27 in the UK, which is cheaper than it is to buy in Australia (around $70AUD), and will age for years – all the d’Arenberg range is great.

      1. The Drinking Man’s avatar

        Thanks for the recommendation! I will definitely try and track down some d’Arenberg wines – and i’ll look forward to getting a Dead Arm or two in my cellar!

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