WHAT ABOUT WINE: Cheap in a good way

Robin Goldstein may know more about cheap wine than anyone else. He is the co-author and guiding force of “The Wine Trials 2010”, the second edition of the book that rates 150 of the best wines in the world that cost less than $15. His method — blind tastings — and his results — cheap wines that have fared significantly better than more famous and more expensive ones — have infuriated the mainstream wine world. One eminent wine writer went so far as to call Goldstein’s approach “almost an anti-intellectual position.”

Which is an interesting thing to say, given that the book has a scientific advisory board and 30 footnotes, in addition to the 150 wine ratings. (Full disclosure: I participated in one of the blind tasting panels for the first edition in 2008.)

More than anything else, the mainstream wine world, which has so much invested in the concept that expensive wine is always better than less expensive wine, doesn’t like the idea that a wine can’t be judged by its price. I don’t know that I agree with all 150 wines in the book (and I’ve tasted all but 25 or so); many simple, fruity wines did better than they should have, and there aren’t enough rosés again this year. But Goldstein’s concept is sound. Price is a better guide to quality than a cute label, but it’s not the be-all and end-all the experts want us to think it is.

Here are three of my favorites from this year’s selections:


• Rene Barbier Mediterranean White (about $6).
Chill this, and drink it when the summer heat makes you crazy. I tasted it with some wine types when I did a story about $6 wine a couple of years ago, and we were stunned at how well-made it was.

 
• Falesco Vitiano Red (about $12).
One of my all-time favorite wines — bring on the red sauce and Italian sausages, and marvel that a wine this well-made could be this inexpensive.

 
• Casteller Cava (about $12).
This sparkling wine from Spain is a step up from $8 cavas like Cristalino — a little richer and a little less tight (a wine term that denotes where the flavors seem crammed together.)—Jeff  Siegel

 

Ask the Wine Guy

Q. What’s the biggest wine-producing state in the country?
A. In 2008, California produced 90 percent of the wine made in the United States, according to the Wine Institute. That figure has remained consistent since 1995.

Last-minute spaghetti sauce

Spaghetti sauce in a jar is not necessary. This takes almost as little time, and it tastes more like tomato sauce and less like salt. Serve this over your favorite pasta and with the Vitiano. If you’re feeling adventurous, chop some onion, celery, carrot and bell pepper in a food processor so it’s very fine, and sauté in a little olive oil before you add the garlic and liquid ingredients.

Serves 6, takes about 20 minutes

1 28-oz can tomato puree
2 6-oz cans tomato paste
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 Tbsp olive oil
2 bay leaves
Salt and pepper to taste
1 to 2 c water, red wine or white wine

1. Brown the garlic in the olive oil over medium heat in a large pot until the garlic is fragrant. Add everything else except the water or wine and mix well.

2. Add the water or wine a little at a time, until the sauce is as thick or thin as you like it (you may not use all of the liquid). Bring to a boil, cover, and simmer 10 or 15 minutes.
 



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