Searching out bargain wines is a priority these days, as operators strive to give customers a price break yet still keep margins strong. The Internet has made that job easier; even the smallest wine producer has a Web site, and even modest-sized importers and distributors put their catalogs online.
But no matter how cheap, wine that doesn’t appeal to your customers is no bargain. You want quality wines that offer value for the dollar. And even though the dollar isn’t as strong as it used to be, that doesn’t mean you can’t find good deals in Europe, especially in the leading wine countries. Italy, France, Spain and Portugal produce a sea of wine and treasures abound. Spain is especially rich in good inexpensive wines; check out Navarra, Rueda, Vinos de Madrid, Montsant and Jumilla to name just a few promising D.O.s.
Many countries as well as individual wine regions conduct marketing programs aimed at bringing top-of-mind awareness of their wines to U.S. consumers. Organizations such as the Italian Trade Commission, Vibrant Rioja, G7 and Food & Wines from France usually offer sales support, merchandising materials and other resources. They are happy to help you sell their wines in your restaurant.
Here are just a few suggestions on where to look:
|Region/area||Why check it out||One example||Estimated SRP|
|Spain/Rioja||Thanks to extensive barrel and bottle aging requirements, Rioja reds are ready to drink on release. High in acid with|
well-integrated tannins, tempranillo-based wines pair well with many different categories of food.
|Bodegas Ostatu Crianza 2006|
|Spain/Toro||This long-neglected region has been revitalized by pioneering producer Farina with modern winemaking techniques. High-altitudes produce elegant red tempranillos (here called tinta de Toro).||Bodegas Farina Dama de Toro Crianza 2004|
|Italy/Sicily||The largest and most productive wine region in the country, Sicily now focuses on quality as well as quantity. The nero d’Avola grape makes concentrated fruity red wines that will impress customers.||Feudo Arancio Nero D’Avola IGT 2008|
|France/Loire Valley||Forget pricey Bordeaux and Burgundy. Lush and diverse, the Loire Valley produces a number of food-friendly wines. Try|
a nicely acidic cabernet franc from Chinon or Bourgueil or a crisp sauvignon blanc from Quincy or Reuilly.
Philippe Alliet Chinon 2008
Domaine Mardon Quincy Vieilles Vignes 2008
|Portugal/Douro||This area is famous for vintage Ports, but wonderful table wines are produced here from the same grapes—touriga nacional, tinta roriz, tinta barroca. Other areas of note: Dao|
|Ramos Pinto Adriano Red 2006|
|Often considered the cradle of winemaking, Eastern Europe boasts 7,000 years of viticultural history. More recently, obscured by Soviet Union economic policies, the region is drawing interest from Western producers who have been investing in modern techniques with positive results.|
Apatsagi Pannonhalmi Tricollis Cuvee 2008, Hungary
Teliani Valley Saperavi 2007, Georgia
|Malbec is the new merlot, and Argentina is the new Chile. Exports are growing as viticulture and winemaking techniques modernize. Wines have lost their rough edge without losing a sense of terroir. Bonarda is another varietal to look for here.||Bodega Lurton Piedra Negra Malbec 2004|