Value for Money

Sorry – I can’t help you with the cash. You’ll have to supply your own hard-earned greenies.

But studying guides and the wine columns in the Sunday papers can help you save quite a bit.

Though my wife has a different approach; she spends just as much but gets a much better class of wine. And she can’t abide even the slightest trace of sweetness in a wine. Bordeaux or nothing is her rule. So life is very difficult when we visit Australia, New Zealand or California.

Complicated, daunting and possibly quite expensive. Here’s a Coarse Guide. And one which is entirely partisan, eclectic and totally prejudiced.

Northern France. Some good Pinots. Recent good vintages 1995 and 96.

A good one is brilliant.

Medium sweet sherry. Mostly to be avoided.

Was rubbish; the best suddenly got enormously better. But expensive.

Appellation Controlee (AC)
Devious French plot to enable crappy wines to get a quality stamp.

Sweet German wine.

Decent red Italian stuff. Not as good as Barolo, but not as expensive.

Lovely big Italian red. Worth keeping if you’ve got the facilities. 1995, 96 and 97 were all good.

Light, fruity red stuff, good for drinking young and/or chilled.

Beaujolais Villages
Slightly better stuff.

Wolf Blass
Very consistent Australian wine maker, but expensive of late. Hardly ever a bad wine.

Spanish for wine producer.

Very good, but expensive champagne.

See St Emilion, Pomerol, Medoc, Margaux, etc. Good Things. Especially anything from 2009. Even the stuff from the very borders of the region. And not that expensive, surprisingly.

Bouzy Rouge
Rare, overpriced, over-hyped red.

Brown Brothers
Large Australian firm (I believe still owned by the Brown family) that makes very consistent stuff. I had a 1996 Shiraz recently that was particularly yummy.

Cabernet Sauvignon
Grapes originally from Bordeaux, but now grown almost everywhere wine is made.

Place where Americans make a liquid akin to wine. No, I’m being silly now; I’m told that the better ones are now as good as the Aussie stuff.

Central Otago
A few years ago you wouldn’t have thought of New Zealand as a source of good red. But the Pinot Noirs from there have been outstanding in the last few years. Two Paddocks and Peregrine are some I’ve particularly enjoyed.

White wine of Burgundy that can be brilliant. An entirely different taste from the Australian and Californian stuff. Joseph Drouhin is a good reliable maker.

Very dark red tasty stuff from Burgundy. Anther Drouhin triumph.

Drouhin again. Sorry, but this is a particularly nice red liquid.

Domain Chandon
Brilliant fizzy stuff (they’ve agreed not to call it champagne) from the Yarra Valley. It’s sold as Green Point in some countries. Better than its father, Moet and Chandon, and less than half the price. There’s another Domain Chandon in California that I presume makes a similar product. It’s sold under the Shadow Creek label in Europe.

Chapel Hill
Very, very nice Aussie vineyard that makes a lovely selection of whites and reds. Tasting is done in a real (ex) chapel. Never had a bottle from these chaps (actually, mostly chappesses) that wasn’t very yummy.

A grape from Burgundy, now grown almost everywhere. A sort of white Cabernet Sauvignon! Easy drinking, and very tasty. The taste varies quite a bit depending on the climate and soil, but they all seem good drinking. Houghtons and Coldstream Hills in Australia and Cloudy Bay in New Zealand all make brilliant Chardonnays.

Chenin Blanc
White wine from the Loire valley. And other places. Generally drink later than Chardonnay.

Red liquid used to fill up raffia covered bottles when they are distributed to dodgy Italian restaurants.

Italian version of Appellation Controlle

Originally a walled vineyard. Now any place growing vines.

Cloudy Bay
New Zealand maker of very good stuff. Pelorus fizz, Chardonnay and Sauvignon.

Coldstream Hills
Brilliant Australian vineyard founded by James Halliday. He’s now sold out, but the wines are just as good. Pinot Noir best of a good bunch.

Australian wine region. For some reason I’ve always enjoyed everything I’ve had from there. As with most Aussie stuff, 1998 was a brilliant year.

Cote, Cotes, Coteaux
Just slopes, or areas of wine growing.

Côte d’Or
Pretty good area of Burgundy. Generally good stuff from here. It’s not always marked ‘Cote d’Or’, though; Cote de Beaune, Cote de Brouilly, Cote de Nuits, etc. are subdivisions.

Usually found on bottles of Rioja. Aged in wooden casks.

Can mean a few things, but generally a blended wine. And not necessarily the worse for that.

Italian version of Appellation Controlle.

Enter Deux Mers
Special wine for taking to parties where you leave it on the table then go and find something drinkable.

Evans and Tate
Western Australian outfit getting better and better.

Strange, wine-like liquid from California. I’m sure nobody actually drinks it; just carries it around hoping someone will ask if it’s a good year. “No, it’s a Firestone!”.

Burgundy. A good one is brilliant. Duboeuf is one of the better-known ones.

Easy Italian stuff for lunchtime when you don’t really want any wine.

Fizzy stuff for giving you a headache with the least amount of intervention by the taste buds.

The world’s biggest producer of wines. I’m told that there’s now some quite drinkable stuff under this label.

Gonzalez Byass
Maker of Tio Pepe, the most available decent sherry. Fine stuff.

By Penfold. Probably the finest red wine produced in Australia.

Green Point
See Domaine Chandon.

For some reason now called BRL Hardy. Consistent maker of very fine red stuff. Don’t think I’ve very rarely had a bottle I haven’t enjoyed hugely. Though there was a bottle of fizzy red stuff I got as a joke. It wasn’t naff; just not as good as the rest of Hardy’s stuff. Look for ‘Thomas’ or ‘Eileen’ on the label for the very best.

Western Australian producer of very fine whites. Look for the Wildflower Ridge label for an inexpensive delight. Now moving into excellent reds as well; Jack Mann is one of the best, but expensive. I’ve only recently found that the Hardy group owns this one.

Chateau Lafite-Rothschild
A very fine Paulliac (so I’m assured). I’d like to taste one some day when I can afford it.

Rather fizzy, sweetish red with an unusual, cherry flavour Not too strong, not too expensive.

Chateau Latour
Same remarks as for Chateau Lafite-Rothschild. Plus there’s a second label – Les Forts de Latour. Worth a try if it’s not too pricey. But don’t drink it too young.

Leeuwin Estate
Western Australian vineyard that’s getting better and better all the time. Shame its lovely Chardonnay is so expensive.

Peter Lehman
Lovely big wines from the Barossa. Stonewell is the name I remember best – brilliant, but rather pricey.

Chateau Leoville-Barton
Bordeaux winery with some very nice stuff. Try the St Julien if you can get an older one at a decent price.

Liquid substance marketed in bottles. Nuff said.

Famous song by Flanders and Swann. Also a sort of liquid that is sometimes worth drinking.

Two bottles in one – a litre and a half.

Brilliant Bordeaux stuff for them as can afford it.

Rich fortified wine from Sicily. Used more for making zabaglioni than for drinking, it seems.

(in)Famous for its slightly sparkling rose and a similar white. Much as I am cynical about big commercial companies, I actually enjoy both of these in the right setting – a picnic, for instance.

Moet and Chandon
World’s biggest producer of Champagne. Though not necessarily of Methode Champenoise. At its best it’s very, very good. Almost as good as an average bottle from the Aussie subsidiary, Domain Chandon.

Some very nice whites made around the Mosel river. Sad that the Germans have such complicated names, but Moselblumchen isn’t too difficult to remember. And it’s even easier to drink. Tasty stuff, and not too expensive.

Napa Valley
Large area of California from which many wines come. Some of them are not too bad, but all are relatively expensive.

Nuits St George
Very nice claret, especially when it’s had a few years in the bottle. Mostly worth mentioning here because of a friend of mine who only drinks Nuit St George. With any food, any time, any day. All because his name is George.

Large Australian producer. The Jacob’s Creek range is well thought of by many people. Well, there’s no accounting for taste.

Makers of Grange Hermitage and all sort of other good Australian things. Owns many other producers. If, like me, you can’t afford the Grange, try the Coonawarra Shiraz. Yummy.

Another very good Aussie. The Coonawarras and the Piccadilly Chardonnay are extremely good things.

Chateau Petrus
Famous Bordeaux maker of what people say is the best Pomerol. Certainly one of the most expensive. One day I’ll try one.

Champagne that’s probably underrated. Expensive, but very nice indeed.

Pouilly Fumé
Loire wine that some books say gets its flavour from having the grape skins smoked; others say the taste comes from the flint in the soil. Whatever, it tastes very fine indeed.

John Riddoch
Very, very good Coonawarra red stuff. I’ve seen it at pretty good prices, too.

Sometimes ordinary, sometimes brilliant Spanish red. El Coto is a good average one at decent prices; for something top of the range, go for La Rioja Alta.

St Emilion
Can be grotty, but more likely to be quite good. Some St Emilions are wonderful. Angelus is a label that rings good bells somewhere; Figeac and Belair give a slightly more distant tintinnabulation.

Bordeaux white. Theory – rich honeyed dessert wine. Practice – mostly sweet-ish liquid. Chateau d’Yquem is probably an exception, but I can’t afford to find out.

The Classico is okay for a cheap and cheerful white at lunchtime when you don’t want to be tempted to a third glass anyway.

Wine so naff it’s had to have lemon juice and other things added to make it nearly drinkable. Nice label, though.

Used to be worth avoiding, but some of the best ones are pretty good now. Try Milmanda? That’s what memory says, but it doesn’t sound Spanish to me, so I must look it up. Tomorrow…

Inexpensive, light red wine. Can be very good, but more likely underwhelming.

Only in here so I could have a Z to finish the alphabet. A red grape.