Ultra-cheap wine presents a dilemma. At what point is the wine so cheap that quality doesn’t matter and that it becomes nothing more than an alcohol delivery system, devoid of any pleasure except for the buzz that it provides?
That’s why the Wine Curmudgeon is so hard on these wines, which can roughly be defined as those that cost less than $6 a bottle. Cheap whiskey is for getting drunk. Wine – even inexpensive wine -- is for enjoyment.
Which is why I was intrigued by the Corbett Canyon, which won the Best of Class for Merlots below $15 at the 2009 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition. The competition included some perfectly acceptable wines, including Red Truck, Cycles Gladiator, Mondavi Private Selection and Wente. The Corbett Canyon is $10 for a 3-liter box, or about $2.50 a bottle.
It’s certainly worth that, and even a bit more. Don’t expect a lot of depth or sophistication, and if this wine saw any oak it was a passing glance. But the Corbett Canyon tastes like merlot, and it’s not too jammy or fruity in the way other cheap merlots are. The tannins are even pleasant. Drink it on its own or with any red wine foods.
The biggest problem is the box. It’s not easy to get the spigot out of the side of the box, and, if you’re not careful, the spigot leaks. Make sure to turn the knob hard to the left to shut off the flow.