Ask the WC 12: $5 wine, varietal character, negative reviews

$5 wine
Yes, Abe, there is $5 wine worth buying.

This edition of Ask the WC: Is there quality $5 wine?

Because the customers always have questions, and the Wine Curmudgeon has answers in this irregular feature. Ask the Wine Curmudgeon wine-related question by clicking here.

Hello Wine Curmudgeon:
You advocate cheap wine, but is there anything cheaper than $10, which is your cutoff, worth drinking? Are there $5 wines I can buy?
On a fixed income

Dear Fixed:
There is lots of $5 and $6 wine; Barefoot at about $6 is the best-selling wine in the U.S. But finding wine at that price that is interesting and varietally correct is difficult, which is why I use $10. Your best bet would be the Rene Barbier red and white (though the red isn’t what it was) at about $4, and several Italian Chiantis, like Melini, that cost around $6. Otherwise, you get what you pay for.

Dear Wine Curmudgeon:
I’m confused by some of your reviews. Your write that wine should have varietal character. What is that? Doesn’t it matter that it just tastes good?
I like good wine

Dear Good:
Varietal character, to me, is the most important thing in wine. Does a cabernet sauvignon taste like a cabernet sauvignon? Does a chardonnay taste like a chardonnay? Otherwise, what’s the point? Why buy a sauvignon blanc that doesn’t taste like sauvignon blanc? Unfortunately, Big Wine doesn’t think varietal character is as important as I do, and tends to make wines that have similar characteristics regardless of varietal – soft red wines with little tannin, lots of fruit, and too much fake oak, whether the wine is cabernet, merlot, or pint noir. That may be a good wine, if you like that style, but it’s not very interesting.

Hello, Wine Curmudgeon:
How come you don’t write negative reviews? I’d assume that someone as cranky as you are would enjoy saying nasty things about bad wine.
Puzzled in Pennsylvania

Dear Puzzled:
That’s a question I get asked a lot, and my old pal Dave Falchek, who writes reviews for the Scranton newspaper, has taken me to task for not doing it. And I do sometimes include wines I don’t think are well made in the monthly mini-reviews. But I’m here to find cheap wine worth drinking, and I think it’s more important to write about those wines in the wines of the week and the other reviews than to show how clever and snarky I can be.

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