A non-pretentious guide to four bottles of red wine under $20

Fanciful descriptions and point systems in liquor stores are not much help to those people who are not wine connoisseurs. One thing is certain: the price is no indication of a great-tasting wine.

Charlene Hjorleifson, employee at Enoteca — a specialty wine boutique on Macleod Trail S.E. — says you don’t have to spend a lot of money on a bottle of wine to get a great-tasting vino. She recommends cooling red wines in the fridge for 15 minutes before serving, and letting the wine air for five minutes before pouring to let it aerate. These little tricks can elevate even the cheapest bottle of wine, Hjorleifson says.

However, settling on that enjoyable vintage on a budget can still be a severe case of trial and error. Here is a non-pretentious guide through four bottles of cheap, red wine — which ones to enjoy, and which ones to avoid.

1. 2008 Rocca Delle Macie Confini Chianti

Origin: Tuscany, Italy

Price: $15

Pompous Wine Words: Local wine blogger Peter Vetsch reviewed this wine on his blog and says: “It started promisingly enough on the nose, with a pleasant mix of red fruits and red flowers (strawberry, cherry, roses) along with a briny, minerally component on the tail end.”

Modest Wine Words: I usually don’t fancy Chiantis because of their full-bodied heaviness but decided to give this one a try because the label says “medium structured blend” — and of course its price.

At first taste I thought it wasn’t so bad and I could enjoy the glass, but upon further sampling it became very evident that this is not an “all-nighter” type of wine.

Although pleasing to the eye, like a hot hook-up in the bar, this is the type of wine you give a fake number to just before completing the walk of shame, hoping to never hear from him or her again.

The verdict: “One-night-stand”

2. Barefoot Cellars Merlot

Origin: California, USA

Price: $10

Pompous Wine Words: The bottle label says the wine is “packed with the tempting flavours of blackberry, raspberry and chocolate and is silky smooth.”

Modest Wine Words: I don’t think it was necessary for the producers of this wine, E & J Gallo Winery, to include the “most awarded wine brand” stamp on the packaging of this bottle. If anything I think it has over-sold the product to the point of mediocrity. I would have enjoyed it more had I not been warned to expect greatness. Despite the self-promoting faux pas of the cellars, it is an enjoyable wine — light and airy without a strong, emotional connection, like that friend you have known for years and are comfortable with, but not in love with, who is your backup plan. A certifiable go-to option when no other is available.

Beaujolais is a smooth and silky wine. Photo by: Celeste de Muelenaere

The verdict: “Friends-with-benefits”

3. Bouchard Aîné & Fils Beaujolais

Origin: Beaune, France

Price: $12

Pompous Wine Words: Ontario-based wine review site, winecurrent.com, describes it as “perfumed aromas of lilac, spice and candy apple introduce a good wash of fruity flavours, sweet grapey notes and cherry cordial.”

Modest Wine Words: Smooth and silky on the tongue, this vintage wine is the ultimate partner for every occasion. For women it is the stereotypical French lover — romantic, gentle and memorable. For men it is the Victoria’s Secret “Angel” of cheap red wines. This is a great introductory vino for those lacking the acquired taste needed for some pretentious red wines.

The verdict: “French-lover”

4. 1884 Reservado Malbec

Origin: Mendoza, Argentina

Price: $17

Pompous Wine Words: Decanter.com describes this Malbec as “intense dark fruits with five spice and violets. Dense, smoky and spicy palate with decent tannins, length and complexity.”

Modest Wine Words: This wine is enjoyable with every meal — or even just as a relaxing sundowner. The characteristics of this vintage certainly appeal to a woman’s senses — they say on the label it contains “a hint of mocha.” No woman can resist “a hint of mocha.”

But this does not mean that it isn’t a wine for men. It has a masculine deep eggplant colour with cherry undertones, making it look and smell more expensive than it is. This is the type of wine you would introduce to your family — definitely marriage-material, even boasting a sophisticated label on the bottle. Although, chances of it aging well are slim. This is not destined to be the George Clooney of red wines.

Enoteca’s Charlene Hjorleifson says that Malbecs are typically Argentinian and are great for the novice red wine drinker. She recommends the 1884 Reservado Malbec to many of her customers because “it’s easy to drink on a regular day with anything.”

My verdict: “Tie-the-knot”

cdemuelenaere@cjournal.ca