In these challenging days for the economy, who isn't looking for good value in wine? While stocks and real estate have taken a nosedive, investment in good, affordable wines becomes all the more important. Fortunately, there's been no crisis in this area. The wine market continues to offer winning inexpensive bottles — if you know where to look.
One place is Australia. Barossa Valley Estate Vineyards, known as BVE, is a cooperative of growers in the famed Barossa Valley region of South Australia, owned in part by Constellation Brands, the world's largest wine company. The area is known for its shiraz, Australia's name for syrah, and BVE is making a first-class example of it at a suggested price of $13.
The specific wine is BVE's 2006 E Minor Shiraz, and it demonstrates the kind of quality and complexity that can be achieved even at this modest price. The companion 2006 E Minor Chardonnay, also $13, is impressive as well.
Here's the production model: As a cooperative, BVE gets its fruit from dozens of Barossa Valley growers. For the '06 shiraz, fruit from 27 vineyards was used. The wine from each vineyard was fermented and aged separately, about half in oak for six months, before the blend was made.
The '06 chardonnay is a blend of fruit from 25 growers. The fruit picked was picked on the early side of the harvest, BVE notes, to retain acidity and freshness, and the individual vineyard lots were aged in oak for just two months.
The result? Well, the wines are exactly what I want for everyday drinking. They've got attractive fruit, elegance, relatively low alcohol (13.5 percent) and are not consumed by oak. They're easy to drink but are not at all generic, as so many wines at the price can be.
The shiraz has good fruit concentration with plum, cherry and blackberry notes and some smoke and earth. I enjoyed it with steak and actually thought it had more complexity than another BVE offering, the 2004 Ebenezer Shiraz, which is priced at $32 and is more in a big-fruit,, higher-alcohol Australian style.
The E Minor Chardonnay is refreshing, with pear, apricot and citrus and touches of vanilla, butterscotch and spice. It will match well with fish and shellfish, chicken and pork dishes. Before I looked up the price, I thought these wines were more expensive, perhaps $20 or so, and even then I would have endorsed them with enthusiasm. At $13 they are steals (now don't raise the prices on us).
By the way, Barossa Valley Estate makes one other red, the E & E Black Pepper Shiraz. But at $95 I think I'll wait on that one for some better news on the economy.
Edward Deitch is the recipient of the 2007 James Beard Foundation Journalism Award for Best Multimedia Writing. He welcomes comments from readers. Write to him at