Yes, there are great wines at beer prices -- and some even have corks.
Forget for a moment that the world of wine is like an exclusive club with a steep cover charge. Think back to the wines memorable for their drinking pleasure, not so much their price tags.
It's easy to find a good white wine over $20, but finding a great one under $10 offers a real payoff. Here are five that hit the mark.
The winners include two Rieslings, one Chardonnay, a Folle Blanche and a Gruner Veltliner. Not all these grape varieties are household names, but who's afraid of a little discovery?
These wines cover a range of styles from diverse locales, from the semisweet Oregon Riesling to the crisp Folle Blanche hailing from the south of France.
Let's open with a big splash that typifies the pleasure of good, inexpensive whites.
2004 Hofer Gruner Veltliner
Gruner Veltliner is the top winemaking grape in Austria. But that's a tricky distinction, since Thompson Seedless once held the same status in California. This dry-style Gruner tastes a bit like a restrained Chardonnay. To their credit, the vintners at H&M Hofer don't try to bulk up the flavors of the wine with special treatments. It's pleasantly subtle, with a balance of pear-like fruit and tart tastes.This wine, in a 1-liter bottle with abeer-cap top, strikes an unmistakably casual note. Just lay out your best plastic forks and paper plates and crack open the fun. The Gruner paired beautifully with grilled teriyaki chicken and jasmine rice.
2004 Rosemount Chardonnay
Now, from a restrained Austrian to a bold Aussie.
It seems every generation has its luscious Chardonnay. The original was Montrachet, then its more affordable Burgundian cousin Pouilly Fuisse. Later, imitation ran amok, as California rolled out dozens of Chardonnays, like Ferrari-Carano, that were so tricked out with oak aging and lactic acid that they earned the dubious description of "buttery." The Australians eventually put out their own absurd version that may have capped the trend.