Many years ago now, three young but already accomplished California winemakers joined forces in an exciting side project: creating a budget label that performed well above its price point. This talented trio is still going strong, as shown by their Three Thieves Cabernet Sauvignon ($21). Smooth and fruit-forward, it offers lush, mouth-filling flavours of cherry, blackberry, and cassis enhanced with touches of spice and vanilla. Aged in French and American oak barrels, Thieves is a vibrant crowd-pleaser with charm, balance, and a luxuriant finish. Nice one!
Frontera, a budget label from Chilean wine juggernaut Concha Y Toro, produces a Sauvignon Blanc that is the very definition of cheap and cheerful (it’s $12.65 and often goes on sale at $2 off). There is citrus and peach on the nose, while the palate offers fresh flavours of orchard fruits and grapefruit. Full-bodied, with a refreshing acidity, this very quaffable wine is perfect for the patio and good with shellfish, fish, chicken dishes, and salads. (It’s fine for those nights when you can’t afford something posh like Duck Hunter.)
Most fans of Aussie fruit bombs know of Johnny Q (a.k.a. John Quarisa), one of Australia’s most successful makers of affordable blockbusters. One fine example is his “Shot in the Dark” Shiraz and Petite Sirah, with its deep-purple hues, lush aromatics, and intense, full-bodied notes of blackberry, black cherry, and plum alongside hints of chocolate and dried herbs. With lots of oomph in the glass, and a velvet finish, this is seriously good value at $16.
There’s a trend of ageing Cabernet Sauvignon in used bourbon barrels, and California wine legend Robert Mondavi has an impressive version with his Private Selection Bourbon Barrel Aged Cabernet Sauvignon ($23). Rich and polished, this Cabernet has the luscious gobs of black cherry and blackberry that you might expect, along with a kiss of vanilla and brown sugar from the bourbon – perfect with falling-off-the-bone-tender beef short ribs. This isn’t available every year, so consider stocking up as it may disappear for a few vintages. (All prices include tax.)