I mentioned UCLA law professor Steve Bainbridge earlier, but neglected to mention that he opines on wine -- a topic far more interesting than law (http://www.professorbainbridgeonwine.com/). If you visit his blog, tell Steve he owes us a visit too.
I recently regretted missing a Christmas Party, until I recalled that they usually put out big bottles of mediocre wine. They don’t even save money that way. I’m an aspiring wine snob too, but also a cheapskate. Fortunately, there are some good white wines available in the handy and cheaper 1.5 liter size.
People prefer white to red by about 3-to-1 in my experience, so the two-in-one 1.5 liter size makes sense for whites. Figure one of these big jugs serves four unless you’ve invited Bainbridge (who is too classy to drink this swill) or me (likely to guzzle more than my share).
The best 1.5 liter white is R.H. Phillips Sauvignon Blanc at about $13. Second best is Clos du Bois chardonnay -- about $16 at Costco or Total Wine. The best value is Alice White, a chard from Australia at $10 (and the house white at Morton’s steak house).
Reds are trickier. There are decent big bottles of shiraz from Australia, merlot/cab blends from Concha y Toro, and even generic Beaujolais. Aside from Beaujolais and Pinot Noir, however, we don’t keep reds in the fridge. As a result, opened bottles of red go bad in a few days -- even if you pump the air out with a $25 electric gadget from Hammacher Schlemer (sold out for Christmas). So I usually buy reds only in a regular size. Here too, there is at least one big bargain.
A regular-sized bottle of Delicato shiraz sells for five or six bucks and gets an amazing 90-point rating from Wine Spectator. It’s a very good drop, almost a “wow” wine. If you are lucky enough to live near Trader Joe, their Purple Moon shiraz is the same thing for $3.99, though I wonder if the family keeps the best stuff for their label. Their family name is Indelicato, actually, but that would sound too much like an “indelicate” wine.
If you’re not immediately impressed with any of these, keep drinking. The wine at the bottom of a bottle always tastes better than the wine at the top.