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Fun-to-Money Ratio

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While many of us are feeling financially pressed these days, a few bottles of wine won't lighten that wallet too much more. There are plenty of quality wines out there that aren't expensive. In fact, many of them can be purchased for under $15.

A simple way to find a nice inexpensive wine is to look for notable producers of high-quality wines and ask your favorite wine specialist if they have a second label. A second label is a bottling that a winery puts out with all the juice that didn't quite make the cut for their premier wine.

One particularly delectable second-tier label is Luianico from the producer Luiano in Tuscany, Italy. Luiano produces outstanding Chianti Classico and Super-Tuscan wines that are well worth the extra expenditure, but their Luianico bottle is delicious enough at its price point. This particular wine is made entirely from the Sangiovese grape. It has a beautiful ruby-violet color with aromas of red cherry and fennel. The palate exhibits rustic flavors of cocoa powder, soft sweet cherry fruit, and anise. It offers a huge amount of flavor for the money.

The Catena family winery has been growing and producing outstanding wines in Argentina for generations. While the winery's Catena and Catena Alta bottlings can be a little pricey, its Alamos line is at the perfect price point. They offer Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Merlot all at very reasonable prices. While they may not offer the complexity and layers of flavor that their higher-end siblings exhibit, the Alamos line does offer a great fun-to-money ratio.

In Chile, the Veramonte winery has produced excellent value-priced wines that over-deliver on flavor. Most notable of all is their voluptuous Merlot Reserva. The Veramonte has a fuller body and texture than most Merlots. This bottle delivers aromas of plum, coffee cake, and licorice and flavors of blackberry, sun-dried tomato, vanilla, and chocolate.

It's no secret that Spain has been lavishing us with palate-pleasing, and inexpensive, wines for years now. Notable selections are Cellar Villafranca Castellar Cava Non-Vintage and the Viños Sin-Ley Afinus G2 2006 Monsant. The Cava delivers classic aromas of orange rind, toast, and lime with a light, crisp texture. The 100 percent Grenache G2 is sourced from 50-year-old vines. The purple-hued wine gives aromas of star anise and blackberry with a round textured palate of crushed berries and bittersweet cocoa.

For white wine lovers, Austria has the much underrated Grüner Veltliner grape. Freie Weingartner Wachau produces a crisp Grüner with aromas of lemon-lime zest and limestone. The palate is light and pure with fresh acidity and a tingly finish.

California's Lange Twins winery produces a delightfully fresh-tasting Sauvignon Blanc. The first aroma to jump out of the glass is that of cut grass and lemon. The palate displays mouthwatering flavors of citrus and minerals.

Even France has some value-oriented wines to offer us. Burgundy's Joseph Drouhin produces a deliciously sharp, stainless-steel-fermented Chardonnay from the Macon district. Their Macon-Villages is one of the most food-friendly versions of this grape. It can pair up with a light fish dish or a shellfish stew with some weight to it. Aromas of apple and chalk lead into flavors of Granny Smith apple and pear. With 60-degree days still occurring this winter, these wines are a nice respite from the unsettlingly warm weather. Recommended Wines:

Luianico Rosso Toscana 2003 Tuscany, Italy $13.99

Alamos Malbec 2005 Mendoza, Argentina $12.99

Veramonte Merlot Reserva 2005 Casablanca Valley, Chile $14.99

Cellar Villafranca Castellar Cava Non-Vintage Penedes, Spain $12.99

Viños Sin-Ley Afinus G2 2006 Monsant, Spain $10.99

FWW Grüner Veltliner 2006 Wachau, Austria $13.99

Lange Twins Sauvignon Blanc 2006 Lodi, California $13.99

Joseph Drouhin Macon-Villages 2006 Burgundy, France $14.99

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