Cheap Wine That Doesn't Suck

One of the first questions someone will typically ask about an unfamiliar wine is, What is the vintage?  Though some vintages are certainly better than others, it's not quite as important a question as it once was, as modern growing and winemaking practices have enabled vintners to smooth out Mother Nature's vagaries to achieve more consistency in their wines. 

Non-vintage wines, however, unless we're talking sparkling wines or Champagne, have about the same appeal as a turd in the punchbowl. Which is really too bad, because blending juice from different vintages is a way for winemakers to improve the quality of their least-expensive wines, for example, giving backbone to one vintage's big, ripe, fruity wine by adding another's that delivers a bit more acidity.

And that brings us to the nifty and very inexpensive (try $6.99) non-vintage Barefoot Lodi Zinfandel. No, you're not going to get the intense, brambly fruit and spicy-peppery overtones of a $20+ Zin, but you will get a very well-made wine brimming with bright-tasting raspberry and red cherry fruit and a tiny hint of the spice-black pepper combo California Zinfandels are known for. 

This wine is as friendly to the palate as it is to the pocketbook. Put ice cubes in it on a hot South Florida day. Use it to make a killer sangria. Pour it chilled at the beach or with burgers and dogs at a backyard barbecue. You won't miss the vintage date at all. 

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