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Jug wines can be just fine.

Cheap Thrills

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There's an ocean of ordinary wine out there. And most of us buy it. While some folks seek out prize vintages to round out collections, or call around town to get a missing vintage to complete a perfect series of a particular winery's wares, or plunk down a bucket of money to haul away a first- growth Bordeaux, most of us don't. The fact is the great majority of wine is made for drinking, not collecting. I learned this in 1991 while watching the now famous "60 Minutes" segment on the "French Paradox." That was the program that told us that drinking red wine and eating double-cream cheeses actually can be good for you. That's what the French do, and they have significantly lower rates of heart disease, we were told. I sat entranced as I watched a rural Frenchman walk into his corner store with a gallon plastic jug, insert a gasoline-pumplike hose into the jug's mouth, squeeze the handle and fill his container with red wine. Think that was Chateau Margaux in there? Or Cain Five? Not likely. This was jug wine — vin ordinaire or vin de pays. As with most things, it sounds better in French. But jug wine it was. And while we may not have gas pumps to fill our empties at the corner bistro, we do have something similar: the 1.5 litre bottle. It's what we buy for the church social, for neighborhood picnics, for big family get-togethers, or when payday looms a bit too far below the horizon. But we seem to do so with a concern that somehow we're being cheap and buying cheap wine. Score one for the marketing department. While it's true that jug wine can be cheap, as in poor quality, it also can be simply inexpensive and a smarter way to get the same quality of wine you normally would find in the $8 to $15 range for a regular-sized bottle at your retail store. For those of us who enjoy a moderate amount of wine with our daily meal, as do the healthy French, jug wine can be the way to go. While it's true you're not going to find racy, complex wines with subtle notes of sagebrush, lavender, wet straw and morning dew, I've found several that offer dependable, satisfying accompaniment to the evening meal. To wit, the following short list of personal favorites, many of which are everyday wines made by well-known producers of fine wine who are willing to pour their names and reputations into the big jugs. Jug Red Placido Sangiovese ($12)
Chianti grape, thin, light and simple. Citra Montepulciano d'Abruzzo ($6)
Fruitier than sangiovese which makes it better on its own but still dry and firm enough to go with pasta and red sauce. B&G Merlot ($9)
French merlot, soft and restrained on the fruit. Duboeuf Cabernet Sauvignon ($9)
Made for the American market that favors juicy fruit flavor. La Vielle Ferme C“te du Rhone ($14)
Classic Rhone blend of grenache, cinsault, mourvedre, syrah; it has a little spice, too. R.H. Phillips Cabernet Sauvignon ($16)
California red, which means big ripe fruit. Jug Whites Cortenova Pinot Grigio ($10)
Amazingly popular simple Italian white wine. B&G Chardonnay($9)
French chardonnay, mineral lemon flavor. Lindemans Bin 65 Chardonnay ($13)
Australian oaked chardonnay. Lindemans Cawarra Semillon-Chardonnay ($10)
Semillon gives chardonnay an earthy depth. R.H. Phillips Chardonnay ($14)
California oaked chardonnay; think

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