How to buy well, without getting a headache from the price tag

A confession: I work in the wine industry, and I’m sick of drinking shit wine. So are my friends. And, I bet, so are you. Not many people can afford to blow $47 on a bottle (even after payday), and spending a fiver shouldn’t be a risk, or limit you to what’s half price what week. But you can drink better wine without breaking the bank. Step one: forget everything you think is true…

You probably do like Chardonnay

It’s got a bad rep for being too ‘oaky’ and the color of horse urine, and when people ask me for advice, 60% say ABC (Anything But Chardonnay). But it’s a brilliant food wine, as it’ s rich and has the weight to stand up to full flavored dishes. Risotto, creamy pasta and roast chicken are great matches; try a Chablis (that’s Chardonnay, too) with grilled fish. Love Champagne? Chardonnay is one of the main grape varieties used. See? Not so bad after all. Try this Errazuriz Chardonnay, $8.79, Tesco.

Description: Errazuriz Chardonnay

A $5 bottle can work

I sample fairly pricy wines at work, but be under no illusion that my everyday wine is of that calibre. I’m always hunting for decent bottles for a fiver, and they do exist. If you’re a fan of dry white, look for Vinho Verde a crisp Portuguese with a natural spritz. It’s perfect for sunny afternoons. If you want rose, you can tell how sweet or dry it is by the color. If it’s dark and pink, it’s sweeter. The paler it is, the drier. For red, a top-value pick is a Chilean Carménère: rich with a smoky vanilla edge. Three $5 fail-safes: South Afican Chenin Blanc, $3.79, Sainsbury’s; Château Mont Milan Rose, $5.49, Majestic Wine; The Whale Caller Shiraz/Cabernet, $4.74, Waitrose.

Don’t ignore these names

Faced with 300 bottles on a shelf, it’s easy to grab a familiar name and bolt. But don’t miss out. A white with lots of good press recently is Picpoul. From Southern France, it tastes of lemons and green apples, and is a great alternative to Pinot Grigio. Italian Sangiovese and Montepulciano are cheap ’n ’cheerful reds that go brilliantly with any tomato-based food. You might know Sancerre or Pouilly-Fume, but Gewurztraminer often baffles people. It’s also a Sauvignon, but a little sweeter have it with Thai takeaway. Try this: Cave de Turckheim Gewurztraminer, $9.49, Waitrose.

Description:  Montepulciano d'Abruzzo

Montepulciano d'Abruzzo

Around the world in wine

Don’t know where does what? Now you do!

New Zealand: Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir are winners: fruity, fresh and well priced.

France: Southern French is better value. For red, try Corbieres for white, a Viognier.

Australia: Once nicknamed ‘headach wine’ (too much oak and a high alcohol content), Australian wines are now a lot more refined. Match a Riesling with fish, or a Cabernet Sauvignon with strak.

Italy: Pinot Grigio isn’t the only Italian wine! Try a Gavi or Vermentino for lots of delicious fruit flavours

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