Tired of beer? Freaked out by Franzia? According to a class-action lawsuit filed last Thursday, student favorites Franzia and Charles Shaw may have up to five times the amount of arsenic the EPA allows in drinking water. So given the alternatives, now seems like a better time than ever to highlight some of top low-cost bottles available at the local Spec’s, HEB and even Target.

 

Red Wines

Good red wines can be tough to find on a budget. Cheaper reds tend to be either one-dimensional and uninteresting, or too heavy, sweet and tannic. The Chateau d’Ampuis Côtes du Rhône, however, escapes all of these pitfalls. The light-bodied blend of Syrah and Grenache exhibits perfume-like notes of leather, cherries and raisins. For a little more money, 99 West Pinot Noir is also an excellent light red. Made in Oregon’s Willamette Valley, the wine is full of fruity cranberry and chocolate flavors. For a heavier red, Bogle Vineyards’ Essential Blend is a great example of a complex yet inexpensive red with layered notes of ripe cherries, molasses and baking spices.

 

Recommended bottles:

Chateau d’Ampuis Côtes du Rhône, E. Guigal, $14 at Spec’s

99 West Pinot Noir, $17 at Specs

Essential Red Blend, Bogle Vineyards, $9 at Spec’s

 

White Wines

Spring is always a great time for a cold glass (or cup, or bag) of white wine. Less-renowned regions like New Zealand, Spain and Central California have experienced booms in production of quality white wine over the past few years, making their output both excellent and affordable. The McManis Family Viognier from River Junction, California is a great example of a cheap off-dry white. With a full body and sweet notes of pear, caramel and vanilla, the wine is an incredible value. Looking across the globe to New Zealand, Mohua Sauvignon Blanc could be the total opposite of the McManis Viongier, but is just as refreshing. The wine has a lean, acidic body and flavors like melon, cucumber and honey that are fruity and wholly refreshing.

 

Recommended bottles:

McManis Family Viognier, $9 at HEB

Mohua Sauvignon Blanc, Peregrine, $13 at Spec’s

 

Sparkling Wines & Other

For those looking for something a bit different, sparkling rosé and lambic (technically a kind of beer) are unique and inexpensive options compared to their better-known counterparts, champagne and mainstream Belgian beer. Makers of Korbel’s Brut Rosé apply the same traditional methods used in Champagne, France, on a blend of Pinot Noir, Gamay and Sangiovese to make its rosé. The result is a light, sparkling wine with the red-hued look and flavor of strawberries, cherries and raspberries.

Of the many styles of lambic — a Belgian beer brewed with wild yeast that collects on the wheat and barley — Lindeman’s Framboise is the best place to start. As the name suggests, Lindeman’s Framboise is blended with sweet raspberry juice after brewing to give it a tart, sweet flavor far different from the wit beers and Trappist ales that Belgium is known for.

Recommended bottles:

Korbel Brut Rosé, $12 at Target

Lindeman’s Framboise, $11 at HEB or Spec’s