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Best Wines Under Fifteen Dollars

By: Michael Lee Posted: July-13-2009 in
Eight of the best reds - Photo - Mads Monsen
Michael Lee

Drunk in moderation, wine, medical research tells us, is good for the heart. So, Saigon’s unofficial, self-anointed panel of wine experts decided to follow the advice and tasted their way through 50 white and red wines to give you the best eight of each. All the tasting was blind and the event was conducted at Cepage.

Tasting 50 wines in two hours is no mean feat, and when considering the various palates of five unique wine tasters, it makes for some zesty and spirited conversation.

Our aim was to not get caught up in the technical, as wines in this price bracket are bought and drank for pleasure, with no fuss and no frills. Using a maximum five-star rating system, ratings are only relevant to the bracket of wines tasted, so 4.5 stars here, does not make for a near perfect wine.

Making the Selection
Judging was based on balance, drinkability and offering good value, with wines being awarded three stars for this status. An extra star was awarded to wines that offered something distinctive, be it a varietal signature, something regional or character. A five-star wine would be one that ticked all the boxes and could easily compete with wines above its price, maybe even testing some of the finer palates around town.

Finally, a note about the health aspects of drinking wine. According to medical advice it is good for men to drink two glasses and women one glass a day, with such levels of drinking having been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease and certain types of cancers. So, if you’re thinking of replicating our little wine challenge at home, the doctor’s advice is don’t. As they say, all things in moderation.

4.5 Stars
Yalumba ‘Y Series’ Pinot Grigio 2008
VND245,000 (Warehouse)
Perennial classy wine from South Australia that looks as good as it tastes, and one of the few wines that had layers of complexity suitable for summer sips or that spicy prawn salad.

4.5 Stars
St Hallett ‘Poachers Blend’ Sauvignon Blanc Semillon 2008
VND260,000 (Vino)
You will find this wine on many lists in town and for good reason. Developed fresh fruits, well-balanced with a clean but non-aggressive acidity using a classic blend from the Barossa Valley.

4 Stars
Hugel & Fils ‘Gentil’ 2007
VND255,000 (Bacchus Corner)
The royal white blend from Alsace, using mainly Gewurtztraminer, with some Pinot Gris, Riesling and Muscat thrown in. This could easily sit in the US$20+ bracket and was easily the best food wine we tasted.

4 Stars
Caliterra ‘Reserve Estate Grown’ Chardonnay 2008
VND205,000 (Daloc)
Chilean wine is well on the way, and this rounded Chardonnay combines buttery peachy fruit with some brioche character. Not for those who want a light Sauvignon Blanc-style wine.

4 Stars
Yali ‘Central Valley’ Sauvignon Blanc 2007
VND235,000 (Vine)
The only straight Savvy to make the eight, and the day’s surprise packet from Chile, balancing the gooseberry tropical fruits with a soft lifted palate.

4 Stars
Peppermint Grove ‘Classic Dry White’ 2007
VND180,000 (Vino)
A majority Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc and Riesling blend from regions in the South of West Australia, packed with white stone nectarine and peach.

4 Stars
Tatachilla Sauvignon Blanc Semillon 2008
VND260,000 (Vino)
Australia’s favourite white wine blend, combining the zippy tropical fruits of the Sauvignon Blanc with the lemony sherbet qualities of Semillon.

4 Stars
M. Chapoutier ‘Belleruche’ 2008
VND270,000 (Warehouse)
A great producer from the Cote du Rhone, using traditional white Grenache and Marsanne grapes, presenting a beautifully balanced and very drinkable wine.

4.5 Stars
Nederburg Shiraz 2006
VND245,000 (Bacchus Corner)
Worthy top marks from one of South Africa’s major exporters, offering plenty of dark berry fruit, elegant spice and fine tannins. All about balanced complexity.

4.5 Stars
Casillero del Diablo Cabernet Sauvignon 2008
VND265,000 (Red Apron)
Chilean all-star wine that presents subtle sweet dark cherry and blackcurrant fruit, some vanillan oak and a lick of pepper. Would easily satisfy your average wine snob.

4 Stars
St Hallett ‘Gamekeepers’ Shiraz Grenache 2007
VND260,000 (Vino)
The brother of the regarded white blend, one of the more savoury wines tasted making for an ideal spicy food accompaniment from a premium Barossa Valley producer.

4 Stars
Tatachilla Cabernet Shiraz 2006
VND260,000 (Vino)
Best said about this wine from McLaren Vale, is that it was very feminine. A compliment in that it was elegant, sexy and silky, without any over ripe fruit.

3.5 Stars
Oxford Landing Grenache Shiraz Mouvedre 2006
VND190,000 (Warehouse)
Will put my hand up here and say I did not expect this wine to show so well, but it does an amazing job for the cheapest wine of the day. An easy drink, juicy berry fruits, spice and soft as silk.

3.5 Stars
Pigmentum Malbec 2005
VND220,000 (Warehouse)
Ah yes, a wine to chew on from the interesting Cahors region of Southern France. Delivers classic earth and spice, ripe fruit, some structure, and kept getting better in the glass.

3.5 Stars
Solaz Shiraz Tempranillo 2006
VND215,000 (Tapas Wines)
A Spanish blend that works so well. The distinct blackberry Shiraz fruit with a hint of violet perfume, mixing with the earth and dusty spice of the Tempranillo.

3.5 Stars
Peppermint Grove Cabernet Sauvignon 2007
VND260,000 (Vino)
Consistent West Australian producer using fruit from the highly regarded Margaret River. Classic cassis, mocha and mint, which are Cabernet’s hallmark characters.

Thank You to the Judges
Michael Lee – writer & presenter, Wine For Life
Franck Riclot – general manager, Classic Fine Foods Vietnam
Stewart Warmbath – general director, Nine Dragons
Ashley Nichols – sommelier / consultant
Quang Thai – sub-editor, Saigon Economic Times Online

A Special Thanks to the Sponsors
Bacchus Corner - Cepage - Daloc - Kangaroo Indochine - Tapas Wine - The Warehouse - Vine - Vinifera - Vino

This article republished with the kind permission of WordHCMC


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