In the distant past, when times were hard in the Piedmont, it is rumored than Barolo producers would often add a bit of Barbera to the mix to get a darker color and a more accessible tannic structure. Today, as Barolo has taken its place as one of the top wines in the world, such a practice would be considered disgraceful. Barolo (and Barbaresco) must be 100% Nebbiolo. This wine, a blend of 50% Nebbiolo and 50% Barbera, sells for less than half the price of Barolo. Yet there is no denying its incredible charm. Beautiful deep ruby with minimal orange tones that are typical of Nebbiolo. The bouquet, though, is as Nebbiolo as anyone would want. Lilting scents of flowers, ripe cherries, dark spices and a hint of clove. These carry over to the flavors and there is no tannic wall to keep them from flowing freely from the front to the back of the mouth. If barriques have been used in aging, I can't find any evidence. The Vinum Langhe Rosso is a beautiful wine for drinking now, and I suspect that it will keep going for at least five more yeajrs.
My focus in this blog is on inexpensive wines made for every day enjoyment--generally wines costing less than $10 to $15 a bottle. While the majority of wines at this price level are manufactured for mass consumption, there are still many made by artisans, winemakers concerned about producing a wine that's harmonious, flavorful and true to tradition rather than current trends. These are the wines I seek out and drink.
I have been enjoying wine since the late 1970s. My pleasure lies not in chasing the highly touted wines but finding little known, inexpensive wines made by artisans. My favorite wine regions are the Southern Rhone in France, the Piedmont in Italy, the Willamette Valley in Oregon and the Anderson Valley in California.
The best site I know for information about Rhone wines is DrinkRhone.com by John Livingstone-Learmonth, who has written several of my long-time favorite books on both the Northern and Southern Rhone. Use of the site requires paying a fee of about $25 a year, but I get my money's worth many times over. https://drinkrhone.com/
My go-to source for information on Piedmont wines is Kerin O'Keefe, author of the excellent book, Barolo and Barbaresco: The King and Queen of Italian Wine. Kerin also critiques Italian wines for Wine Enthusiast. I find Wine Enthusiast reviews for nearly all wine areas to be particularly reliable. Google winemag for WE reviews.
Chris Kissack, an English physician, has a good grasp of French wines, particuarly those from the Loire Valley and Bordeaux. His wine site also requires a fee. : http://www.thewinedoctor.com/
Jacqueline Friedrich's book on Wines and Foods of the Loire Valley is a favorite of mine. She also runs an interesting, albeit a bit unusual, wine site: http://www.jacquelinefriedrich.com/
Since the early 1980s, Village Corner in Ann Arbor has been my primary source of wine and wine information. The store was closed for awhile but has now re-opened in a new location on Plymouth Road: http://www.villagecorner.com/
If you read this blog fairly regularly, you've probably figured out that it's mainly a diary of the wines I drink every night with dinner. You're invited to share them vicariously with me, if you wish. Artisan Wine on a Budget is admittedly an act of self indulgence. My wines and my views about those wines are ultimately not all that important to anyone but me. The act of writing helps me understand and appreciate the wines on a different level, and I enjoy that. I should make it clear that I am not ranking nor recommending these wines. They are not necessarily the best wines nor the best values. They are simply the wines I enjoy for the reasons that I state. Although I have been tasting and enjoying wines for about 30 years, that doesn't qualify me for any special expertise or critical judgment. In fact, it may have locked me into certain biases that you have probably already discovered. The product of my self indulgence, however, is an ever-growing collection of tasting notes, which I trust will be useful. As a wine lover, I spend a good part of my life searching for tasting notes on wines--those I haven't tasted and those I have. I want to compare notes with others who enjoy wine. When I agree with the taster, whoever it may be, I gloat; when I disagree, I move on to find someone who has tastes closer to my own.