Cheap Wine That Doesn't Suck

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Familiarity, sometimes, breeds content. Take Castello di Gabbiano. The wines of this 900-year-old Tuscan winery are as ubiquitous as bad drivers on I-95, stocking the shelves of just about every place from mass-market grocers to tiny neighborhood wine shops. So it's easy to look down our long, snooty wine noses and sniff something about grape juice for peasants. 

Most sniffable of all are two of Gabbiano's wines most recognizable in the U.S. -- Chianti and Pinot Grigio. I haven't always been a fan of Gabbiano's lower-end Chiantis, which seem to range from passably drinkable to thin and weedy, though at around twice the price ($23, more or less), the black label Chianti Classico Riserva is not only a good value but a usually excellent wine to boot.  

I've been even less of a fan of inexpensive Pinot Grigio, which typically translates from Italian as "not quite as tasty as tap water but acceptable to people who don't really like wine." But here's the familiarity = content part: I just tasted Gabbiano's 2008 Pinot Grigio and -- kazoot! -- it's a really lovely wine. 

In other words, it's got some gonads. Take a whiff and you get nice lemon, green apple, and mineral aromas; take a sip and it really opens up in your mouth, with the expected lemon-lime crispness and smoky/mineraly nuances but also with floral notes and hints of melon and pear that give your taste buds something to hang onto. At $10 and available just about everywhere, that's some contentment.

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