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In this review:
  1. Best Cheap Red Wines
  2. Cheap Cabernet, Malbec Wines
  3. Cheap Merlot, Pinot Noir, Rhone Wines
  4. Cheap Zinfandel, Rioja Wines, Syrah Wines

Rioja Wines, Syrah Wines, Zinfandel Wines

Cheap Rioja Wines.

The Tempranillo grape is the core of Rioja wines. Having made its mark in Spain, it now also grows in Mexico, Argentina, Chile, New Zealand, South Africa, Australia, and the U.S.

Cheap Rioja is a relatively light, spicy wine with flavors of berry, plum, tobacco, and herbs.

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It's not high in alcohol, and despite its distinct flavor, it's not overwhelming. Cheap Rioja wine goes particularly well with hearty food like meat, pork, and rich cheeses. Rioja is also available as a rose that serves as a good summer quaff.

The best cheap Rioja wines we found are all from Spain. Rio Madre Graciano Rioja 2012 (starting at $8) is dark, round, and full and tastes as though it's been aged in oak (it has). Bodegas Valdemar Tempranillo Rioja 2012 (starting at $10) earns an 84 rating from Wine Spectator and is aged in steel casks instead of oak, which makes it younger and livelier than other Riojas.

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Cheap Syrah Red Wines.

The Syrah grape comes from the Rhone valley in France but is now the most widely planted wine grape in Australia, where it's known as Shiraz. Syrah grapes yield wines that range from dense, elegant, and spicy to smooth and silky to sweet and plush. Syrah wine typically yields flavors of licorice and mocha, and it can be fruity or dry. Cheap Syrah wine is popular in the U.S. and provides excellent value; bloggers say it lends itself to mass production.

Two of our picks for best cheap Syrah wines are from Australia. Yellowtail Shiraz 2012 (starting at $5) presents an unusual, appealing flavor that combines cherry with chocolate notes. Bloggers at Serious Eats say it's smoky, oaky, and has good structure. Evans and Tate Split River Shiraz 2010 is recommended by bloggers at Tasted Online for its strength and intensity, soft tannins, and moderate finish, and the 2011 vintage is selling for about $10 a bottle. From Washington State, Washington Hills Syrah (starting at $9) has rich and peppery fruit flavors, vibrant acidity, and is mildly tannic.

Zinfandel Wines.

There's a lot of sugar in the Zinfandel grape, which means a wine that's relatively high in alcohol. Zinfandel is currently a hot red wine in the U.S., where its intense fruit/berry flavor with a peppery bite and earthy aromas has wide appeal. The style of a good cheap Zinfandel can range from simple and light to dense, complex, and smooth. It is an everyday wine, usually said to pair well with barbecue because the tannins can hold up to the fat in charred beef.

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Ravenswood Vinters Blend Old Vine Zinfandel 2011 (starting at $6) is a medium-bodied wine that's juicy and not too sweet, a perfect pair with grilled meats, writes a blogger while others say it suits pizza because of the bold flavor; it earns 87 points from Wine Spectator. Woodbridge by Robert Mondavi Private Selection Zinfandel 2010 (starting at $8) is another easy-drinking, medium-bodied red but contains a slightly sweet note and not a lot of depth. Gnarly Head Old Vine Zinfandel (starting at $8) won a bloggers' competition versus the Ravenswood when paired with barbecued ribs because its stronger tannins and pepperiness cut through the robust flavor of the ribs.

by Elizabeth Sheer (Google+ Profile)

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Filed in: Alcohol, Champagne, Christmas,

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