One of the great advantages of writing a blog about wines that cost $10 or less is that guests often bring such wines to dinner parties and introduce you to bottles, regions, or grapes that you might not know.
We had some friends here for dinner, and one guest who reads the blog religiously brought a three-pack as a house-warming gift. It contained:
Casata Monticello Barbera D'Alba 2008, a red table wine from northwest Italy;
Loma Gorda 2005 from the Santa Quiteria co-op in the Almansa region in the southeast of Spain and, like the Barbera, grown close to the Mediterranean; and
Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi Classico, an Italian white table wine from the Adriatic (east) side of Tuscany.
Verdicchio wine often comes in a signature hourglass or vase-form green amphora bottle and is often described as Italy's best white to serve with fish. The Verdicchio was a serviceable sipping white, but our least favorite of the three. (It should be noted that we're not big fans of most Italian whites—either too watery or too grassy-sharp.)
Ruth's favorite was the Barbera D'Alba. Just as its name implies, it is made with barbera (Nebbiolo) grapes from the area around the town of Alba in the Piedmont of northwestern Italy. If you drew lines between Turin, Genoa and Nice, Alba would be in the middle of the triangle.
The somewhat warmer climate than the nearby Barolo means earlier picking, lighter constitution and less complexity than Barolo. Thus it's a bit less expensive, but also a very easy drinking wine that would be good with most foods.
Tim's favorite was the Loma Gorda 2005 from Spain. It is made with two-thirds garnacha tintorera grapes (65%) and Syrah (Shiraz in Australia) makes up the other third.
If you like the strong hint of vanilla, with some tart fruit, in your red wine, this is the wine for you. Lots of flavor for the price. Wine Review Online rated it with an 88. Robert Parker gave it an 87. This is an unknown wine from a little-known region, but definitely worth a try.