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How to drink well on a budget: my tips for the best-value wine regions

Steer clear of the classic regions
Within each wine region, or 'appelation', there are both good and bad producers. If you head for the cheaper wines from classic regions such as Bordeaux or Burgundy, you are unlikely to find bargains. Rather, you'll pick up the wines from underperforming and consequently cheaper producers. Supermarkets often have to have a 'Chablis', 'Sancerre', 'Mersault', 'St Emilion' or 'Volnay' in their ranges, and these 'names' are often bought not for their quality but to meet price points. There is rarely value for money to be found in Chablis at £5.99 or a Mersault for £8.99, and the chances are that by going for a name, rather than a well known producer, you could be encountering a truly nasty wine.

South America is often good value under £6
If you want a joy-filled inexpensive wine with clean, bold fruit flavours and good concentration, Chilean and Argentinean wines are worth checking out. Chile makes good Chardonnay, improving Sauvignon blanc and blackcurrant-laced Cabernet Sauvignon, while Argentina excels with Malbec and the flowery, spicy Torrontés grape. Avoid white wines more than a couple of years old, and bear in mind that the 1998 vintage in Chile and in particular Argentina was not a terribly successful one. Chile is now beginning to produce some interesting high-end wines, but to my palate these lack some of the complexity that you might expect considering their elevated prices.

But to get great value in Australian wines you have to pay a little more
Not so long ago Australian wines were real bargains, but a series of price hikes coupled with a shortage of top quality red grapes has pushed many of these value wines up into the next price bracket. My advice is to bypass sub £5 Australian wines, which can tend to be rather industrial concoctions. Instead, Australia still offers great value in the £7-£12 price bracket if you are relatively selective.

Portugal and the South of France are the new hot wine regions
Some exciting wines are now being made in the South of France. In general, it is best to avoid the new wave varietals made from immigrants such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay and Sauvignon blanc. Look for wines made from indigenous varieties such as Syrah, Mourvèdre, Grenache and old-vine Carignan by conscientious producers looking to fulfil the potential of regions such as Pic Saint-Loup, Montpeyroux, Faugeres, Roussillon and Corbières. Prices are remarkably fair, and you frequently get authentic, complex wines not just about primary fruit. With its myriad of unique grape varieties, underachieving wine regions and old vines, Portugal is a fascinating wine country that is at last beginning to express some of its latent potential to make marvellously original fine wines. While there are still many poorly made coop wines on the market, quality minded producers are making excellent wines that often sell for very fair prices. Portugal is definitely a happy hunting ground for those wine lovers who are looking for good value for money and who have become bored with the increasingly standardised 'international' wines that dominate the sub-£8 sector.

Smart buying strategies
When it comes to inexpensive, everyday wines there are some buying strategies that can help to keep costs down. Many high street multiples such as Oddbins and Bottoms up offer 10% case discounts. Supermarkets usually offer 5% off six. Many wines also undergo regular promotions, funded by the wholesalers and not the retailer. For example, one of our 'house wines' is Lindemans Bin 65, which although normally retailing for £4.99 but is regularly promoted for £3.99. It's a good idea to stock up on wines like this when they are on offer.