Snob warning: if your default wine is Jacob's Creek, read this
I'll come right out and say it: Jacob's Creek is Chetan Bhagat. A masterpiece of branding loved by a few, dismissed by most, but that still shows up in public life oftener than it should.
I don't personally have anything against either, I just want neither at my dinner table. Unfortunately, while my social life has remained fabulously Bhagat-free, the same can't be said of the wine.
My problem with Jacob's Creek isn't that it's terrible - it's not - but that it's ordinary. Yet, it has managed to slide into the position of 'default foreign wine to serve when there's more than 10 people present', often to the exasperation of those very guests. I realise wine can be an expensive proposition, so for frequent or large-scale consumption a well-priced bottle is key.
It's just time to expand that universe to other labels because there is, in fact, pretty good, reasonably priced wine out there. If you love your JC, by all means stick with it. If not, here are five recommendations to get you started.
False Bay Pinotage, Rs 1,450
The cellarmaster at False Bay wines in South Africa has done stints in Australia, New Zealand and Chablis. It shows in the wine, and not just the Pinotage, a cross between Pinot Noir and Cinsault grapes. If you're a white drinker, their 2012 Chenin Blanc is great value, while the Chardonnay has an underlying influence of Chablis that makes it a far more interesting wine than you'd normally find in this price range.
Yellow Tail Rose, Casella Estate, Rs 1,400
Superb value, this rose has strong hints of Merlot rich with the flavour of plums. Perfect for hot summer afternoons, it's at once mildly sweet yet crisp. Easy on the palate, you'll definitely find yourself drinking more of this than you intended.
Chandon Brut & Chandon Rose Brut, Rs 1,200-Rs 1,400
Sparkling wines under the Chandon label, priced to beat anything of comparable quality. Once you're clear that Chandon Brut is not champagne, you start to judge it for what it is - and what it is, is pretty amazing value. Moet & Chandon are arguably the world's most popular producers of champagne, and they've brought that heritage and experience to this wine. It's a win-win.
Mike Tango Bravo, Costaflores Vineyards, Rs 1,100
The curious name is just the beginning; this Argentinian wine has a whole lot more going for it, including value pricing. A blend of two grape varietals, the popular Malbec and the less-known Torrontes, this is a certified organic vineyard, if that is on your list of concerns. The white, a 100% Torrentes, is fresh, zesty and perfect for a summer evening.
Sula's Dindori Shiraz 2011, Rs 900
If you turn up your nose at Indian labels, know that you're passing up a wine that the respected Wine Enthusiast magazine picked among their top 100 wines for 2014. Racking up 91 points out of 100, the wine came in 25th on the list. Over 17,500 wines were reviewed based on factors including price, region and varietals.
Not found your favourite? Download Hipcask, an easy-to-use phone app developed by oenophiles Aneesh Bhasin and Shiladitya Mukhopadhyaya with listings, pricing, rankings and pairing suggestions for both domestic and international wine. It's your new secret weapon when confronted by a smirking salesguy and a rack of seemingly indistinguishable bottles.
As for you, Jacob's Creek, no hard feelings. I'll buy you a drink to prove it.
Prices are approximate and vary across cities