Cheap and Cheerful: Vegan Wines from Oxford Landing

Cheap and Cheerful: Vegan Wines from Oxford Landing

I have basically given up on wines under $20.

That sounds dreadfully snobby of me – and it is – but it’s also a reflection of the cost of wine in Alberta.

When I first started in the wine industry, something like 18 years ago now, I remember finding lots of great value wines under $20. Granted, I was also a noob wine drinker with a noob palate, so I wasn’t nearly as picky as I am now.

But it’s not just my palate that has changed to demand more expensive wines; the cost of everything has gone up a lot in the last two decades. According to an online inflation calculator, $15 in 2003 (when I started my first job at a wine shop), would be equivalent to $22.36 now, in 2021. That’s a cumulative price increase of 49%. 

That actually makes a lot of sense from what I’ve experienced. I generally don’t spend less than $25 on a bottle nowadays because it feels like taking too much of a gamble. You can certainly find some value gems under that threshold, but it’s kind of like playing Russian roulette. That end of the market is saturated with wines of wildly varying quality, so you really have to do some research to make sure you don’t end up with a stinker. (And even then, you might anyway.)

So I was admittedly skeptical about the Oxford Landing wines out of Australia, which all retail for around around $15. (I just double checked this – Wine and Beyond has them listed at $16.99 at the time of writing.) 

Photo c/o Oxford Landing

So colour me surprised when I found this line of wines quite pleasant!

None of Oxford Landing’s wines will knock you off your feet or stand out as particularly captivating. But they are very approachable and easy drinking wines. 

What I found most impressive about them was that they didn’t taste “cheap” to me. You know what I’m talking about: wines with those sickly sweet fruit flavours and gross vanilla candy overtones, that taste like a headache in a glass. 

I would describe these wines as varietally accurate. They are solid entry-level examples of what these grapes usually taste like. They aren’t fancy and they aren’t weird. I can get behind that.

Photo c/o Oxford Landing

It’s not a coincidence that these wines are made with some techniques that fall along the spectrum of “natural” (whatever that word even means). The winery website says they use wild fermentation with native yeasts (partly, not necessarily for the whole batch), blending with barrel-aged wines, and gentle handling of the juice. The wines are also all vegan. I take such claims with a grain of salt, especially nowadays given that all of these descriptions have become so buzzy, but I do see the influence of these practices in these particular wines.

I would not go so far as to call these natural wines – and the winery doesn’t either, for the record – but they definitely don’t taste like the super commercial, generic wines that I would expect at such a price point.

Below are my brief notes on each of the bottles I tried. All of these would be great choices for when you want something cheap and cheerful, if you’re on a budget, if you’re taking it to a gathering, or you just want to try something new.  

Name: Oxford Landing Sauvignon Blanc 
Vintage: 2020
Region: Riverland, South Australia
Grape: 100% Sauvignon Blanc
Taste: Melon, fresh grass, lemon pith
Texture: Clean, simple and spritzy

Name: Oxford Landing Chardonnay
Vintage: 2020
Region: Riverland, South Australia
Grape: 100% Chardonnay
Taste: Ripe peach, lemon, hint of vanilla and cinnamon
Texture: Citrusy mid-palate with some malolactic yeasty-ness on the finish

Photo c/o Oxford Landing

Name: Oxford Landing Merlot 
Vintage: 2019
Region: Riverland, South Australia
Grape: 100% Merlot
Taste: Red plum, milk chocolate powder, nutmeg
Texture: Simple and a bit rustic, slightly cloying

Name: Oxford Landing Shiraz
Vintage: 2018
Region: Riverland, South Australia
Grape: 100% Shiraz
Taste: Blueberry, vanilla oak
Texture: Fruity without going far into Too Fruity territory 

Name: Oxford Landing Cabernet Sauvignon
Vintage: 2019
Region: Riverland, South Australia
Grape: 100% Cabernet Sauvignon 
Taste: Red fruits and dried herbs
Texture: Slightly austere, straightforward fruit and gentle tannins

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