Balancing the budget after the flurry of year end parties and gift-giving can induce bigger headaches than excessive New Year’s celebrating. A small step in the direction of easing the monetary strain, at least for a few weeks, is to try some of the “lower” priced wines available in most retail shops.

The quotation marks on “lower” are a reminder that wines in Thailand are as much as three times more expensive than in neighboring SE Asian countries due to excessive excise taxation. Even the fruit wine tax loophole, which spawned a flood of Bt200 to Bt300 priced wines to which various fruit juices have been added, is now gradually closing. Bump your sights up a couple of hundred baht when buying some of the following suggestions. Your palate and your budget will thank you.

South America led by Chile is the world’s leading source of reliable quality varietal wines in the moderate price category according to most critics. Major producers like Concha y Toro, Chile’s largest winery, make very palatable cabernet, merlot and chardonnay priced in the Bt500 to Bt600 range for everyday enjoyment. As with all major wineries they also offer premium level wines including their Don Melchor cabernet which in select vintages exceeds Bt10,000 a bottle, but that’s another story.

Additional Chilean brands with reliable selections under Bt800 and readily available in local wine sections include Anakena, Carmen, Cono Sur, Santa Carolina, Montes and Las Vascos. Argentina has also come-of-age on the global wine stage with not only their now famous Mendoza region malbecs but also their palate pleasing cabernet, merlot and chardonnay. Sensible value can be found from producers Salentein, Montes, Kaiken, Trapiche and Catena.

Australian wines substantially outnumber all others imported to Thailand and dominate the market for consistency in the middle price category. Every region from Riverina-Griffith to Barossa Valley to Margaret River offers options to satisfy daily wine pleasure at sensible prices. Even Penfolds, famed for its Bt40,000 plus Grange, offers popularly priced Koonunga Hill varietals and blends in the Bt800 category.

Probably most famous among all Aussie wines for on-a-budget consumption in Thailand is Jacob’s Creek from Barossa Valley. Owned by French drinks giant Pernod-Ricard the entry level Jacob’s Creek red and white wines are in every 7/11 store in Thailand giving them vast visibility. If they aren’t to your taste keep in mind that the winery’s reserve and Double Barrel selections which are still in the budget category but offer substantially more complexity.

Close to Jacob’s Creek in ubiquitous distribution is Hardy’s with their multiple price ranges and corporation style consistency. Their Nottage Hill line is reliable and moderately priced. Lindemans, Wolf Blass and Yellow Tail can also bring smiles both for price and reliable quality. If you try all or most of these budget balancing options and don’t find happiness better switch to beer! Chokdee.