I’ve said this before, but anyone with a big bank account can spend big money on big, delicious wines. But where is the fun in that? When it comes to wine-buying, I get a thrill out of finding delicious wines at prices that won’t put me in the poorhouse. It’s a rush to pour someone a glass of wine from an $8 bottle and have them think I spent $40! So, here are some super value wines from around the world that I’ve enjoyed. Get ’em while they’re cheap.
French wine tends to be pricey, but you can often finds bargains in wines from regions like the Rhône or Languedoc-Roussillon, for example. For five generations, France’s Perrin family has been making Rhône wines, most famously at their Château de Beaucastel. Famille Perrin wines are extremely consistent and of excellent quality, and I was recently bowled over by Famille Perrin Côtes du Rhône Reserve Rouge ($11.99) and Côtes du Rhône Reserve Blanc ($10.99). The red is soft, light-bodied and friendly, with much complexity and earthiness—a very good Côtes du Rhône. Perrin’s white Côtes du Rhône Reserve is Grenache Blanc-based, with lots of minerality and fruity flavors of peaches, pear and melon—an exceptional value.
Meanwhile, over in Italy, Maculan Pino & Toi ($13.99) is a lovely little white wine from the Veneto. Perfect for springtime on the patio, this is a blend of 60 percent Tai (formerly called Tocai Friulano), 25 percent Pinot Bianco and 15 percent Pinot Grigio. It’s intensely aromatic, with frilly floral aromas, but crisp and clean on the palate—a nice match for veggie risotto or grilled chicken.
Next stop: Spain, for a bargain-basement-priced Tempranillo. Rivarey Crianza Tempranillo ($7.99) from Rioja is a penny-pincher’s dream wine, with surprisingly round texture for the price, easy-drinking soft tannins and black-cherry flavors that would be well suited to your next barbecue.
Let’s head to the New World with a stop in Argentina. Malbec and Argentina are virtually synonymous, and here are two good, reasonably priced ones. Vina San Esteban Reserve Malbec is a terrific bang-for-the-buck at $9.99. It’s very fruit-forward, with concentrated dark-currant and black-cherry flavors. For a few more bucks, step up to La Posta Malbec, Pizzella Family Vineyard ($17.99) and its juicy raspberry, red-cherry and plum flavors with hints of caramel. Either would be a good partner for grilled meats. Another great value wine from Argentina is Torrontés. I love the floral qualities of Torrontés, and Finca La Linda Torrontés ($11.75) is no exception, with its lavender and rose notes. Like most Torrontes, this has pretty peach and pear flavors, with hints of tropical fruits.
From Chile’s Casablanca Valley, it’s hard to beat the elegant Reserva Pinot Noir from Ventisquero winery ($12.99). Strawberry and cherry flavors dominate this silky Pinot, with sweet hints of vanilla from aging in French oak. It’s a slam-dunk with salmon.
Frankly, I was surprised at how much I liked an eight-buck Sauvignon Blanc from South Australia’s Oxford Landing Estates ($7.99). It’s crisp and lively, with classic Sauvignon Blanc gooseberry notes mingling with pineapple and herbs; a nice, affordable wine to pair with shellfish.
The Mondavi name means quality, and Marc Mondavi’s The Divining Rod Chardonnay ($12.99) has it in spades. It’s named for Marc’s talents as a “water witch”; as a teen he discovered the ability to use divining rods to locate water sources. Well, this wine is a divine one: unoaked, with tropical-fruit aromas and flavors mixing with brioche—a gorgeous example of California Chardonnay.