By Elin McCoy, Bloomberg
THIS YEAR, I’m happy to report, it’s easier than ever to buy great wines without spending a fortune. From my tastings, I’ve chosen 50 wines that cost under $50 a bottle — and deliver both value and sheer deliciousness for the price.
I could have picked many, many more.
For example, while Oregon is known for pinot noir, I found stellar bargains among its chardonnays and rieslings. Besides superb sauvignon blancs, New Zealand excels at other whites and reds at good prices. Rieslings from everywhere continue to remain undervalued for quality, as are less-known varieties such as Carignane that are making a comeback. Entry level and second wines from the best estates almost always offer top value, especially among the Bordeaux from the 2015 vintage now arriving on retail shelves.
As always, shop around to save. This is the season, above all, for the lowest prices on sparkling wine and Champagne.
For top inexpensive sparkling wine, look outside Champagne. There are more delicious cuvées from around the world than ever.
• NV Ninth Island Cuvee ($22) — Cool Tasmania has become a source of excellent bubbles. This chardonnay-heavy blend is lemony and refreshing.
• NV Francois Pinon Petillant Naturel Rosé ($23) — Pét-nats are no longer geek wines. This fresh, pretty, creamy example from the Loire Valley has tart fruit flavors, with a mineral kick.
• 2012 Barone Pizzini Franciacorta Rose Brut ($30) — Made with certified organic grapes, this bright salmon-colored bubbly from Italy is juicy and berry-tinged, with bright complexity.
• 2015 Raventos i Blanc Conca del Riu Anoia de la Finca Brut ($32) — This chalky, lively, edgy fizz from one of Spain’s best sparkling-wine producers is from Raventos i Blanc’s oldest vines. A step up from its delicious (and cheaper) blanc de blancs.
• 2014 Maximin Grunhauser Sekt Brut Riesling ($42) — Rieslingsekt, Germany’s sparkling wine, is just being discovered in the US. This one, from a famous producer, won’t disappoint Champagne lovers.
WHEN ONLY CHAMPAGNE WILL DO
Non-vintage blends from less-known grower-producers — specifically ones that rely on their own vineyards for grapes — are typically the best bet for value.
• NV Piper Heidsieck ($40) — In the past few years, bubbly from this widely available brand has really started performing. This cuvée has fruity charm and toasty aromas.
• AR Lenoble Brut Intense Mag 14 ($40) — The fresh, bright new cuvée of chardonnay, pinot noir, and pinot meunier contains 40% of reserve wines for more vibrancy and complexity.
• NV Pierre Paillard Les Parcelles Bouzy Extra Brut ($44) — This very pure, delicate, precise blend of pinot noir and chardonnay, from the grand cru area of Bouzy, exudes elegance.
• NV Christophe Mignon Brut Nature Pur Meunier ($50) — New to me, this under-the-radar producer specializes in Champagne’s third grape, pinot meunier. It’s fragrant and rich.
• NV Louis Roederer Brut Premier ($50) — The creamy, drink-me entry-level fizz from the maker of Cristal is the top non-vintage brut from a grande marque Champagne house.
ROSÉ IS A YEAR-ROUND THING
• 2017 Liquid Geography Rosé ($12) — Made from mencia grapes grown in Spain’s Bierzo region, this delicious, berryish, dry rosé is also a feel-good bargain: All profits go to charity.
• 2017 A.A. Badenhorst Secateurs Rosé ($16) — Crisp, tangy, and strawberry-scented, this South African rosé from a cutting-edge wine maker’s second label is always a reliable deal.
• 2017 Jolie-Laide Rosé de Valdiguié ($30) — Rosé is so popular that it’s being made from just about every red grape. This food-friendly old vine valdiguié example is perfect year-round.
• 2017 Pierre-Yves Colin-Morey Rosé of Pinot Noir ($35) — A Burgundian star noted for his sensational whites, Colin-Morey now also makes a savory, pretty rosé.
• 2016 Mouton-Cadet Blanc ($12) — Intensely fruity, this easy drinking, big-brand sauvignon blanc blend is the ideal refrigerator white.
• 2016 Momo Sauvignon Blanc ($15) — A crisp New Zealand sauvignon blanc is everyone’s go-to white; this one from famed Seresin Estate offers lovely ripe nectarine flavors.
• 2015 Royal Tokaji The Oddity Furmint ($19) — Dry furmint from Hungary continues to win fans. The Oddity brilliantly shows off the grape’s crisp minerality.
• 2016 Chateau Guiraud Le G Bordeaux Blanc Sec ($20) — Sweet wines are not in great demand, so sauternes châteaux have been shifting more production to bone-dry, brilliant examples such as this one.
• 2017 Tasca d’Almerita Fondazione Whitaker Grillo Mozia ($22) — From a historic vineyard on a tiny island off Sicily, this fantastic, refreshing white from grillo grapes has an earthy, salty-air character.
• 2015 Cune Rioja Blanco Seco Monopole Clasico ($26) — The winery’s long-abandoned, old-style white included a bit of Manzanilla sherry; this is a zesty, deep, complex remake.
• 2017 Weingut Keller Riesling Limestone ($29) — One of Germany’s top producers, Keller makes rieslings to savor. This juicy, round entry level wine just dances on the tongue.
• 2016 Sylvain Pataille Aligoté ($30) — The other white grape of Burgundy, aligoté, remains a hot item at wine bars. Pataille is a master of the grape.
• 2016 Matthiasson Linda Vista Chardonnay ($30) — Steve Matthiasson is a leader of the new style, more-restrained California wine movement. This mineral-laced chardonnay is his most affordable bottle.
• 2016 Early Mountain Petit Manseng ($32) — The second vintage of this round, honeyed, orange-scented white illustrates the grape’s potential in Virginia.
• 2015 Domaine du Closel Savennieres La Jalousie ($34) — This classic chenin blanc, from a little-known appellation in the Loire Valley, is serious and sophisticated, with bright notes of peaches.
• 2016 Grochau Cellars Bunker Hill Chardonnay ($36) — Known best for pinot noir, Oregon is fast becoming a source of lively chardonnays such as this silky, lemony example.
• 2016 Envinate Palo Blanco ($40) — The newest wine from an exciting Spanish winery is made from listan blanco grapes in the Canary Islands. It’s delicate, citrusy, and salty.
• 2017 Spottswoode Sauvignon Blanc ($45) — Long one of the most sophisticated whites in Napa, it balances juiciness, complex lime, chalk and herb flavors, and lush texture.
• 2017 Bodegas Lanzaga LZ Rioja ($17) — This cuvée from Spanish innovator Telmo Rodriguez over-delivers, with loads of bright fruit and licorice overtones.
• 2015 La Valentina Spelt Montepulciano d’Abruzzo Riserva DOC ($21) — Smoky, smooth, and multilayered, this rich red packs real depth and elegance at a bargain price.
• 2016 Domaine de Fa Beaujolais En Besset ($22) — The sons of cult Crozes Hermitage producer Alain Graillot are now making Beaujolais. This cuvée is vibrant and subtle, with lots of spice and fruity flavors.
• 2015 Calder Wine Co. Carignane Mendocino ($28) — Once a bulk-blend red grape, Carignane is making a splash. This one from a rising-star winery is dark and savory, with an iron tang.
• 2017 Keep Wines Yount Mill Pinot Meunier ($28) — Just about everything I’ve tasted from this new Napa producer is terrific, but this plump, earthy-fruity red has an I’m-all-yours sexiness — and at only 11.75% alcohol.
• 2015 Mount Veeder Winery Cabernet Sauvignon ($32) — It’s surprising to find such a satisfying, plush, crowd-pleasing Napa cabernet today for this price.
• 2015 Trinity Hill Black Label Syrah Gimblett Gravels ($32) — Syrah is the third-most-planted variety in New Zealand. Those from Gimblett Gravels, such as this one, show peppery, dark fruit and a spine of acidity.
• 2015 COS Frappato ($34) — This lively Sicilian red has knockout aromas of roses and wild strawberries, spicy fruit flavors, and a silky texture.
• 2014 Meerlust Rubicon ($35) — A South African classic, this satiny, spicy, earth-and-fruit cabernet blend is wonderfully velvety and harmonious.
• 2015 Quinta do Ataide Vinha da Arco Douro Red ($35) — The Symington family, famed for port, just launched a new label. The top wine, made from touriga nacional grapes, is scented, deep, and seamless.
• 2016 David Moreau Maranges Rouges ($40) — Can’t kick your Burgundy cravings despite the prices? The answer is a pure village pinot noir, such as this one from a talented, young producer.
• 2015 Domaine Eden Pinot Noir ($40) — This alluring, subtle, and succulent wine was served at the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. There’s still some around.
• 2015 Planeta Santa Cecilia Nero d’Avola ($42) — Though Mount Etna wines are having a moment, the rest of Sicily has dozens of superb wines, such as this spicy, plummy, licorice-laced red.
• 2015 Le Parde de Haut-Bailly ($44) — This plush, elegant second wine from Château Haut-Bailly shows just what a good buy Bordeaux second wines are in this stellar vintage.
• 2016 Donnafugata Ben Rye Passito di Pantelleria ($45, half bottle) — On the idyllic Sicilian island of Pantelleria, zibibbo grapes make lush, sweet wines with fantastic aromas of apricots and candied orange peel.
• 2014 Lagier Meredith Precious Bane ($48) — The second vintage of the winery’s spicy chocolate-y sweet syrah is fortified, like port.
• 2014 Domaine de la Coume du Roy Maury Rouge ($25, 500 ml bottle) — This velvety smooth fortified wine, made from grenache grapes, has a mellow sweetness that pairs fabulously with blue cheese.
• 2015 Château Doisy-Daene ($40) — Brighter, lighter, and fresher than many Bordeaux sweet wines, it has wonderful notes of honey and ginger.
WINE GEEKS ONLY
• 2017 Viñatigo Marmajuelo Blanco ($25) — Round, tropically fragrant, and positively gulpable, this wine made in the Canary Islands from a rare white variety also has a vivid smoky minerality.
• 2016 Bosman Fides Grenache Blanc (orange) ($26) — Light amber in color, this skin-fermented white is from the South African winery’s experimental line. It’s orange-peel-scented and assertive.
• 2011 Navazos-Niepoort Vino Blanco ($30) — The palomino grape is used to make sherry, but two top Iberian wine makers collaborated to use it for this dry, fresh, mineral white.
• 2016 Two Lads Cabernet Franc ($35) — From the Old Mission Peninsula in Michigan, this savory, spicy wine will change your mind about the wine potential of the Midwest.