Wines with personality. Is that too much to ask for these days? It can be if you expect to leave your local wine shop spending less than $10. It’s not so much that one cannot unearth quaffable table wines that will make do for the evening at that price, but if you want it to be more than just another flavored beverage, unfortunately, you have to lay down just a few more dollars.
The good news? There are several wines under $25 that are not only interesting, but they contain character and complexity that is astounding for the price. They deliver so much more than the dollars drawn on their tags might indicate. It’s not easy, in this economy, to bring home a Grand Cru Bordeaux or Burgundy, but with a little bit of insight, you can still enjoy incredible wines that have integrity and purpose everyday of the week.
People continuously ask me what I recommend. Here are a few of my favorites. It’s rather lengthy, so I suggest scrolling through the selections and reading up on the ones that seem to call your name…
2007 Selbach-Oster Zeltinger Sonnenuhr Kabinett Riesling ($22.99) Poetry in a bottle, as Robert Louis Stevenson might say. A well-made, elegant Riesling is like that, such as this selection from Selbach-Oster. Pulled from Grand Cru vineyards, these grapes come to articulate the essence of the Mosel. Without reserve, this well-balanced white blossoms with rich notes of ripened apples, vanilla, and above all else magnanimous mineral depth that discloses the slatey soils of this region. Seamless and sophisticated. Classic and consistent. A gem. Not to mention, Riesling is one of the most versatile food pairing wines.
2007 Joseph Drouhin Saint Veran ($15.99) Corton-Charlemagne may be the wine you are craving, but having it on the table every night is hardly a reality. Instead, reach for this Chardonnay from the Maconnais subregion of Burgundy. For the price, it never fails to deliver that Burgundy itch you are seeking to scratch, even if only for temporary relief until you can climb the crus. Light lemon notes, wet stones, and white flowers greet the nose and are confirmed on the palate. Wonderful with crab, mussels, and shrimp.
2007 Domaine du Salvard Cheverny ($14.99) Beginning on the eastern edge of Touraine, this quaint little Loire appellation of Cheverny is not far from the popular Sancerre region. Cheverny, however, offers flinty, mineral-driven whites at a fraction of Sancerre’s prices! Continually recognized for their consistency and great value, the Delailles have been growing grapes at Domaine du Salvard for over 100 years using sustainable practices. This blend of Sauvignon Blanc (85%) and Chardonnay (15%) sees no oak, so the fruit and minerals are very pronounced on the palate. Some time spent on its lees gives it additional structure in the mouth. A fantastic wine to enjoy with appetizers, poultry, and seafood.
2007 Sineann Gewurztraminer ($17.99) Hands down one of the finest domestic Gewurztraminers on the market today. Enticing stone fruits, lychee nut and flowers embrace the nose. It lays fairly heavy on the tongue with rich flavors of tropical fruit and subtle minerality. Fully appreciated with exotic spiced dishes, such as Thai green curry soup and cilantro-kissed Pad Thai, as well as sautéed foie gras, pork tenderloin, and mild cheeses.
2007 Chehalem Pinot Gris ($17.99) Simply divine. This Pinot Gris from Oregon plays a tune that sounds of Alsace, France, displaying rich notes of ripened pears and honeysuckle that are careful not to play over the soft mineral utterances. This grape excels in Oregon and is fast becoming a favorite on many tables. Stunning with butternut squash dishes, risottos, white fish, and muenster cheese.
2008 Bieler Pere et Fils Rose ($10.99) A classic Provencial blend of Grenache, Syrah, and Cinsault, this delightful sipper is laced with delicate strawberry aromas, lavender, and citrus. This rose also demonstrates decent acidity, making it ideal for pairing with spicy Thai cuisine, pesto dishes, and garden fresh salads.
2006 Domaine des Tours ($18.99) If what you seek is old world, look no further. This wine is exceptional. It is possibly the best value on the market! You actually feel fortunate with every sip that there is a red with such character and depth at this price. Dirt, mineral, dried cherries, and lavender are just the beginning. Dried flowers, herbs, cranberries, garrigue and smoke unravel thereafter. From the Reynaud family who handles such estates as Fonsalette and Chateau Rayas, this blend from Vaucluse tells the story of history, family, and the Rhone Valley. It forces you to slow down and think. Truly exquisite.
2002 Lopez de Heredia ($26.99) There is a reason some of the greatest wine writers, critics, and enthusiasts have fallen in love with this winery specifically. There, quite literally, is nothing like it in Rioja anymore. Modern winemaking techniques have supplanted much of how wine in Rioja used to be made. Lopez is unique, because little to nothing has changed since it was found in the late 1800’s. They still run their own cooperage, handcrafting all the barrels that are used to age their wines from American oak from the Appalachians. They also age the wines for you. They decide when it is time for consumption. This 2002 is a current release from their Cubillo vineyard—one of four Lopez vineyards. This clayish-limestone land sees Tempranillo, Garnacha, Mazuelo, and a little Graciano in the way of grapes. It exhibits age and wisdom, you may compare to older Bordeaux, along with dried cherry fruit, well-woven spices, and a dusty quality. It has a wise voice with thoughtful inflections. It is extremely smooth and can be consumed with a variety of cured meats, cheeses, and tapas.
2006 Barrel 27 Syrah ($18.99) Founded on friendship and hard work, this is a winery that realizes the importance of wine’s role in quality of life. They believe in the value of a hard-earned dollar and therefore strive to make the best wine they can at the most affordable price possible. This is an incredible expression of Central Coast California Syrah. Full-bodied and laden with layers of smoked game, dark forest fruit, leather, and cocoa, this red manages to be gregarious but not over-the-top. It is dynamic yet controlled. One of the best values out of California today. Enjoy with grilled meats, lamb, and cheese.
2007 Perez Cruz Cab ($12.99) This is Cab that puts Chilean wine on the map in a very serious way. Beyond the steady scent of dark cherries, blackberries, tea, vanilla and dried fruit there is a distinct component that establishes what a Maipo terroir might be–a peaty aroma almost. It is not overdone, though. It is intriguing, reflective, and warm in character. For Pablo Perez Zenarto, one of Chile’s leading winemakers, quality takes uncompromising precedent, therefore all vineyards see low yields, each grape is hand-picked, and the careful process of crushing is crucially meticulous. If you are curious to see the potential of Chilean wine, the direction and depth they can and have achieved, you must get to know Perez Cruz.
2007 Padrillos Malbec ($13.99) Best bang for your buck from this much-loved Argntinean varietal! It wears a dazzling, dark purplish hue in the glass and open up strong with a melody of rich, raspberry jam, dried violets, and blackberries. As opposed to some Malbecs that just fall apart on the palate with lush extravagance, this red is more focused and forthright. It has an enticing edge, a serious grip that begs for bigger meat and aged cheese. The finish, though, is soft and comfortable, persistently pulsating with soft, singing flavors.
2007 Poppy Pinot Noir ($14.99) Since Sideways, it is getting more difficult to come by affordable Pinots. Poppy is the exception to the rule. Sourced from some of the best regions in California for Pinot, Poppy delivers the desired notes of cherry, plum, tea leaves, clove, and even a touch of minerality. The Monterey Wine Company clearly believes that great wine does not need to be reserved for special occasions. High quality wine has a place on your table any day of the week.