As a person that can’t always afford the finer wines enjoyed by the privileged, I am always on the search for the best valued wines from all regions of the world. I figured that if any publication would know their wine it would be the San Francisco Chronicle, below is a recent article highlighting the best wines under $20 they have found and I take their word for it!
20 world-class wines you should know, all $20 or less
By Jon Bonné
Sunday, July 24, 2011
Erick Wong / The Chronicle
These top-notch values are worth seeking out perennially.
Back we go into the land of value, where the word bargain doth not speak its name.
Last winter we unearthed 20 great wines, all $20 or less, that we wanted to stand behind – not as deals on the cheap, but as important bottles that just happened to be available for a Jackson.
More often than not, these are made by serious, talented winemakers and estates that happen to believe in perhaps the most important tenet in wine: Quality should be available to everyone.
Should you worry that concept is in short supply these days, fear not: Back I went to the aisles, looking for bottles that deliver in any context. So here are another 20 from around the globe, wines that offer greatness in a modest package.
Once again, these are listed without vintages because you should be able to look for them perennially. That, more than anything, is the sign of a wine worth knowing about.
Note: Alcohol levels are listed for the most recent vintage.
Alice & Olivier De Moor Bourgogne Aligoté ($18, 12.5% alcohol)
Tastes like: $28
What: A proper tribute to Burgundy’s underappreciated white grape.
Why: The De Moors, Chablis masters based in Courgis, deserve equal credit for their deep-flavored Aligote, a grape typically neutral enough that its historic use was in a Kir cocktail. No neutrality here; the De Moor is packed with granite and apple blossom, with tons of acid and Aligote’s characteristic citrus-pith bite. The 2009 adds a riper pear-like texture, but it’s still as beautiful and precise. (Importer: Louis/Dressner Selections)
Les Vins de Vienne Reméage Red Wine ($14, 14%)
Tastes like: $25
What: A window into top Rhone winemaking in a modest package.
Why: Vins de Vienne is a joint project of three superstars: Yves Cuilleron, Pierre Gaillard and Francois Villard. For the most part their efforts focus on fancier wines from top Rhone spots. Sourced from throughout the region and marked as a simple table wine, this effort shows how their talents extend to cheaper fare. From a mix of Grenache and Syrah, it’s tightly wound and full of pepper and lilac aromas that would do a Crozes-Hermitage proud. At a time when even Cotes du Rhone want to sharpen their image, here’s proof of the wisdom of humility. (Importer: Domaine Select Wine Estates)
Chateau Coupe-Roses La Bastide Minervois ($13.50, 13%)
Tastes like: $21
What: Proof that the Minervois area has the seeds of greatness.
Why: Aside from having a wallpaper-worthy label (seriously, Betsey Johnson should make a pattern) Francoise and Pascal Frissant show off the beauty of higher elevations of the Minervois, a swath of France’s Languedoc near the Mediterranean. The Minervois has at times been a source of unremarkable reds, but here’s proof to the contrary. Grenache’s happy berry flavors are in play, with Carignane and Syrah’s rooty accents as a baseboard, bringing iodine, beetroot and hibiscus. Those dulcet Grenache tones can be deceiving; the 2009 has surprising mineral nuance and structure, more than enough to keep returning this bottle to your table. (Importer: Vintage 59 Imports)
Niepoort Projectos Docil Vinho Verde Loureiro ($15, 11%)
Tastes like: $22
What: A Port mastermind takes on Vinho Verde’s workhorse grape.
Why: When not running his family’s Port house or collaborating on dry reds, Dirk Niepoort has spare time for this collaboration with Soalheiro, one of the region’s top producers. It’s a textural masterpiece for the sometimes tepid Loureiro grape, here grown on granite soils and yielding a glassful of softer peach and lemon-curd flavors, with no hard edges; a beautiful cinnamon-stick spice brings extra depth to the 2010. (Importer: Martine’s Wines)
Luna Beberide Bierzo Mencia ($13, 13.5%)
Tastes like: $23
What: A dazzling, pure expression of Spain’s Mencia grape.
Why: Mencia is Spain’s answer to Cabernet Franc, offering innately buoyant fruit and a unique sanguine signature (see sfg.ly/nU4Fol). In this basic bottle, fermented in steel, winemaker Alejandro Luna finds unadorned purity in a grape that’s increasingly being tarted up. Even the 2008 (the 2009 was recently released) needs a moment to open in the glass. But Mencia’s signature beams: pimenton and dark earth in full effect, with dried cranberry and a tarry kick. No dolling-up to be found. (Importer: Grapes of Spain)
Gonzalez Byass Vina AB Amontillado Seco Sherry ($18, 16.5%)
Tastes like: $25
What: An often overlooked classic Sherry that over-delivers.
Why: The historic Gonzalez Byass house, best known for its Tio Pepe fino, gets far less cred than it deserves. Its amontillado consistently delivers star performances without ever quite finding the spotlight. Amontillado offers more robust flavors than fino, and in this case there’s tremendous clarity and freshness to those flavors: driftwood, hazelnut skin, nori, mulled citrus peel and dried fig, with a chalky edge. Bonus: Since it’s in an oxidized style, keep returning to an open bottle for a few weeks. (Importer: San Francisco Wine Exchange)
Roagna Dolcetto d’Alba ($17, 13%)
Tastes like: $28
What: A humble Piedmontese wine that reaches for the stars.
Why: Dolcetto is Piedmont’s everyday treat, something to keep glasses full while Barolo matures. But there’s nothing uncomplicated about the version from Barbaresco producers Alfredo and Luca Roagna, traditionalists to the core. Here’s a high-wire act of a Dolcetto, sourced from Barbaresco’s Paje site, full of plum, suede and anise. The 2009 has enough acidity that decanting will help. In return, you’re rewarded with the depths of Dolcetto, proof that even the humble can shine in proper Piedmontese hands. (Importer: Louis/Dressner Selections)
Banyan Monterey County Gewurztraminer ($12, 11.9%)
Tastes like: $20
What: A finer, lighter take on Gewurz from a skilled hand.
Why: Kenny Likitprakong (Hobo Wine Co.) has for years made this priced-to-go Gewurztraminer; the latest 2010 hails from the Ventana Vineyards site in Arroyo Seco. A lengthy 40-day fermentation releases nuanced aromas – pert and aromatic, this is Gewurz on gossamer, with mandarin orange, ginger, white peach and orange blossoms. Often relegated to lists at ethnic restaurants (Likitprakong is part Thai), Banyan deserves a deeper look.
Sherman & Hooker’s Shebang Fourth Cuvee North Coast Red Wine ($13, 14.2%)
Tastes like: $22
What: An homage to California blends from a rising star.
Why: Morgan Twain-Peterson is en fuego with his Bedrock label (see sfg.ly/ofXPxy), but his negociant effort is worth a look as well. (As with his Zin, it’s a worthy following-in-footsteps of his dad, Ravenswood’s Joel Peterson.) The latest Fourth Cuvee, a mix of Syrah, Pinot, Alicante and random old-vine grapes, shifts Shebang – our tasting coordinator informs me a Ricky Martin joke is appropriate here – from a liter jug to a veddy proper 750 ml bottle. The big brambly fruit inside has a chewiness to balance subtler floral and soy tones. That mix is proper tribute to the tradition of mixed California reds.
Domaine de la Pepiere Les Gras Moutons Cuvee Eden Muscadet Sevre et Maine Sur Lie ($17, 12%)
Tastes like: $32
What: A world-class white that happens to be Muscadet.
Why: The humble Marc Ollivier already has a loyal following for his other Muscadets, including the dramatic Clos des Briords. This bottle from the Gras Mouton parcel, a sort of Muscadet grand cru, further raises the stakes. It’s dense and dramatic, and the 2009 wears some of its rich baby fat amid lean flavors of chervil, fresh apple and quince. But the balance and firm structure are so clear that from the first sip it’s obvious this is serious wine. (Importer: Louis/Dressner Selections)
Gemtree Moonstone McLaren Vale Savignin ($13, 13%)
Tastes like: $23
What: An eloquent case of mistaken identity.
Why: Filed under “oops” – Australia in 2009 acknowledged that much of what was planted as the popular Albarino grape was in fact Savagnin. After revising their labels, Australian producers rolled forward. This biodynamically farmed specimen from the heart of Big Red country is a worthy counterpart to examples from France’s Jura. Filled with juicy pear and fig flavors and a celery and saline bite. Surprisingly deep texture in the 2010 makes it a perfect summer white with extra gravitas. (Importer: Guardian of the Grape Imports)
St. Urbans-Hof Ockfener Bockstein Mosel Riesling Kabinett ($20, 8.5%)
Tastes like: $30
What: A stellar snapshot of the Saar Valley.
Why: Nik Weis’ Riesling focused house is in the Middle Mosel town of Leiwen, but his family’s 1980s purchase of a parcel in the Bockstein vineyard, upstream in the heart of the Saar, was a savvy expansion. Saar wines are lacy and fine in good years, but the 2010, an early snapshot of a freak vintage (see sfg.ly/lh0XP5), puts that into overdrive. It’s a blast of energy, with notes of lime ice, tarragon and cool stone minerality. There’s sweetness, but 2010′s intense acidity is blazing enough to hone it to a razor’s edge. It’s like eating salt-and-vinegar chips: You just find yourself going back for more. (Importer: HB Wine Merchants)
Zocker Paragon Vineyard Edna Valley Gruner Veltliner ($19, 13.5%)
Tastes like: $26
What: A serious domestic consideration of Austria’s defining grape.
Why: This effort from the stable of the Niven family seems an improbable Central Coast experiment. But winemaker Christian Roguenant has found a particular talent with this grape – and an expression that transcends noble tinkering to reach delicious territory. The 2010 is tense and proper, with snappy pea-shoot, quince, celery and a bright stoniness. Gotta love when a bold gamble pays off.
Schloss Gobelsburg Gobelsburger Kamptal Riesling ($18, 12.5%)
Tastes like: $25
What: A tribute to Austrian quality from a nonpareil name.
Why: Michael Moosbrugger could spend his time working with the profundities of the Gobelsburg estate. But the more low-key Gobelsburger label, from less hallowed fruit, is where his talents truly shine. The 2009 Riesling shows the warm-spice refinement of the Kamptal region, with softer texture and cassia aromas to match lime-blossom flavors. And the tack-sharp 2010 Gruner Veltliner is one to stock away once you find it on shelves. (Importer: A Terry Theise Selection/Michael Skurnik Wines)
Geyerhof Rosensteig Kremstal Gruner Veltliner ($20, 12.5%)
Tastes like: $33
What: A defining Gruner Veltliner from a historic house.
Why: Ilse Maier’s family has resided in the Kremstal since the 16th century, and this expression from the organically farmed Rosenstein parcel shows Gruner’s ability to have both precision and opulence. Limpid and full of green flavors: poblano chile, oregano, ripe apple, apricot and lime zest. The texture of the 2009 is eye-opening; if you’ve bought into Gruner as a peppy, bright wine, here’s your bottle for reconsideration – gravitas under screwcap. (Importer: Blue Danube Wine Co.)
Lini 910 Labrusca Emilia Lambrusco Rosé ($19, 11%)
Tastes like: $24
What: A pink Lambrusco with a no-nonsense attitude.
Why: Alicia Lini is redefining the quality of an Emilian wine once considered the vinous equivalent of Mello Yello. Dark even for a pink Lambrusco, this is more ruby than pink and the red-grape presence is in your face, with a distinct tannic presence. Blood orange, rosehip, yellow raspberry and a chalky stone note create the perfect mix for salumi. True artisanal Lambrusco? You bet.
2008 Buil & Giné Giné Priorat Red ($20, 14%)
Tastes like: $30
What: A reminder of Priorat’s potential beauty.
Why: Juan Giné’s family returned to its Priorat roots 15 years ago, and this mix of younger and older plantings of Grenache and Carignane, grown on the region’s defining Llicorella slate, shows Priorat’s purity without the oaky trappings that are hobbling the region. Don’t miss the floral and spice hints in the 2008 – dried chamomile and the candied fennel seed you find in Indian restaurants, matched by a mouthful of berry and dark earth accents. As Priorat struggles with its identity, here’s a very clear, self-assured expression. (Importer: Think Global Wines)
Louis M. Martini Sonoma County Cabernet Sauvignon ($13, 13.9%)
Tastes like: $26
What: A solid, underrated Cabernet from a legendary California name.
Why: Martini, now owned by E&J Gallo, has nailed a robust, classic Cab profile here: a charred whiff of licorice and dark oak in the 2008, plus black currant and dried leaves. But when you consider the volume of this wine (sometimes exceeding 200,000 cases) the perennial quality is an absolute feat. Napa may capture the attention, but Martini continues a proud tradition of good Cab from the left side of the Mayacamas, where the winery has long made its defining Monte Rosso bottle.
Catherine & Pierre Breton La Dilettante Vourvray Sec ($19, 12%)
Tastes like: $22
What: Deliciously delicate Vourvray from a Loire benchmark
Why: The Bretons are better known for reds from Chinon and Bourgeuil, but these Loire wizards have a deft hand with Chenin Blanc, too. “Sec” is pushing it a bit, as there’s sweetness quietly sitting in the corner in the 2009. But the soapstone and spruce aromas, and a sweet pear and apricot profile, hit the balance so often lacking in Vouvray. Always crowd-pleasing and a perfect seafood foil. (Importer: Kermit Lynch Wine Merchant)
2010 Qupe Santa Ynez Valley Marsanne ($18, 13%)
Tastes like: $33
What: A defining California white, with a bulletproof track record.
Why: When not making the world safe for Syrah, Qupe’s Bob Lindquist has been making this dramatic white faithfully since 1987. The great white grape of the northern Rhone, Marsanne can have the rich, almondy tones to please a Chardonnay lover while retaining a crucial edge in its fruit and mineral components. For a barely-break-even 18 bucks, Lindquist offers up a wine worthy of a good decade in the cellar. (For more, see sfg.ly/lq1N55) While it often takes about a year after harvest to unwind, the 2010 is surprisingly open and generous, full of bright lemon and hay flavors. A delicious example of winemaking public service.
Jon Bonné is The Chronicle’s wine editor. Find him at firstname.lastname@example.org or @jbonne on Twitter.
Read more: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2011/07/22/FDTM1KCSPC.DTL#ixzz1wNxvw1wf