Monday, December 8, 2014
2014: Top Ten Wines Under $15
As 2015 approaches, it's once again time to reflect upon the past year, to remember and savor many pleasant memories. As 2014 winds down, you'll see plenty lists of the best and worst of the past year. As I find value in such lists, I'll post my own series of Favorite Lists for 2014 over the next few weeks, covering food, wine, sake and spirits. These lists should provide a comprehensive summary of my favorites from this past year, allowing my readers to more readily locate such gems, the best of my recommendations.
My first Favorites List of 2014 is my Top Ten Wines Under $15. This list includes wines that not only did I enjoy, but which I also found to be particularly compelling for various reasons. They might be especially delicious, something more unique or just excellent values for the price. They all stand out, for some particular reason, above the other wines at this price point that I have tasted this past year.
This is a purely subjective list, based on my own preferences, and makes no claims about being the "best" wines out there. It is primarily the wines which spoke to me the loudest, even when they were subtle wines. These are all wines that I strongly recommend and which I believe many other wine lovers would also enjoy.
The wines are not listed in any particular order and each choice is linked to my more detailed prior review. All of these value wines are worth your consideration but please also note that the prices are approximations and the actual price may vary in your area. In addition, some of the wines might not be available in your local area, though you might be able to order them from the winery or an online store, dependent on your state's shipping laws.
1) 2013 Herdade do Esporão Alandra Rosé ($6.99)
A good wine under $7? Yes, they can be found, especially with Portuguese wines. You would be hard pressed to find another Rosé that delivers as much for so little. This Rosé is a blend of Aragones, Syrah, and Touriga Nacional and is crisp, dry and fruity with delicious strawberry and cherry flavors. Simple but satisfying, this is going to please many wine lovers, especially at this price point. This is a wine to buy by the case.
2) 2013 Casa da Senra Loureiro Vinho Verde ($10)
Though this is not yet available in Massachusetts, I have high hopes that will soon change. This is a stellar Portuguese white wine, with a bright golden color. It is dry and crisp, with a complex blend of citrus, tropical fruit and herbal notes. A slight effervescence made it even more refreshing, and it had a long,pleasing finish. It possessed lots of character for a wine at this price point, making it one of the most compelling Vinho Verde wines I've tasted in some time.
3) 2012 José Maria da Fonseca Periquita ($9.99)
The price of this Portuguese wine hasn't changed for at least nine vintages, remaining under $10. How often does that happen? A blend of 74% Castelão, 14% Trincadeira, and 12% Aragonêz, it is an easy drinking wine, with plenty of red and black fruit flavors, spicy accents and a touch of vanilla. Though inexpensive, it has more complexity than many wines at this price point. Great with or without food, it makes for an excellent pizza or burger wine.
4) 2012 Espirit de Sarrail Carcassonne Rouge ($10)
This French wine is from the little known Cite de Carcassonne IGP, which was established in 1981. The wine is a blend of 40% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Merlot, and 20% Malbec and the aroma is compelling, such powerful fruit, and the palate lived up to the promise of the nose. Excellent red fruit flavors, a hint of spice, and some herbal notes. Far more complexity at this price point than many other wines. It's easy drinking but not overly simple.
5) 90+ Cellars 2012 Côtes du Rhône, Lot 103 ($11.99)
A blend of Grenache Blanc, Viognier and Roussanne, this French wine has alluring aromatics, with floral elements, which bring to mind a spring day. On the palate, there is a delightful blend of flavors, including pear, citrus, and some minerality with a hint of honey, though the wine remains dry and crisp. A pleasure to drink, this would be enjoyable on its own or paired with a salad, seafood, or even chicken, At this price, it's an excellent value.
6) 2013 Laurent Miquel Rosé ($10)
A blend of 80% Cinsault and 20% Syrah, this Rosé is a Vin de Pays d'Oc from Languedoc-Roussillon, and will remind you of Provence Rosé. The wine has an appealing, light pink color and a delightful aroma of bright red fruits. The aroma alone will draw you into this compellimg wine. It possesses a crisp, dry taste and flavors of strawberry, raspberry and underlying mineral notes. It was easy drinking, thirst quenching, and very addictive. Drink this Rosé year round.
7) 2012 Willy Gisselbrecht Pinot Blanc ($12)
This is an excellent value wine from Alsace. It is fresh and fruity, with delicious apple and melon flavors, and enough character to elevate it above overly simple wines. An easy drinking wine, this would be great on its own or paired with light dishes, from eggs to seafood. There are plenty of excellent wines coming out of Alsace, including value wines like this Pinot Blanc.
8) NV Francois Montand Blanc de Blancs ($15)
This French sparkling wine, made in the méthode champenoise, is from the Jura region and is a blend of Ugni Blanc, Colombard, and Chardonnay. Great acidity, a clean taste, and delicious flavors of green apple, lemon, and hints of toast. At this price point, this wine is a clear winner, presenting an excellent taste and was one of my favorite wines at a large wine event. You rarely find sparkling wine of this quality available at this price point.
9) 2010 Vinarija Dingač Peljesac Red Wine ($14)
A Croatian wine, this is produced from the indigenous Plavic Mali grape. It's an easy drinking red wine, but with sufficient character to raise it up beyond simple plonk. It's medium-bodied with mild tannins and an interesting blend of flavors, including black cherry, ripe plum, dark spices, pepper and a hint of herbal notes. There is a sense of the exotic in the taste, as some of it seems familiar but there is also something different with it as well. This would be an excellent burger and pizza wine, though it would stand up to a hearty pasta dish too.
10) 2011 Bodegas Carrau Tannat Reserva ($12.99)
Uruguay is an up and coming wine region which you are likely to see soon on more and more on local wine stores shelves. Their signature grape is Tannat, which is a French grape but which Uruguay has been making it its own. This inexpensive wine is a great introduction to Uruguay Tannat, as it is elegant and delicious, delivering plenty of fresh fruit flavors and complexity at a low price point. If you want to try something different, but which will still seem somewhat familiar, check out Tannat from Uruguay.
Only four different countries made this list and France & Portugal dominate the list, occupying a total of eight spots. It doesn't surprise me that Portugal has three spots on the list as they produce some of the best value wines in the world. Sight unseen, I'll take a chance on a Portuguese wine under $15 over a similarly priced wine from any other wine region in the world. Portuguese wines have often been on this list in previous years. For 2015, I highly recommend that my readers make the effort to taste, explore and purchase more Portuguese wine.
However, it was a major surprise that French wines took five spots on the list as in previous years, they were fortunate to even have one wine on the list. The wines generally though are not from major areas like Bordeaux and Burgundy, but lesser known regions like Cite de Carcassonne and the Jura. You can still find value wines in France, but you might find more of them in the lesser known regions. I should also note that I discovered two of these French wines at the Mohegan Sun WineFest.
Croatia and Uruguay each took a spot, both countries offering value as they still do not export significant amounts to the U.S.. Keep an eye on both countries in the near future as you may see more and more of their wines available at your local wine store. As for wine types, the list is also broken down into 1 Sparkling Wine, 3 Whites, 4 Red, and 2 Rosé.
I have other recommendations for wines under $15 on my blog and you just have to search for them. You can find value wines all over the world, in every region, though some regions provide a greater range and diversity of value wines. It is important to remember that though wine stores sell plenty of wines in this price range, not all of them are of equal value. Wines in this price range do not have to be one-dimensional wines that all taste the same. You can find wines of character and complexity, though you might need to spend a little more time seeking them out.
Wine blogs can help you in that regard, pointing out wines that you might not otherwise know about. Tasting the wines before you buy them is another way to find such values. Or simply ask your trusted wine store staff for advice and suggestions.
If you have some of your own recommendations for excellent wines under $15, please add them to the comments.