Tuesday, December 13, 2016
2016: Top Ten Wines Under $15
As 2017 approaches, it's time once again to reflect upon the past year, to remember and savor many pleasant memories. As 2016 winds down, I'll be posting my annual series of Favorite Lists 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 2016 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) 2014 La Gitana Blanco ($14.99)
From the D.O. Vinos de la tierra de Cadiz, this wine is a blend of Sauvignon Blanc and old vine Palomino. The wine also spent about 7-8 months on the lees in Manzanilla Sherry barrels. In short, this wine is absolutely delicious with lots of complexity and character. It is rich and elegant, with excellent acidity and a delightful melange of fruit flavors, including apple, pear and some tropical fruit notes. There is also a briny streak throughout the wine, likely due to spending time in Manzanilla casks. This is definitely an impressive value wine, which would be enjoyable on its own or paired with food.
2) 2013 Georgian Valleys Saperavi ($14.99)
From the country of Georgia, this wine is made from 100% Saperavi, an ancient grape, and about 15% of this wine saw some oak aging. It presents as a fruity and easy drinking wine, with hints of spice. The juicy black fruit flavors are accented with some vanilla. This would be a good choice with burgers and ribs, hearty dishes whether in the winter or summer. You'll be seeing more Georgian wines on my other Top Ten lists.
3) 2013 Herdade Paco de Conde Tinto ($9.99)
Another excellent value wine from Portugal, this is a blend of Aragonez, Trincadeira, Alicante Bouschet and Touriga Nacional. Spending about three months in French and American oak, it possesses an appealing nose of earthiness and black fruit. The wine is smooth and dry, with an intense melange of flavors, including black cherry, ripe plum, spice and earthy accents. It is an overachiever, presenting so much more complexity and character than most other wines at this price point. At this price, you should buy it by the case so you always have a bottle on hand.
4) 2010 Quinta do Penedo Dão Red ($13.99)
Another value wine from Portugal, it is a blend of Touriga Nacional and Alfrocheiro. On the nose, this wine has a strong earthy aroma with spicy accents. On the palate, it is a big wine with plenty of earthy notes, big spice and black fruit flavors. This is clearly a food wine, best with a hearty dish like a thick steak or a fettuccine ragu.
5) 2014 Bodegas Taron Rosado ($9.99)
Bodegas Taron is a cooperative of four Spanish towns in the Rioja Alta region and this Rosado is a blend of 50% Viura and 50% Garnacha. It presents as a crisp, light, and dry rosé with delicious bright flavors of strawberry and cherry. Simply delicious and easy drinking, perfect on its own or paired with food. And at this price, it is a killer value too.
6) 2011 Colliano Ribolla Gialla ($13)
This Slovenian wine is produced by Goriska Brda, a cooperative that was established in 1957. It is made from 100% Ribolla Gialla and has a slightly funky nose. It will please your palate with its fruity flavors, including some peach and citrus flavors, as well as herbal notes and a touch of earthiness. A very intriguing flavor profile and at this price point, it is a good value.
7) 2015 Kir Yianni Akakies Rosé ($14.99)
A Greek Rosé, this wine is made from 100% Xinomavro and under went about 3 months sur lie and batonnage. With a bright pink color, I find this Rosé to be crisp, dry, and full bodied with bright strawberry flavors as well as some savory, herbal notes, especially on the finish. It is clean and refreshing, an excellent summer wine, yet which would not be out of place during the winter either. It would pair well with seafood dishes, from oysters to sushi, as well as roast chicken and even pizza.
8) 2015 Cantina Santa Maria La Palma Aragosta Vermentino di Sardegna ($11.99)
From the Italian island of Sardinia, this is a very popular value Vermentino and there is a good reason why that is so. Made from 100% Vermentino, it is crisp and bright, with a prominent fruity taste of apples and pear, with almond notes. An easy drinking, but not simple, wine, this would pair well with many different seafood dishes, as well as other foods, from chicken to cheese.
9) 2014 Cantina Santa Maria La Palma La Bombarde Cannonau di Sardegna DOC ($11.99) From the same producer as the previous wine, this is made from 100% Cannonau, which you might better know as Grenache. With a medium red color, this wine has a compelling fruity aroma, and on the palate you get bold flavors of strawberry and cherry, with mildly spicy notes though the wine sees no oak. It is easy drinking and smooth, dry and robust, with a moderately long finish. This would be an excellent wine with pork and other meats, hard cheeses and fish such as salmon and tuna.
10) 2015 Hacienda Lopez de Haro Tempranillo ($9.99)
This is a delicious Spanish wine, made from 100% Tempranillo from vines which are 50-70 years old. The wine was aged for 3-5 months in new oak and I find it to be bright and fresh, with plenty of cherry and red fruit flavors, accented by mild spice notes, giving it plenty of complexity for a wine at this price point. It is easy drinking and delicious, a burger and pizza wine, and is an excellent value.
Six countries made the list this year, as opposed to seven last year. Spain took the lead with three spots on the list, and Portugal & Italy both occupied two spots. Greece, Slovenia & Georgia each had one spot on the list. The first six wines on this list were all tasted at the Boston Wine Expo, an event where I often find a number of excellent value wines. There are no real surprises on this list, though I'll note you probably start seeing more Georgian wines on local shelves as more people find the treasures being produced in that country. As for wine types, the list is also broken down into 3 Whites, 5 Reds and 2 Rosé. Last year, there weren't any Rosés on the list.
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. For more advice on finding value wines, please check out my prior article on the subject.
If you have some of your own recommendations for excellent wines under $15, please add them to the comments.