Wednesday, December 11, 2013

2013: Top Ten Wines Under $15

What were some of my favorite wines of the past year?

The start of a new year approaches and it is once again time to reflect upon the past year, to remember and savor many pleasant memories. As 2013 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 2013 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 2013 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) 2009 Quinta do Penedo Dao Red (about $12-$15)
This Portuguese wine is a blend of Touriga Nacional and Alfrocheiro, and sees some aging in used French and American oak. From an alluring aroma to a complex and compelling taste, this wine drinks like something at twice the price or more. Delicious black fruit flavors, plenty of spice and a nice exotic taste. A well balanced wine, with good acidity and a lengthy finish will satisfy to the last drop. This wine receives my highest recommendation, especially at this price.

2) 2011 Quinta da Romeira Arinto ($11)
Also from Portugal, this wine was made from 100% Arinto and matured for a month on the lees, this is another superb value. It has a more subtle citrus aroma with a complex melange of flavors, lemon, apple, orange peel, minerality, and subtle herbs on the finish. It was crisp and dry, clean and fresh, with plenty of character. An excellent food wine, I recommend stocking up on this wine for the summer, and keeping some aside for the rest of the year too.

3) 2009 Mouchao 'Dom Rafael' Tinto ($14)
Another Portuguese wine, this is a blend of 40% Alicante Bouschet, 40% Trincadeira and 20% Aragonez. The grapes are trod by foot and the wines is aged in large oak barrels for about 24 months, with an additional 6 months in the bottle. Dark red, this wine had an exotic and exciting palate of black fruits, earthiness, and spice. Moderate tannins, a lengthy finish and plenty of character. An excellent value and highly recommended.

4) 2005 Bacalhoa Moscatel de Setubal ($12/750ml)
One more Portuguese wine. Made from 100% Moscatel de Setubal, this is a fortified wine with a 17.5% alcohol content that was aged for three years in small, used oak barrels. A rich, golden amber in color, the nose was compelling, and on the palate I found notes of apricot, dried fruit, honey, and herbs. A well balanced wine, the acidity ensured the sweetness was under control and its full-bodied flavors lingered long on the finish. A killer dessert wine with plenty of complexity and depth, at this low price point the wine is an amazing value.

5) NV Schoenheitz Cremant d' Alsace ($14)
An Alsatian blend of 90% Pinot Auxerrois and 10% Pinot Blanc, this was aged on the lees for 24 months. It also has an alcohol content of only 12% and was made with a low dosage. This is an excellent value wine; crisp, clean and elegant with pleasant apple and pear flavors as well as a streak of minerality. Very easy drinking and refreshing, it would be a fine apertif as well as a good pairing with food. You won't find many other sparkling wines that taste this good as this price point.

6) Neige Bubble ($15)
No grapes in this Canadian wine. It is actually a sparkling apple wine, produced in the traditional method from McIntosh apples, and 10% of Neige Apple Ice Wine is added to the bottle. It also has a low alcohol content of 7.5%. The Neige Bubble has a prominent and pleasing apple flavor and it is only lightly sweet. The bubbles make it refreshing and I believe that many people are going to enjoy this wine. I was impressed and it makes a great addition to a holiday party.

7)  2009 Vignoble du Marathonien Boise d'Havelock ($13)
Also from Canada, this wine is 100% Seyval Blanc but is undergoes 6-8 months of oak aging. It had a rich, complex taste with pleasant notes of citrus, green apple and vanilla. Dry, clean and refreshing, it would be enjoyable both on its own or paired with food. Yes, hybrids can make delicious wines too.

8) 2012 Illahe Pinot Gris ($15)
Oregon represents in this value wine. Fermented in 1600 gallon oak barrels, it had a compelling aroma and its taste fulfilled the promise of the nose. Pleasant apple and pears flavors, nice acidity and a good, lengthy finish. The winery produces many good wines, and their whites are generally good values. Plenty of character for the price, I highly recommend this Pinot Gris.

9) 2011 Apolloni Vineyards Pinot Blanc ($15)
Also from Oregon, I found excellent value in their 2011 Pinot Blanc ($15), which sees no oak and has an alcohol content of 12.5%. It is crisp and fruity, delicious pear and citrus, with some minerality, especially on the finish. Easy drinking but with plenty of character for the price. Great on its own or paired with food.

10) 2011 Don Miguel Gascon Colosal ($15)
From Argentina, this is a blend of 61% Malbec, 16% Bonarda, 13% Syrah and 10% Cabernet Sauvignon. The majority of this wine was aged for fifteen months in a combination of French and American oak, and it has an alcohol content of 14.1%. The Colosal has a dark red color with a pleasing aroma of dark fruit and spice. On the palate, it is full bodied, with smooth tannins, and presents an elegant balance. Delicious plum, black cherry and spice notes dominate the taste and it offers good complexity for the price. An excellent value wine, this should appeal to many wine lovers.

Five different countries/states made this list and Portugal dominated the list, occupying four spots, which doesn't surprise me as I feel Portugal makes 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. For 2014, I highly recommend that my readers make the effort to taste, explore and purchase more Portuguese wine.

Canada took two spots, likely due in part because Taste Camp was held in Quebec this year, exposing me to a number of interesting Canadian wines. This is also the first year since 2010, that any U.S. wines have been included on this list. As I have mentioned before, I often find it more difficult to find compelling domestic wines for under $15, especially from California. They exist but I find them much less common than value imported wines. However, this year, due to my wine trip to Oregon, I found two Oregon white wines which made it to this list. The list is rounded out with wines from Argentina and France.

As for wine types, the list is also broken down into 1 Sparkling Wine, 4 Whites, 3 Red, 1 Fortified wine, and 1 Non-Grape wine. Though Whites dominated, there still is plenty of diversity in the selections.

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 owner for advice and suggestions.

If you have some of your own recommendations for excellent wines under $15, please add them to the comments.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Hmm. This is quite an interesting list you’ve got, Richard. Wine-lovers such as myself really appreciate this blow-by-blow description of wines that cost only $15 or less. This gives us ideas on what to expect and how to enjoy wines well within our budgets. I personally am surprised to see so many tasty wines available at such a price. I’m looking forward to trying these out!

Austin Black