As 2019 approaches, it's time once again to reflect upon the past year, to remember and savor many pleasant memories. As 2018 winds down, I'll be posting my annual series of Favorite Lists over the next few weeks, covering food, wine, spirits and other drinks. 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 2018 is my Top Ten Wines Under $15. This list includes wines that not only I enjoyed, 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 region, though you might be able to order them from the winery or an online store, dependent on your state's shipping laws.
1) 2018 Les Vins Georges Duboeuf Beaujolais Nouveau Rosé ($13.99)
This is the first year that this wine was imported into the U.S. and it made an impressive debut. With a bright pink color, this wine has a nose of bright red fruit, and on the palate, those red fruit flavors, especially strawberry and cherry are prominent, though with minor notes of citrus too. It is dry and crisp, with some underlying minerality, and has a pleasing, though short, finish. Easy drinking, it is an excellent food wine and a very good value.
2) NV Vilarnau Cava Brut Reserva ($14.99)
This Spanish Cava is a blend of 50% Macabeo, 35% Paralleda; 15% Xarel.lo, three indigenous grapes, and is aged for over 15 months in the bottle. With a nice golden color, small bubbles, and 11.5% ABV, this Cava presents a pleasing aroma of fruit, including apple and citrus. On the palate, it is fresh, crisp and dry, with a tasty blend of green apple, citrus and pear, enhanced with a touch of toast, and a moderately long finish. For inexpensive bubbly, it is an appealing choice.
3) 2015 Schlossmühlenhof Dornfelder Rotwein Trocken ($14.40/liter)
This German red wine, made from the Dornfelder grape, has a deep, opaque red, almost purplish, color. On the nose, it is appealing, with enticing black fruit flavors enhanced by mild floral and spice notes. On the palate, it is silky, with mild tannins, and a delicious melange of juicy black fruit, intense spice and nice acidity. It is more elegant rather than powerful, with a lingering, pleasing finish. There is plenty of complexity for a wine at this price point and is a sheer pleasure to drink. This is definitely a food-friendly wine, a versatile wine that pairs well with pizza to tuna. And at this price, for a full liter, it is a fantastic bargain.
4) 2017 San Felice Perolla Rosato ($12)
A blend of 65% Sangiovese and 35% Cabernet Sauvignon, this Italian Rosé is made in the saignee process. It has an alluring aroma and is pure deliciousness on the palate. Light bodied, crisp and dry, with bright red fruits (especially strawberry) and a savory touch. Refreshing and an excellent summer wine, it will also pair well with a variety of foods. I bought a case of this wine to enjoy during the summer and continued drinking some into the fall.
5) 2017 Planeta Rosé ($14)
This Sicilian Rosé is a blend of 50% Nero d'Avola & 50% Syrah and I believe it to be an excellent value wine. It is crisp, light and full of tasty red fruit flavors, from strawberry to raspberry, with subtle hints of peach. Easy to drink, very food friendly, and perfect year round. I've been a fan of this winery for a number of years and this is definitely one of their best wines under $15.
6) 2016 Feudo Maccari Noto Nero d'Avola ($14)
Another Sicilian wine, this red is silky smooth, with bright cherry, raspberry and plum flavors, enhanced by some pepper and spice notes. Nice acidity, well-restrained tannins, and a fairly long finish. It is an easy drinking wine, which can be enjoyed on its own though it also pairs well with plenty of dishes, from pasta to pizza, burgers to hotdogs. Simply delicious.
7) 2015 Dow's Vale do Bomfim ($12.99)
Portugal offers plenty of excellent value wines, which is why you often see them on my annual lists. This Portuguese red wine is a blend of 40% Touriga Franca, 25% Touriga Nacional and 35% Field Blend. It spent about 9 months in neutral oak, and presents as a light bodied wine, with cherry and plum flavors, mild spice notes, and low tannins. For a wine of this price point, it is moderately complex with some intriguing licorice notes on the finish. Definitely a good value wine!
8) 2017 Quinta de Covela Avesso (About $12)
My trip to Portugal this year led me to some fine vinous treasures, including this Portuguese white wine. It is made from 100% Avesso, an indigenous grape, which makes it more unique. The aromas are subtle, with hints of peach and pear, and on the palate, the wine is crisp, dry and fruit, with bright tastes of pear, green apple and a hint of more tropical fruit. With a medium-body, the wine is certainly delicious and mouth-watering, with a pleasing and fairly long finish. Easy-drinking, this wine is enjoyable on its own, or paired with seafood, light chicken dishes, and more.
9) 2017 Quinta de Covela Touriga Nacional Rosé (About $12-$13)
From the same winery as the Avesso, this Rosé, made from 100% Touriga Nacional, possesses a very pale pink color and its aroma is almost savory, with mild notes of red fruits. On the palate, it is light and crisp, dry and elegant, with delicious notes of strawberry and cherry, as well as wisps of floral notes. Such a fine example of Rosé and definitely the style I prefer. Another excellent value wine.
10) 2016 Quinta do Vallado Douro Red (About $10-$12)
Also encountered during my trip to the Douro region, this Portuguese red wine is s a blend of 25% Touriga Franca, 25% Touriga Nacional, 25% Tinta Roriz, 5% Sousão and 25% mixed grapes from old vineyards. About 70% of the wine is aged for 16 months in stainless steel tanks while 30% is aged in 225 liters used French Oak barriques for 16 months. With a nose of red fruit and spice, this was also an easy drinking and delicious wine, with prominent cherry and raspberry notes and spice accents. Low tannins, good acidity and a pleasing finish. A wine for everyday drinking, which would pair well from burgers to pizza.
Five countries made the list this year, the same as last year. Portugal took the lead with four spots on the list (not a surprise in the least), followed by Italy with three spots. Germany, Spain and France each occupied one spot. Last year, Alsace took three spots on this list but isn't included this year, though you will see their wines on another of my Favorite Wine lists. As for wine types, the list is also broken down into four Rosé, one White, four Reds and one Sparkling. Last year, there weren't any Rosé wines on this list.
The cancellation of of the 2018 Boston Wine Expo certainly affected this list as I usually find several excellent value wines there which then end up on this list. It also seemed that I found less wines, new to me, under $15 this past year. That may be indicative that wine prices have actually been rising, as a number of news sources have predicted they would this year.
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 recent article on the subject.
If you have some of your own recommendations for excellent wines under $15, please add them to the comments.