What does “value” mean? Some may interpret this to mean “inexpensive”, but that isn’t entirely accurate. Value is a combination of both price and quality. A wine that is a great value may not necessarily be cheap, but rather, it is priced well in comparison to other wines of the same good quality. In short, value wines drink like much more expensive wines.
There are a number of places around the world where you can find great wine values. However, there is always the risk of inconsistency – in just about every region you can find great wines and terrible wines at the same price point. I wanted to try to eliminate some of the inconsistency by identifying those regions that are a safer bet in terms of finding more consistent quality value wines.
Duoro, Portugal: Red Blends
The Duoro in Portugal is historically known for Port wines, but those sweet, high alcohol fortified wines have plummeted in popularity. To keep the lights on, many Port producers have turned to making dry, unfortified red wines and they are delicious! These wines are made using the same local grape varieties that go into Port – Touriga Nacional, Touriga Franca, Tinta Roriz (aka., Tempranillo) and others. This blend produces inky black wines that are deep in flavor, dense and lush with soft tannins, good acidity and a balancing earthiness.
- Mary Taylor Filipe Ferreira Douro ($16)
- Casa Ferreirinha Vinha Grande Doc Douro Red ($19)
Van Zellers Tinto ($22)
Jumilla, Spain: Monastrell
In general, Spain is one the best value countries in the world. It has the lowest average price point of most wine producing countries, mainly because they produce a lot of bulk wine. However, this also means their better wines don’t command high prices due to the country’s less-than-stellar quality reputation. It doesn’t mean there aren’t amazing values to be had. Look to Jumilla, known for single-varietal bottlings of Monastrell (aka, Mourvedre and Mataro). This is a dark fruited wine with notes of black pepper, blackberry, chocolate and roasted meats.
- Juan Gil Silver Label ($13)
- Bodegas Olivares Altos de la Hoya ($13)
- Volver Tarima Hill Old Vines Monastrell ($16)
Mendoza, Argentina: Malbec
Malbec has become synonymous with Argentina, and the country has done amazing things with this grape variety. Malbec is always a well-liked wine choice, and its popularity doesn’t seem to be in any danger of fading. Malbec is one of your safest low-priced wines – it’s hard to get a really bad wine at any price point. These wines are rich, dark, smooth and chocolatey with soft cocoa powder-like tannins.
- La Posta Pizzella Malbec ($15)
- Bodega Catena Zapata Malbec ($16)
- Kaiken Ultra Malbec ($18)
Lodi, CA: Zinfandel
Although it may seem like there are no good values left in California, this huge state with almost perfect weather continues to reveal special areas with great value wines. Lodi is part of the gigantic, flat, hot, dry, irrigated Central Valley region of California where the majority of lower quality bulk wine grapes are grown for cheap regional wines (think Rex-Goliath, Woodbridge and Sutter Home). However, Lodi stands apart due to its special location immediately east of river deltas that funnel in cooler Pacific breezes, keeping this region more moderated. This is the home of old vine Zinfandel – many vines that were planted over 100 years ago then forgotten and only recently re-discovered. Old Vine Zinfandel is deep, fruit-forward, jammy, smoky and complex.
- OZV OId Vine Zinfandel ($11)
- Klinker Brick Old Vine Zinfandel ($17)
- Boneshaker Old Vine Zinfandel ($18)
- Brazen Old Vine Zinfandel ($18)
Sicily, Italy: Etna Rosso
Sicily has a historic reputation for high volume, lower quality bulk wine, but that is changing. Some of the best wines coming out of this southern Italian island are Etna Rosso wines from the volcanic mountain soils of Mount Etna. Etna Rosso wines are made from a blend of local Nerello Mascalese and Nerello Mantellato grapes. These wines are reminiscent of elegant, lighter bodied Pinot Noirs. They display red berry fruit, bright acidity, moderate tannins and a trademark volcanic minerality.
- Tenuta Delle Terre Nere Etna Rosso ($20)
- Graci Etna Rosso ($23
- Benanti Etna Rosso ($25)