If there was ever a time to drop $10 on a bottle of wine, this is it. Thanks to a glut of unsold wine after a series of bountiful vintages around the world, there’s an abundance of bottles in stores this winter that offer serious quality at not-so-serious prices.
Here are a few key strategies for finding great affordable wines. First, look for bottles labeled with broad place names rather than specific appellations—California rather than Napa Valley, South Australia instead of Barossa Valley. Second, opt for unoaked whites over oaked (new French oak barrels run $600 or more, a cost reflected in the wine’s price). Third, seek out less familiar grapes like Chenin Blanc, Torrontés, Malbec and Nero d’Avola. Less demand for these wines means they tend to be less expensive—even when the pleasure they offer is extremely high.
2005 Banrock Station Riesling ($5)
Fruity and balanced with a hint of lemon zest, this South Australian wine could very well be your new house white.
2006 Santa Isabel Torrontés ($7)
Santa Isabel is a lower-priced line from Argentina’s respected Bodegas Nieto Senetiner. The lack of oak aging here helps preserve this white’s crisp, spicy mix of anise, peach and tropical fruit.
2005 Skouras White ($9)
This vibrant, very dry mix of native Greek Roditis and Moschofilero grapes has a lovely, melony character. Owner-winemaker George Skouras trained at Dijon University in Burgundy before founding his ultramodern winery in his ancient hometown of Argos.
2004 Botromagno Gravina ($10)
The D’Agostino family on the Apulian "boot heel" of Italy is the only producer of Gravina, a dry, subtly tangy white blend of Greco and Malvasia Bianca that has a whiff of white-pepper spice.
2005 Rioja Vega Joven ($8)
Joven wines, which are aged two to three months at most, are somewhat like Rioja’s answer to Beaujolais. This one combines Tempranillo and Garnacha for a lively, fruity red with surprising heft.
NV HRM Rex Goliath Zinfandel ($9)
Winemaker Mike Kafka blends different vintages of grapes grown throughout California’s wine regions to create this clovey, blackberry-rich Zinfandel.
2005 L’Estandon ($10)
Produced by a growers’ cooperative located between Aix-en-Provence and Saint-Tropez, this luscious Provençal rosé captures the spirit of the best local red-grape blends (with Mourvèdre, Grenache, Cinsaut and Syrah). It’s dry and soft on the palate, with a wild-berry character and hints of rose petal.
2005 Esser Cabernet Sauvignon ($10)
Napa Valley veteran Manfred Esser (formerly of Cuvaison) crafted this juicy red with grapes from four regions around California. The impressively powerful result is full of plum and red-berry character.
2004 Veramonte Merlot Reserva ($10)
From the Huneeus family of Chile and California’s Napa Valley (Quintessa), this supple, juicy Merlot is grown in Chile’s cool-climate Casablanca Valley. A portion of Cabernet adds structure, giving this dense red a satisfying fullness.
2005 D’Arenberg The Stump Jump ($10)
Maverick Australian winemaker Chester Osborn crafts this quirkily named red from a blend of Grenache, Shiraz and Mourvèdre. Its aroma and flavor recall crushed dark berries.