FACT SHEET: OLD WORLD BARGAINS
Although the Euro keeps getting stronger, there are still plenty of wine bargains to be found from Europe, especially from the southern regions of Spain, Italy and France. There are also great buys from countries such as Portugal and Greece, while Germany continues to produce some of the world's most consistently undervalued white wines.
10 TOP BOTTLES
AUSTRIA 2002 Hirsch Veltliner #1 ($14) This wine may be worth buying just for the label alone: a photo of two women feeding a deer from a window. Made from the food-loving Grüner Veltliner grape, it's a light, racy white.
FRANCE 2002 Château Bonnet Entre-Deux-Mers ($10) Forget the spiraling prices of Bordeauxthe region is just as notable for its value wines. This white comes from the esteemed négociant and Bordeaux winemaker André Lurton, who blends Sémillon with Sauvignon and Muscadelle to make a medium-bodied, crisp and delicious wine.
GERMANY 2002 Lingenfelder Bird Label Riesling ($14) Yes, it's from Germany, and no, it isn't sweet. From Rheinpfalz winemaker Rainer Lingenfelder, it's an easygoing white with ripe-peach flavors.
GREECE 2001 Antonopoulos Adoli Ghis ($15) Greece's native Lagorthi grape is the source of this dry, exotic white with notes of mineral and apple, made by a "new wave" producer.
ITALY 2001 Cusumano Nadaria Inzolia ($10) Most books that mention the obscure Inzolia grape say it should be blended to produce good winethis suave Sicilian white contradicts that advice.
ITALY 2001 Poliziano Rosso di Montepulciano ($13) From one of Montepulciano's top producers, this Tuscan red is a remarkably layered, sophisticated, medium-rich wine with ripe tannins.
PORTUGAL 2000 Quinta do Crastro Douro Red ($14) A dense red from port country (Portugal's Douro River Valley), this wine is made from a blend of grapes. Its powerful, intense blackberry character is enhanced by a hint of oak.
SPAIN 2000 Marqués de Cáceres Rioja Crianza ($13) A key figure in the Rioja renaissance, Marqués de Cáceres makes reds with a trademark silkiness; this one all but melts on the tongue.
SPAIN 2002 Viña Alarba Old Vines Grenache ($7) For the price, you cannot beat this red wine. Produced from very stingy old vines (minimum age: 50 years) on a mountainside in the north-central Calatayud region, this wine is round and easy to drink.
FRANCE 2001 Jaboulet Crozes-Hermitage Les Jalets ($16) From the rocky vineyards around the granite hill of Hermitage in the Rhône Valley, this lovely, fragrant red is the most accessible of Jaboulet's several Crozes bottlings.
Fact Sheet: New World Bargains
Great value wines can be found all over the New World. Washington State is a reliable source, as are lesser-known California appellations, like Lodi and Amador. Australia continues to provide a wealth of well-priced wines, as do Chile and Argentina. New Zealand and South Africa, though better known for their pricier bottlings, are also home to some stellar bargains.
10 TOP BOTTLES
ARGENTINA 2002 Los Cardos Chardonnay ($8) Located in the foothills of the Andes Mountains, this winery is a name new to the United States and likely to succeed, with bottlings like this oneso full-bodied and creamy, with lively, exotic-fruit flavors.
CHILE 2001 Odfjell Armador Cabernet Sauvignon ($10) Made by famed American consultant Paul Hobbs and Bordeaux winemaker Arnaud Hereau, this stylish Cab has classical varietal characterplum and cassisin a compact, medium-bodied frame.
NEW ZEALAND 2002 Spy Valley Gewürztraminer ($14) New Zealand may be known for Sauvignon Blanc, but this wine could start a trend for a quite different Kiwi-grown grape. It's made in an intense Alsace style, with aromas of musk and a big, textured silkiness.
SOUTH AFRICA 2002 Raats Original Chenin Blanc ($13) Never mind the namethis sleeper from South Africa saves its flamboyance for the glass. It's simply an amazing wine for the price, beautifully balanced, with bright, unoaked citrus and melon flavors.
CALIFORNIA 2001 Rock River Zinfandel ($13) The first outing for this wine is definitely a triumph. Made with grapes purchased from various regions of California, this wine has blended into a seamless, lovely Zinfandel.
CALIFORNIA 2002 Beckmen Grenache Rosé ($14) This family-owned winery in Santa Barbara is committed to making stylish Rhône-style wines like this beautiful dry rosé, with notes of raspberry and plum.
CALIFORNIA 2001 Edna Valley Pinot Noir ($15) A head-turning deal from a stalwart Central Coast winery, this wine can easily rival many American Pinots that cost twice as much. Rich, ripe and beautifully balanced.
CALIFORNIA 2001 Dry Creek Vineyard Fumé Blanc DCV3 ($18) One of the most prominent growers in Dry Creek has turned out an herby, grassy, full-bodied Sauvignon marked by notes of melon and citrus.
WASHINGTON STATE 2001 Snoqualmie Syrah ($10) This sister winery of Chateau Ste. Michelle and Columbia Crest has raised the bar for inexpensive Syrah with this luscious, juicy wine.
AUSTRALIA 2002 Rosemount Shiraz ($12) Fruitier and more straightforward than some American Syrahs, this Aussie version is a superripe, almost plumlike take on the grape, overlaid with beguiling aromas of smoke and licorice.