The great winemakers of the world, unsurprisingly, often make very expensive wines. But it’s more and more common these days for many of them to divert a portion of their time to making affordable (relatively speaking) and accessible wines, as well. Sometimes these are less expensive companion labels to winemakers’ top products; sometimes they are consulting projects taken on by winery owners whose focus isn’t the $100-Cabernet market; and once in a while, a winemaker from a marquee region like Napa or Bordeaux decides that it might be an interesting adventure to make wine in a more far-flung place, like Argentina, say, or South Africa. Either way, these bottles are a way for fans to get a taste of greatness for a modest price.
2006 Cocodrilo Cabernet Sauvignon ($17)
If you want an amazing, $250 Napa Valley Cabernet, you can go to Paul Hobbs. And if you want a very good, $17 Argentine Cabernet, you can also go to Paul Hobbs. One of California’s top winemakers, Hobbs started this winery in Argentina back in 1991; his aromatic, cassis-rich Cocodrilo Cabernet shows that winemaking talent travels very well indeed.
2006 Copain L’hiver Syrah ($18)
Wells Guthrie, whose Copain Pinot Noirs and Syrahs are produced in miniscule quantities and snatched up by collectors upon release, also makes a seasonal line of affordable varietal wines, Saisons des Vins. The winter offering, his L’hiver Syrah, has the flinty power and complexity of top-notch Syrah.
2006 Torbreck Woodcutter’s Shiraz ($20)
Winemaker David Powell’s superintense RunRig Shiraz is one of the stars of Australia’s star Shiraz region, the Barossa Valley. His Woodcutter’s Shiraz, while it doesn’t draw on the 100-plus-year-old vines that RunRig does, offers similarly deep, luxurious blackberry and spice flavors.
2004 Alvaro Palacios Les Terrasses ($30)
Alvaro Palacios’s L’Ermita Priorat, arguably the most sought-after wine in Spain, is gorgeous but can cost more than $400 a bottle. Palacios doesn’t devote his winemaking skill just to cult bottlings, though. He also makes this blueberry-inflected blend of Carignane, Grenache and Cabernet Sauvignon from vineyards in the Priorat, also the home of the single, ancient Grenache vineyard that produces L’Ermita.
2005 Tamber Bey Two Rivers Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon ($32)
Thomas Brown has earned a reputation making cult bottlings for star producers like Schrader, Outpost and Turley. He also makes this terrific, velvety Cabernet for lesser-known Tamber Bey, and does it with exactly the same care and attention he brings to his other clients’ wines.