Here are nine of F&W executive wine editor Ray Isle's favorite red wine values from the past year of tasting.
For holiday entertaining, buy your wines by the case—most stores offer a 10 percent or more discount. (And, unlike eggnog, say, bottles that you don’t get around to using for the holidays will still be good for months or potentially years to come.) Here are nine of my favorite red wine values from the past year of tasting, from wine regions around the world.
2010 Cantele Salice Salentino Riserva ($12)
Puglia, the heel of Italy’s boot, produces so many good-value reds that it can be heard to choose among them. All of Cantele’s basic bottlings are good, but my favorite was this Negroamaro-based red, full of smoky dark cherry fruit and brambly spice notes.
2012 Espelt Garnacha Old Vines ($14)
Big blueberry and dark cherry fruit, plus a touch of cocoa on the nose—a serious bargain from Spain’s Empordà region, especially given it comes from nearly 100-year-old vines.
2010 Château Trocard Bordeaux Superior ($15)
A remarkable Bordeaux value, this cherry-scented, supple blend of 70 percent Merlot with equal parts Cabernets Sauvignon and Franc comes from an estate just outside the Lussac St-Emilion appellation.
2012 Foxglove Cabernet Sauvignon ($15)
Bob and Jim Varner made their reputation with stellar Chardonnays and Pinots under their own name, but their affordable Foxglove wines, like this smoky Cabernet, are also remarkable, especially at the price.
2012 Columbia Crest H3 Cabernet Sauvignon ($15) The “H3” stands for Horse Heaven Hills, the appellation in southeastern Washington State where this black-fruited, luscious Cabernet comes from.
2013 Domaine Dupeuble Beaujolais ($15)
Domaine Dupeuble has been producing wine since 1512, and that experience shows in the consistency of their wine—fresh, vibrant and berry-bright every year, it’s especially appealing in 2013, a very good year for Beaujolais.
2011 Prazo de Roriz ($16)
From a truly great vintage in Portugal’s Douro Valley, this plummy, thyme-scented red is impressively full of flavor. It’s hard to imagine a better choice for braised short ribs or other rich, wintry meat dishes.
2011 Collemessari Rigoleto ($19)
The tangy Sangiovese fruit here and light, leafy tannins suggest Autumn in the Tuscan woods, which, since the wine is from Tuscany, seems entirely appropriate.
2012 Damilano Barbera d’Asti ($20)
Sweet black cherry fruit and a chewy finish. Impressive for the price. Aging in older oak helps tame Barbera’s aggressive acidity, but doesn’t add any oak flavor.