The holidays are here, parties are abundant, and wine is necessary. With that in mind, here are executive wine editor Ray Isle's top 10 wine values of 2015.
After tasting, oh, a couple of thousand bottles of wine this year, these ten stood out as my favorites in the under-$20 zone—a list surprisingly dominated by white wines in 2015. Regardless, each offers incredible quality at a very fair price; any would be great at a holiday party, or as a hostess gift, or simply as something to sip while contemplating the approach of the New Year.
2013 Villa Wolf Pinot Gris ($12)
A lively burst of citrus fruit with a touch of trapped CO2 to give it a faint tingle, this German white from the Pfalz region was a great all-purpose white for a song.
2013 Evolucio Furmint ($13)
Furmint is the Hungarian grape that produces the great sweet wines of Tokaji. What’s little known in the U.S. is that it also makes impressive dry wines, like this rich but balanced bottling. Kudos to Boutique Wine Collection, the importer, for bringing it in.
2014 Chateau de Fontenille Entre-Deux-Mers ($14)
A melony, thoroughly inviting blend of Sauvignon Blanc, Sauvignon Gris, Sémillon and Muscadelle, and a standout amid the ocean of fair but unexceptional white wine that Bordeaux’s Entre-Deux-Mers region produces.
2013 Josef Leitz Eins Zwei Dry Riesling Trocken ($17)
One highlight of this year was tasting through a vertical of Josef Leitz’s Rudesheimer Berg Kaistersteinfels Riesling, one of the benchmarks of Germany’s Rheingau region. But this affordable bottling, with its bright lime fruit and stony finish, is irresistible at a fraction of the price.
2013 Ravines Wine Cellars Finger Lakes Dry Riesling ($18)
More proof that New York’s Finger Lakes region produces, overall, the best Rieslings in the United States. Ravines’ higher-end Argetsinger Vineyard Riesling is an age-worthy cellar candidate; winemaker Morten Hallgren’s floral, basic bottling is a wine I could easily drink cases of.
2014 Pascal Janvieres Jasnières ($18)
I drank a bottle of this Loire Chenin Blanc sitting on some rocks on the Maine coast, with a lobster in front of me. Life could not possibly have gotten better. But chalk that partly up to the wine itself: gorgeous tropical fruit with note of honey, plus great acidity to keep it taut.
2014 Tenshen White ($20)
Winemaker Joey Tensley’s full-bodied blend of Viognier, Roussanne, Grenache Blanc and Chardonnay packs an incredible amount of flavor, but isn’t heavy or overly plush. Tasting it blind, I assumed it ran $35 a bottle or so.
2013 Capezzana Barco Reale ($15)
A perennial great value, this Sangiovese-dominated red from a Tuscan estate whose history goes back over 500 years suggests wild berries and rosemary, and its vivid tangy finish begs to be paired with a rich ragù.
2010 E. Guigal Côtes du Rhône Rouge ($19)
Guigal holds back their basic Côtes du Rhône bottling for a couple of years, which—especially in a spectacular vintage like 2010—gives it a more integrated, rounded character than many other Rhône reds at this price. I loved this red’s luscious black cherry fruit and chewy, peppery finish; now that winter is here, it’s even more appealing.
2014 Casas del Bosque Cabernet Sauvignon Gran Reserva ($18)
Layers of dusty tannins and rich cassis fruit, plus a compelling, minty herbal note give this Chilean Cabernet from the Maipo Valley far more complexity than you’d ever expect at the price.