I've been wading through an ocean of affordable wine for our April issue, and while I'm reserving a good chunk of the best wines for the magazine itself, here are a few that I thought deserved mention now.
2007 Domaine Lafage Côté Est ($11, find this wine or its importer) When I was at the Wine Market Council meeting I blogged about recently, some of the Nielsen statistics showed that a large majority of American wine buyers tend to think of French wines as terrible values. Everyone should recalibrate by running out and buying this wine. Lightly spicy, with a kind of fresh talcum/floral character on the nose, it's loaded with rich apple/stone fruit flavor, completely luscious but not heavy at all, and ends on peppery herb notes. From the Vin de Pays des Côtes Catalanes, it's 60% Grenache Blanc & Gris, 30% Chardonnay, and 10% Marsanne, aged in stainless steel.
2007 Tieffenbrunner Alto Adige Pinot Bianco ($14, find this wine or its importer) I had this while traveling in the Alto Adige, had it again recently while standing in front of my stove at home, and both times was impressed by what it offers for the price: crisp apple fruit, a touch of that Pinot Blanc-lanolin-shading-to-cheese rind scent on the nose (a nice thing, though it doesn't exactly sound so great), subtle minerality on the finish. Not a wine that draws a lot of attention to itself, but a great wine for everyday drinking.
2006 Cono Sur Visión Gewurztraminer ($15, find this wine or its importer) Gewurztraminer can be overwhelming—as wonderful as a producer like Zind-Humbrecht's wines can be, they're so rich that it sometimes feels like heavy work just getting through a glass. Cono Sur's affordable bottling doesn't hold a candle to ZH in terms of complexity, but it's a surprisingly bright, lively version of Gewurz (the cool Pacific winds in the Casablanca Valley probably help) with melon, spice, and some lime-citrus notes.