Artazuri, Navarre, 2000. $8.
I recently bought a $25 certificate on EBay to a local wine shop for about $8. If you can’t find the same deal near you, this wine gives you basically the same discount! Just beyond the Rioja from a vineyard in Navarre, Juan-Carlos Lopez de la Calle (the wine maker of the revered Atardi wines) has made what is one of the year’s best wines under $10. The alluring aromas of this old-vine Grenache draw you in like a siren and the notes of cherry and plum on the palate and light tannins make you never want to leave. The bottle disappeared so quickly I thought it had a hole in it! Imported by Eric Solomon.
Higueruela, D. O. Almansa, 2001. $9
Lost in La Mancha? It’s understandable with a wine like this. The arid plains of La Mancha have become a dynamic wine growing region and Higueruela is a vivid example. Rich and dark red in color, the wine (from 70 year old Grenache vines at Bodega Tintoralba) is smooth as velvet on the palate with light tannins, making it very accessible. Even if the name is unpronounceable to English speakers, it stands out for windmills on the label—although these are the sleek, 21st century variety instead of the 16th that Don Quixote encountered. Imported by Grapes from Spain, Inc.
Domaine de la Janasse, Vin de Pays de la Principauté d’Orange 2000 $8
Get your Rhones while they are hot! The 2000 vintage was great (unlike the 2002, which saw massive flooding at harvest time). Fans of “big reds” should run (don’t walk!) to find this wine value. A blend of merlot, syrah and Grenache has dark cherry on the nose and full mouthfeel with a good finish. This wine definitely punches above its weight. Eric Solomon imports.
Domaine de Fondrèche, rosé, Cotes du Ventoux 2002. $9.99
“Quantity was sacrificed in this vintage but quality was not,” says importer Robert Kacher. Inundated in 2002, production was more than cut in half to 500 cases but fortunately—miraculously?—the quality did not fall. A blend of roughly equal portions of Grenache, Syrah, and Cinsault, this excellent dry rosé has pleasant fruit on the nose complements good acidity. This is a perfect wine to accompany meals on the deck during your August vacation whether in Provence or not.
Grande Cassagne, GS, le Triage, AOC Costieres de Nimes. $8
Last year, Great Stuff! This year greater stuff! This vintage has been cranked up with some of the winery’s better grapes (Grenache and Syrah) and the results are an under $10 gem! Ruby is the gem of choice as it is the color of the wine. With complex aromas of dark fruits, the smooth sensation on the palate and excellent finish make this a leading contender for wine of the year in this price category. If you are looking to create a stir, try inserting this wine into a lineup of $30+ Rhônes and see if any one can tell the difference.
Mas Carlot, “R” vdt, 2001. $8.
I can’t believe it’s not Chardonnay! The crisp, clean and sweet nose seems to be a Riesling, but the buttery mouthfeel, golden color and excellent body are more akin to Chardonnay. As if making old vine Riesling from the south of France weren’t odd enough, this wine from a vineyard near Nimes is not an appellation wine but is instead a lowly vin de table category. Alas, importer Robert Kacher says that the 2002 (supposedly better than this 2001) is the last vintage. Winegrowers in Alsace, the French home of Riesling, have forced the uprooting of this one-acre plot with low yields on 40 year old vines simply because it is not from Alsace. What a pity. All the more reason to seek out this wine.
Chateau de Mattes-Sabran, Dionysos, AOC Corbières, 2001. $8.
Move over Bacchus, here comes Dionysus! This family-owned winery clearly has great ambitions to name their wine after the Greek god of wine. Perhaps it’s not nectar, but it sure would go nicely with ambrosia! The Corbières appellation is emerging as a leader in the dynamic Languedoc area and this wine is a prime example from the under $10 category. This tight blend of Mourvèdre, Grenache and Syrah has an appealing ruby red that gives way to excellent earthy scents and black cherries. You don’t have to wait for your next Bacchanalian feast to try this one-the barbeque will be fine! Imported by Wine Vine.
Paringa, Shiraz, 2002. $9
Lush and velvety—what else would you expect from the land of Oz? David Hickinbotham, part of a home building family from southern Australia, bought a 900-acre property in 1996 essentially to meet demand from Southcorp. US importer Dan Phillips of The Grateful Palate sought to make a wine from their fruit and radically dropped yields by 90% from Southcorp’s levels. This resulting wine has garnered wide acclaim (including the cover of Wine Spectator) and is a global better value. This 2002 Shiraz has a dark red color with notes of clove and dark berries on the palate with a smooth finish. Served slightly chilled it accompanies cheeses very well.
Fitz-Ritter, 2001 Dürkheimer Hochbenn Riesling Kabinett. $9.
The good news about the German Riesling 2001 vintage is that there are plenty of good wines. The bad news is that since Germany is a high-cost producer, most are well above the $10 threshold. But this one qualifies on both counts. The Fitz family adheres to strict production criteria that yield a wine that is sweet but not cloying. Served chilled, it has a very good combination of brisk acid structure with notes of honey and peach. Try this one with seafood or live dangerously and try it with your favorite Thai food. For the sociologists out there, it will be easy to remember this good wine since it is from the town of Bad Dürkheim.
Babich, Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, 2002. $9.99
Sauvignon Blanc is extremely expressive. From the Bordeaux, Napa or New Zealand, the effect of territory is quite clear. This SB from the family-owned and operated winery diverges from the typical from NZ style, which often has strong notes of citrus. Floral notes in the aroma make it similar to a wine from Baden, but the steel-tank fermentation leads to crisp and refreshing wine with hints of mineral and peach. This is a perfect summer wine for drinks on the deck. Imported by Select Brokers.