Value Varietals
Tasted: 607 I Reviewed: 174
Rioja
Tasted: 86 I Reviewed: 30
Merlot
Tasted: 98 I Reviewed: 29
American New Releases
Tasted: 267 I Reviewed: 87
Imported New Releases
Tasted: 170 I Reviewed: 81
Total
Tasted: 1,228 I Reviewed: 401

There was a time not too long ago when new vine plantings were fast and furious in Australia, California and much of the rest of the New World. That was a time when a lot of people were spending $100 or more on cabernet. Those days are gone, at least for now, but the vines remain. And if you want a peek at the wine glut those new plantings have helped to build, turn the page. Everyone's got a value, with new names in languages you may never have seen before. Some of the best are there in Spanish (tempranillo, p. 80) and Italian (negroamaro, p. 78, or red blends, p. 81); and there are plenty in plain English, whether Australian shiraz (p. 79) or California merlot (p. 77). We've recommended 174 wines in all for fifteen dollars or less.

The range of inexpensive merlot comes as a bonus from our annual focus on the variety (p. 87), with Washington State coming on strong in the results. And we pulled the strong selection of tempranillo values right out of our Rioja tasting (p. 84), where several of the sleek, modernist wines now command prices in the triple digits. Whoa it's just a grilled steak. But for twenty or thirty bucks we can find you a Rioja or merlot that will turn that steak into a memorable meal. Or one of the great Napa cabernets among the new releases (p. 92).

Our emphasis on southern France (p. 99) and southern Italy (p. 100) pulled some new classics into our new releases. And a great carmenère blend from Chile (p. 99) is hard to beat as a choice for free-range beef. As always, we found those choices tasting blind, with panels of friends in the business of buying wine whose tastes we respect thanks to Lisa Minucci, now heading up Sommsource for Vintrust, Eric Vreede, wine director at Absinthe in San Francisco, and Nikos Mavreas, sommelier at Aix in New York. They were just a few of the sommeliers and retail buyers who helped sort through 1,228 wines for this issue. They chose the wines to recommend, and passed them along to the staff critic for that particular region. Our critics' individual ratings and perspectives appear in the pages that follow, along with a complete description of our two-step, blind tasting process (p. 73).