Value Brands of the year
Value Brands of the Year

From the Old World and the New, these are the names you need to know. An exclusive W&S report.

Top 17 American value brands


What: An affordable taste of Sonoma County's classic varieties, particularly merlot, chardonnay and cabernet sauvignon.

Standout: For Sonoma merlot at its best, brightest and simplest, try the 2007 Sonoma County Reserve Merlot ($20), with its clean, mouthwatering taste of shade-ripened cherries.

Where: Based in Kenwood, just outside of Santa Rosa, Blackstone sources fruit from growers across the county.

When: Drink the Merlot at cellar temperature on a summer weeknight with chopped sirloin off the grill. The floral, off-dry Monterey County Riesling ($12) is best for afternoon sipping.

Blackstone Winery, Kenwood, CA


What: A pioneering Clarksburg winemaking family offering warm, fruity wines at $10 a bottle.

Standout: The 2007 Old Vine Zinfandel ($11), from 40- to 80-year-old zin vines in Lodi, Fiddletown and Amador County—quintessential California heritage wine without the price tag.

Where: The Bogles planted their first vineyard—20 acres—in 1968. They focus on Sacramento Delta vines, while sourcing across California.

When: The Zin's peppered plum fruit is perfect for a summer Sunday grillout. Start with the '08 California Sauvignon Blanc ($10), chilled, with fresh greens.

Bogle Vineyards, Clarksburg, CA

Castle Rock

What: Varietal wines from a wide range of American appellations, with an emphasis on pinot noir.

Standout: The fleshy, dense and finely focused 2007 Lake County Reserve Petite Sirah ($18).

Where: Castle Rock is a virtual winery—they crush in leased facilities—drawing fruit from Paso Robles to Washington State.

When: The rustic '08 California Cuvée Pinot Noir ($10) can hold its own with roast chicken; the Petite is ideal for a barbecue.

Castle Rock Winery, Geyserville, CA

Charles & Charles

What: Wines—particularly syrah—that pack a lot of flavor into a bottle, from Charles Smith of K Vintners/Magnificent Wine Co. in Washington and the ever-roaming Charles Bieler of Three Thieves.

Standout: The 2008 Columbia Valley Volume II Rosé ($12), a pale copper rosé of syrah with sappy fruit and plenty of freshness and energy.

Where: Washington State.

When: With spring having thawed the winter tundra, now. The juicy Rosé would be excellent packed on a picnic with takeout báhn mi; the '07 Columbia Valley Red ($12) would suit roast beef sandwiches.

Charles & Charles, Mattawa, WA

Chateau Ste. Michelle

What: An outstanding range of affordable wines from one of Washington's most trusted producers, whose access to premier vineyard sites is unparalleled in the state.

Standout: The '06 Merlot and the '07 Riesling from the Indian Wells Vineyard (both $18) in the Wahluke Slope, where Bordeaux varieties and riesling alike reach flavorful ripeness.

Where: Based in Washington State's Columbia Valley, the winery pulls from over 3,500 acres of estate-owned vineyards from Yakima to Walla Walla.

When: The Merlot has the stuffing for grilled steak. The Riesling is an excellent accompaniment to fiery Thai dishes.

Chateau Ste. Michelle, Woodinville, WA

Columbia Crest

What: Affordable Washington wines, with particular value in the high-quality reds from Horse Heaven Hills packaged under the H3 label.

Standout: The '07 H3 Les Chevaux ($15), a silky, succulent blend of cabernet and merlot with abundant fruit.

Where: Columbia Valley, Washington, with especially rich holdings in the Horse Heaven Hills appellation.

When: These are wines for weeknight evening meals—Les Chevaux for when you fire up the grill midweek; the '08 Grand Estates Riesling ($11) for spicy Asian fare like Szechuan chicken.

Columbia Crest Winery, Paterson, WA

Fleur de California

What: Affordable Carneros pinot noir, plus chardonnay and petite sirah from the North Coast.

Standout: Blackberry fruit, rich tannins and a caramel-like oak sweetness combine to make the 2007 North Coast Petite Sirah ($13) a benchmark for the variety.

Where: Based in Napa, with vineyard sources in Carneros, the North Coast and the Central Coast.

When: The clean, brioche-scented '07 North Coast Chardonnay ($13) is rich enough for a mushroom pasta. The Petite Sirah has enough body to stand up to steak, especially if you donate a glass to reduce for the sauce.

Fleur de California, Napa, CA

Geyser Peak

What: Flavorful, fruit-forward, reliable wines from a classic Alexander Valley winery.

Standout: A grippy '06 Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon ($13) with classic flavors of cassis, hints of herbs and plenty of tannin; the ever-reliable California Sauvignon Blanc ($12) with fresh melon flavors and a zing of acidity.

Where: In Geyserville, in Sonoma's Alexander Valley.

When: Uncork the Cab for a roast beef dinner; the Sauvignon Blanc is a perennial finalist at Taylor Shellfish Farms' Pacific Coast Oyster Wine competition.

Geyser Peak Winery, Geyserville, CA

Hazlitt 1852

What: A full range of vinifera wines, with standout whites in a style that parallels Alsace.

Standout: The 2008 Finger Lakes Homestead Reserve Riesling ($18): fresh and firm, wonderfully complex, refreshing and provocative all at once.

Where: The eastern shores of Seneca Lake, the largest of New York State's Finger Lakes.

When: The '08 Gris ($14) and the '08 Gewurz ($15) have the weight to pair with complex foods, like braised veal or white sausages and choucroute; the Riesling has the zip for a head-turning aperitif.

Hazlitt 1852 Vineyards, Hector, NY


What: A perennially affordable lineup of quality wines, all estate-grown since 2005.

Standout: The '08 California Summation ($17), the first release of a rich and honeyed, floral and nutty blend of nine white grape varieties.

Where: Where not? The brand boasts some 14,000 acres of estate vineyards, stretching up and down the California coast.

When: The Summation is excellent on its own with a light chill, or with a crab salad. Cool down the '08 Monterey County Riesling ($12) for Thai curries, or pop the '07 Reserve Pinot Noir ($18) for grilled salmon.

Kendall-Jackson Vineyards and Winery, Santa Rosa, CA

King Estate

What: Excellent pinot gris from Oregon's largest and most reliable pinot gris producer, the first to bring Oregon gris to the national stage.

Standout: The 2007 Vin Glace ($19), a fresh pinot gris dessert wine with plenty of rich tropical flavor balanced by firm, lemony acidity. For everyday drinking, the '08 Signature Collection Pinot Gris is hard to beat at $16.

Where: Willamette Valley, Oregon, sourcing grapes from its own 465 acres of vines as well as local growers.

When: Pour the dry Pinot Gris with a green garlic risotto; uncork the Vin Glace as the peaches come to market and pair with your favorite stone-fruit desserts.

King Estate Winery, Eugene, OR


What: California reds, particularly fruit-forward yet structured zinfandel, syrah and petite sirah.

Standout: Mocha notes underpin the lip-smacking sweet black fruit in the 2008 California Petite Sirah ($11).

Where: In Ripon, McManis sources from 2,500 acres of estate vineyards in the north Central Valley.

When: Pour any of the reds on a cool summer evening with rich, comforting dishes.

McManis Family Vineyards, Ripon, CA

Napa Ridge

What: Napa Valley varietal wines at affordable prices.

Standout: Scents of cut grass and green onion give the 2007 Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc ($12) a light, crisp and refreshing feel.

Where: The winery itself and its namesake, Napa Valley Ridge, are part of Classic Wines of California; the grapes are all Napa Valley appellation certified.

When: Chill the Sauvignon for summer shellfish or a simple salad; pull out the '07 Napa Valley Petite Sirah ($12) for burgers.

Napa Ridge Winery, Napa, CA


What: Oregon pinot and Washington riesling at affordable prices from the King Estate team.

Standout: The Washington Riesling, overdelivering at $12 in fresh peach scents and rich flavors.

Where: Washington State.

When: For summer sipping, or satay chicken with grilled pineapple.

King Estate Winery, Eugene, OR

Rodney Strong

What: Classic Alexander Valley varieties priced at $20 and under.

Standout: The 2007 Sonoma County Knotty Vines Zinfandel ($20), from 100-plus-year-old Russian River Valley vines. It's balanced with sunny black raspberry flavors, refreshing acidity and a mineral edge.

Where: Made in Healdsburg, and sourced from hundreds of acres of estate vineyards across the Alexander and Russian River valleys.

When: Keep the Zin and the '07 Sonoma County Cabernet Sauvignon ($19) ready this summer for anything grilled, from fennel sausage to steak. Drink the '08 Charlotte's Home Sauvignon Blanc ($15) while waiting for the grill to come to temp.

Rodney Strong Vineyards, Healdsburg, CA


What: Affordable Sonoma County and appellation-specific wines.

Standout: The 2006 Sonoma County Cabernet Sauvignon ($18) is sweet, warm and luxurious—an honest reflection of the region.

Where: Sourced from vineyards across the county—Carneros to Sonoma Coast, Dry Creek and Alexander valleys—based in the town of Sonoma.

When: Try the tropical, fresh, unoaked '08 Russian River Valley Chardonnay ($18) with grilled Pacific salmon and mango salsa. The Cabernet dresses up a good burger.

Sebastiani, Sonoma, CA

Sheldrake Point

What: Cool-climate cabernet franc and nervy, mineral whites, with an emphasis on riesling.

Standout: The weighty, substantial 2007 Finger Lakes Riesling ($15) with its tropical aromas.

Where: The western side of Cayuga Lake in New York's Finger Lakes.

When: The Riesling has the tropical mien and the palate weight for spicy Asian dishes; the herbaceous '07 Finger Lakes Cabernet Franc ($19) would pair well with stews.

Sheldrake Point, Ovid, NY

Top 3 Argentine value brands


What: Pure and expressive cabernets and malbecs from a traditional wine family in Mendoza.

Standout: The seductive and lush 2008 San Carlos Reservado Cabernet Sauvignon ($16), a truly great value.

Where: San Carlos in Uco Valley, in southern Mendoza.

When: Match the creamy texture and the red fruit flavors of the '08 San Carlos Reservado Malbec ($16) or Cabernet with rib eye, and the opulent '08 Valle de Uco Dos Fincas Red ($10) with steak tartare.

Importer: Southern Wine Group, Bend, OR

Cruz Alta

What: Modern-style malbec and Bordeaux blends with a focus on ripe, voluptuous fruit flavors.

Standout: The ultragenerous and ample 2006 Mendoza Grand Reserve Malbec ($20).

Where: At La Rural Winery in Mendoza, with fruit from Tupungato.

When: Pour a glass of the '08 Mendoza Reserve Bonarda ($15) with charcuterie. The '06 Mendoza Chairman's Red ($20) needs a heartier dish, like lamb stew.

Importer: Clock Towers Imports, Harrison, NY


What: Ripe and exuberant reds from the Argentine branch of Chile's Concha y Toro winery.

Standout:The firm yet voluptuous 2007 Luján de Cuyo Golden Reserve Malbec ($19).

Where: In the DO of Luján de Cuyo, Mendoza.

When: Uncork the simple, juicy 2008 Mendoza Select Pinot Noir ($11) by the pool and the Reserve Malbec near the fireplace.

Importer: Banfi Vintners, Old Brookville, NY

Top 5 Australian value brands

Angove Family Winemakers

What: Ripe and concentrated wines at modest prices from one of South Australia's oldest and largest privately owned companies.

Standout: With its mature earth and mushroom notes and black fig fruit, the 2005 Vineyard Select Shiraz ($19) calls out for lamb.

Where: South Australia's Riverland—primarily from Nanya, one of Australia's largest single-vineyard sites, just north of Paringa.

When: Open the Shiraz for Indian-style lamb curries. The '06 Vineyard Select Coonawarra Cab ($19) is a barbecue wine through and through.

Importer: Trinchero Family Estates, St. Helena, CA


What: Ridiculous values from riesling to shiraz, mostly from old vines.

Standout: The bold, earthy, red-fruited '06 McLaren Vale Footbolt Shiraz ($19), d'Arenberg's largest-selling wine and one of its best.

Where: In McLaren Vale, with a 500-acre estate of old vines plus 1,700 acres of old vines from growers.

When: Pour the '08 Dry Dam Riesling with crab or the '08 Hermit Crab Viognier–Marsanne (both $16) with grilled chicken. The Footbolt Shiraz is a wine to age.

Importer: Old Bridge Cellars, Napa, CA


What: Consistently good value riesling and shiraz with South Australia's hallmark generosity of flavor.

Standout: The '08 Adelaide Thomas Hyland Riesling ($14), juicy with orange and peach flavor yet firm and dry.

Where: Nuriootpa in the Barossa Valley, with vineyards throughout South Australia.

When:The '08 Riesling has enough power for a pork roast; the '06 Thomas Hyland Shiraz ($15) can take on beef ribs with its fruit intensity. Look to the Koonunga Hill '07 Chardonnay ($11) and the '07 Shiraz–Cabernet ($12) for well-priced party pours.

Importer: Foster's Wine Estates, Napa, CA


What: Ageworthy Great Southern riesling, Omrah Unoaked Chardonnay and the value-priced Hazard Hill wines.

Standout: A lithe, flavor-charged '08 Hazard Hill Semillon–Sauvignon Blanc ($13) packed with citrus and peach.

Where: Near the southwestern coast of Australia, in vineyards surrounding Mount Barker, including Rocky Horror and the tamer, gravelly Bouverie.

When:Grill prawns in a chile-spiked citrus marinade and you have your choice of the Semillon–Sauvignon, the Omrah Unoaked Chardonnay ($15) or the fragrant lime and saline Riesling ($17), all from '08.

Importer: Old Bridge Cellars, Napa, CA


What: An extended family of subtle and sensitively grown wines from the Hill-Smith empire in Barossa and Eden.

Standout: There's nothing overtly oaky about the luscious nectarine and smoky lees flavors in the '08 Eden Valley Wild Ferment Chardonnay ($16), remarkably sophisticated at the price.

Where: Based in Angaston since 1849, with old vines throughout Barossa and into the hills of Eden Valley.

When: Serve the '07 Patchwork Shiraz ($18) or '08 Barossa Grenache ($17) for a cookout with anything meaty. Then finish off with the delicately sweet and refreshing Museum Reserve Muscat ($19), a nonstop headtrip of apricot, lemon, roasted hazelnut, caramel, orange marmalade, honey, honeydew…

Importer: Negociants USA, Napa, CA

Top Austrian value brand

Fred Loimer

What: Discreetly balanced, soil-expressive riesling and grüner veltliner from top sites in the Kamptal.

Standout: Loimer's 2008 Kamptal Grüner Veltliner ($20) is light, crisp and refreshing.

Where: The town of Langenlois, in Austria's Kamptal.

When: The brisk, clean '08 Niederösterreich Lenz Riesling ($17) and the light, floral, citrusy Veltliner provide delicious drinking throughout the summer, on their own or with salads.

Importer: Winebow, NY

Top 6 Chilean value brands

Cono Sur

What: Sustainably grown and eminently drinkable bangs for your buck from all over Chile.

Standout: Tropical with a hint of refreshing citrus, the '08 Vision Sauvignon Blanc ($15) has a minerality that calls out for briny shellfish.

Where: Bío-Bío, Colchagua, Casablanca…anywhere provided the wines are grown sustainably or organically and the location maintains the winery's CarbonNeutral delivery status.

When: Have a party: Use the opportunity to throw out buzz phrases like "reduced CO2 emissions" and pour a pinot noir (the 2009 Central Valley Pinot Noir). No one will guess it cost just $10.

Importer: Vineyard Brands, Birmingham, AL

O. Fournier

What: An array of full-flavored reds from Spain, Chile and Argentina.

Standout: The chewy '08 Valle de Maule Urban ($9), brimming with cherry and blackberry flavors.

Where: O. Fournier has estates in Ribera del Duero, Spain; Mendoza, Argentina; and Chile's Maule and San Antonio valleys.

When: The '08 Urban and Centauri ($19) reds have the bright acidity and juicy red fruit for a pulled pork sandwich; the '09 Urban Torrontés ($8), from across the Andes in Cafayate, is a refreshing, floral aperitif.

Importer: Tempranillo, New Rochelle, NY

Kingston Family Vineyards

What: Small-production pinot, sauvignon blanc and syrah from some of Casablanca's western-most vineyards.

Standout: The '08 Cariblanco Sauvignon Blanc ($16) has a lush texture countered by mouthwatering citrus flavors.

Where: The southwestern end of Casablanca, where the vines grow on low-yielding hillsides of red clay loam and decomposed granite, and benefit from a coastal climate cooler than eastern Casablanca.

When: If you can wait until 2014, the '07 Lucero Syrah's ($18) sharp acidity would make it the ideal companion for a well-marbled steak. For the moment, pour the lush Sauvignon Blanc with roast sea bass; pull out the '08 Tobiano Pinot Noir ($20) for a roast mushroom salad.

Importer: Kingston Family Vineyards, Portola Valley, CA


What: Classical cabernet from Maipo Valley crafted by Pablo Morandé, one of the most talented winemakers in Chile.

Standout: The minty and herbal 2007 Maipo Valley Gran Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon ($17) is an excellent example of Chilean cabernet's hallmark character.

Where: From a base in Cachapoal, Morandé sources grapes from the Casablanca, Rapel and Maipo valleys.

When: The 2007 Maipo Valley Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon ($12) has the right weight and acidity for duck rillettes; pair the Gran Reserva Cabernet with a thick steak.

Importer: Morandé USA, Atlanta, GA

Santa Rita

What: Reliable reds from one of the biggest wineries in Chile.

Standout: The spicy, herbal 2006 Maipo Valley Medalla Real Special Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, far more elegant than the $20 price tag might lead you to believe.

Where: In Alto Jahuel, south of the Maipo River.

When: Try the lush yet mineral 2008 Limarí Valley Special Reserve Medalla Real Chardonnay ($18) with grilled octopus or prawns; cellar the Medalla Real Special Reserve Cabernet for three to four years and then open it with game. For parties, look to the 120 line, where you can score a juicy syrah for $8.

Importer: Palm Bay Int'l., Boca Raton, FL

Viña San Pedro

What: Wallet-friendly Chilean wines from winemakers who honed their craft in France, among producers like Lafite, William Fèvre and Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin.

Standout: The vibrant and spicy Castillo de Molina Reserva Sauvignon Blanc—a particularly great value at $10.

Where: From over a dozen farms as far north as the Elqui Valley, on the edge of the Atacama Desert, south to Bío-Bío.

When: Keep a bottle of the '06 Single Vineyard 1865 Cabernet ($16) on hand for your next go at beef stroganoff.

Importer: Shaw-Ross Int'l., Miramar, FL

Top 2 French value brands

Georges Duboeuf

What: Bright, fruit-driven gamay from every cru in Beaujolais.

Standout: The satin-textured, rose-scented 2008 Fleurie Domaine des Quatre Vents ($17).

Where: Romanèche-Thorins, Beaujolais, although the brand pulls in grapes from all over Beaujolais and beyond.

When: Pour the '08 Fleurie whenever you'd like to be transported to a French bistro, or the '08 Morgon ($13) when there's a good steak on hand. Lightly chill the more delicate Regnie ($12) for buttered ham-and-brie baguettes.

Importer: W.J. Deutsch & Sons, Harrison, NY

Pierre Sparr

What: A wide range of Alsace varieties, both domaine and négociant-made, at good prices.

Standout: The silky, fragrant Crémant d'Alsace Brut Rosé ($19), with its delicate strawberry aromas and creamy flavor.

Where: Sigolsheim, in Alsace's Haut-Rhin, just northwest of Colmar.

When: The 2008 Alsace One ($13), a juicy, ripe blend of muscat, sylvaner, pinot blanc, riesling and gewurztraminer, makes a terrific aperitif; the sparkling rosé and the Brut Réserve ($19) have the body and acidity to match light shellfish or poultry dishes.

Importer: W.J. Deutsch & Sons, Harrison, NY

Top German value brand


What: Classic Mosel riesling from a family-run estate with ten acres of vineyards in Trittenheim and Piesport.

Standout: The 2008 Piesporter Goldtröpfchen Riesling Kabinett ($19) combines ripe depth and racy acidity.

Where: Just outside the village of Trittenheim, on the banks of the Mosel River.

When: The Kabinetts from both Piesporter Goldtröpfchen and Trittenheimer Apotheke ($19) have the low alcohol and refreshing acidity that make them perfect wines for sunny days.

Importer: Winesellers, Skokie, IL

Top 3 Greek value brands


What: Classic examples of Greece's best grapes and regions.

Standout: The chalky, fresh '08 Santorini ($20), a vinous interpretation of the volcanic isle.

Where: Based in Naoussa, in northern Greece, the company operates six wineries across the country.

When: The '08 Santorini is built for fried fish and vegetables; the '06 Naoussa ($17) for roast lamb. Chill the floral, peachy '08 Mantinia Moschofilero ($17) for an aperitif.

Importer: Terlato Wines Int'l., Lake Bluff, IL


What: Floral moschofilero and plummy agiorgitiko, the two most important varieties of the Peloponnese.

Standout: The green label '08 Mantinia ($15), an ethereal, rose-scented moschofilero.

Where: Although recently acquired by Semeli Winery, Nasiakos continues to work out of its base in Mantinia, about two hours south of the Corinth Canal.

When: Whet the palate with the '08 Mantinia Moschofilero ($13); pour the '06 Nemea ($20) for cookouts.

Importer: Stellar Importing Co., Astoria, NY


What: Elegant agiorgitiko and easygoing Peloponnese whites.

Standout: The classic '07 Nemea St. George ($14), plummy and earthy with velvet tannins.

Where: In Argos, the heart of Nemea.

When: Give the vibrant '08 Zoë Rosé ($12) a chill, then match its light raspberry flavors to just about anything; the '07 Nemea St. George warrants some good lamb chops.

Importer: Diamond Importers, Chicago, IL

Top 4 Italian value brands


What: Exceptional lagrein, pinot noir and local whites from Alto Adige's first cooperative, founded in 1893.

Standout: The savory '07 Rubeno Lagrein ($20), for its meaty, ripe plum flavors and slightly savage side.

Where: In the Südtirol town of Andriano, from 240 acres of vines in the hills of Alto Adige.

When: Decant the '08 St. Magdalener ($17), a bright red blend of schiava and lagrein, or the '07 Pinot Noir ($20) when quail is on the grill.

Importer: Banville & Jones Wine Merchants, NY


What: Ultra-affordable, easy-drinking varietal wines from Northern Italy.

Standout: A plush '07 Dolomiti Cabernet Sauvignon for a mere $9.

Where: Based in Trento, the winery sources grapes from some 1,300 growers throughout the region.

When: Have a bottle of the '07 Cabernet on hand for impromptu backyard parties; the soft, plummy '07 Merlot ($9) is built for burgers.

Importer: Prestige Wine Imports, NY


What: Northern Italian reds, especially lagrein, with an Alpine freshness.

Standout: The brisk, elegant '07 Alto Adige Lagrein ($19), with its tight cherry flavors.

Where: An ancient monastery in the Bolzano area of South Tyrol.

When: Pull out the bright, citrusy '08 Müller-Thurgau ($18) for Pacific halibut; the cool '07 Lagrein—or '08 Lagrein Rosato ($17)—will cut through the smoky richness of a speck-wrapped pork loin.

Importer: Polaner Selections, Mount Kisco, NY


What: Vividly brisk white wines made by Rudi Kofler at a 100-member cooperative.

Standout: The precisely etched minerality of the '08 Classico Pinot Bianco ($17) balances deep flavors of pear and fresh grass.

Where: In Terlano, Alto Adige, with vineyards at the foot of Mount Tschöggel.

When: Chill the '08 Classico Pinot Bianco for pasta tossed with English peas; pour the citrusy '08 Müller-Thurgau ($17) with grilled cuttlefish.

Importer: Banville & Jones Wine Merchants, NY

Top 2 Portuguese value brands


What: Clean, fragrant Vinho Verde: unbeatable summer refreshment.

Standout: The flinty '08 Alvarinho ($13), with its layers of luscious citrus and peach flavor.

Where: At its estate vineyard and winery in Penafiel, northeast of Porto, and in Bairrada and Douro.

When: Pour the minerally '08 Quinta da Aveleda ($9) with any fruits de mer; open the concentrated '07 Grinalda blend of loureiro and trajadura ($15) with wood-roasted oysters.

Importers: FJN Fine Wine, Cumberland, RI; Winebow, NY (Grinalda)

Quinta de Gomariz

What: Crisp varietal estate wines from a new Vinho Verde producer, founded in 1999.

Standout: The brisk '08 Alvarinho ($15), for its lasting peach flavors and frisky acidity.

Where: In the Vale do Ave subregion of Vinho Verde, along the north coast of Portugal.

When: Pour the Alvarinho or the plump and fruity '08 Loureiro ($12) with grilled whole fish, whether John Dory or snapper.

Importer: P.R. Grisley Co., Salt Lake City, Utah

Top Slovenian value brand


What: Savory, terroir-driven Istrian malvasia and refosco, plus cabernet and merlot with a little Adriatic flare.

Standout: The 2006 Malvasia ($17) piques the palate with spearmint, anise and a substantial honeyed texture, especially if you decant it.

Where: Forty-seven acres of sandy soils with calcium deposits, southern exposures and breezes off the Adriatic Sea in Slovenska Istra.

When: Pop the Malvasia for game birds. Don't have a game bird on hand? Grab the Big Red Refosk ($17) for pasta in a Bolognese sauce.

Importer: Tri-Wines, Shrub Oak, NY

Top South African value brand

Neil Ellis

What: Fresh and zesty sauvignon blanc and chardonnay, handpicked from low-yielding vineyards in prime South African terroirs.

Standout: The 2008 Groenekloof Sauvignon Blanc ($18) epitomizes Cape sauvignon in its suave texture and orange blossom perfume.

Where: In Stellenbosch, pulling grapes primarily from red clay soils in Stellenbosch and red decomposed granite in Darling. And for chardonnay, Ellis looks to Elgin, with its climatic kinship to Burgundy.

When: Pour the '07 Stellenbosch Pinotage ($19) for lamb sausages and the '08 Stellenbosch Chardonnay ($20) with grilled sea bass.

Importer: Vineyard Brands, Birmingham, AL

Top 4 Spanish value brands

Bodegas Ochoa

What: Consistently great values from northern Spain, from a family that's been based in Navarra for more than six centuries.

Standout: The 2005 Navarra Crianza Single Estate ($17) is a cherry-scented, beautifully spiced tempranillo.

Where: In Olite, just south of Navarra and 20 miles from Pamplona.

When: Pour the citrusy '08 Navarra Viura & Chardonnay ($12) with raw shellfish and a spritz of lemon. The fleshy '07 Navarra Garnacha & Tempranillo ($12) has the juiciness for dry sausages, while the Crianza Single Estate needs something meatier to tame its tannins, like a pork roast.

Importer: Frontier Wine Imports, Dover, NJ

Telmo Rodriguez

What: Expressive, terroir-driven wines from native Spanish grapes.

Standout: The floral and fresh '07 Gazur ($20) is a distinctly light-bodied Ribera del Duero with flavors of ripe cherries and strawberries.

Where: The company has a winery in Lanciego in Rioja but draws its wines from Castilla y León, Galicia, Rioja and beyond.

When: Chill a bottle of the smooth, floral '07 Valdeorras Gaba do Xil Godello ($18) for warm fall evenings with butternut squash burritos. The Gazur is delicate enough to pair with roast chicken.

Importer: Vintus, Pleasantville, NY

Segura Viudas

What: A wide variety of elegant and inexpensive Cavas, all with remarkably balanced fruit, acidity and yeastiness.

Standout: The Brut Reserva's ($10) gentle sparkle breathes life into this richly styled Cava while its clean minerality makes it the perfect partner for crab cakes.

Where: Sant Sadurni d'Anoia, in Penedès.

When: Right now: At $10, there's no need to wait for an excuse to drink bubbly. Or if you're drinking the Aria Extra Dry ($12), hold off until the end of the picnic and serve it with macaroons.

Importer: Freixenet USA, Sonoma, CA

Real Sitio de Ventosilla

What: Honest and straightforward tinto finos from a historic estate in Ribera del Duero.

Standout: The '06 Recorba Crianza ($18), a luscious and gamey version of tinto fino.

Where: Just north of Aranda del Duero, in the heart of the Ribera del Duero DO.

When: Crack open the refreshing '08 Recorba Rosado ($11) anytime the temperature rises. Match the Recorba Crianza with traditional lechazo (baby lamb). Take the '08 Ribera del Duero PradoRey Roble ($12) to a barbecue.

Importer: Testa Wines of the World, Oyster Bay, NY