VALUES

Our panels tasted 1,615 new-release wines for this December 2003 issue, and singled out a range of inexpensive wines for the value they offer. W&S critics Tara Q. Thomas and Patrick Comiskey then tasted these wines and rated them for their quality-price ratio. These ten wines - designated "Good Value" or "Exceptional Value" - represent the best overall quality for the lowest price. Suggested national retail prices have been quoted by the winery or importer, but prices in your area may vary considerably. If you shop carefully, you may be able to find these wines at a significant discount to the price listed here.

WHITES
GV I René Barbier $6.99
2001 Penedàs Chardonnay
Tart and lively against a backdrop of peach flavor, this balanced chardonnay ends on a spicy note. Serve with grilled calamari.
Freixenet USA, Sonoma, CA
 
EV I Barnard Griffin $7.99
2002 Columbia Valley Fumé Blanc
Sweet and rounded with oak, this tastes of creamy vanilla and spice. Serve chilled.
Barnard Griffin, Richland, WA
 
EV I Rosenblum $9
California Vintner's Cuvee Blanc IV
Simple, grapey, irresistible stuff. A cuvee of mostly Central Coast viognier, with a touch of chardonnay, roussanne and marsanne, this is clean and brisk on the palate. Uncork it for lunch.
Rosenblum Cellars, Alameda, CA
 
EV I St. Urbans-Hof $10
2002 Mosel-Saar-Ruwer QbA Riesling
With sweet peach flavors and a warm, stony minerality, this is inviting riesling, the sort to have on hand for evening sipping and take-out bento box dinners.
HB Wine Merchants, NY
 
REDS
GV I Manzanita Canyon $7.50
2002 California Cabernet Sauvignon
Blue, forward and grapey, almost carbonic in mouthfeel, this is a friendly cabernet for a house party.
Greenfield Wine Company, American Canyon, CA
 
GV I Rutherford Vintners $8.99
2000 Stanislaus County Cabernet Sauvignon
This brings rusticity into a ripe vintage. It's a sappy, jammy fruit-bomb with cabernet grip, good for spaghetti bolognese.
Rutherford Vintners, Sonoma, CA
 
EV I Piera Dardano $8.99
2002 Dolcetto d'Alba (Italy)
A light-bodied dolcetto with high acidity, chill this simple red for charcuterie.
Verdoni Imports, Hawthorne, NJ
 
GV I Domaine Miquel $9
2001 Vin de Pays d'Oc Merlot (France)
Chocolate-cherry scents and plummy vanilla-tinged fruit make this an easy winner in the land of affordable merlot.
Frederick Wildman & Sons, NY
 
EV I Silver Ridge $9.99
2001 California Cabernet Sauvignon
Supple, bright, and light in its tannic grip, this wine offers a plummy cabernet flavor profile with just a touch of acidity. For a roast beef sandwich.
Silver Ridge Vineyards, Sonoma, CA
 
EV I Faustino $12
1999 Rioja Crianza (Spain)
Cherry aromas touched with mint lead into this traditionally styled Rioja. It's palate-whetting, full of fresh red fruit flavor and a nervous intensity, ideal for chorizo or any kind of sausage.
Palm Bay Imports, Boca Raton, FL
 

In this time of tight wallets there's an awful lot of cheap wine out there. But cheap doesn't matter if the wine isn't good. At W&S, we define "good" as tasting like what a wine says it is; if the label reads "merlot," we don't want a glass of broccoli. That's not all: it's got to be lip-smacking, too. These may sound like high requisites for wines that sell for $15 or less, but here are 54 brands that manage it regularly - 20 American and 34 imported. Every winery listed here had at least two - but more likely four and up to nine - wines for $15 or less that were recommended over the last 12 months. These are names you can rely on when you walk into a new store or glance down an unfamiliar wine list, or simply when you want lots of bang for your buck. There's something for every occasion, from cheerful sparklers and spaghetti reds to whites with four-star class and steakhouse pours that would impress the boss.

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