Finding an affordable wine isn’t as big a challenge as you might think. Just ask our critics, who tasted upwards of 15,000 wines this year, recommending more than 1,000 priced eighteen dollars or less. When we considered all brands with two or more recommendations in that price range, the best performers stood out as our Value Brands of the Year.
We highlighted brands in our June issue that range the world, from the cool coast of Portugal to the sunny hills of southern France, from California to South Africa’s Cape. One specializes in sparkling wines; others major in big, rich reds. All have one thing in common: Their wines aren’t merely cheap; they’re real, and really delicious.
Here are our three favorites from Portugal.
Sea spray. Mollusks. Coastal hills. Summer on the beach with Vinho Verde. Nine dollars for the Quinta da Aveleda 2014, an estate-grown blend of loureiro, trajadura and alvarinho. Fresh, clean, direct—is it the best $9 white wine in the world? It grows out of three generations (it’s been in the Guedes family since 15th century) of viticultural research on varieties, pruning, vine density and ripening. Constant tinkering. Consistently delicious (especially with seafood), refreshing white wines.
Imported by Aveleda, Pawtucket, RI
• Aveleda has over 300 acres of vines in Penafiel + 100 in Celorico de Basto, near Amarante
• They’re all vinified by individual block.
Adega de Monção
Founded by 25 growers in 1958, this cooperative is at the northeastern corner of Vinho Verde, on the Minho River, at the border with Spain. Deu la Deu is pure alvarinho, the 2013 (ready for percebes (goose barnacles) or raw clams) tense and vivid, velvety rich and completely dry. The 2014 (you should decant for grilled fish) is fruitier, its lime flavors a touch spritzy in their youth. Both run $18; the Escolha, at $9, is hard to beat for summer parties.
Imported by Aidil Wines & Liquors, Newark, NJ
Check out the 2012 DAC red ($17) —floral, spicy, stand-in for cru Beaujolais.
A donkey, two dogs and the kind of ancient, tan Land Rover you might see on safari. Quinta de Saes in the family since the 1100s. Quinta da Pellada (farmed by Castro family since 16th Century) with touriga and baga vines cresting the hill, patches of ancient vines surrounding the family’s walled 16th-century homestead. Alvaro Castro, an eccentric engineer, and his daughter, Maria (joined in 2000), tend the vines, working with Luis Lopes in the cellar and Ataíde Semedo on the blending team. Elegant, fragrant Dão reds and whites—the best value this year coming in a 2013 blend (good with grilled pork & peaches) of bical, malvasia, cerceal and encruzado, a firm, mineral-tinged white with velvet textures and floral intensity. At $15, it’s among the best in the region.
Imported by Domaine Select Wine Estates, NY/Obrigado-Vinhos Portugal, New Rochelle, NY