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 four favorites from France.
Nathalie Carlot works in the galet-covered vineyards of Costières de Nîmes, at the very southern end of the Rhône Valley, where the sun begins to feel Provençal but the breezes retain some chill. Her rich red (grenache, syrah and mourvedre; for feta-topped burgers at $13) tastes like the Mediterranean, juicy, herbal and sunny; her golden Tradition Blanc (voussanne, marsanne, viognier; for grilled vegetables) is bright, fresh and limey, gaining a little florality from viognier.
Imported by Robert Kacher Selections, NY
Domaine de la Chanteleuserie
(winery name means “place where the larks sing”)
South-facing hills, old cabernet franc vines, seven generations of wisdom: In a late and humid 2013 harvest, Thierry Boucard turned out fresh, fragrant and delicious reds. Beauvais (which are oldest vines dating back to 1967), 10 acres planted in 1971, goes from clay and limestone soils into oak vats to ferment; Alouettes, 20 acres on sand and clay goes into stainless steel. Ample fruit; firm, mineral-driven tannins; bright, youthful franc. Vastly underpriced.
Imported by Kermit Lynch Wine Merchant, Berkeley, CA
Les Domaines Auriol
Currently converting more of their estates to organics
Claude Vialade ran the Corbières AOC syndicate until 1995, then parlayed her knowledge of the region into a negociant company. Today, that company puts out about 12 million bottles of wine from estates across the south of France. Red is where it’s at: The Terrasses du Domaine from the Plos des Vents (certified biodynamic) estate in Corbières ($16) feels sunny and southern; the 2014 Fitou Château Candide ($11) smells of garrigue, with succulent red fruit.
Imported by Wines With Conviction, Dallas, TX
Jean-Claude Mas has eight estates across the south of France, from Limoux (with his Crémant rosé (good brunch wine), a light, peachy chardonnay-chenin sparkler with a little pinot noir for color) to the Hérault (leathery carignan from the Savignac Vineyard. This wine is made for lamb). The Côté Mas line is all easy-going liters, like the refreshing, red grapefruit–scented 2014 Rosé Aurore (half grenache, rest cinsault and syrah; $12) with its chalky minerality.
Imported by Esprit du Vin, Port Washington, NY