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 Spain.
All sparkling, by Champagne method
High-quality, organically grown bubbles for $15. How? Working closely with Spanish wine importer José Pastor. Picking from the highest areas of the Penedès in Catalonia. Old bush vines, 30 to 35 years old. The rosé (great with smoked salmon) uses the local grape trepat as well as garnacha, the wine saturated with red fruit flavor; the Brut Nature Reserve (sushi wine) is rich (50 percent macabeo) and at the same time seductively refreshing. Imported by José Pastor Selections/Vinos and Gourmet, Richmond, CA
Compañía de Vinos del Atlántico
2014 Zestos Rosado Garnacha from Madrid $11
This is a side project of Olé Imports in New York, where Alberto Orte and Patrick Mata partner with small producers throughout Spain to create a liquid map of Iberian flavors. A Portela ($17) is a Valdeorras mencía filled with such refreshing red fruit it drinks as easily as water; the 2010 Calma ($17) is a silken, sophisticated Rioja from high-altitude sites, its bright fruit balanced with warm barrel tones. There are great buys from the northeast as well, like La Cartuja ($17) from Priorat and Pinyolet, made from garnacha planted at 1,700 feet in Montsant’s pebbly limestone soils, a bargain at $16.
Imported by Olé Imports, New Rochelle, NY
Bodegas Delgado Zuleta
Producing wines since 1744 in Sanlúcar de Barrameda, Delgado Zuleta is famous in Spain for La Goya (goes especially well with oysters), a mineral-tinged Manzanilla so refreshing it immediately evokes seafood and summer. But the entire lineup is worth checking out: The Amontillado (sea urchin) and Moscatel (apple cake) also offer all the complexity and minerality of the best, and all are just $16.
Imported by Frontier Wine Imports, Dover, NJ
Lustau produces some of the best values in the world of Sherry. The Manzanillas and Finos are always fresh, crisp and filled with mineral notes—the Jarana Fino for garlic prawns; the Papirusa Manzanilla a little softer and more intense, with salted nut flavors for cod fritters (both $16). At these prices, maybe you can save up for one of the new Lustau VORS wines ($100), long-aged beauties that are among the best in the region. Imported by Europvin USA, Van Nuys, CA