Value Brands of the Year 2015: New World - Wine & Spirits Magazine

Value Brands of the Year 2015: New World

illustrations by Megan Piontkowski

Great wine doesn’t need to cost a bundle. These 39 brands prove it. Each one of them boasts multiple recommendations for wines that cost $18 or less, all standouts among the 14,000-plus wines we’ve tasted over the last 12 months. We’ve presented them by country, along with stats from three years of our blind tastings. Here are the brands and regions to check out for great buys.


Long before the critters of Southeastern Australia invaded the US wine market, a range of old-line brands from South Australia were known for reliable, value-priced wine.

The fruity, jammy, hyperripe critter wines often came in below $10—sometimes well below $10—while the more restrained, traditional labels had built confidence in the under-$20 range.

If you’re ready for a different sort of critter on your bottle of wine, one that inhabits a fresh, marine environment, check out the Hermit Crab 2012 from d’Arenberg. The family winery, based in South Australia’s McLaren Vale, built a reputation for great wine at reasonable prices in the 1960s with d’Arry’s Original. D’Arry Osborn’s son, Chester, has extended the brand through his hyperactive imagination, while remaining faithful to the family’s core values of sustaining old vines and traditional winemaking practices. Chester expresses his creativity through his labels and the stories he builds around them, like the tale of the hermit crabs who gave their shells to build the limestone soils where he now grows viognier and marsanne. At $17, you’ll find few better matches for Dungeness crab than this blend with its tart apple and juicy orange flavors. Or order up some Thai shrimp curry and chill a bottle of the Dry Dam Riesling, a light, off-dry style that will freshen up most any Asian takeout.

Faith in South Australia’s old-vine assets is a central tenet at St Hallett, where Stuart Blackwell turns out classic Barossa shiraz. The firm began as a family business focused on fortified wines before Blackwell and the late Bob McLean made the brand famous in the 1990s, for everything from the top selection, Blackwell, named after the winemaker, to the value-priced Poacher’s Blend. Faith is the name of St Hallett’s $16 shiraz, a smooth, chocolate-rich red in 2013, more dynamic, rose scented and juicy in 2012. —Joshua Greene

d’Arenberg (Old Bridge Cellars, Napa, CA)
2012 McLaren Vale The Hermit Crab White (90 pts., $17, 10/14)
2013 McLaren Vale The Dry Dam Riesling (89 pts., $17, 2/15)

St Hallett (Distinguished Vineyards, Overland Park, KS)
2012 Barossa Faith Shiraz (89 pts., $16, 10/14)
2013 Barossa Eden Valley Riesling (88 pts., $16, 10/14)

South America

Thanks to inexpensive labor, fertile lands and a conscious strategy to position the wines in lower price brackets, South America has long been one of the most reliable sources of values in the world of wine. And it still is.

Every year, though, the field of more ambitious wines grows, wines that reflect many years of work and research in the vineyards. And prices have gone up in concert with those rising ambitions.

These days, the percentage of recommended wines under $18 in Mendoza, for example, is surprisingly low, considering that it used to be the world’s Promised Land for inexpensive malbec. However, there are always value specialists, like La Posta. It’s a collaboration between the importing company Vine Connections and Laura Catena of Catena winery. Catena’s contacts among growers in Mendoza lets them get top quality grapes at low prices, even in areas like the Valle de Uco, the cooler subregion home to many fine (and pricey) single-vineyard bottlings. The Fazzio Vineyard Malbec 2013 from vines less than ten years old in Tupungato, might lack the full depth of old-vine malbec, but there’s plenty of the variety’s signature bright, spicy ripe cherry flavors, with the plush texture that only malbec can achieve.

The east side of Mendoza is also a reliable source of values. Those warm, sunny plains are ideal for the late-ripening bonarda. Tilia’s 2013 is a terrific example of the variety, with generous flavors of blackberries and sweet raspberries tinged with spice. Across the Andes in Chile, larger well-established Chilean wineries like Santa Rita and Concha y Toro are able to draw on long-term relationships and economies of scale to find the best grapes. Take, for instance, Santa Rita’s 2013 Secret Reserve, drawn from young vines planted at the foot of the Andes, in the Maipo Valley. It’s a blend of cabernet, merlot, syrah, petit verdot and carmenère that takes advantage of a cold year in the Maipo to deliver a vibrant red rich in berry flavors and tangy acidity that make it dangerously easy to drink, especially at $11 a bottle.

Concha y Toro has access to thousands of acres of vineyards in almost every valley of Chile. For its new line, Serie Riberas, they select fruit from their own vineyards along rivers that form the transverse valleys of Chile, running from the Cordillera to the Pacific. The 2013 Marchigüe Serie Riberas Gran Reserva Cabernet comes from vineyards planted on the south bank of the Tinguiririca River, the backbone of the Colchagua Valley. Fresh and vibrant, with precise acidity energizing the blueberry flavor, it’s a reminder of how wholesome a ordable Chilean cabernet can be.

Chilean sauvignon blanc shines on the shores of the Central Valley. In the Leyda area, a few miles from the Pacifi c Ocean, the sauvignon is tense and vibrant. Montes captures that coastal charm in the 2014 Limited Edition. From young sauvignon vines planted on the clay soils, it partners herbal and citrus notes with a voluptuous texture—an ideal yet inexpensive partner for sea bass ceviche. —Patricio Tapia


La Posta (Vine Connections, Sausalito, CA)
2013 Uco Valley Fazzio Vineyard Malbec (90 pts., $18, 2/15)
2013 Mendoza Tinto (89 pts., $15, 2/15)

Tilia (Winebow, NY)
2013 Mendoza Bonarda (90 pts., $12, 2/15)
2013 Mendoza Cabernet Sauvignon (89 pts., $12, 2/15)


Concha y Toro (Excelsior Wine & Spirits, Old Brookville, NY)
2013 Colchagua Valley Serie Riberas Gran Reserva Ribera del Rapel Chardonnay (90 pts., $15, 6/15)
2013 Marchigüe Serie Riberas Gran Reserva Ribera del Tinguiririca Cabernet Sauvignon (89 pts., $17, 6/15)

Montes (TGIC Importers, Woodland Hills, CA)
2014 Leyda Valley Limited Selection Sauvignon Blanc (91 pts., $16, 6/15)
2014 Colchagua Valley Cherub Rose Syrah (88 pts., $16, 6/15)

Santa Rita (Palm Bay Int’l., Boca Raton, FL)
2013 Central Valley Secret Reserve Red (91 pts., $11, 2/15)
2013 Central Valley 120 Hero’s Salute Red (90 pts., $9, 2/15)

This story was featured in W&S June 2015.
illustrations by Megan Piontkowski

This story appears in the print issue of June 2015.
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