Chinon, France, $15
Here’s French cabernet franc in all its white-pepper finery, with bing cherry flavors and a hint of earth. It’s the clean, more modern side of Chinon. The winery also produces a more intense cuvee called Terroir ($23).
Bacchus: Available in the District at Capitol Supreme Market, Rodman’s; on the list at Bistro Bis, Woodward Table. Available in Maryland at Bin 604 Wine Sellers, Harborview Liquors, North Charles Fine Wine & Spirits and Wells Discount Liquors in Baltimore; Bin 201 Wine Sellers and Mills Fine Wine and Spirits in Annapolis. On the list at Bolton Hill Bistro, Charleston and Petit Louis in Baltimore.
Catalan, France, $13
Jean-Marc Lafage is a leading young winemaker in the Languedoc-Rousillon region of southern France. This blend of grenache blanc, chardonnay and marsanne offers citrusy notes of lime and grapefruit along with a fleshy fruitiness, making it ideal for casual sipping or to accompany zesty seafood dishes.
Country Vintner: Available in the District at Rodman’s. Available in Maryland at Finewine.com in Gaithersburg, Franklin Liquors in Ijamsville, Georgetown Square Wine and Beer in Bethesda, I.M. Wine in Fulton, Roots Market in Olney. Available in Virginia at Slaters Market in Alexandria, Unwined (Alexandria, Belleview).
Calatayud, Spain, $12
Spicy berry flavors are typical of good, inexpensive Spanish garnacha, and this wine delivers them, along with smoky earthiness for added interest. Not a particularly complex wine, just a really fun one. Another hit from sommelier-turned-importer Aurelio Cabestrero.
Elite: Available in the District at Bell Wine & Spirits, Calvert Woodley, Connecticut Avenue Wine & Liquor, Cordial Fine Wine & Spirits, Modern Liquors, Paul’s of Chevy Chase, Rodman’s, Wagshal’s Market; on the list at Boqueria, Marcel’s, Rasika, Station 4, Taberna del Alabardero, Ulah Bistro. Available in Maryland at Annebeth’s in Annapolis, Chesapeake Wine Co. in Baltimore, Fairgrounds Discount Beverages in Timonium, Mt. Airy Liquors. Available in Virginia at Arrowine in Arlington, Beer Run in Charlottesville, Cheesetique (Alexandria, Shirlington), Greenwood Gourmet Grocery in Crozet, Vino Volo at Dulles International Airport, Wine Styles in Montclair.
★1 / 2
Thracian Valley, Bulgaria, $10
This is the second Bulgarian label I’ve recommended in recent weeks. A trend? If this line is any indication, let’s hope so. The cabernet sauvignon offers the classic flavors of blackberry and currant at an attractive price. The Imperial Red Blend and especially the Cabernet Sauvignon-Syrah blend are even better — each at about $12. If the cabernet-syrah had come from Provence, it probably would have cost twice as much. Wow.
G & B Importers: Widely available in the District, including at Chat’s Liquors, Cleveland Park Wine and Spirits, Dixie Liquors, D’Vines, Modern Liquors, Rodman’s, Sherry’s Fine Wine & Spirits, and Wine Specialist. Widely available in Maryland, including at Bradley Food and Beverage, Capital Beer & Wine, and Georgetown Square Beer & Wine in Bethesda; European Delight Deli and Bakery and Kielbasa Factory in Rockville; Fenwick Beer & Wine in Silver Spring; Fox Chapel Beer & Wine and Shady Grave Beer, Wine & Cheese in Gaithersburg; and Urban Cellars and Wine Underground in Baltimore.
Languedoc, France, $10
A simple, delicious chardonnay, it’s uncomplicated by oak or pretense.
Elite: Available in the District at Rodman’s; on the list at Bistro Napoleon, Sea Catch. Available in Maryland at Bay Ridge Wine & Spirits and Crush Winehouse in Annapolis, Chesapeake Wine Co. in Baltimore, Potomac Gourmet Market at National Harbor; on the list at Geste and Sala Thai in Bethesda. On the list in Virginia at Prime Gourmet in Ashburn, Piero’s Corner in Fairfax City.
★★★Exceptional ★Excellent ★Very Good
Prices are approximate. Check Winesearcher.com to verify availability, or ask a favorite wine store to order through a distributor.