★★★Exceptional ★★Excellent ★Very Good
Prices are approximate. Check Winesearcher.com to verify availability, or ask a favorite wine store to order through a distributor.
Here’s my monthly list of Great Value wines that offer above-average quality for the price. These selections cost $15 or less and include two pinot noirs from southern France that offer a contrast in styles. Despite scandals in recent years over merlot masquerading as pinot from southern France, we’ll have to take the labels at face value. The wines taste like pinot, anyway.
Whenever I find myself complaining that California doesn’t produce inexpensive wines worth drinking (a common and unfair gripe among wine writers), I open a Bogle. This winery is consistent and reliable for overperforming wines. Although the prices are creeping up, this petite sirah is deep and rich, ideal for casual steaks, roasts and meat off the grill. Best of all, it avoids the high alcohol common among petite sirah in recent years.
Constantine in the District and Maryland, Service in Virginia: Available in the District at Best in Liquors, Circle Wine & Liquor, Cost Plus World Market, Gandel’s Liquors, Magruder’s, Metro Wine & Spirits, Paul’s of Chevy Chase, and various locations of Harris Teeter, Safeway, Target, Whole Foods Market, Yes! Organic Market. Available in Maryland at Balducci’s in Bethesda; Cedar Grove Beer, Wine & Deli in Germantown; Family Market in Silver Spring; Giant at White Oak; Montgomery County liquor stores at Cabin John, Montrose Crossing and Potomac; Rodman’s in Wheaton. Available in Virginia at various Giant, Harris Teeter, Safeway and Wegmans locations, among others.
Salta, Argentina, $14
The Familia Zuccardi winery produces a dizzying array of wines under its own name and the Santa Julia label; malbec and torrontes are their best, and almost always terrific, values. Santa Julia has cheaper (also recommended) versions of torrontes, a spicy, flowery wine that suggests Gewurztraminer with restraint. This bottling from Salta, a relatively unknown region with vineyards at impressively high altitudes, is lean and focused, with citrus notes to accent the litchi and lemon grass flavors.
Country Vintner: Available in the District at Calvert Woodley, Cork & Fork, Modern Liquors; on the list at Ardeo+Bardeo. Available in Maryland at Cork & Fork in Bethesda, Perfect Pour in Elkridge. Available in Virginia at the Vineyard Table in Herndon.
Languedoc, France, $13
This leading Gigondas producer from the southern Rhone Valley also offers this tasty white, made from grapes grown near Minervois, in the Languedoc. The viognier-sauvignon blanc partnership works so well, I’m surprised it hasn’t been copied around the word. The fleshiness of the viognier balances beautifully with the racy acidity of the sauvignon blanc.
Country Vintner: Available in the District at Wagshal’s; on the list at all Chef Geoff’s restaurants, Napoleon Bistro. Available in Maryland at King Farm Beer & Wine in Rockville, Iron Bridge Wine Co. in Columbia, Silesia Liquors in Fort Washington, Wine Source in Baltimore. Available in Virginia at Iron Bridge Wine Co. in Warrenton.
★1 / 2
Languedoc, France, $12
This wine, from a terrific Chablis-based producer, is pinot noir on the austere, mineral side: lean and focused, with appealing cherry flavors. It’s a more serious wine than the price would suggest.
M Touton Selection: Available in the District at Best D.C. Supermarket, Best in Liquors, Cleveland Park Wine and Spirits, Harry’s Reserve Fine Wine & Spirits, Paul’s of Chevy Chase, Subway Liquors II. Available in Maryland at Capital Beer & Wine and Meridian Market and Wine in Bethesda; College Square Liquors and House of Liquors in Westminster; Franklin’s Restaurant, Brewery and General Store in Hyattsville; Franklin Liquors in Ijamsville; Gilly’s Craft Beer & Fine Wine in Rockville; Glenwood Wine & Spirits; Lenox Beer & Wine in Silver Spring; Old Farm Liquors in Frederick; Quench! Beer-Wine-Deli in Colesville.
★1 / 2
Languedoc, France, $12
Darker in color and richer in style than the Simonnet-Fevre, this pinot is a bit fleshier, fruitier and sweeter, while still holding all of its elements in balance.
Country Vintner: Available in the District at Connecticut Avenue Wine & Liquor, Rodman’s. Available in Maryland at BJ’s Beer & Wine and Grape Expectations in Gaithersburg; Belby Discount Beer & Wine in Rockville; Rodman’s in Wheaton and White Flint; Snider’s Super Foods in Silver Spring; Montgomery County liquor stores in Falls Grove and Potomac. On the list at Cava in Rockville. Available in Virginia at the Wine Cellar in Middleburg; on the list at Virtue Feed & Grain in Alexandria.
★1 / 2
Mendoza, Argentina, $11 (1 liter)
I found earlier vintages of this wine a bit underripe, but there was never any doubt that it was a bargain. The 1-liter Tetra Pak carton makes the effective price about $8 for a standard 750-ml bottle. The 2011, just arriving in the market, is the best yet. Stock up for casual parties or burger blowouts.
Bacchus: Available in the District at Whole Foods Market P Street and Tenleytown; on the list at Dickson Wine Bar. Available in Maryland at Annebeth’s and Bay Ridge Wine & Spirits in Annapolis; Bethesda Chevy Chase Beer & Wine and Cork 57 in Bethesda; Eddie’s, Eddie’s of Mt. Vernon, Mt. Washington Wine Co., Wells Discount Liquors, Wine Source and Wine Underground in Baltimore; Honeygo Wine and Spirits in Perry Hall. On the list at Black Olive and Grand Cru in Baltimore, the Daily Dish in Silver Spring.