Prices are approximate. Check Winesearcher.com to verify availability, or ask a favorite wine store to order through a distributor.
Here is my monthly list of bargain-price wines that sell for $15 or less while offering great value.
Fattoria Colsanto Ruris 2008
Umbria, Italy, $11
A blend of sangiovese, merlot and sagrantino, this red surprised me with the quality it offered for the price, though with this importer I should have expected no less. The wine is from central Italy, with a nice balance between the sometimes tart acidity of Tuscany and the fatter, sun-baked flavors of the south. And there’s something about sagrantino, even at 10 percent of the blend, that gives the wine an intriguing lift.
Siema: Available in the District at Cork & Fork; on the list at Jack Rose, Primi Piatti, Siroc and Vento. Available in Maryland at Balducci’s, Cork & Fork and Cork 57 Beer and Wine in Bethesda; Finewine.com in Gaithersburg; Rodman’s in White Flint; Ye Old Spirit Shop in Frederick. Available in Virginia at Chain Bridge Cellars in McLean, the Italian Store in Arlington, Market Street Wines in Charlottesville, Rick’s Wine & Gourmet and Whole Foods Market in Alexandria, various Wegmans locations; on the list at Assaggi Mozzarella Bar in McLean, and Cafe Assorti and Il Radicchio in Arlington.
Finca os Cobatos Mencia 2010
Monterrei, Spain, $15
Mencia, the red grape of Bierzo in northwestern Spain, has become trendy in the past few years, and the wines are not in great supply, so they rarely meet my $15 Recession Busters threshold. This example hails from Monterrei, a smaller region that sits just atop Portugal’s northern border in Galicia. It tastes somewhat grapey for its youthfulness, but there’s a puppylike charm to this wine. And it shows the spicy black-cherry, white-pepper character that led many to wonder whether mencia might be a forgotten clone of cabernet franc. (Genetic testing has shown that the two varieties are unrelated.)
Nice Legs: Available in the District at MacArthur Beverages; on the list at Estadio and Veritas. Available in Maryland at Cork & Fork in Bethesda; on the list at Pazo in Baltimore. Available in Virginia at Chain Bridge Cellars in McLean, Cork & Fork in Gainesville, Unwined in Alexandria and Belleview; on the list at Farrah Olivia and Kora in Arlington.
Essay Chenin Blanc 2010
South Africa, $9
This charmer has mass appeal; it’s slightly off-dry, with very ripe fruit, an attractive price and good availability. It’s gulpable on its own and also suitable for any weeknight dinner when a white wine is called for, which is probably why it’s so popular with restaurants for their by-the-glass programs.
Bacchus in the District and Maryland: Available in the District at 1 W Dupont Circle Wine & Liquors, 1500 Market, Broad Branch Market, Capitol Supreme Market, Chat’s Liquors, Connecticut Avenue Wine & Liquor, Georgetown Wine & Spirits, Magruder’s, Modern Liquors, P&C Market, Potenza Wine Shop, S&S Liquors, Whole Foods Market Glover Park and P Street; on the list at Agora, Cedar, the Diner, Floriana, Granville Moore’s, Masala Hut, Rosemary & Thyme’s, U St. Grill, Vinoteca. J.W. Sieg in Virginia: Available at Balducci’s in Alexandria, the Vineyard in McLean; on the list at Brabo and Majestic Cafe in Alexandria, Eventide and Samuel Beckett’s in Arlington.
Familia Pacheco Monastrell-Syrah 2009
Jumilla, Spain, $10
Certified organic, it’s spicy and earthy (as one would expect from monastrell, the Spanish name for mourvedre), an excellent partner for robust casual foods such as grilled sausage or chicken.
J.W. Sieg: Available in the District at Cleveland Park Wine and Spirits, Cork & Fork. Available in Virginia at Arrowine in Arlington, Ashburn Wine Shop, Vienna Vintner, Unwined in Alexandria and Belleview; on the list at the Wine Kitchen in Leesburg.
Valentin Bianchi New Age
This attractively packaged white has been “flying off the shelves,” according to Caroline Ross, manager at Rick’s Wine & Gourmet in Alexandria. It’s a non-vintage-labeled blend of torrontes, Argentina’s flowery white grape, and a dollop of sauvignon blanc, rather sweet (only 11 percent alcohol and nearly 54 grams of residual sugar per liter) and frizzante, not unlike a moscato. The sweetness suggests spicy foods or mixing in cocktails; the producer recommends serving it on the rocks with a slice of lime. For some reason, it is widely available in Ellicott City, where the council might consider naming it
the official town tipple. There is also a rosé version, made from malbec and merlot.
Prestige in the District and Maryland: Available in the District at Ace Beverage, Circle Wine & Liquor, Connecticut Avenue Wine & Liquor, Cost Plus World Market. Available in Maryland at Dorsey’s Search Wine & Spirits, Jason’s Wine & Spirits, North Ridge Wine & Spirits and Pine Orchard Wine in Ellicott City; Mt. Airy Liquors; Nick’s of Calvert in Prince Frederick; Old Farm Liquors in Frederick; the Perfect Pour in Elkridge; the Wine Shoppe in Waldorf. Select Wines in Virginia: Available at various locations of Cost Plus World Market and Harris Teeter; Fresh Market in Vienna; Rick’s Wine & Gourmet in Alexandria.
L’Isola dei Profumi Rosso 2008
Sicilia, Italy, $8
Nothing profound here, and at first sip I gave it just a favorable shrug. But then I noticed a hint of violets in the aroma, a nice mid-palate weight and refreshing balance. It’s a blend of nero d’avola and perricone, so here’s one to add to your list of grape varieties. A simple and pleasant red, best for lighter foods, nothing too robust.
Siema: Available in the District at Whole Foods Market Foggy Bottom and P Street; on the list at Dino. Available in Maryland at Balducci’s and Capital Beer & Wine in Bethesda; Pinky & Pepe’s Grape Escape in Gaithersburg; Rodman’s in Wheaton. Available in Virginia at Balducci’s in McLean; Fern St. Gourmet in Alexandria; Unwined in Alexandria and Belleview; Whole Foods Market in Alexandria, Fairfax and Vienna; Wine Warehouse in Charlottesville. On the list at Atlantis in Alexandria, Kora in Arlington, La Dolce Vita in Fairfax, Kalypsos Sports Tavern in Reston, Panache in McLean.