The 50 Best Wines Under $50 to Buy in 2017
The 50 Best Wines Under $50 to Buy in 2017
Believe it or not, it’s easier than ever to buy great wines without spending a fortune. From my tastings this year, I’ve picked 50 wines that cost under $50 a bottle—and deliver both value and sheer deliciousness for the price.
To find the biggest bang for the buck, look in emerging regions and those with less buzz, such as Mendocino instead of Napa, Beaujolais instead of Burgundy.
Rather than hunting the best-known grape varieties, try such neglected classics as chenin blanc or hard-to-pronounce obscure ones, like voisinho. Entry level and second wines from the best estates almost always offer top value.
Above all, shop around. (That’s what the internet is for.)
For top inexpensive bubbly, look outside Champagne.
NV Jansz Premium Cuvée Brut ($22): Cool Tasmania is the source of this fresh, fruity sparkler with creamy bubbles and tangy acidity.
2015 Domaine La Grange Tiphaine Rosa, Rosé, Rosam ($24): Few pet nat sparklers are as delicious as this refreshing pink organic from 80-year-old vines in the Loire Valley.
NV Quartz Reef Methode Traditionelle Brut ($27): A top pinot noir producer in New Zealand’s Central Otago crafts this lemony, zesty bubbly in a classic manner.
2010 Bolney Estate Blanc de Blancs Brut ($50): English fizz has just arrived in the U.S. This sophisticated example has a citrus and mineral character that mirrors fine Champagne.
When Only Champagne Will Do
Non-vintage blends, especially those from grower-producers (the hundreds of tiny estates that rely on their own vineyards for grape), are usually the most affordable Champagnes.
NV Ayala Brut Majeur ($35 to $40): An under-the-radar grande marque owned by Bollinger makes this pretty, floral-scented, full-bodied bubbly.
NV Pierre Moncuit Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru Delos ($43): This grower is noted for fizz with freshness and energy, like this all-chardonnay cuvée from grand cru vineyards.
NV Arlaux Grande Cuvée Premier Cru Brut ($45): This blend from a tiny grower highlights pinot meunier, which gives the wine a wonderful fruity richness.
NV Tarlant Zero Brut Nature ($50): This edgy, smoky blend (pinot noir, chardonnay, and pinot meunier) has more complexity than most non-vintage cuvées.
NV Savart Brut L’Ouverture Premier Cru ($49): Savart has become sommeliers’ “in” producer, and his entry-level, spice-scented, all-pinot cuvée is a great introduction to his style.
NV Gatinois Grand Cru Brut Tradition ($50): Very fresh, perfumed, and layered, this light, balanced wine offers stunning quality for the price.
These dry, full-bodied examples go with just about everything.
2014 Torre Di Beati Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo ($18): Deep reddish-pink, this winter weight rosé is packed with juicy red-cherry flavors, and is almost like a red wine.
2014 Clos Cibonne Cuvée Tradition Côtes de Provence Rosé ($28): This fresh, spicy-salty rosé is made primarily from the ancient tibouren grape—perfect for rich fish stews and curries.
2015 Poe Sonoma County Rosé ($29): A blend of pinot noir and pinot meunier, this has everything you want in a rosé: mouthwatering acidity, hints of red berries, and elegance.
From zingy aperitifs to savory dinner wines.
2015 Casa Ferreirinha Planalto Reserva Douro White ($15): This light, citrusy everyday Portuguese white is made from seven grape varieties: viosinho, malvasia fina, gouveio, codega, arinto, rabigato, and moscatel.
2014 Domaine de la Louvetrie Le Fief du Breil Muscadet Sevre et Maine Sur Lie ($19): The quintessential oyster wine, Muscadet remains undervalued. This pure, bright example is smoky and salty.
2014 Rafael Palacios Louro do Bolo Godello ($20): One of Spain’s best winemakers makes this stunning blend of godello and treixadura grapes in Galicia.
2015 Alois Lageder Haberle Pinot Bianco ($23): Apple and tangy mineral flavors mark this mouthwatering white from Italy’s Alto Adige region.
2014 Les Enfers Tranquille Michel Autran Vouvray ($25): This wonderful chenin blanc, from a hot new winemaker in the Loire Valley, has intense, layered richness and minerality.
2015 Lang & Reed Wine Co. Chenin Blanc Napa Valley ($26): The second vintage of this stylish, dry wine has bright notes of peaches. The producer is one of the few in California to excel with this Loire Valley grape.
2015 Schäfer-Frôhlich Riesling Trocken ($26): This bargain riesling from a rising winemaker is precise and pure, with notes of slate and lemongrass.
2013 Marco de Bartoli Grappoli del Grillo ($27): A rich, intense Sicilian white with notes of lemon fruit and a floral-mineral bouquet, it has oodles of depth and individual character for the price.
2015 Lieu Dit Sauvignon Blanc ($25): Light, yet intense, this white from the Santa Ynez Valley shows off the new, fresher style of sauvignon being made in California.
2014 Greywacke Sauvignon Blanc Wild ($25): This is serious New Zealand sauvignon, with tons of personality and layers of mint and lemon verbena flavors.
2013 Domaine Eden Chardonnay ($30): Subtle, classic, and earthy, this beautifully balanced chardonnay is a second wine from Mount Eden Vineyards in the Santa Cruz mountains.
2014 Domaine A. & P. de Villaine Bouzeron Aligote ($36): The co-owner of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti owns this organically farmed estate. Aligote is Burgundy’s other white grape; this one has ripe fruit flavors with a stony edge.
2014 Frankland Estate Isolation Ridge Riesling ($37): This very complex, vibrant riesling, with notes of fresh limes and lemongrass, shows what Western Australia can do with a classic European grape.
2015 Domaine Tempier Bandol Blanc ($42): Noted for its popular rosé, this famous domaine in the south of France also makes a tiny amount of a rich white from four local grape varieties.
2015 Samuel Billaud Chablis Montée de Tonnerre Premier Cru ($49): Chablis offers chardonnay bargains like this brilliant, complex, deeply mineral wine from a top premier cru vineyard.
From luscious drink-me blends to serious big-deal bottles.
2014 Domaine des Terres Dorées (Jean-Paul Brun) Cote de Brouilly ($20): Beaujolais is one of the best red wine bargains around. This one, made from 50-year-old vines, has notes of berry fruit and violets.
2014 Domaine Bernard Baudry Chinon ($22): Cabernet franc, the red grape of the Loire Valley, is having a moment. This basic estate wine from a top producer has bright tangy fruit and smoky minerality.
2014 Edmunds St. John El Dorado County Bone-Jolly Gamay Noir ($22): America’s answer to Beaujolais is light red, super-fresh, spicy, and positively gulpable.
2014 Marchesi di Gresy Langhe Nebbiolo Martinenga ($22): Barolo is expensive and needs years of aging, but Langhe nebbiolo, from the same grape and region, is softer and ready to drink.
2014 Banshee Sonoma County Pinot Noir ($23): The Sonoma Coast fruit in this bing cherry-and-spice red comes from declassified barrels of top pinot producers.
2014 Domaine Ostertag Pinot Noir Rouge E ($24): Pure and earthy but with a core of bright fruit and surprising length, this red from Alsace has more depth than you'd think at first sip.
2013 G.D. Vajra Barbera d’Alba ($24): The Vajra family in Piemonte takes Barbera seriously. In this stellar vintage, their wine brims with tastes of licorice and herbs.
2013 Isola e Olena Chianti Classico ($23 to $28): Chianti Classico recently celebrated its 300th anniversary. This lighter-styled juicy traditional one is a textbook example.
2014 Eric Texier Brézème Côtes du Rhône ($25): Texier put the Brézème appellation back on the map with such wines as this savory, richly fruity, and complex syrah.
2014 RoseRock Pinot Noir ($30): This debut wine, a new Oregon project of the Burgundy-based Drouhin family, has a spicy elegance rare in a pinot at this price.
2013 Kevin Descombes Morgon Vieilles Vignes ($32): The talented Descombes shadowed his famous father, then went out on his own at age 21. This stunningly deep, structured, mineral-ly wine is his debut.
2016 Scribe Nouveau of Pinot Noir ($32): There’s a movement in American wineries to create a version of Beaujolais Nouveau. This snappy, gulpable wine is one of the best examples.
2013 J-L Chave Selections Offerus St. Joseph ($35): A star in the northern Rhône, Chave also has a negociant line full of top buys. This syrah is all silky fruit and scents of violets.
2012 Les Griffons de Pichon-Baron ($40): The new second wine of famed Bordeaux Château Pichon-Baron is luxuriously fruity and glossy.
2008 CVNE Vina Real Gran Reserva Rioja ($45): Spanish winery CVNE is one of the few sources of aged reds at low prices. This one is elegant, tobacco-y, and spicy.
2014 Drew Family Cellars Valenti Ranch Syrah ($49): Jason Drew, a master of pinot and syrah on the Mendocino coast, made this deep, concentrated, single-vineyard syrah.
Wines for Geeks
2013 Domaine Belluard Les Alpes ($38): In Savoie, near Mont Blanc, a star winemaker rescued the rare local gringet grape and makes this crisp, salty, mineral white from it.
2005 Chateau Musar Gaston Hochar ($49): The late Serge Hochar was revered for making wine, even in the face of decades of war in Lebanon. His red is earthy, traditional, and plummy.
2014 Arianna Occhipinti Il Frappato ($40): Aromas of berries and cassis and high personality mark this soulful Sicilian red from one of Italy’s heroines of the natural wine movement.
Most sweet wines are expensive. These are full bottles, but remember that a half-bottle will go a long way.
2013 Chateau Doisy-Védrines ($35): Sauternes are woefully undervalued. This one is suave and silky textured, perfect for sipping by the fire after dinner.
NV Graham’s 20 Year Old Tawny Port ($40): Smooth, toffee-scented, and ready to drink, this is a wine to sip with fruitcake or crème bruleé.
Rare Wine Co. Historic Series Charleston Sercial Madeira ($50): This recreation of a historic style of Madeira reminds me of gingerbread, dried figs, and honey. Once opened, it won’t go bad.