A terrific, inexpensive red wine from a little-known region of Spain; the emergence of the grape called viognier as a welcome alternative to King Chardonnay in California, and, this just in, excellent sparkling wine from New Mexico. These are among the top stories that emerged as I looked back at some of my favorite wines of the year.
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As always, my goal in 2007 was to find wines that combined interest and value and to introduce you to wines that go beyond the easy-to-remember standards. If you’re looking for a comprehensive listing and ranking of, say, California merlots, this is not the place. I made a decision when I started this column six years ago not to rank or score, but to write about wines that stand out.
That’s because for me, wine is a broad experience that includes the search for good wines and the context in which we enjoy them. In other words, wine is more a narrative than a number.
With that in mind, here are 10 wines, five whites and five reds that I particularly liked. Notably, all but two are under $20, which reinforces the point that you can find superb wines at modest prices. Some of these wines are from well-known producers and are broadly distributed; a few are made in more limited quantities and will be more useful here as a reminder of the kinds of wines that I think you should consider. For most, we’ve provided links to the original reviews and wine videos.
Hofer Grüner Veltliner 2006, Austria, $10. An absolute hit with its liter size and soda bottle-style cap; light and refreshing with attractive fruit; great value and a good introduction to the hot white wine of Austria.
Justin Vineyards Chardonnay 2006, Paso Robles, California, $15-$20 . Buttery yet balanced with notes of apple, brown sugar, vanilla and lime; distinctive for this price.
Zaca Mesa Viognier 2006, Santa Ynez Valley, California, $18. Lovely aromas, gorgeous fruit and slightly spicy notes combine in this top example of what just might become the next big thing in terms of California white wines.
Laetitia Pinot Blanc 2006, Arroyo Grande Valley, California, $18. This delightful wine shows California’s more delicate side with notes of apple, orange, pineapple and other tropical fruit; crisp, with refreshing acidity.
Gruet Brut, New Mexico, $14. Excellent sparkling wine from a Champagne family that saw the potential — and proved it — in the mountains of New Mexico.
Bodegas Vinos Pinol “Portal Roble” 2004, Terra Alta, Spain, $14. Unusually complex for the price, this blend of cabernet sauvignon, merlot, tempranillo, syrah and garnacha shows why Spain still offers some of the best wine values.
Ferrari-Carano Mountain Grown Sangiovese 2003, Alexander Valley, California, $32. Ripe, gorgeous dark-berry fruit in this California variation on the classic Tuscan variety.
Vissoux Beaujolais “Pierre Chermette” 2005, Beaujolais, France, $13.50. This beautiful example of the gamay grape shows why good Beaujolais is one of the real delights of the wine world; light but full of flavor, including notes of cherry, spice and earth.
Mirabile Tannat 2004, Sicily, Italy, $26 . The tannat grape, grown mainly in France and Uruguay, does beautifully in this “elegant and refined” small-production wine that is full of dark berry fruit and notes of coffee, tobacco, smoke and spice.
Domaine Filliatreau Saumur-Champigny “La Grande Vignolle” 2005, Loire Valley, France, $17 . From the Loire’s signature red grape, the cabernet franc, this fresh, medium-bodied wine is charming and explodes with flavors of dark berry, earth and minerals; made without exposure to oak.
Edward Deitch is the recipient of the 2007 James Beard Foundation Journalism Award for Best Multimedia Writing. He welcomes comments from readers. Write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org
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