In the past year I've tasted three low-priced wines every other week with an eclectic team of drinkers — ranging from winemakers just shy of snobbery and ardent defenders of terroir to dyed-in-the-wool beer guys and self-described lead tongues. Our common bond? Champagne (and Merlot, and Gewürztraminer ...) tastes, a tendency to tipple, and a love of a good bargain. Below is a list, ranked by price, of thirteen wines for $10 or less that we loved.
Peter Vella Family Reserve nonvintage Chardonnay ($11.99 for a five-liter box, equivalent to about $1.80 a bottle), California: A classic Chard: full, citrusy, drinkable, and smooth. Try it with fish or spicy fowl.
2005 Trove Chardonnay ($15.99 for three liters, or roughly $4 a bottle), California: Great mix of butter, caramel, and lemon in the aroma and taste. Another good pick to pair with fish.
2005 Chateau Ste. Michelle Sauvignon Blanc ($5.99), Washington state: Light aroma; lively, pleasantly lemon taste; and an aftertaste of hard candy. A good salad companion.
2005 Fetzer Valley Oaks Gewürztraminer ($7.19), California: Light, mineral-y taste, on the dry side of sweet. Try it with something spicy for dinner, or with berries for dessert.
2005 Golden Kaan Sauvignon Blanc ($8.99), South Africa: An intense aroma of fruit and green vegetables, refreshing flavor, and a long, true finish.
2006 Craftsman Királyleányka ($9), Hungary: Pleasantly tart, light, and fruity, with a honeyed, spicy aroma reminiscent of Riesling. A good cocktail-hour option for fans of slightly sweet whites.
2005 Goats do Roam ($6.99), a blend of Pinotage, Shiraz, Cinsault, Grenache, and Carignan from South Africa: Simple and smooth with a good level of tannins and an aroma of black plums, smoke, and toast.
The 2005 Ravenswood Vintners Blend Zinfandel ($7.99), California: A sophisticated, full-bodied wine with a refreshing nose of red fruit and cola and a hint of caramel to the taste. Pair with meats and salty cheeses.
2006 Shenandoah Vineyards Zinfandel ($7.99), Amador County: A Zin with Pinot envy — nicely balanced, clean, and light, with flavors of delicate fruit and a strong berry finish.
2004 Domaine de L'Ameillaud Vin de Pays de Vaucluse ($8.50), a blend of Grenache, Syrah, and Carignan from France: Bright, brilliant color and an aroma of dark fruit that holds up nicely through a bold finish.
2004 Concannon Central Coast Petite Sirah ($9.99), California: An aroma of violets and plums and a raspberry taste. Hearty and easy to drink — great for a casual dinner party, especially if steak is on the menu.
2003 Chateau La Coustarelle Cahors ($10), a Malbec blend from France: Oaky, distinguished aroma, and a lean, layered taste. Hints of cherry Life Savers, alfalfa, and citrus rind, along with an intriguing dry finish.
Zonin Brut Prosecco ($5.99), Italy: Earned raves from two of our star tasters, affectionately known as the Beer Guys. An unassuming sparkler with a bit of green-apple flavor and a slight sweetness. — Blair Campbell