One of the perks of my job is being able to taste wines that I could never afford. Still, what really turns me on is finding well-made, high-quality wines that I can afford. Yes, I’m a wine writer. But no, I don’t sit around sipping Opus One too often. I’d guess that 90 percent of the wines I drink are priced at $15 or less per bottle.
Now, if you think that wine under $15 is a crapshoot … well, it is. However, with modern winemaking technology and storage systems, your chances of finding good or even great low-priced wine are excellent. Most of the wine snobs I know actually drink cheap wine for everyday sipping—including an acquaintance of mine, Josh Wesson. Wesson is a professional sommelier who a few years ago, began opening his Best Cellars (pun intended) wine stores on the East Coast. At Best Cellars, most of the wines are priced from $5 to $15. If value-priced wine can satisfy Wesson’s picky palate, it can certainly work for mine. Here are a few wallet-friendly white wines that are readily available throughout Utah, all priced under $15.
Out on the patio in warm weather, I like a fruity and floral wine. Yalumba Y Series Viognier ($10.99) certainly fits the bill. Produced by Australia’s oldest family winery, this Viognier has prototypical aromas of white flowers, peach and apricot on the nose, with tropical pineapple and tangerine flavors on the palate. Another favorite “deck-and-patio” wine for me is Chateau Ste. Michelle Columbia Valley Gewürztraminer ($8.99) from Washington State. This lush Gewürztraminer is quite floral on the nose, with crisp acidity and citrus notes courtesy of the 2 percent Muscat that is blended with 98 percent Gewürztraminer. There are hints of clove and cinnamon, too, and this wine is a good partner for Asian fare.
While we’re still in the flowery wine department, I should mention Dr. L Loosen Bros. Riesling ($12.62), which Wine Spectator awarded 91 points for the 2012 vintage. It’s got bright peach and grapefruit aromas with abundant peach flavors on the tongue—a very vibrant and racy Riesling.
Inexpensive Chardonnay can be a minefield since there are so many inferior ones that use oak to cloak flaws in the wine. Well, here are three economical Chards that I’d be proud to serve at my dinner table. If, like me, you appreciate the restrained use of oak in wine fermentation, I recommend Cono Sur Bicicleta Chardonnay ($8.99) from Chile’s Valle Central wine region—a well-balanced wine that is aged in stainless steel and shows peachy aromas, bright fruit flavors and solid mineral underpinnings. The Wishing Tree Unoaked Chardonnay ($12.49) from South Australia is exactly that: unoaked. Pop the cork and you’ll be treated to gorgeous apricot, peach, honey and tangerine aromas, followed by candied citrus flavors and a hint of spice; it’s an elegant Chardonnay for the price.
If you lean toward organic and biodynamic wines, Bonterra Chardonnay ($15.49) should be right up your alley. Made from organic Mendocino fruit, this Chardonnay is a blend where 70 percent is aged in French and American oak, while the remaining 30 percent of the wine is aged in stainless steel, which helps preserve the wine’s crisp fruit flavors. It’s a bright, clean wine that would pair nicely with a simple roasted chicken.
A few other winning whites that are well worth your hard-earned dollar include Eyrie Dundee Hills Pinot Gris ($13.95), Domaine De Rieux Côtes de Gascogne Blanc ($12.50), Folonari Pinot Grigio ($7.49), Simply Naked Chardonnay ($7.98), Marqués de Cáceres White Wine ($8.99), and Cline Cellars Mourvedre Rosé ($10.99).