When you’re looking for bottles of wine that boast refined flavor at budget-friendly prices, it can be tempting to stick to well-known regions or tried-and-true varietals. We’re here to ease you out of your comfort zone and introduce you to wine’s unusual suspects — those often-overlooked regions with exceptional flavor at unbeatable prices.
Keep reading for the scoop on some of our favorite bottles that fly under the radar.
New World Wines
Before the Judgment of Paris, very few people associated New World wine with quality or sophistication. (If you’ve never heard of this legendary blind tasting, click here or download the fascinating documentary SOMM 3.) Thankfully, times have changed.
Today, you can find remarkable wine throughout North and South America. Below are a few wines that will satisfy your palate without emptying your bank account.
Michigan doesn’t get the same love as some of the more popular wine destinations in the United States. What many don’t realize is that Northern Michigan’s wine region is located at the 45th parallel, roughly the same latitude as France’s most-revered wine regions: Bordeaux and Burgundy. In fact, the Leelanau Peninsula produces some surprisingly high-quality Rieslings (although many locals aren’t surprised at all). If you’re looking for a semi-sweet white, try Leelanau Cellars Select Harvest Riesling. For a drier option, choose Left Foot Charley’s Seventh Hill Riesling.
Washington State Cabernet Sauvignon
Also sharing a parallel with Burgundy and Bordeaux is Washington’s Columbia Valley. A blossoming wine region, the valley is broken up into distinct American Viticultural Areas (AVAs) whose microclimates and unique soil types produce some of the most balanced, high-quality wines on the market. The long, consistent growing season and varied terrain make for bold, fruit-forward wines. If you already love Chateau Ste. Michelle’s Cabernet Sauvignon, it’s time to explore some of the smaller AVAs.
We’re particularly excited about wine from Horse Heaven Hills. With rich loamy soil, long sunny days, and breezy conditions, the AVA produces some of the best grapes in Washington State. While many premium winemakers use grapes from Horse Heaven Hills, you can now find value-minded bottles from the region. A great example is Columbia Crest Horse Heaven Hills Cabernet Sauvignon.
In the last 30 years, Argentina has slowly gained a reputation for producing excellent red wine at an affordable price. Some of the most high-quality grapes come from the arid regions of Mendoza and La Rioja in southern Argentina, at the foothills of the Andes Mountains. The indigenous irrigation methods and pebbly soil make Argentine wines balanced and sophisticated. A gem in the crown of Argentine wines is Crios Red Blend.
Old World Wine
While Burgundy, Bordeaux, and Barolo can be pricey, you can also find elegant and interesting European wine at a fraction of the price. Below are some beautiful, affordable bottles from several respected regions in the world.
Hailing from the hills of central Italy, the Chianti wine-growing region is famous for wine made from Sangiovese grapes. The most common grape in Chianti, Sangiovese’s flavors can vary depending on where and how it is grown. It can be earthy or fruit-forward, and Sangiovese-based wines are a fun way to explore terroir in a tasting!
While not every Chianti or Sangiovese is a budget-friendly option, you can easily find good values in our wine aisles. For a Chianti wine of exceptional value (and from a beautiful town), try Castello di Albola Chianti Classico. We also like Farnese Fantini Sangiovese.
An accessible, high-quality wine, Spanish Rioja Crianza balances nuanced oaked flavors with low-key drinkability. Spanish Rioja is categorized by how long it spends in oak barrels and in bottles before getting into the hands of consumers. After a year in oak and a year in bottle, Rioja Crianza often has more body than Merlot but is not too rich to enjoy casually over a dinner with friends. For a great value Spanish Rioja, try Marques Caceres Crianza Rioja.
Portuguese Vinho Verde
Despite being a close neighbor to both France and Spain, Portugal isn’t often included in the Old-World short list of best wines. But we’re head over heels for Portuguese Vinho Verde. Translated as “young wine,” Vinho Verde is meant to be consumed shortly after bottling and is often fizzy with a low ABV. If you’re looking for a less mainstream alternative to Moscato or Rosé, Vinho Verde is a perfect choice. For a little summer in a glass, try Famega Vinho Verde.
Featured Item this Week: Charles Smith Kung Fu Girl Riesling
For another great Washington wine (that also happens to be on sale!) we suggest Charles Smith King Fu Girl Riesling. Founded by a former rock ‘n roll band manager, Charles Smith makes rebellious wines for the way people drink. A dry Riesling intended to be paired with Chinese take-out, Kung Fu Girl is no exception to this revolutionary approach. Pick up a bottle today (and maybe one you read about above as well) at one of our stores for an off-the-beaten-path wine adventure.