These 12 wines are the best bargains of 2017: They're cheap without tasting like it.
With all the wines on the shelves vying for your attention when you walk into a wine store or a supermarket, how do you choose which one to take home for dinner? A catchy name or pretty label stands out. A heavy bottle looks and feels important. But you wouldn't be wrong to wonder whether the money you shell out for that wine might be paying for that designer label or studly bottle, rather than the juice inside.
In 2017, I recommended more than 250 wines in this column. Of those, I labeled slightly more than 100 as "Great Values." The Great Value designation is subjective -- after all, I recommend only wines I believe are worth what they cost. A Great Value offers extra excitement, performing at a level above its price. Value doesn't necessarily mean cheap. The Ayala Brut Majeur Champagne I recently recommended impressed me so much, I gave it three stars ("exceptional") and a Great Value tag because it far outperforms other $40 champagnes. But only a handful of my Great Values were more than $20, and most of those were sparkling wines.
My list would suggest that wine's best values come in the $12 to $20 range. In all, I put the tag on 27 wines that I also gave my highest rating of 3 stars. These ranged in price from $13 to $40. I gave 2½ stars (excellent to exceptional) and the Great Value label to 36 wines ranging from $10 to $24, and 2 stars (excellent) and Great Value to 38 wines ranging from $9 to $20. Eight wines, from $8 to $12, scored 1 1/2 stars (very good to excellent) and great value.
France led the way with 41 Great Values, followed by the United States with 15 (10 from California, four from Oregon and one from New York), Italy (13), Spain (nine) and Portugal (six). Other countries included Chile, Germany, Bulgaria, Turkey, Armenia and South Africa. As 2017 was the year of rosé, 26 pink wines made the list -- nearly a quarter of the total. That reflects the growing number of rosés in the market as well as my enthusiasm for them. Fifteen Great Values were sparkling.
So here is a case of wine for you: my 12 favorite Great Values from 2017, with the most expensive at $16 a bottle and the cheapest at $8. These are not just top scorers. Those I list here were memorable in a certain way, either their sheer quality for the price, or their uniqueness, or some other factor. I've ranked them in descending order, after applying a simple equation that takes into account my star rating -- my enthusiasm for the wine -- and the price. The better the wine and the lower the price, the higher the ranking. Consider these my Greatest Values of the year.
Note that some of these wines have moved on to the next vintage; don't let that stop you from trying them. Others may be sold out. It's always best to call and check, or to ask a favorite retailer to order for you. Wines this good, at this price, are worth the wait -- or the hunt.