When you're in a wine shop, it can be easy to see all the expensive bottles, become intimidated, and walk away with $10 worth of sour grapes. But with a few more bucks and a little knowledge, you can easily score a wine that tastes much better than its price tag, which probably has a very papery mouthfeel.
To help guide you towards the best value wines in the aisle, we tapped Vilma Mazaite, director of wine at laV Restaurant & Wine Bar in Austin, TX (and a Top Sommelier of 2015 by Food & Wine Magazine) to give us a list of wines that aren't cheap, but are some of the best bargains you'll find. They taste like a million bucks. But they certainly don't cost it.
Baga, Quinta de Foz de Arouce, Bairrada 2010
"Portugal is a value country to look for. In recent years I have discovered amazing wines from Portugal, from vibrant whites to exciting reds. Baga grape can be quite tannic and acidic. It reminds me of nebbiolo. This particular wine has some age, and showcases a softer texture. For just under $20, it is really great value!"
Paul Bara, Special Club 2004
"An amazing Champagne! Special Club or Club Tresor is a special cuvee that can only be released in perfect years from Champagne growers. Paul Bara represents quality every single time I open anything he makes. While his Special Club is not cheap, it's still a value among bigger names in Champagne."
Barolo Monprivato Giuseppe Mascarello 2009
"I love this wine. It has an amazing balance, and will age for a very long time. Buy a lot, enjoy it all, or put a few on the side to open years down the road."
Comte Abbatucci, "Rouge Frais Imperial," Vin de France 2014
"I absolutely love Corsican wines. They are interesting, maybe slightly funky, but perfect for the summer. This one is made from sciaccarello grapes that are only grown on the island of Corsica. Serve this wine slightly chilled and it will go well with pretty much everything on your picnic table."
Jacques Puffeney Trousseau Cuvée Les Berangeres, Jura 2012
"Grab every bottle you can find of this wine, because 2014 was the last vintage and these wines are amazing! Dark fruit notes with spices and tones of minerality make this wine a great companion at any dinner table. Plus, it is just really cool."
Argyros, Assyrtiko, Santorini 2013
"Greece is so exciting right now. Wines that are coming from Santorini are fresh, vibrant, and lean. This wine is no exception -- packed with citrus notes and light, herbaceous character, it is a perfect alternative for Sauvignon Blanc lovers, but gives you an opportunity to try something new and exciting."
Celler Piñol Terra Alta L'Avi Arrufi Carinena 2008
"A Grenache and Syrah blend from Catalunya, Spain. This is a superb wine for the money. Silky, rounded, and structured. It is a full-bodied red, but has great acidity that gives the wine perfect balance. A great alternative for Cabernet Sauvignon lovers, and it doesn't demand a huge price tag."
Grignolino, Castello di Neive 2013
"It is bright and light-bodied with a beautiful floral and fresh berry bouquet. Another red that is perfect slightly chilled, and is ideal for the summer."
Domaine Philippe Gilbert, Menetou-Salon 2014
"An amazing rosé from Pinot Noir grapes. Menetou-Salon is an appellation located next to famous Sancerre, and produces amazing value wines. This rosé is unbelievably good!"
Muscadet Sèvre-et-Maine, Comte Leloup, Sur Lie Cuvee des Ceps Centenaires 2007
"Melon de Bourgogne or Muscadet are the biggest values that you can find. This particular wine is made from 100-year-old ungrafted vines and spends years on the lees. It is amazing how good this wine is at just under $20. It is almost a sin to charge so little, considering the amazing terroir it comes from and the work that goes into making it."
Pignoletto dell'Emilia, Fattoria Moretto, Emilia-Romagna 2013
"It's no secret I love bubbles, but it is hard to find great-tasting bubbles without paying a lot. This Pignoletto is a true find! Easy to drink with great minerality, it beats any prosecco out there. Plus you have a chance to taste something different without spending much!"
Roc de Cambes, Cotes de Bourg
"Bordeaux is expansive, and wines need time before they really show full potential. I try to look for values in the right bank like Lalande-de-Pomerol or Saint Émilion. This wine comes from the lesser-known appellation of Cotes de Bourg. The area Roc de Cambes is quite expansive, but the quality of this wine can compete with a lot of wines from greater appellations in Bordeaux. Plus, you can find older vintages for really amazing prices. 1988 costs $206 and you really can't find another Bordeaux for the same price and quality."
Quinta do Crasto Reserva VV 2009
"Portuguese table wines are definitely worth keeping your eyes on. They offer an amazing value and always over-deliver. This wine is made from old vines that give you a full and beautifully rounded red, packed with red fruits, lovely acidity, and silky tannins."
Castellroig Cava Brut Nature 2012
"An amazing cava! Completely bone-dry, delicate aromas of jasmine, grapefruit, and apple make this wine the perfect aperitif. On the palate the acidity is vibrant and the absence of sweetness is perfect for pairing with seafood, especially oysters. It is best partnered with paella, or with some crackers and cheese. It could be the great snack during your favorite movie."