Our wines were selected based on price, ratings by wine critics and our familiarity with the brands. So consumers could find wines more easily, we limited our selections to wines that were produced in at least 1,000 cases.
To consider a broad number of choices, the 12 wines that we list include six domestic wines and represent the top-selling red- and white-wine varietals that are grown in the United States and a sparkling wine. For international wines, we chose the most popular varietals that are from specific regions and a sparkling wine.
To be considered, wines must have scored at least 88 on a 100-point scale or 16 on a 20-point scale from at least two well-regarded wine critics. For consistency, we picked wines that were ranked that high for at least 3 of the past 5 years. Sparkling wines are the exception, because they are nonvintage wines, which means that the wine consists of grapes that are from different years.
Federal standards mandate that a wine must have at least 75 percent of a specific grape to be labeled as being of a specific varietal.
The prices that are listed are an average of prices that were obtained nationwide from wineries, grocery stores, liquor stores and online sites. The price that you’d pay could vary greatly, depending on where you live.
Because taste is subjective, we suggest that you first try our recommendations by the glass at a restaurant or bar. Furthermore, many retailers hold tastings at which you can sample select wines. An informative resource for finding wine that’s sold in your area is winesearcher.com.
Pendulum Winery Red Blend
From: Columbia Valley, Washington
Notes: This wine is a blend of cabernet sauvignon (59 percent), merlot, syrah and malbec, which the winery says evokes flavors of plums, raspberries, lingering toffee and vanilla. Wine Enthusiast agrees and adds that the wine is notable for its soft, sweet fruit flavors.
Seven Falls Cellars Wahluke Slope Cabernet Sauvignon
From: Columbia Valley, Washington
Notes: Washington’s cabernet sauvignons typically are a tremendous value, experts say, and this one is no exception. The 2013 vintage has coffee and dark fruit flavors, and aromas of spice, vanilla and cocoa, Wine Enthusiast says. This wine is a good match for grilled steak, according to the winery.
Columbia Crest H3 Merlot
From: Horse Heaven Hills, Columbia Valley, Washington
Notes: The H3 stands for the Horse Heaven Hills region, which we noticed has turned out merlots in recent years that have good value. Wine Spectator praises this wine’s smooth finish and ripe cherry, blackberry and tobacco flavors. Independent wine critic Jancis Robinson pronounced its flavor “subtle … but not simple.”
Calera Central Coast Chardonnay
From: Central Coast, California
Notes: This wine blends chardonnay grapes from coastal regions, which results in flavors of minerals and oak, Decanter says. Wine Enthusiast notes that this wine’s flavors are reminiscent of Meyer lemon zest and Golden Delicious apples and says it tastes zesty while avoiding biting acidity.
Elk Cove Vineyards Pinot Gris
From: Willamette Valley, Oregon
Notes: This wine has ample acidity, Wine Enthusiast says, which Robinson judges as good. The magazine says this wine has flavors of apple and pear, backed with a taste of lemon and grapefruit. Robinson also notes this wine’s spicy aroma and says it has perceptible, but not excessive, sweetness.
Water Wheel Vineyards Bendigo Shiraz
From: Victoria, Australia
Notes: Independent wine critic James Suckling says this wine has a spicy aroma, and he calls this shiraz one of the best value reds. Wine critic Robert M. Parker Jr. likes how this wine feels on the tongue (“velvet”) and detects notes of blackberries and licorice. The winery calls it a match for rich pasta dishes, barbecue and game meats.
Chateau de Chantegrive Rouge
From: Bordeaux, France
Notes: Vintage after vintage, this 50/50 cabernet sauvignon-merlot blend earns critical acclaim. The 2014 and 2015 vintages have a medium to full body and a nice finish, according to Suckling. Wine Enthusiast says it’s a balanced wine, that is, the fruit, tannins and acidity work well together.
Zuccardi ‘Serie A’ Malbec
From: Mendoza, Argentina
Notes: Experts consistently label malbecs from the Mendoza region of Argentina a value. Parker says this wine, which isn’t aged in oak barrels has a “round feel” in your mouth, that is, no astringent tannins. If you prefer dry wines, this is your wine, he says, and rare for a malbec at this price.
Wittmann Estate Riesling Trocken
From: Rheinhessen, Germany
Notes: Robinson says this wine achieves a balance between substance and delicate, fresh-fruit flavor. Wine Enthusiast says the wine has intense aromas of mango and melon and hints of white grapefruit and lime juice, and it remarks on its long finish, that is, the flavor stays in your mouth.
Cantina Terlano-Kellerai Terlan Pinot Grigio
From: Trentino-Alto Adige, Italy
Notes: Critics agree that they like the scent of pear in this wine. Wine Enthusiast says the taste includes nectarines and Granny Smith apples, while Suckling likes this wine’s crisp finish and says this wine is “always a great value.”
Scharffenberger Cellars Non-Vintage Brut Excellence
From: Mendocino County, California
Notes: This bubbly has layers of flavor and an “ultrasmooth” texture, and it pairs with a wide variety of food, according to Wine Enthusiast. The magazine says you’ll discover solid fruit flavor and a refreshing level of acidity. Wine Spectator notes zesty lime and lemon flavors, along with cinnamon and ginger.
Website: scharffenberger cellars.com
Graham Beck Winery Non-Vintage Brut Methode Cap Classique
From: Western Cape, South Africa
Notes: Chardonnay and pinot noir grapes are in this sparkling wine. “If you’re looking for an inexpensive alternative to big-name Champagne, this is it,” Decanter says. Parker praises this sparkling wine’s crisp acidity and its citrus flavors.