Nowadays many people seem to be of the opinion that loving wine means drinking the most expensive wines in existence. While particularly at the more affordable end of the market, the price tag has some correlation with the quality of wine as it will determine how much the wine maker could afford to spend on creating the wine. At the very top end of the market however, this is not always the case. Another way to think about it is to ask yourself if you would enjoy wine X which costs $1,000 a bottle 10 times more than you would enjoy wine Y which costs $100 a bottle. The answer is often, no.
Many of the true wine experts enjoy different wines in different situations and really enjoy discovering wines of exceptional value. These wines require knowledge and experience to find and connoisseurs delight in sharing these surprises with their friends. Here is a list of my good value (and by good value I do not mean cheap – I mean good pricing for the level of quality) high quality wines (many of which are age-worthy).
Bordeaux-style Reds / Claret / Cabernet Sauvignon / Merlot
If you love red wine from Bordeaux, then you will love San Leonardo, an ancient winery located in Trentino which has been creating Bordeaux blends for generations. While their top wine, San Leonardo is also a bargain for the quality, their base wine, Terre, I would happily drink daily and has an exceptional price / quality ratio.
Tip: There are also great value Bordeaux-style baby Super Tuscans such as Guada al Tasso’s Il Bruciato and Bolgheri wines such as Bolgheri Rosso from Michele Satta’s Piastraia and Podere Grattamacco and Bolgheri Superiore by Tenuta Argentiera, I Luoghi’s Campo al Fico, Castello di Bolgheri, Podere Sapaio and Poggio al Tesoro’s Sondraia.
If you love Amarone but find the price tag hefty for regular drinking, then you will love Valpolicella Ripasso or Valpolicella Superiore, also known as “baby Amarone”. Ripasso undergoes some of the same process as Amarone but for shorter periods of time and /or is soaked with the previously pressed dried grapes for making Amarone. The upside is that the younger vintages are often more approachable.
- Producers of Valpolicella Ripasso / Valpolicella Superiore to try include Quintarelli, Dal Forno, Ca’ la Bionda, Viviani, Bertani, Tedeschi, La Giaretta and Roccolo Grassi.
Barolo / Barbaresco
If you love powerful Barolos then you may enjoy Valtellina Sforzato which uses the same process as the Valpolicella Ripasso above but using Nebbiolo grapes which go into Barolo. In this way they can create more concentrated flavour.
- Top producers of Valtellina Sforzato include Mamete Prevostini, Sandro Fay, Nino Negri and Aldo Rainoldi.
If you enjoy the whole range of Barolo styles and Barbaresco then you will like some of the Nebbiolo based wines (sometimes also known as Spanna) from the Langhe (often by the same producers that make great Barolo), Roero, Ghemme and Gattinara. You may also like wines made with the Aglianico grape in Taurasi or Avellino in Campania or Vulture in Basilicata (it is often referred to as “the Barolo of the South”).
- Try Langhe Rosso producers such as Luigi Einaudi, Elio Altare, Enzo Boglietti, Armando Parusso, Luigi Pira, Scavino, Sottimano, Schiavenza, Vigneti Dosio, Paolo Conterno, Domenico Clerico, Vietti and Aldo Conterno. Also try Nebbiolo d’Alba by producers such as Bricco Maiolica and Diego Conterno.
- Top Roero producers include Cascina Val del Prete, Filippo Gallino, Cascina Ca’Rossa, Deltetto, Giovanni Almondo, Malvira, Monchiero Carbone, Matteo Correggia, Negro Angelo e Figli and Marco Porello.
- Producers of Aglianico wines in Campania to try include Mastroberardino, Contrade di Taurasi, Perillo, Di Prisco, Urciuolo, Terredora, Luigi Tecce, Salvatore Molettieri, Antonio Caggiano, I Favati and Feudi di San Gregorio.
- Producers of Aglianico di Vulture from Basilicata include Basilisco, Paternoster, Cantine del Notaio, Terre degli Svevi, Elena Fucci, Casa Vinicola D’Angelo and Feudi di San Gregorio.
Brunello di Montalcino
If you love Chianti and Brunello di Montalcino, then you will enjoy Sangiovese grape based wines from Romagna, Montefalco Rosso and Morellino di Scansano.
- Great producers of Sangiovese di Romagna include Villa Papiano, Villa Venti, Balia di Zola, San Patrignano, Gallegati, Tenuta Villa Trentola, Poderi dal Nespoli, Paolo Francesconi, Calonga, Giovanna Madonia, Tre Monti, Fattoria Zerbina, Drei Dona, San Valentino and Fattoria Nicolucci.
- A good producer of Montefalco Rosso is Fattoria Colleallodole.
- Top producers of Morellino di Scansano include Roccapesta, Poggio Argentiera, Terenzi, Fattoria Le Pupille and Col di Bacche.
Tip: One of my favourite producers of Brunello is Stella di Campalto and in the years she feels are not good enough to make Brunello, she puts the whole lot into her Rosso di Montalcino, making those vintages of Rosso di Montalcino a massive bargain in comparison.
Chateaneuf du Pape / Syrah / Shiraz / Tempranillo
If you enjoy Syrah, Chateauneuf du Pape, Shiraz or Tempranillo, then you will like Sagrantino di Montefalco from Umbria, another red powerhouse.
- Top producers of Sagrantino di Montefalco include Arnaldo Caprai, Adanti, Tabarrini, Villa Mongalli, Colpetrone, Perticaia, Bellafonte, Antonelli San Marco and Colleallodole.
If you like Zinfandel, then you will love Primitivo (same grape, different name) from Puglia.
- Try Primitivo producers such as Felline-Pervini, Morella, Tenute Rubino, Gianfranco Fino and Racemi.
Rhone Reds / Grenache
Grenache lovers will enjoy Cannonau di Sardegna (another name for Grenache).
- Try Cannonau di Sardegna produced by Gabbas, Jerzu, Tenute Soletta, Sedilesu and Dorgali.
Red Burgundy / Pinot Noir
If you love Pinot Noir and red Burgundy, then you will enjoy Pinot Nero from Oltrepo Pavese in Lombardia and Alto Adige. Another wine which will give you some of the Pinot Noir attributes is Nerello Mascalese from Sicilia, particularly those from the area north of Catania.
- Top producers of Pinot Nero in Oltrepo Pavese include Frecciarossa, Tenuta Mazzolino and Conte Vistarino.
- Top producers of Pinot Nero in Alto Adige include Hofstatter, Gottardi, Franz Haas and Cantina Girlan.
- Top producers of Nerello Mascalese include Benanti, Tasca d’Almerita, Cantina Cellaro and Ottoventi.
If you love champagne, then meet riserva champagne-method wines from Trento DOC.
- Trento DOC producers to try include Ferrari, Letrari, Dorigati, Abate Nero and Cavit.
While often not better value abroad, sometimes at restaurants in Italy, Franciacorta from Lombardia, Champagne’s younger sibling, is better value.
- Franciacorta producers to try include Berlucchi, Barone Pizzini, Il Mosnel and Ca’ del Bosco.
Tip: Expensive but phenomenal value when compared to top vintage champagnes is Giulio Ferrari by Ferrari.
If you love Alsatian white wines, then meet the Muller Thurgau, Gewurtztraminer / Tramin, Riesling and Sauvignon Blancs of Trentino Alto Adige.
- Look for producers of Gewurtztraminer/Tramin such as Elena Walch, Ritterhof, Cantina Girlan and Cantina Tramin.
- Producers of Riesling to look for include Ignaz, Niedrist, Falkenstein, Unterortl, Pacherhof, Kuenhof and Abbazia di Novacella.
- Good producers of Muller Thurgau include Tiefenbrunner and Pojer e Sandri.
- Great producers of Sauvignon include Manincor, Cantina Girlan, Gumphof, St. Michele and Ignaz Niedrist.
Aged White Burgundy
Not necessarily better value but definitely one to try is a rare white wine made from Timorasso grapes. If you love white Burgundy then try Timorasso from Piemonte by Walter Massa.
Do you have any others to add? Leave me a comment and I’ll explore.
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