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Where to look when you want to find great wine for $15 or less

By: Ben Williams

Value wines.  That's really what we're all after, isn't it?  So where do we turn when we need to find great, reliable wines at an affordable price?  
For reds there are two places that should immediately come to mind when talking about great quality-to-price ratios: Bierzo in northwest Spain and the Rhone Valley in southern France.  Both regions offer tremendously delicious and complex wines that punch way, way, waaaay above their weight class.  Mencia is the dominant varietal you'll find in Bierzo and is a juicy, complex and - when done right - a tremendously layered varietal that can rival the finest red wines in the world.  Just a little bit north, in France's Rhone Valley you'll find vineyards grenache Grenache (Southern Rhone) and Syrah (Northern Rhone).  And while some of the more famous AOCs in the Rhone Valley command top dollar, you can still find awesomely tasty values coming from spots like Cairanne and Rasteau (Southern Rhone), or St. Joseph and Crozes-Hermitage (Northern Rhone) that rival their pricey neighbors' costs.
When it comes to whites, France's Loire Valley and Portugal's Douro Valley offer all kinds of goodies!  In the Loire Valley the famous white is Sancerre, but a steady increase in pricing has forced us to look outside that AOC to "declassified" Sauvignon Blanc that can offer the same character without the hit to the wallet.  There is also an entire world of world-class Loire Valley Chenin Blanc at staggeringly affordable prices - the whites from Vouvray and Anjou are certainly worth exploring.  And is there a more refreshing and delightful light white than a Vinho Verde from Portugal's Douro Valley?  We don't think so.  They are generally blends of a few different varietals, but the star of the show is almost always Alvarinho - a gloriously textured and complete varietal.  And you can find gobs of outstanding examples that are less than $10!!   
Of course we can't forget our Sparkling wines.  Cremants from Burgundy and Alsace, Cavas and Proseccos (not just for Mimosas anymore!) check the boxes we're looking for.  Many of them - especially the Cremants - use the same methods and varietals that ultra-high end Champagne houses do during production, but because they don't share the same zip code as the famous bubblies you can find these alternatives for a fraction of the price.  And what do they offer in the glass?  The same thing - wonderfully balanced and expressive wines that will cleanse the palate with their bright effervescence!
The bottom line is that you don't have to drop a huge pile of cash in order to still enjoy ultra-high quality and delicious wines from around the world.  Just stick to wines from the regions above and you'll already be miles ahead... enjoy!