"I have a gigantic crush on the Loire Valley, especially the wines made from Chenin Blanc. It is such an interesting grape and can chameleon from bone dry to sparkling to dessert wine and all the things in between. It has the ability to be high in acid and round in the palate at the same time, all the while while delivering flavors of wet wool, quince paste, musk, mushroom, honey comb, flowers, and tree fruits. It is my all-time favorite grape variety."—Savanna Ray, Wildwood Restaurant (Portland, OR)
Germany and Italy
"It’s no secret that many sommeliers have a soft spot for German Riesling but where else can you find such age worthy and complex wines for such a low price? In addition, they’re like a Swiss Army knife when it comes to food and wine pairing—these wines tend to work with nearly everything on the table. Some of my favorite value producers are: Ulli Stein, Clemens-Busch, Maximin Grunhauser, Emrich Schonleber and the Haag brothers.
Excluding Italy’s four major wines (Barolo, Barbaresco, Brunello and Amarone), there is an entire country producing incredible wines of value. They have managed to make things so confusing that the average consumer doesn’t even know where to begin to break things down. I would suggest going to some Italian wine tastings at your local wine shop. The small amount of extra effort will pay off in the long run with a virtual ocean of delicious wine under $30. Some of my favorite obscure Italian grapes are: Frappato, Ruche, Lagrein, Pigato, Fiano and Nerello Mascalese."—Chad Zeigler, RN74 (San Francisco)
Valtellina in Northern Italy
"My favorite region for value is the Valtellina, hands down. It produces beautiful, lean expressions of the nebbiolo grape. Being from so far north there is not nearly the level of tannin associated with the grape when it is grown in the Langhe or Roero, so it is much more drinkable and can even be enjoyed without food. You can get outstanding entry level wines for a great value price. After that, I would say I have found the most value in Greek wines, but you need to be a little more careful as the quality can be a bit more hit and miss."—Liz Nicholson, Maialino (NYC)
"I have been finding some pretty great deals on wines from SW France, the Cotes de Gascogne. The whites consistently over-deliver at an under-$10 retail price. And very good, totally ageworthy reds from Madiran that focus on the Tannat grape cost virtually nothing compared to their northern neighbors along the Gironde."—Steven Grubbs, Empire State South (Atlanta)
Loire and Rioja
"I am finding great value reds from the Loire, especially Anjou, Cheverny and the Touraine. There are a number of small producers there making very expressive wines at a great price. They are juicy, have great mineral notes and acidity, and are very versatile. I also love Rioja—the wines there marry fruit and earth so elegantly. Although they may not be the very cheapest, you can usually get a wine from Rioja with more age on it for less than you can from their French or domestic counterparts."—Kerrie O'Brien, DBGB (New York)
German Whites, Italian Reds
"German white wines offer incredible value, especially those wines with some age on them. There is a great range of styles from bone-dry to sweet. I love the high acidity and the complexity of flavors that these wines have.
For reds, I often look to the Alta Piemonte, for wines from Lessona, Bramaterra, and Boca. At a fraction of the price of Barolo, they can be truly beautiful expressions of Nebbiolo, extremely aromatic and often with softer tannins that makes them compatible with a wider range of foods.——Chris Baggetta, Quince (San Francisco)
Southern France, Beaujolais, Jura, New Zealand
"Southern France (earthy and meaty reds at a fraction of the Rhone), Beaujolais Crus (aromatic and structured gems at 25% cost of their Burgundian big brothers to the north), Cremant du Jura (richness and structured bubbles like an aged Champagne), New Zealand (vibrant, clean and focused wines: a killer deal)."—Mark Bright, Saison (San Francisco)
Loire Valley and Portgual
"Loire Valley: Sadly, this region remains foreign to many but the purity of the wines is staggering…sort of like Glenn Gould at the keyboard.
Portugal: the country is in an economic tailspin and the wines are undervalued (not to mention the number of indigenous varietals is off the proverbial hook)."—Paul Grieco, Terroir/Hearth (NYC)
All Around Spain
"Rioja, Toro, Jumilla, and Sherry: all in Spain. These wines offer great value, and they're easy to drink and go well with food."Virginia Philip MS, The Breakers (Palm Beach, FL)
More Love for Loire
"I started to make a long, weird list ranging from Beaujolais, Jerez and Greece to the Finger Lakes, Sicily and the Douro. But what excites me most for incredible value and diversity is the Loire Valley. I love higher-acid, minerally whites and reds, and you get that bright signature in the three main grapes of that vast region: Chenin Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc, and Cabernet Franc. Plus edgy Pinot Noir and delicious obscurities like the white Romorantin. And on top of all its other virtues, the Loire graces us with every style of wine-—sparkling, whites ranging from bone-dry to very sweet, and very light to medium-full reds—but mercifully none that are over-ripened or over-oaked."—Juliette Pope, Gramercy Tavern (NYC)
Rosé, Sicilian Reds, and Beaujolais
"One of the best values is rosé from anywhere. For me, it is one of those wines that doesn’t require much thought. I rarely have epiphanies with rosés, but I'm also rarely let down. For red wines, I like Sicily. It is still an underappreciated region but they have delicious reds from native varietals grown on volcanic soils that are priced for exploration. Beaujolais is still
hanging on as one of my favorite regions that drinks above its price point, although I'm not sure how much longer that can last."—Sabato Sagaria MS, The Little Nell Hotel (Aspen)
Austria and Germany
"The wines of Austria and Germany have amazing quality compared to the prices they fetch. Back in the day, riesling commanded higher prices than DRC...We might as well get in on them now until everyone figures it out and prices go back up."—Eric Railsback, Caveau Santa Barbara
France and Italy
"Countries that offer a real value are still the giants, Italy and France. Specifically, in France I will never stop drinking Cab Francs and Gamay, nor do I get much more pleasure than drinking a simple Muscadet. French Chenin Blanc can be life changing and not put you out more than $25 retail.
From Italy, really, the same region that has the most expensive wines in the country is also the same region that has great values; Piedmonte. From fruity Barbera or a cheap, well made Dolcetto to kooky and exotic wines made from Grignolino or Ruche, there is a lot of diversity and personality in this region that will set you back very little."—Michael Garofola, Genoa (Portland, OR)
Spain and Portugal
"Spain and Portugal are still great value wine regions, with wines that are often very crowd-pleasing. I get excited about these regions because they have indigenous grapes that keep me learning about wine."—Laura Maniec MS, Corkbuzz (NYC)