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)
Loire and Rioja
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
All Around Spain
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
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)