Food & Wine’s executive wine editor Ray Isle blind-tasted 120 popular, under-$13 wines from a dozen of the country’s biggest wine retailers to discover the best, most delicious, easiest-to-find red and white values. Here's what he found:
Best affordable French wine:
2011 Les Costières de Pomerols Picpoul de Pinet HB ($9.99)
The southern French grape variety Picpoul — “lip stinger” — produces lemony, mineral-accented whites. This one, from a cooperative of local growers, is among the best.
Best cocktail party wine:
2011 Kris Pinot Grigio ($11.99)
In addition to being full of lively, bright flavor, this northern Italian white is an excellent antidote for anyone who has decided that affordable Pinot Grigio is usually underwhelming.
Best pretend-it's-not-winter wine:
2011 Dashwood New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc ($11.99)
Classic notes of gooseberry and pepperiness enliven this bright Marlborough white. Dashwood is an affordable second brand from top New Zealand producer Vavasour.
Best wine-insider secret:
2011 Altovinum Evodia Garnacha ($9.99)
There’s no oak masking the wild-berry fruit of this vivid red. It’s 100 percent old-vine Grenache from high up in Spain’s Calatayud region, made specifically for well-known importer Eric Solomon.
Best wine to buy in bulk:
2010 Tormaresca Neprica ($10.99)
Tuscany’s Antinori family has made wine since the 1300s. Those seven centuries of experience may account for why this spicy southern Italian red blend is such an absurd value.
Best wine for a hostess gift:
2010 Pascual Toso Malbec ($11.99)
Toso emigrated from Piedmont, Italy, to found this Argentinean winery in 1890. Its basic Malbec has dark, rich fruit lifted by peppery notes.
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