The 2009 $10 Wine Hall of Fame

2008 was a banner year for cheap wine. Excellent cheap wine was plentiful in 2008. In fact, it was one of the best years for $10 wine since I started tracking cheap wine almost 10 years ago.  I ?m not quite sure why, since the weak dollar and producers who focused on $15 wine were two of last year ?s most dominant trends.

The Hall added five labels: Yellow+Blue malbec (about $12 for a 1-liter box), which puts most other malbecs in its price range to shame; Meridian ?s chardonnay, which can be found for as little as $6; the Les Jamelles wines from southern France, which deliver surprising quality for $10; another Gascon wine, Domaine du Tariquet, to join the three that entered the Hall last year; and Lockwood sauvignon blanc, perhaps the most pleasant surprise of any wine I tasted in 2008.

Truth be told, I could have picked two or three times those five wines this year. Almost every rose I tried was worthy. Two Italian wines, Tormaresca Neprica from Puglia and Ajello Bianca from Sicily, were fabulous, but are difficult to find ? and one of the rules is that if wines aren ?t available, they can ?t get in the Hall. The same is true for the various Tortoise Creek wines, which disappeared from store shelves this year.

In fact, the wines that were dropped from the Hall this year did so not because of quality, but availability. The Benziger fume blanc (the winery ?s version of sauvignon blanc) and Jewel ?s unoaked chardonnay and petite sirah weren ?t readily available this year. (In fact, even the winery ?s web site disappeared.)

Here is the rest of this year ?s Hall of Fame:

? The $10 wines from California ?s Bogle Vineyards, and especially the petite sirah.

? Osborne Solaz, Spanish reds and a white. Look for the cabernet-tempranillo and shiraz-tempranillo reds and a white made with a grape called viura, which may be the best of the three. There is also a rose, but I have yet to find it in the Dallas area.

? Italy ?s Falesco Vitiano, which produces a solid rose, an even more solid white blend, and a stunning red blend made of sangiovese, cabernet and merlot.

? Cristalino, the Spanish sparkling wine, which comes in brut (dry), extra dry (sweeter than brut) and rose.

? California ?s Toad Hollow pinot noir rose.

? The Gascon musketeers — Domaine Duffour, Domaine des Cassagnoles, and Domaine D ?Uby. Michel Duffour, in fact, could well be the poster boy for the Hall of Fame.

In the special, ?If you can find them for $10, buy them ? section of the hall (thanks to the weak U.S. dollar):

? Chateau Ducla and Chateau Bonnet, white blends from Bordeaux. Andre Lurton, whose company owns Bonnet, is part of the powerful Lurton clan, whose holdings include Cheval Blanc and d ?Yquem.

? Domaine Pichot, a French chenin blanc.

? Cinquante-Cinq sauvignon blanc and chardonnay, two French wines.

For previous $10 Wine Hall of Fames: