The 2016 $10 Wine Hall of Fame has some terrific cheap wine, but it’s getting more difficult every year to add wine to the Hall. Increasingly, cheap wine — and these days, that includes almost everything that costs less than $15 — is grocery store plonk, barely distinguishable from each other and proving the point of so many of my colleagues: that cheap wine sucks. The Golden Age of Cheap Wine, which has lasted for almost a decade, may finally be over.
Eight wines made the 2016 $10 Hall of Fame, twice as many as last year. The catch is that the pool that I picked from was about the same as last year, not much more than a dozen, and it was between 50 and 100 just a couple of years ago.
Again notable this year: Tremendous disparity in pricing, where a wine might be $8 or $10 in Dallas but $12 or $15 or even more elsewhere. This ties into the newest development working against cheap wine — price creep, where wines that used to be $10 are $12 and $13, making them less of a value. The wonderful Muga rose, one of my all-time favorites, dropped out this year because it costs as much as $15. Price creep will continue to be a problem, and perhaps a dozen wines look to drop out next year because they’ll cost more than they’re worth.
Go here to find out which wines are eligible and how I pick them.
The new members of the 2016 $10 Hall of Fame:
• Casteller Cava, a Spanish sparkling wine that “does everything sparkling wine is supposed to do, regardless of price.”
• Scaia Rosato, an Italian rose, “A gorgeous, Provencal-style rose with a touch more fruit (raspberry?) as well as the aroma of wildflowers.”
• The Zestos Old Vine rose, from the amazing Ole Imports, fresh and bright and too good to be believed.
• Straccali Chianti, an Italian red that is so well-made that it “embarrasses all those $15 grocery store red Italians with their cute names and shiny labels.”
• Argento malbec, an Argentine red wine that made me reconsider how much I dislike malbec. Maybe the best value in this year’s Hall.
• The Lamura nero d’ avola, yet another wonderful Sicilian red: “Cherry and black plum fruit (more than I expected, actually), but balanced by the Sicilian earthiness that I so enjoy.”
• Two California sauvignon blancs, which I’ve grouped together because $10 California wine this well made is so rare. The Hess Select “is a tremendous value, given that most sauvignon blanc at this price tastes like it came off an assembly line.” The Line 39 “does something too many Big Wines don’t — offer more than the one flavor that dominates everything else.” The catch here is price creep; some supermarkets have these wines as high as $14 or $15.
• The Bodegas Muga Rioja Rosado, a Spanish rose, because it now costs as much as $15.
• The Yellow+Blue box wines, which are almost impossible to find any more (though still quality wines).
• The Louis Jadot Beaujolais, which reverted to form this vintage, soft and boring.
The 2016 Hall of Fame list of holdovers:
• McManis’ petite sirah, “a little earthiness and lots of dark fruit, not too overdone, and, most importantly, varietally correct.” Most of the rest of the McManis are top notch, too.
• Maculan Pino & Toi, an Italian white blend: “an amazing wine — refreshing and clean, with green apple fruit, and even some kind of a finish.”
• The Pine Ridge chenin blanc/viognier blend, always a value and always well made, but a good example of pricing differences and price creep.
• The La Fiera pinot grigio: “Quite possibly the perfect pinot grigio — a little lemon fruit and a restrained, quinine-like finish, three flavors, and not overdone in any way.”
• Tractor Shed Red, a California field blend: “a fruity wine with character and qualities other than just the fruit.”
• The Little James Basket Press red and white blends, which may well be the future of the French wine business if anyone in France is paying attention. These wines are on Hall watch; each has been hard to find the past couple of years. if that doesn’t improve, they’ll drop out.
• Chateau Font-Mars Picpoul, a French white that ?is everything picpoul is supposed to be. ?
• The $5 Rene Barbier Mediterranean Red: ?All I can say is that the Wine Curmudgeon is as surprised as you are. ? I drink this wine so often, and marvel at how it does for $5 what others can’t do at $10.
• A couple of dozen Sicilian wines that cost $10 or less and offer spectacular value; you can find them by clicking the cheap wine tab at the top of the page or doing a search for “Sicilian” in the box to the right under the wine categories heading.
• The $10 wines from California’s Bogle Vineyards, and especially the old vine zinfandel and sauvignon blanc. One big-time sommelier keeps a case of the chardonnay at home, which speaks volumes about its quality.
• Dry Creek’s fume flanc, a stellar sauvignon blanc from California that restored my faith in inexpensive California wine, and its chenin blanc: “not indifferently made and is not sweet. … This is a wonderful alternative to chardonnay.
• Four Spanish cavas, or sparkling wines — Segura Viudas brut (dry) and rose (“How can they do this so inexpensively?” a competitor asked me); the legendary Cristalino brut, extra dry (sweeter than brut) and rose; Dibon, which Robert Parker liked as much as I did; and Castillo Perelada, “impossibly well done for the price.”
• The Gascon Musketeers, white blends from southwestern France, that include Domaine Tariquet, Domaine Artigaux, Domaine Duffour, Domaine D’Arton Les Hauts, Domaine de Pouy, Chateau de Cedre, and Domaine des Cassagnoles. Almost any Gascon white blend, even those not listed here, are worth trying.
• The Hall’s Asterisk Wing — for the Vitiano red, white, and rose made by the great Riccardo Cotarella. These Italian wines are sometimes $10 and sometimes $11 or $12, and it’s kind of silly to keep moving them in and out of the Hall because the dollar fluctuates against the euro or because retailers are playing with margin.