R5 Great, Inexpensive Wines

South Africa
$19 Cederberg Chenin Blanc 2010 (Olifants River Valley wine region; Cederberg ward)
Chenin Blanc is one of the classic white wine varieties, originating in France’s Loire Valley. It is prized in the Cederberg Valley, one of the newest of the new South African wine areas, which produces dry wines with a lovely honeyed fruit extract and a lilt of honeysuckle. It over-delivers with complex flavors, refreshment, and a whole lot of fun.

Friuli-Venezia Giulia (Italy)
$14 D’Orsaria Cabernet Franc 2009
A great example of the new winemaking energy in Friuli-Venezia Giulia is d’Orsaria’s Cabernet Franc. This is not Cabernet Franc at all—long story!—but Carmenere that was imported from France long ago. Carmenere’s dormancy is now being redressed with gusto by winemakers in Venezia Giulia. This is a wine with wonderful fruit, supported by good acidity and freshness. A mineral riff keeps the wine in balance, and it is wonderful by the glass or with complex, herbed Asian stews like chicken vindaloo.

Southern France
$17 Château La Bouscade Les Sept Vents Syrah 2008 (Minervois appellation)
Les Sept Vents (the Seven Winds) Syrah is today’s Languedoc in a bottle. The wine’s creator, David Cowderoy, was born in England, got his winemaking degree in Australia, and was attracted to the Languedoc by opportunity and the region’s modern attitude. The wine inside is full of rustic goodness like brambly tannins, big body, and plummy, even gamey flavor, but it is also balanced and doesn’t lack focus. Like the garrigue of the Languedoc, it is wild and beautiful at the same time.

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$12 Rio Madre Graciano 2010 (Rioja denominación)
Rio Madre is a no-brainer. At $12, it delivers like an $18 to $20 wine because its juicy plum flavors are so well balanced by its lip-smacking tannins and a compelling touch of cinnamon at the very end. This is wine to drink by the glass, or, in the Spanish tradition, to have with lamb in all its glorious forms: leg of lamb, crown roast, cubed on a skewer, or even in a curry. Le aproveche!


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