The 50 Best Wines Under $50
Every year I taste thousands of wines (I know, tough job), but I’m happy to report that finding great inexpensive examples has never been easier than it was in 2017. The bottles listed below deliver both value and sheer deliciousness.
Less buzzed-about regions such as Spain’s Bierzo and cool coastal areas of Chile are terrific go-to sources for superb bargain reds, whites, and rosés, but even such famous places as Bordeaux now offer a surprising number of reasonably priced examples.
In general, I find that entry-level and secondary wines from top estates consistently offer top value, as do those made from unusual grape varieties such as kerner and mencia. Newly popular chenin blanc and gamay are also underpriced for their quality.
And hey, don’t forget to shop around. You can often find some of the wines below for even less.
To find top inexpensive bubbly, always look outside the region of Champagne.
NV Filipa Pato 3B Rosé Extra Bruto ($16)
This pretty pink Portuguese sparkler, perfect for brunch, has spicy, plummy fruit, and gentle bubbles.
NV Clotilde Davenne Crémant de Bourgogne Rosé Extra Brut ($25)
Just about every village in Burgundy makes sparkling wine. This delightful salmon-colored one is more complex than most.
2009 Mata I Coloma-Pere Mata Reserva Familia Brut Nature Cava ($26)
A Spanish sparkler from a dedicated cava grower, this wine features bright fruit, aromas of freshly baked bread, and a chalky finish.
NV Schramsberg Mirabelle Brut ($28)
The easy-to-sip fruity cuvée from a historic Napa Valley estate comes in delicious white and rosé versions.
2012 Domaine Carneros Estate Brut ($35)
Champagne Taittinger’s California outpost just released this new estate cuvée that’s as elegant as fine Champagne but slightly rounder and fruitier.
When Only Champagne Will Do
Bargains lurk among the entry-level, non-vintage blends from both grandes marques houses and grower-producers.
NV Laurent Perrier La Cuvée ($37)
This grande marque has just released an elegant new version of its basic brut that emphasizes chardonnay and is a step up in quality.
NV Geoffroy Expression Brut Premier Cru ($44)
A combo of silky texture and high energy are the hallmarks of this pinot-noir-based cuvée from a superb grower-producer.
NV Laherte Frères Extra Brut Rosé de Meunier ($45)
A rising star winemaker makes this high-personality pink sparkler from 100 percent pinot meunier, which gives it cranberry aromas and flavors.
NV Bruno Paillard Première Cuvée Extra Brut ($47)
Pure, crisp, and chalky-dry, this lemony blend includes a lot of older reserve wine. It’s elegance and finesse at an entry-level price.
NV Larmandier-Bernier Extra Brut Latitude ($48)
Pure chalky minerality and a creamy texture are the key features of this all-chardonnay cuvée from a top organic grower-producer.
Rosé, a Year-Round Thing
Dry, full-bodied pink wines are good with anything.
2016 Mastroberardino Irpinia Rosato Lacrimarosa ($20)
Italian rosati have the structure and savor for year-round drinking. This one, from Campania, uses aglianico grapes.
2016 Tablas Creek Vineyard Dianthus Rosé ($25)
Modeled on the rosés of the southern Rhône, this deep pink, spicy wine is full-bodied and lush.
2016 Terroir al Limit Vinum Verum Roc d’Aubaga Rosado ($45)
A cult winemaker is behind this unusual, serious rosé from Spain’s Priorat region. It’s a subtle, complex blend of red and white grenache grapes.
From perfect zingy aperitifs to rich, savory dinner wines.
2015 Guilhem & Jean-Hugues Goisot Bourgogne Aligoté ($18)
Clean, salty, fresh, lemony—there’s a reason why aligoté, Burgundy’s other white grape, is having a moment.
2016 Abbazia di Novacella Kerner ($20)
A lush, refreshing crowd-pleaser, this Kerner (a cross between riesling and the red grape trollinger) is made at a centuries-old abbey in the Italian alps.
2016 Tascante Buonora Etna Bianco ($20)
Mineral-rich whites such as this one from Sicily’s brooding Mount Etna are amazing values.
2015 Clos des Lunes, Lune d’Argent ($20)
Bordeaux’s dry whites are now a definite thing. This bright blend of sémillon and sauvignon blanc is the best of three from a new estate.
2012 Trimbach Pinot Gris Reserve ($22)
The Trimbach winemaking dynasty is noted for riesling, but its ripe, intense pinot gris is a rich, food-friendly bargain, too, and ages beautifully.
2016 La Clarine Farm Albarino ($24)
California natural wine pioneer Hank Beckmeyer has a way with this Spanish varietal—this has zingy acidity and deep mineral flavors.
2015 Casa Marin Sauvignon Blanc Cipreses Vineyard ($26)
Ultra crisp, this white is a fine example of the tangy, citrusy sauvignons coming from cool regions in Chile.
2015 Tabali Talinay Chardonnay ($30)
A coastal limestone vineyard in northern Chile’s exciting Limari Valley is the source of this very Burgundian chardonnay.
2015 Jordan Winery Chardonnay ($32)
Widely available, this always-balanced Russian River Valley white is still a bargain. Its flint and fruit flavors are never overdone.
2015 Prà Soave Classico Monte Grande ($32)
Soave, a dry white from the Veneto region of Italy, is in the midst of evolution these days, and the result is much higher quality. This example has concentration and verve and notes of white flowers and almonds.
2015 Peter Jakob Kühn Riesling Oestricher Quarzit Trocken ($34)
Intense and salty, this riesling from a biodynamic producer in the Rheingau will surprise you with its satiny texture.
2015 Sidebar Cellars Sauvignon Blanc Ritchie Vineyard ($34)
California chardonnay maestro David Ramey has experimented with sauvignon blanc for his new label. It’s unusual, rich and exotic.
2014 Domaine de la Taille Aux Loups Montlouis-sur-Loire Clos de Mosny ($34)
The chenin blanc grape is hot—just look at restaurant wine lists. This one, made by Loire Valley maestro Jacky Blot, tastes of white peaches and minerals.
2016 La Soufrandière Pouilly-Vinzelles Bret Brothers ($45)
For top French chardonnay at a reasonable price, turn to Macon whites such as this rich, mineral-laced biodynamic wine made by two young talented brothers.
2016 Patrick Piuze Chablis Premier Cru Les Butteaux ($48)
Despite the vintage frost problems, this premier cru from a star winemaker offers the steely, vivid, mineral flavors you want in Chablis.
From drink-me-now crowd pleasers to big-deal bottles.
2015 Gabbiano Dark Knight ($17)
This smooth new Super Tuscan blend of cabernet, merlot, and sangiovese has a lot of velvety, dark-berry, chocolatey flavor for the price.
2016 Domaine de Barons de Rothschild Légende Bordeaux Rouge ($17)
There’s real Bordeaux character in this generic cabernet-merlot blend from the makers of Château Lafite Rothschild. Though not complex, it’s surprisingly plush.
2015 Marquesi Incisa della Rocchetta Valmorena Barbera d’Asti ($20)
Midweight Barbera is sadly underrated. This one blends juicy, succulent cherry fruit with earthy minerality and vibrant spiciness.
2012 Pyren Vineyard Broken Quartz Shiraz ($20)
Cool climate regions of Australia are on a roll. A boutique winery in Victoria is behind this violet-fragrant, spicy, succulent red.
2015 Damien Coquelet Chiroubles ($23)
Cru Beaujolais is creeping up in price, but is still undervalued. Young gun Coquelet made his name with his vibrant, cherry-and-pomegranate Chiroubles.
2014 Château Cartier Saint-Émilion Grand Cru ($27)
With its soft, silky fruit and suave texture, this 100 percent organic merlot from Bordeaux is plush and satisfying.
2015 Elvio Cogno Barbera d’Alba Bricco dei Merli ($28)
The sunny vintage was super for Barbera in Piemonte. This one, from a top Barolo producer, is savory and fresh, with a succulent texture.
2015 David Reynaud Domaine les Bruyères Crozes-Hermitage Beaumont ($29)
The northern Rhone is a hotbed of young experimenters like Reynaud. His exciting syrah is medium-bodied, smoky, and spicy.
2015 Weingut Moric Blaufrankisch ($30)
Blaufrankisch is Austria’s most important red. This dark-fruited, entry-level example is like a spicy cru Beaujolais.
2015 Domaine Barmes-Buecher Reserve Pinot Noir ($33)
Alsace, a top region for bargains, has a long tradition with pinot. Climate change is helping create rich, silky examples such as this one.
2014 La Vizcaina La Poulosa Bierzo ($36)
This Spanish field blend of mencia and other red grapes delivers juicy flavors of berries and exotic spice and mineral notes.
2015 Sailor Seeks Horse Pinot Noir Australia ($39)
Tasmania is fast becoming the latest hot source of delicate, savory, supple pinot noirs, such as this one, to rival Burgundy.
2015 Band of Vintners Consortium Cabernet Sauvignon ($40)
A team of top Napa winemakers is behind this new label. This concentrated yet balanced red tastes of plum and licorice; it compares with Napa cabs selling for twice the price.
2014 Mt. Difficulty Bannockburn Pinot Noir ($43)
Pinot is the star of New Zealand’s Central Otago region, and this one is bright, earthy, and layered.
2015 Domaine du Pelican Arbois Trois Cépages ($44)
Burgundy’s famous Marquis d’Angerville owns this estate in the Jura. This blend of pinot noir, trousseau, and poulsard is silky, spicy and pure, like a village Burgundy.
2015 Franck Balthazar Cornas Cuvée Casimir Balthazar ($47)
This is a distinctive, complex, classic syrah from one of the top winemakers in the Cornas appellation of the northern Rhone Valley.
2013 Vietti Barolo Castiglione ($49)
Rich and powerful, this entry-level Barolo from a famous winemaker brims with traditional licorice and rose flavors and aromas.
Wines for Geeks
NV Domaine Belluard Les Perles du Mont Blanc ($25)
A current New York sommelier favorite, this Alpine producer in Savoie makes this pure, creamy-textured, sparkling wine from the rare gringet grape.
2015 Scholium Project 1MN Bechtold Ranch ($45)
Inveterate experimenter Abe Schoener makes this light, savory, complex red from 140-year-old cinsaut vines in Lodi. It resembles a light Burgundy.
1995 Kalin Cellars Sonoma County Chardonnay Cuvée CH ($46)
Deep, full, complex, and rich, this current release from a pioneering winery will change your mind about how long California chardonnay can age.
For after-dinner sipping.
Lustau San Emilio Solera Reserva Pedro Ximenez Jerez ($25)
This rich, sweet sherry with notes of caramel, exotic spices, dried plums, and brown sugar is for those who enjoy dessert in a glass.
Taylor Fladgate 325th Anniversary Reserve Tawny Port ($36)
A limited edition reserve tawny in a 1692 style bottle, it’s dense and luscious, with mellow flavors of toffee, dried figs, and butterscotch, perfect with crème brûlée.
2013 Château Coutet ($46)
The sweet wines of Bordeaux are woefully undervalued. This intense, lively one from Barsac tastes of honey, citrus, and apricot essence.