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Few things are more satisfying than finding great wines for under $25. Photo by Michal Szydlowski.




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October 2005

Product Reviews / Main Nibbles / Wine

Great Libations Under $25

Value Wines Deliver Complexity For Less

Stop pouring over pricey bottles in glossy catalogs: These well-priced wines deliver taste and complexity for half the price. We’ve paired the wines with the foods most people enjoy every day. Buy up now, though—beauties like these don’t stay in stock for long.

Llopart Leopardi Vintage 1999 Brut   

  • Serve as a starter with smoked salmon or other smoked fish
  • At brunch with Eggs Benedict (or any bacon, ham and eggs)
  • With a mozzarella and tomato salad
  • As an aperitif

Cava refers to sparkling wines made in Catalonia on the northeast coast of Spain. The other non-Catalonian Spanish sparklers (about 7% of total production) are not entitled to the Cava designation. The color of this Cava is straw-gold with a gorgeous bead of tiny bubbles. It is fragrant with the barest hint of citrus peel: on the palate yeast-bread flavors combine with melon-like fruit and hints of toasted nuts. This wine is elegant and dry with a fairly long finish. It is rare to find a Cava that combines such finesse without sacrificing intensity. Made from the regular Cava varietals of Xarello, Parellada andMacabeo. It also includes 15% Chardonnay—which may account for the slight creaminess and extra heft that is not found in most others

  • Suggested Retail Price: $22
  • Imported by Tempranillo Inc., New Rochelle, New York    

Leitz Rudesheimer Magdelenkreuz, Riesling Spatlese 2003

  • Serve with appetizers/tapas such as melon or asparagus wrapped in prosciutto or Serrano ham
  • Pair with spicy foods

This Riesling from Josef Leitz is from a vineyard called Magdalenenkreuz, situated in the village of Rudesheim. It has a stunningly pure nose that is unmistakably Riesling—in other words, it has all the classic notes of minerals, citrus and fragrant flowers. In a vintage like 2003, which was brutally hot even in Germany, it is astonishing how Leitz avoided extracting grapey and overt tropical flavors. Though richer in mouth feel than the 2001 vintage (which was also excellent), this wine with lightly sweet mango and peach flavors still manages to convey a cool, crisp personality. An intensely flavorful finish.

  • Suggested Retail Price: $18
  • Imported by Michael Skurnik, Syosset, New York          

Pacalet 2003 Moulin-a-Vent

  • Serve with roast chicken or duck leg confit
  • Pair with salmon (you can make a red wine sauce)

Moulin-a-Vent is without doubt the finest appellation of Beaujolais. This wine, 100% Gamay, is purple to the rim, with a nose that is awash with the aromas of crushed dark berries and violets; but without that fruit salad component of simple Beaujolais. Indeed, it has the intensity and character of a Pinot Noir and even a note of slate-like minerality. Broadly fruity and almost jammy, somewhat earthy, the wine has smooth tannins and a robust finish which thankfully stops just short of being alcoholic and Port-like. Unlike any Beaujolais vintage in recent memory, this reminds me a bit of Jacky Janodet’s wonderful 1989 Moulin-a-Vent, but with a drier aspect to the flavor. A most enjoyable wine.

  • Suggested Retail Price: $18
  • Imported by USA Wine Imports, New York

Muga Rioja Riserva 2001        

  • An all-around wine, equally good paired with fowl, game or cheese

In Rioja the grape varieties Granacha and Tempranillo constitute more than 75% of the blend; ancillary grape varieties Mazuelo and Graciano contribute the rest. The 2001 vintage is rated outstanding for Rioja and this wine shows why. It is a rich ruby red with an already complex nose that is rich with the scent of  berries. Vanillin and cocoa add supporting notes of interest. Quite full-bodied, it has exciting, ripe flavors that caress rather than assault the palate; and a teasing edge of acidity. It is sleekly structured with restraint and elegance; and is already delicious because the tannins present are entirely supple and  ripe.

  • Suggested Retail Price: $22
  • Imported by Tempranillo Inc., New Rochelle, New York    

Hayward’s 5000 Lager

  • For cocktails or cheese courses
  • For main courses, versatile with meat, fish, pasta

This Indian lager is rich and flavorful with just the right amount of bitterness. There’s nothing watery about its finish, like several Indian beers I have tasted. Even though it has a 7% alcohol content, it is remarkably buoyant and fresh-tasting. This beer well worth seeking out. I bought it for $3 at a store that specializes in hard- to-find beers.

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