This is the third article in a series offering good-value wines for your informal parties, or when you want a pleasing, affordable everyday wine.
Since 1680, the Sparr family has made wine in Alsace, but it wasn’t until the early 1900s when 20-year-old Pierre Sparr took control and pioneered bottling the family’s wine using his name—one of the first in Alsace to commercialize wine. Today Pierre Sparr is widely known for its quality and value as well as its name.
Made in the traditional method (second fermentation in the bottle, like Champagne) the bubbly nonvintage Pierre Sparr Cremant d’Alsace Brut Reserve is a wine to enjoy for all occasions—“official” or not. A mix of granite, limestone, gneiss and chalk, the soil brings a slight smoky aroma to the floral-scented pinot blanc and auxerrois grapes. Its minerality runs through the apple flavor, giving it balance and a refreshing taste. 89 points. Retail prices have a wide range from $15 to $28. Good value is found at less than $20.
The nonvintage Bisol 1542 Jeio Prosecco Superiore Brut is an ideal sparkling wine for a group: Its bubbles are softer than Champagne or Cremants, the flavor fruitier, and the price much easier on the budget.
Bisol’s Jeio bottling blends 85% glera (Prosecco’s required grape) with chardonnay, pinot bianco and pinot grigio. Its light fizzy body carries ginger and honeyed-apple flavors with mild acidity. 86 points. Retail prices range from $15 to $21. Good value is found at less than $18.
Last week, two Greek white wines delighted me. The 2016 Domaine Skouras Salto Moscofilero was stunning in its combination of floral and citrus aromas and a medium body built on tangy lime and sea salt tastes. It was as airy as an ocean breeze and substantial in its mineral and lime finish. Every sip was pure pleasure with a freshly caught striped bass. 92 points. Retail prices range from $15 to $22. Good value is found at less than $19.
The other gem was the 2016 Alpha Estate Malagouzia Turtles Vineyard from one of the Greece’s leading wineries. Located in the northern region of Greece near the Macedonian border, Alpha Estate was founded in 1997 by viticulturist Markis Mavridis and winemaker Angelos Latridis.
Nearly extinct, the malagouzia grape was rediscovered by a Greek oenology professor in the 1970s. From Alpha Estate’s sandy and clay soil and Latridis’ winemaking, the 2016 Malagouzia Turtles vineyard has a lively lemon-thyme aroma, a medium body filled with melon and cucumber flavors, and refreshing acidity. Twenty minutes of aeration brings a stony, citrus fruit flavor in the finish that is a perfect offset to summer’s humidity. 90 points. Retail prices range from $13 to $23. Good value is found at less than $18.
Castello di Volpaia is owned by Chianti’s Stianti family. In the 1970s, they embarked on a mission to convert a mountain top village in Radda, the heart of the Chianti Classico zone, into a culinary mecca of excellent wine, tasty vinegar, cooking school and hospitality. They have succeeded marvelously.
Recently, second-generation owner Federica Stianti, was in New York City presenting her delicious 2015 Castello di Volpaia Chianti Classico Riserva. The pure sangiovese has an eye-catching black-cherry hue and captivating aromas of black fruit and soy. Ripe plum flavor, integrated tannins and acidity make this an instantly pleasing wine with the backbone for years of aging. 90 points. Retail is a very reasonable $22 to $27.
Seeing a well-made, good-value wine from Napa Valley is akin to the sighting of a rare bird (the Hawaiian palila comes to mind). In the 1980s, the Codorniu Raventos family, Spanish producers of cava since 1551, created Codorniu Napa, a sparkling wine company in Napa’s Los Carneros region. Six years later, they changed to still wines and renamed the winery Artesa, Catalan for “handcrafted.”
The 2015 Artesa Pinot Noir Los Carneros is crafted by Portuguese-born and educated winemaker Ana Diogo Draper. Working in Napa Valley since 2005, Draper avoided the black-cherry candied taste of many California pinot noirs by fermenting individual parcels in stainless-steel tanks or oak barrels—some with native yeasts, others with commercial yeasts. She aged the individual wines for 10 months in oak barrels, of which only 25% were new.
Like quilt making, this parcel-by-parcel approach allowed Draper to create a bright strawberry-colored pinot noir with cherry, strawberry and earthy aromas. Its medium body is packed with lip-smacking strawberry, cherry and red-plum flavors; a gravelly undertone keeps the wine balanced. My only wish would be to diminish the noticeable alcohol in the finish. 89 points. Retail is a very reasonable $21 to $25.
These wines are suited for a number of events—indoors or out, patio or parlor, for a toast or just a taste. Enjoy!
Photos by John Foy