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The Top-Selling Wines of 2012

The Top-Selling Wines of 2012


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If you're buying wine online, you're probably shopping at Wine.com: the online retailer, which ships to 43 states, shipped more than 2.5 million bottles of wine this year. Now, Wine.com has released its top-selling wines of 2012, and the list reveals what bottles we're popping open this year.

Here's a breakdown of the biggest wine trends of the year, based on the stats from Wine.com:

California still rules the wine market, but Italy is close behind. Forty of the top 100 bottles come from California; but another 12 come from Italy. That might seem like small potatoes to some, but it's double the number of Italian wines on the 2011 Wine.com best-seller's list. The majority of the Italian wines came from Tuscany, with Veneto close behind.

As Mike Osborn, the founder of Wine.com, explained, the Italian wine growth has much to do with the availability and price points of wines not only in Italy, but worldwide. If another wine region, like California, suffers from rising prices and limited availability of vintages, consumers start turning to other regions, like Italy. And fortunately, that means better prices. "Eight of the 12 Italian wines on our list we sell for less than $20," Osborn said. "And all but one of those wines were rated at 90 [points] or higher." That's a bang for your buck.

The close runner-up to Italy? South America, where 10 of the top 100 are from. You all are really loving your malbecs and cabernet sauvignons. Again, Osborne said, it's the quality that wins out — at exceptional prices. The rounder, "picnic wines," as Osborn calls them, are easily sold for $20 in Napa, but lower production costs means Chilean or Argentina wines are half that price.

And it seems we are a cabernet sauvignon amd chardonnay nation. Twenty-nine of the wines on the list are cabernet sauvignon varietals; South America, California, and Washington wine regions took the stage with their cabernet sauvignons. In fact, numbers one and five through 10 on the top 10 chart were cabernet sauvignons. The number one best-selling wine of 2012? The Columbia Crest Two Vines Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 from Columbia Valley, Wash. (Perhaps it's Columbia Crest fueling the booming Washington wine region.) And it's a steal at $8.99.

Close behind the cabernet sauvignon? Chardonnay. "Chardonnay is the number one selling varietal in the U.S.," Osborn said, and Wine.com's top 100 list most definitely reflects that.

Americans also love their imported wines. The Wine.com stats differ a bit from the U.S. Department of Commerce stats, which say that 30 percent of all wines purchased in the U.S. were imported. However, the Wine.com list is evenly split between imported and domestic wines.

And it's apparent from these stats that Americans aren't afraid to spend money on wine. The average is $28 per bottle for Wine.com users, Osborn said. It could be because of the specialty wines Wine.com sells, but it's on par with the national average.

Now you know: Italian wines, cabernet sauvignons, and chardonnays are the top-sellers. We can drink to that...


10 Pinot Noir Wines to Try

Pinot Noir remains one of the world's most ambitious and delicious red wines. Offering the ultimate in food-friendly personality, this variety has a lot of diversity and consistently exhibits a versatile, well-received taste profile. Finding the perfect Pinot based on preference and price can be tricky. Growing Pinot Noir grapes is a daunting task and price points tend to be higher for this grape. Most of these Pinot Noir picks fall into the $20 to $50 range, but there are plenty of options if you are looking for Pinot under $15.


Seema's Favorite Budget Wines of 2012

A year full of drinking wine, and what do I have to show for it? Fortunately, no cirrhosis of the liver quite yet, but I have developed a pretty solid list of go-to wines that I can lean on for nearly any occasion. And the best part? They're all less than $15.

As the holiday season approaches its peak, I've put together a line-up (or a wine-up!) of my favorite affordable sips of the year. Red and white, still and sparkling, Old World and New. Take this list with you if you're stocking up for family visits and parties to come in the next few weeks.

Winning Whites

For a very versatile white, try the Jean Luc Colombo Les Abeilles Cotes Du Rhone Blanc 2011, which is a white blend of 80% Clairette and 20% Roussanne which sells for around $10. While you can pick up lemony scents pretty quickly, the flavor develops as you sip it. When it's right-out-of-the-fridge chilled, you get a crisp minerality and a bit of salinity. Let the wine warm up a bit, and it picks up a welcome richness. For food to serve alongside it, you could go as fancy as a nicely pan-seared red snapper or as casual as a turkey sub.

If you prefer a slightly sweeter white, or you're looking for a wine to accompany slightly sweet dishes like pad thai, reach for the Pine Ridge 2011 Chenin Blanc Viognier ($13). Tropical aromas lift out of the glass. There's a hint of herbal grassiness with some lime behind it and a relatively sweet finish. I find this a good introductory bottle for folks who are new to wine—it's easy to drink and very fruity, but has enough interesting stuff going on to get you to start appreciating what wine has to offer.

Reliable Reds

During the holiday season, whether you're serving roast beef, lamb, or goose, you'll want some affordable—but tasty—red wine on hand. Graffigna Centenario Estate Bottled Reserve 2010 is a steal at $12 a pop. Savory aromas, like soy-marinated steak, rise out of the glass. But the wine itself has ripe cherry and raspberry flavors (and a hint of black cherry cola) balanced by an earthy backbone and a very smooth texture. It's easy to drink on its own, even better with steak. This is a food friendly wine that I've recommended to friends more than once—a pair of friends even opted for this recommendation for their wedding and were quite happy with the choice.

Another of my favorite dependable budget wines is Juan Gil Monastrell. I've tried at least 3 vintages (including the 2010, which is on many U.S. wine shelves now for around $12), and have been consistently impressed by what's in the glass. When you sip this wine (from a grape also known as Mourvèdre), it's initially very inviting—smooth, soft fruit that evolves into darker flavors of black cherry with a little smokiness. The finish has a lovely hint of anise flavor. The best part about this wine is that it's so versatile—fine to drink on its own, even better with a little meat—it's something you can bring to a dinner party with confidence.

Solid Sparklers

For a crowd-pleasing sparkling wine, I often default to the La Marca Prosecco DOC Extra Dry NV ($13), with its recognizable Tiffany-blue label. This bubbly exudes a savory-sweet aroma reminiscent of a classic pairing: apples and cheese. Crisp acidity and pleasant meyer lemon flavors balance out the sweetness of golden delicious apple. You might also pick up a hint of brioche-like richness, though this prosecco undergoes secondary fermentation in the tank (via the Charmat method) rather than in the bottle (via Method Champenoise). Feel free to serve alone as an aperitif or with a range of appetizers.

Want an interesting twist to accompany your next dinner party? Don't forget you can get red wine with bubbles, too—just try a bottle of Lambrusco. And for an affordable option, I reach for the Lini Lambrusca Rosso Emilia IGT Frizzante style 2010 ($15). This wine offers the typical slight bitterness you'd expect from a Lambrusco and offsets it with rich, ripe cherry flavors and velvety tannins. The fizzy red is approachable, fun, and festive—ideal for the holidays.

How has your year been in terms of wine? Did you discover any dependable and affordable bottles to recommend?

Looking for more budget wine for parties? Check out our Budget Red Wine Hall of Fame and our Budget White Wine Hall of Fame.


The Top Producers in France’s Capital of Natural Wine

The Loire has become French wine’s experimental heart, a place where young winemakers can afford to take risks and make what you might call vins d’emotion, which I’ll translate as “wine with feeling.” And the Anjou area, surrounding the city of Angers is the very core, host to more of them than even the surrounding regions.

Most have no interest in the often outmoded appellation rules, which is why the dramatic spread of wines marked, simply, vin de France catalyzed in the central Loire. The best wines display their origins, although many are also as much about process—or lack of process, given the wide proliferation of natural-wine proponents in the area. For a natural wine lover, it is a paradise.

What follows is a short list of some of the most promising names in the Anjou today. But there are many other notables, including: Ferme de la Sansonnière (Mark Angéli), Domaine Mosse, Les Vignes de Babass, Bertin-Delatte, Didier Chaffardon, Le Batossay (Baptiste Cousin), Bainbridge & Cathcart, Domaine Les Grandes Vignes, Les Roches Seches, Domäne Vincendeau and La Grange aux Belles.

And it’s impossible not to consider the Anjou without considering some new names from Savennières, its most famous appellation, including Thibaud Boudignon, Damien Laureau, Clément Baraut and Eric Morgat, along with Tessa Laroche’s improvements at the well-established Domaine aux Moines. Of course, there are always the wines of the Joly family, a whole discussion unto themselves.

Richard Leroy

Leroy’s wines have become legend among chenin-philes. They’re big and dramatic some past vintages have been uneven, especially with oxidative notes, but a preference for browning the grape juice and a return to using modest levels of sulfur dioxide in 2014 seems to have returned a level of precision—and extraordinary depth. The Les Noëls de Montbenault, from rhyolite soils, is more generous and salty, while the Les Rouliers, on sandstone, is harder-edged and intensely savory in its flavors.

Stéphane Bernaudeau

During his years working with Mark Angéli, Bernaudeau acquired about 3.5 hectares of land he finally left Angéli’s property in 2015, tired of “running between the two, racing like I was a Parisian,” and moved into his own minuscule cellar. His specialty is intense, sublimely-textured chenin from Layon, including Les Ongles, from 30-year-old vines on schist Les Terres Blanches from a tiny head-trained parcel on limestone and the stately Les Nourrissons, from century-old vines on schist plus several reds.

Benoit Courault

Courault studied in Beaune and apprenticed with Eric Pfifferling (L’Anglore) in southern France, and he brings a Burgundian sensibility, including near-fanatical attention to his vineyards—even field-grafting his own vines. His chenins are flamboyant and profoundly mineral, including Gilbourg, from old vines on schist, and Les Guinechiens, from a 50-year-old parcel just outside Bonnezeaux. He also has an unusual talent in the region with reds (thanks to a nuanced understanding of whole-cluster fermentation), including Les Tabeneaux, from cabernet franc and grolleau, and Les Rouliers, solely from franc.

Les Vignes Herbel

Laurent and Nadège Herbel took over winemaker Jo Pithon’s old house and vines in 2014, although they’d been working in the region since 2005. Laurent found he had to manipulate the wines too much to remain in the appellation, so everything is now vin de France, including La Pointe, chenin from 1920s vines, and a smoky cuve-aged red, Alfred & Leon.

Deboutbertin

Vincent and Stéphanie Deboutbertin arrived in Faye-d’Anjou in 2012, more or less in between their hometowns (Rennes for him, Poitiers for her), determined to work by horse. They focus on a basket-pressed chenin, Achillée pineau d’aunis, L’Aunis Étoilé and grolleau, Baliverne. And Vincent’s pride for his native Brittany is evident in the “Breizh [Breton] Punishers” hoodie he sports.

Clos de l’Élu

Clos de l’Élu is a longtime property in Saint-Aubin-de-Luigné acquired in 2008 and run by Thomas Carsin, who spent several years in Sonoma, and his wife Charlotte. This is the heart of Chaume (sweet-wine country), but l’Élu retains a slightly experimental focus on dry wines, including a weighty barrel-aged chenin, Bastingage, and another, the amphora-aged Ephata, nuanced if assertively tangy. Also a number of reds and at least two whites (Terre!, Désirade) from old sauvignon blanc vines.

Jean-Christophe Garnier

Garnier worked for a decade as a sommelier in Brittany and the Rhône before arriving in 2002. His whites include La Roche Bézigon, aged in large cask, from two facing schist terroirs on either side of Layon, one of Carboniferous-period soils and another from older Brioverian-era soils plus bottlings of each on their own. The two together seem to balance out some rusty flavors found in the individual parcels.

Pithon-Paillé

The continuation of Jo Pithon’s winery, now run by his son, Jules, and Jules’ wife, Tania. (The other partners, Pithon’s stepson, Joseph Paillé, and his wife, Wendy, moved to the south of France.) The wines are back on track after a few years of shuffling roles for the family it’s a big lineup but the Coteau des Treilles, from vines on steep and historically important slopes, and the grolleau-based Grololo, are standouts.

Patrick Baudouin

Baudouin returned from selling books in Paris to reclaim his parents’ old Layon property in 1990, and made only sweet wines until 2001. But he has become a careful student of the region’s history with chenin blanc. There’s a wide range of wines, including Savennières, and the chenin sometimes has a touch of leftover sugar. His Effusion, from rocky volcanic soils, has the richness from malolactic fermentation while the Les Gâts, from a 1947 planting on schist, is big and savory, with a curry-leaf tang. He makes several reds (and sweet wines) too, including La Fresnaye, from cabernet franc on schistous soils at the edge of the typically white wine-centric Layon.

Clau de Nell

The future of this biodynamic property, established in 2000 and acquired eight years later by Burgundy legend Anne-Claude Leflaive, briefly seemed unclear after her untimely death, in 2015. But estate manager Sylvain Potin, a Loire native, has continued his work seamlessly in Martigné-Briand, at the eastern edge of the Anjou. Here the soils transition from black to white (limestone), and that difference is evident in the wines’ brighter flavors. These are finessed wines, the Chenin Blanc radiant with an almost Puligny-like ripeness to the yellow fruit flavors the Grolleau more savory (blackberries and celery salt) and the Cabernet Franc all smoke and violets.


Top 50 Portuguese Wines – According to Julia Harding of JancisRobinson.com

Since 2009, the Top 50 Portuguese Wines has been a favorite on Catavino, and we’re always excited to announce when the new list arrives. Annually, Wines of Portugal chooses a UK journalist such as Jamie Goode, Sarah Ahmed and Tom Cannavan to select a series of wines that have enticed and tantalized their palates. However, as Portuguese wine varies dramatically in style, grape and terroir, it’s never an easy task to choose 50 out of hundreds upon hundreds that are equally deserving of recognition, as you’ll quickly understand from Julia Harding’s interview below.

Julia Harding is a Master of Wine, the guru editor behind the Jancis Robinson website and a regular editor and contributor of several books including, The Oxford Companion to Wine.

Thank you Julia for taking the time to answer our questions and we look forward to everyone’s take on her list below!

Your just embarked on a 1 year journey to discover your top 50 Portuguese wines! Considering that you had a chance to learn a lot about Portuguese wines in the process, what was your experience with the wines of Portugal previously? What did you hope to discover?

Although I had tasted quite a lot of Portuguese wines in the UK, my visits to Portugal had been mostly to the Douro. I have been fortunate to do some tastings there with Dirk Niepoort and Alvaro Castro that have exposed me to Baga and to old Dão wines. At the 2008 wines of Portugal tasting in the Uk in 2008, I focused on white wines, so I had high expectations of central Portugal (mainly Bairrada and Dão) and knew that I would find wines that had the acidity and structure to age well. What I was looking for from all regions was wines that were a pleasure to drink, not just to taste, wines with freshness and a distinctive Portuguese character and wines that are food friendly. I was not looking for overoaked, overextracted wines that were tiring to drink.

How much time did you spend this year in Portugal?

I did a whirlwind, 9-day, sleep-derprived tour of the country that took in all regions apart from the Algarve and Vinho Verde (the last two excluded purely for practical reasons), visiting a few producers in each regaion, just to try to get a feel for the land and the climate and the people. On top of that, I spend 5 long weekends in Porto or Lisboa devoted to big regional tastings. Everyone was invited to submit wines for these tastings. I would obviously have perferred to visit more producers on the ground but this was just not practical as I was doing all this in my ‘spare’ time, ie on top of my full-time work for Jancis Robinson.

Looking at the past top 50 lists especially’s Tom’s list from this year, what are your thoughts on the selected wines, and their potential for Portugals reputation?

To be quite honest, I deliberately avoided looking back at previous top 50s as I did not want to be influenced in my own choice – I did not want to exclude a wine I loved just because it had been selected one or several times before. (Though I did taste Tom’s selection and loved the theme of freshness that ran through them.) I think the top 50 as an idea is a very good one to introduce consumsers to the quality and character of the best of Portugal’s wines, compared with the lowest common demoninator that is all too often the offering in UK supermarkets or in tourist-oriented restaurants in Portugal.

How did it all turn out? What are your impressions of PT wines today? What are the wines that most surprised? What failed to deliver, if anything?

It was a huge amount of work and one of the hardest things I have ever had to do. I tasted about 1,200 wines over 9 months, some of those twice or three times. I was particularly thrilled to find so many great whites and so many great wines made from indigenous varieties. (My first selection criterion was that wines had to be made from Portuguese varieties, wih the exceptions of Tinta Roriiz, aka Temrpranillo, and Alicante Bouschet, which is so much more successful in Portugal than in its French homeland). The only time I was disappointed was when I came across wines that were over-oaked or over-extracted. This happened more often in the Alentejo and the Douro.

I’d sum up my selection as ‘water from the rock’ (a ref to Moses striking a rock to provide water for the pached Israelites). I find Portugal to be a country of extremes – in terms of landscape and climate, rock and heat, and yet her most talented winegrowers can produce from even the harshest conditions liquid to refresh. I did taste some very good wines that included international varieties in a blend but I was most excited by those made from indigenous varieties that could not have come from anywhere but Portugal. Such diversity allied to quality that still leaves a lot to discover. I ony hope that some of these most Portuguese of Portuguese wines will become more widely available around the world.

Below, we have put together a list of all the chosen wines and linked to the wineries whenever possible. Sadly, even now in 2012, there are wineries that do not take the time to have an online presence. We hope that in 2013 this is not the case anymore!


Top 100 Wines of 2013

A selection from each category of the Top 100 Wines of 2013.

If the past is prelude, then my conclusion from last year's Top 100 Wines - that we're entering a glorious age for American wine - is even truer in 2013.

The top wines coming from the West Coast right now are the best in a generation.

They excel in familiar forms we know and love, like Pinot Noir and Cabernet. Yet they push boundaries, they pursue greatness with grapes both long forgotten and newly discovered on these shores. They represent a great momentum that is changing the way Americans enjoy wine.

This year's Top 100, which seeks the most outstanding wines in the West, celebrates bottles that are helping to change the conversation - toward a better understanding of what we can grow, and where it grows best. They all make a statement about what is possible.

That includes the familiar. Chardonnay, a grape as tortured as it has been adored in this country, is enjoying the start of a great renaissance - with its best expressions beholden neither to the Old World nor to the stylistic excesses of the past, particularly in California.

Wines from producers like Liquid Farm and Hanzell run the gamut from new to timeless, revealing what the grape can do best: serve as a vehicle to understand the virtues of the site where it's grown.

Pinot Noir, too. Even with a couple of difficult vintages up and down the coast, the finest specimens of this grape are succeeding as never before. If, three decades ago, vintners worried that they ever could accomplish much with Pinot, today the best wines compete with their counterparts from anywhere around the globe.

That extends not just to red wine but to rosé as well the best pink versions of Pinot (and much more) are good enough to warrant their own category again this year.

When it comes to Cabernet and its cousins, there is still a great hunt for success in the more-is-more realm. But there's also a diversity of styles, including extraordinary examples from Spottswoode, Ridge and Mayacamas that are finer than ever. They reflect the classic lines that made California Cabernet (and Merlot, too) a thing for the world to behold.

Speaking of California classics, Zinfandel at its best has rebounded brilliantly after a long spell of wandering.

Wines from Hobo, Broc Cellars and Turley, to name a few, are demonstrating the mix of exuberance, charm and nuance that not long ago was considered a liability. After chasing away many serious wine lovers, the grape has found a way to woo both its old partisans and a new generation that once dismissed it for more unusual fare.

Other long-present grapes on the West Coast are enjoying a similar bout of seriousness: Riesling (particularly from Oregon), Chenin Blanc, Barbera, Viognier and more.

They are sharing the spotlight with newer arrivals. Vermentino and Gruner Veltliner are moving beyond asterisk status to show their true potential.

Indeed, the fact that some very serious names are now tackling less-known grapes - Chardonnay maestro John Kongsgaard working with Albarino grown by vineyardist Lee Hudson, to pick one example - signals the extent to which these grapes are shuffling off their esoteric cloaks.

For that matter, we're now moving beyond the geography of the known to some exciting frontiers for American terroir.

I found wines for this year's list from southern Oregon's Applegate Valley, from San Diego County, from the Columbia Gorge and, for the second year, from Arizona. On the last, the simple fact that a wine like Sand-Reckoner's Malvasia Bianca - a grape with a bright future, from the improbable locale of Cochise County - exists at all is tribute to the current moment of ingenuity in American wine.

Thus this year's Top 100 is a tribute to this particularly auspicious time for our wine culture - brilliant bottles made, for the most part, by small and diligent wineries asking tough questions about what is possible in the vineyards.

Their work is defining a great era for American wine - one that respects the beauty of the past as it charges into the future.

SPARKLING

Aside from the continued seriousness among the top sparkling-wine houses, there were a couple of other developments in the West Coast's fizz realms this year.

The first was that Roederer and its sibling Scharffenberger began putting dates of disgorgement - when a wine is finished with a bit of sugar and placed under cork - on their bottles, paralleling a positive, consumer-friendly trend in Champagne.

Beyond that, there is a spate of single-vineyard sparkling wines that are appearing or in cellars now, soon to make their debut. We didn't catch them in time for this year's roundup, but expect to see them soon.

As for our top wines, they're from names you know well - a sign of continued excellence for a type of wine too often overlooked, and certainly not drunk as often as it could be.

NV Roederer Estate Brut Rosé Anderson Valley ($28, 12% alcohol): Arnaud Weyrich continues to make this a wine to beat in American bubbles. There's both power and remarkable finesse to the texture - small bubbles to rival great Champagne, with aniseed, candied strawberry and dark mineral. Disgorged January 2013.

2005 Gloria Ferrer Royal Cuvee Brut Carneros ($35, 12.5%): A quality push at Ferrer is evident, especially in this mix of two-thirds Pinot Noir and one-third Chardonnay. The extra aging has provided all the toasted hazelnut and subtly yeasty aspects you'd expect, but not at the expense of sleekness: fine bubbles, apricot, lemon peel and a subtle, meaty sweetness.

NV Scharffenberger Brut Excellence Mendocino County ($20, 12%): Winemaker Tex Sawyer keeps pulling off the extraordinary: fine Chardonnay (two-thirds of the blend) flavors of Bartlett pear and fig with a toasty character, almond and mandarin orange, in a wine that's remarkable for the money. Opulent, classy and a true credit to the skill this Philo-based house has often displayed. Disgorged January 2013.

2010 Schramsberg Blanc de Blancs Brut North Coast ($38, 12.5%): The barrel fermentation of some fruit from several counties in this historic cellar adds a bit of richness - fig and buttery pastry - but not at the cost of terrific acidity and focus, a fizzy parallel to what's happening in still California Chardonnay right now. Fennel seed and a pear eau-de-vie aspect add extra depth to what's an excellent vintage for sparkling wine.

CHARDONNAY

The resurgence of great Chardonnay rolls on, with wines from both cold 2011 and moderate 2012 that show a mix of intensity and ripeness.

More than anything, there's a commitment by winemakers to make this grape about the specificity of great vineyards rather than craftiness in the cellar.

That's not true across the board with 100,000 acres up and down the coast, there's a lot more Chardonnay planted than has the makings of greatness. But the top wines have pushed beyond the old view of Chardonnay as a synonym for white wine and become site-specific benchmarks for American quality.

2011 Ceritas Porter-Bass Vineyard Sonoma Coast Chardonnay ($55, 12.9% alcohol): Second year in a row this wine makes the list, but John Raytek's work with fruit from the biodynamically farmed Forestville vineyard of his wife Phoebe's family remains a California Chardonnay treasure. With its deep stony presence, bright citrus and yellow raspberry fruit, this is a pure, concentrated expression of the grape in classic western Sonoma sedimentary soils.

2011 Failla Haynes Vineyard Coombsville Chardonnay ($56, 13.8%): A fine example of the new mode of Chardonnay from Failla's Ehren Jordan - this time tapping one of Napa's longest-producing plantings of the variety, an old dry-farmed site east of the city. There's deft textural work to bring ripe melon pulp fruit to its intense stone and citrus aspects. Give it a year for full effect.

2012 Arnot-Roberts Trout Gulch Vineyard Santa Cruz Mountains Chardonnay ($33, 13%): Nathan Roberts and Duncan Meyers, The Chronicle's 2012 winemakers of the year, show a remarkable affinity for the grape. From a loamy site near Aptos, outside Santa Cruz, here is a pure, intense specimen: astonishing acidity to match dense lime and nectarine flavors, accented by a yerba buena-like herbal side. The perfect mix of textural weight and saline minerality, although it shows itself best on the dinner table.

2012 Adelsheim Willamette Valley Chardonnay ($22, 13.5%): One of Oregon's pioneering names has found a juicy expression that's a reminder of the Northwest's great potential. Mostly fermented in steel, its precise green apple and kiwi flavors, plus bay leaf and fennel accents, have a wonderful precision.

2011 Stuhlmuller Vineyards Estate Alexander Valley Chardonnay ($24, 14.1%): A great showing from this established name in what's more typically Cabernet country. Winemaker Leo Hansen used a bit of skin contact and native yeast during fermentation to provide a great mix of richness and intensity. Pear drops, cantaloupe and citrus are balanced by a great creamy texture.

2012 Hanzell Sebella Sonoma Valley Chardonnay ($36, 13.5%): This Sonoma site is arguably one of the birthplaces of California Chardonnay. In recent years, thanks to winemaker Michael McNeill, its affordable second label has emerged from under big brother's shadow. The Sebella offers the same magnitude but from younger vines and with a bit more immediacy. Ripe pear and finger lime flavors are match by an intense savory side: clover, white tea, bright minerality. Tank fermented and aged in old barrels, it's a full-fleshed expression that pays tribute to a Sonoma sweet spot for white grapes just north of San Pablo Bay.

2011 Lioco Sonoma County Chardonnay ($20, 13.1%): This marked the first full vintage for Lioco with its new winemaker, John Raytek, and amid a roster of hits - a Russian River blend, an extraordinary Demuth designate - this larger production blend was notable for having a level of depth rarely found for the price. Lots of ripe Bosc pear and cantaloupe are balanced by a beautiful acidity that shows what 2011 could offer: both energy and flavor.

2012 Sandhi Santa Barbara County Chardonnay ($33, 13%): I wasn't sure whether a wine delivered more finesse for the money than the 2011 edition of this wine. But the 2012, from winemaker Sashi Moorman, plus Rajat Parr and Charles Banks, managed it. A whiff of savory oak leads to crunchy minerality and intense lemony flavors, plus Cameo apple and green pear. There's a textural mastery: the intense brightness of Santa Rita Hills mixed with riper fruit from farther north in the county.

2012 Liquid Farm White Hill Sta. Rita Hills Chardonnay ($38, 13.8%): Nikki and Jeff Nelson work with the Dragonette Cellars team on this Chardonnay project out of Lompoc. Their more focused, edgy bottle, White Hill, uses a mix of Santa Rita sites for a pure, saline expression that shows the best of the area's white-wine potential. Rich pear and yellow fruit match a Granny Smith apple tang, accented by a heady oregano flourish.

2011 Memaloose Columbia Gorge Chardonnay ($25, 13%): Chardonnay is one of the things lost in the background of Washington's many wine talents, but the McCormick family taps a site in White Salmon, just above the Columbia River and due south of Mount Adams, for a tremendously juicy, bright effort: lemon, waxy apple, quince and a subtle richness to balance the tanginess that the little-known Gorge area can yield.

2011 Kongsgaard Napa Valley Chardonnay ($75, 14.1%): The tricky vintage meant even less of this than usual (in part because there's no fruit from the Hyde vineyard in the blend) but this is John Kongsgaard at his finest: green apple, a perfectly ripe quince, a bit of appealing oak, curry leaves and an astonishing mix of firm structure and ripeness. Quite simply, Chardonnay at its highest expression.

2011 Knez Demuth Vineyard Anderson Valley Chardonnay ($37, 12.9%): The expressiveness in bottlings of Demuth's biodynamically farmed old vines, both those from owner Peter Knez and his fruit customers, reinforce that this is one of California's best Chardonnay sites. This latest, made by Anthony Filiberti (Anthill Farms), is savory and touched by a bit of oak vanillin, matched to that tangy Anderson Valley minerality: grey salt, aniseed, green olive and ripe tangerine. A roller-coaster ride of acidity and extract.

OTHER WHITES

The white-wine renaissance continues on the West Coast - with an ever-expanding roster of varieties that show a fearlessness to push what many Americans have accepted as white wine (usually Chardonnay).

In California, that includes grapes making a welcome comeback, like Chenin Blanc, and those making a new name for themselves, like Albarino and Grenache Blanc.

Looking farther afield, Oregon's talent with Riesling continues to dazzle, a slight shift in what we've believed is that grape's Northwest sweet spot. And Malvasia keeps gaining fans for its aromatic depth and charm.

And there's more seriousness than ever in Sauvignon Blanc, with examples that upend the common belief in that grape as just a simple pleasure.

2012 Ryme Cellars His Las Brisas Vineyard Carneros Vermentino ($28, 12.8% alcohol): Just a few years ago, it would be hard to believe that wine types could debate their preference between the twin Vermentinos from Megan (Hers) and Ryan (His) Glaab. Often Megan's has a slight popular edge, but His is worth noting this year for its deep fleshy texture - just the thing to round out the resin, white tea and apricot aspects derived from its fermentation on the skins (versus the more conventionally made Hers). In this particular debate, no one loses.

2011 Tablas Creek Paso Robles Vermentino ($27, 13.1%): The Haas family's work with Paso limestone offers a different take on this grape, one perhaps more aligned with its life in southern France. The cool vintage brought a particularly taut version, full of fresh lime, fennel seed and mineral zestiness.

2011 Trisaetum Coast Range Estate Dry Yamhill-Carlton Riesling ($24, 11.5%): The Frey family is creating a new powerhouse for American Riesling in Newberg, Ore., with their small label. And Oregon has effectively captured the mantle for that grape from its neighbor to the north. This effort from their original planting in hills west of McMinnville is fine-boned and juicy, with a remarkable concentration of flavor - green quince, hazelnut, dried herbs and nectarine skin.

2012 Abrente Napa Valley Albarino ($23, 13%): Michael Havens, who effectively introduced this Spanish grape to California vineyards, teamed up with Bedrock's Morgan Twain-Peterson, and fans of Havens' old Albarino will be impressed. From Carneros plantings near Havens' original source, this is plush and serious, full of chive, green papaya and ripe peach.

2012 Abacela Estate Umpqua Valley Albarino ($18, 13.2%): Earl and Hilda Jones continue to provide a benchmark for Spanish varieties from their plot in southern Oregon. This is eloquent, showing the grape's proper, minerally restraint. Peach blossoms and ripe orange, with a welcome ripeness.

2012 Galante Vineyards Estate Carmel Valley Sauvignon Blanc ($25, 12.5%): Once again Carmel Valley rallies as a sweet spot for Sauvignon Blanc, with a superb example from this well-known name in the area. Aging in new oak bolsters the exoticism of the flavors: mango cream, dried pineapple, mustard seed, lime cordial. A style-driven effort, for sure, but with a great tactile quality so often missing in examples of this grape.

2012 Sand-Reckoner Cochise County Malvasia Bianca ($28, 13.6%): For our second year with Arizona wine in the Top 100, we turn to Rob Hammelman, who made wine with St. Cosme's Louis Barruol in the Rhone before settling with his wife, Sarah, in Willcox. This aromatic grape could be Arizona's great hope, certainly based on Sand-Reckoner's efforts. A day soaking on skins and fermentation in old barrels provides the seriousness found in great dry Alsatian Muscat: intense blossom aromas, plus a chaparral-like woodsy side, rose petal and dried pear. It's densely flavored and bone-dry, full of rich orange and ripe tree fruit flavors.

2012 Arbe Garbe Russian River Valley White ($28, 14%): Enrico Bertoz and Letizia Pauletto are making good on their pledge to revive the fortunes of Pinot Grigio in a serious Friulian-style white wine. This latest edition is mostly Pinot Grigio and Malvasia, with a bit of Gewurztraminer. Its dramatic, aromatic side - geranium, plum and celery salt - mixes with nectarine, apple skin and a honeydew-like musk. Big, expressive and touched with a marzipan-like richness.

2012 Cowhorn Spiral 36 Applegate Valley White ($28, 13.6%): Cal grads Bill and Barbara Steele migrated to southern Oregon to chase their wine dreams. Their ambitious biodynamically farmed project in Jacksonville has transcended curiosity to make some of the Northwest's most ambitious Rhone-style wines. Here the plump pungency of Roussanne - think agave nectar - bolsters Viognier and Marsanne in an opulent, exotic mix: orange blossom, juicy lime, barley, fresh peach. A remarkable complexity on display.

2011 Vesper Alcalá Highland Hills Vineyard Ramona Valley White ($28, 13.2%): In the improbable setting of San Diego County, Alysha Stehly and Chris Broomell are making wines that need no geographic explanation. From Marsanne and Roussanne grown in sandy loam at the edge of the high desert 25 miles northeast of San Diego, this more than holds its own with fine examples from the northern Rhone. Full of green quince, mandarin orange, sorrel and that nut-oil richness these grapes can demonstrate. Both luscious and refreshing.

2011 Skinner El Dorado Viognier ($24, 13.9%): Chris Pittenger's work at this Fair Play winery continues to push the foothills' cutting edge, here with a grape too often steered wrong. It's vibrant but also florid in that Viognier way, with hyacinth, nectar fruit, and remarkable acidity and mineral bite.

2012 Massican Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc ($27, 13.7%): While Dan Petroski's Annia blend gets more attention, this pure expression of an often underrated grape, here sourced from warm Pope Valley, provides an equally profound New World tribute to Italy's Friuli. The mix of fragrant herbs, ripe tangerine and creamy quince, and the balance of rich texture and salty tang, show an understanding of a uniquely Californian mode for Sauvignon Blanc.

2012 Miner Family Simpson Vineyard California Viognier ($20, 14.1%): Miner has, improbably, been using John Simpson's Viognier parcel in Madera County for more than a decade, and this latest version, fermented in steel, shows the pure, limpid aspect of Viognier: fresh honeysuckle, Meyer lemon and citron peel. It's taut and heady, exotic without being overwrought, and exuberant enough to please the grape's partisans.

2012 Tatomer Meeresboden Santa Barbara County Gruner Veltliner ($23, 13.5%): Graham Tatomer, having apprenticed with the Wachau's Emmerich Knoll, has come to fully realize Gruner's potential in California. The name means "sea bottom" and the fruit is from the John Sebastiano parcel on ancient seabed soils near the Santa Rita Hills. Gruner's verdant side - sorrel, fresh lime - mixes with polished peach fruit and a nuance that marks a New World coming of age for this grape.

2012 Habit Jurassic Park Vineyard Santa Ynez Valley Chenin Blanc($30, 12%): Jeff Fischer of Los Angeles turned to Santa Barbara for his wine project, and this expression is one of the best from the old vines of Jurassic Park vineyard - quickly becoming California's great beacon of Chenin Blanc. It's not shy on acid, but also has wild strawberry and green sorrel, and a peachy, spun-sugar sense of sweetness (it's completely dry) that evoke the state's good old days with this grape.

2012 Kinero Alice Paso Robles Grenache Blanc ($22, 13.6%): Another score from Anthony Yount, whose work with this grape stands to rewrite Paso's story line. A perfect balance of full texture and acid-driven tension, with chervil, pear blossom and bitter-almond accents. As serious an expression of Grenache Blanc as you'll find anywhere.

2011 Farmers Jane Santa Barbara County Field White($22, 12.7%): This project from Angela Osborne (A Tribute to Grace) and Faith Armstrong-Foster (Onward) aims to provide affordable wine in a proper agricultural context the name is a tribute to sustainability advocate Temra Costa. This is all Chenin Blanc from Foxen Canyon's Jurassic Park, and it's juicy, subtly aromatic and flat-out delicious - with peach blossoms, a talc-like mineral side and fresh apple flavors.

The pink realms continue to charm, especially with wines from the pleasant 2012 vintage on the current roster.

It's reassuring to see how many wine lovers have gotten over whatever fear made them think that rosé couldn't be serious - and seriously enjoyable. And this goes beyond a summer fling it's a sign that a whole new category of wine is now up for discussion and delight.

As for base material, the fact that several of our top wines tap Pinot Noir both does credit to vintners who use that grape for a pink wine, instead of red, as well as to the complexities that Pinot reveals in any form.

That isn't to dismiss other fine efforts this year using Syrah, Grenache, Cinsault - and even Grignolino, which Heitz Cellar taps for a true Napa classic.

2012 J.K. Carriere Glass Willamette Valley Pinot Noir Rosé ($20, 13.5% alcohol): Carriere's pink wine remains a remarkable treat from the Northwest. This is rosé in serious form: aged in neutral oak, fermented indigenously, and slowly revealing its peach- and chervil-scented fruit. Thoughtful, bright and showing Pinot's truly nuanced nature.

2012 Analemma Atavus Vineyard Columbia Gorge Rosé ($25, 12.5%): A veteran of Walla Walla's Cayuse, Steven Thompson and his partner, Kris Fade, moved to the gorge, making wine in tiny Mosier, Ore., but harvesting one of Washington's oldest vineyards - near the Cascades, on south-facing slopes at 1,700 feet near Mount Adams, with vines more than 40 years old. This is Pinot Noir, dry farmed, fermented in neutral oak and showing a remarkable iced-berry aspect, with freesia, garden herbs and ripe strawberry and apricot fruit. As soulful as rosé gets.

2012 Heitz Cellar Napa Valley Grignolino Rosé ($19, 13.5%): This has been one of the mainstays of this beloved Napa property since Joe Heitz bought it in 1961, and it's better than ever: full of strawberry blossom, mandarin, and that fresh, aromatic fruit. There's a bit of tannic grip that commends it to food, and a tribute to a side of Napa too rarely seen nowadays.

2012 Scherrer Dry Sonoma County Rosé ($20, 13%): Fred Scherrer's talent with Zin is well known, but again he finds glory in this mix of Syrah and Grenache. The ripe vintage brought plenty of stuffing: wild strawberry and citrus with a savory olive-brine and tea-like edge. Well-fleshed and juicy, it's the sort of rosé that reminds you of the joy of great fruit.

2012 Teutonic Laurel Vineyard Willamette Valley Rosé ($19, 11.3%): Barnaby and Olga Tuttle continue to turn out their roster of quirky, charming wines - Chasselas? - from Oregon, and while the high-elevation, cold Laurel vineyard can be tricky for reds, the pink version is just a bit sweet and full of mellow, zesty fruit: ripe raspberry and Seville orange to balance its cool, foresty Pinot side.

PINOT NOIR

If the era of easy money in Pinot Noir has subsided, the grape has returned to a place that's both more difficult and more transcendental.

Part of that came from a couple of vintages in California and Oregon that left winemakers' fingernails bitten ragged. But the best successes are extraordinary wines, full of radiant flavors - reminders of the glories of this grape in the New World.

Of course, great American Pinot Noir is an increasingly expensive proposition, although I'd argue that it always was. But there's an understanding of great sites and great farming for Pinot Noir here that now rivals anywhere around the globe.

2011 Alfaro Family Lester Family Vineyards at Deer Park Santa Cruz Mountains Pinot Noir ($38, 12.6% alcohol): This site near Corralitos farmed by Prudy Foxx always shows the area's quintessential saline mineral side, and Richard Alfaro's interpretation is a beacon of the area's potential. Packed with heady coriander and black tea scents, and a wild strawberry tang.

2011 Bergstrom Cumberland Reserve Willamette Valley Pinot Noir ($42, 13.3%): While Josh Bergstrom's single-vineyard talents are superb, this outstanding example of the larger-production Cumberland is particularly worth a look. Brooding, with funky beetroot and sweet spice aspects to the dense plum and cherry flavors, it makes a great case for complexity through blending.

2011 Big Table Farm Willamette Valley Pinot Noir ($38, 12.6%): Clare Carver and Brian Marcy's property in Gaston takes "farm to table" to its apotheosis, down to the animal-filled letterpress labels. This blended bottle is tangy and complex, full of cassia, oregano and black olive accents to its generous strawberry flavors.

2011 Brick House Les Dijonnais Ribbon Ridge Pinot Noir ($52, 13%): Experience pays in a cold vintage, and as Doug Tunnell has been growing Pinot in Oregon for nearly a quarter century, he made the best of 2011. It is telling that this organically farmed parcel is planted to the earliest importations of Dijon clones (113, 114, 115). Their tension, versus opulent fruit, is on display. Spicy, coppery, and full of cinnamon, smoky sage and violets, this shows a classic Oregon refinement.

2010 Calera Mills Vineyard Mt. Harlan Pinot Noir ($48, 13.8%): Josh Jensen's original 1975 plantings often get more attention, but at 29 years old, his Mills parcel, planted in 1984 on its own roots with cuttings from the original sites, has more than come into its own. This latest is fragrant and delicate by Calera's modern standards (and a relative bargain) with tree bark and sweet carob aromas and a wet-flower subtlety to the rich cherry flavors - but no shortage of structural power or Calera's classic muskiness.

2011 Chanin Los Alamos Vineyard Santa Barbara County Pinot Noir ($48, 13.62%): His Chardonnay talents are such that Gavin Chanin's Pinot Noirs often occupy the background, but his work with this parcel north of the Purisima Hills - well known to Au Bon Climat fans - shows just how much we still have to learn about Santa Barbara's Pinot geography. It's a less flourishy style, but full of deep damson plum flavors, plus dark mineral, fenugreek and a zesty Seville orange bite. Pure, intense stuff.

2011 Chehalem Three Vineyard Willamette Valley Pinot Noir ($29, 12.7%): This classic mix of Chehalem's three key parcels (Ridgecrest, Corral Creek and Stoller) was in its finest form in years with this vintage, thanks to the talents of Harry and Wynne Peterson-Nedry. Finished in screwcap, it needs a few minutes to breathe, but then powerful aloe, raspberry and loam aspects come bursting forth.

2010 Cobb Wines Diane Cobb: Coastlands Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir ($75, 13.3%): Ross Cobb has found generous flavor in this tiny plot, planted above the town of Bodega in tribute to his mother. It's got all the flourishes that this part of the coast can express: warm juniper and pink peppercorn, a dark-stone savory side, and ethereal pomegranate fruit. But for all the mineral tension, this forthcoming release is surprisingly open for Cobb's slow-aging style.

2011 Domaine de la Cote La Cote Sta. Rita Hills Pinot Noir ($90, 12.5%): This new project from Sashi Moorman and Rajat Parr took over the parcels of Evening Land Vineyards, and this particular planting of 9 acres of heritage selections primarily on shale, with the grapes fermented entirely with their stems, is even in its first vintage a hallmark of California's achievements with this grape. Layer upon layer unfold: intense white-stone minerality, a subtle peppercorn-like spice, bergamot, wintergreen, plum and watermelon. Astonishing energy in this rare bottling.

2011 Kutch McDougall Ranch Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir ($59, 13.6%): This site on a ridge north of Cazadero provides Jamie Kutch and others with a remarkable intensity. Past some subtle oak tones lie the conifer and vibrant raspberry aspects that mark this part of the coast. It's matched by rich lower tones and sarsaparilla warmth to the fruit.

2011 Longoria La Encantada Vineyard Sta. Rita Hills Pinot Noir ($50, 13.6%): If it's not as flourishy as some of the newer models from Santa Rita, Rick Longoria's winemaking off a site farmed by area pioneer Richard Sanford makes for a great meeting of two authoritative Santa Barbara talents. Full of tar and salted licorice, and a mineral-edged blackcurrant and olallieberry fruit that's juicy and nutmeg-edged, it's a reminder of the area's classic bones.

2011 Anthill Farms Comptche Ridge Vineyard Mendocino County Pinot Noir ($44, 13.2%): This dry-farmed plot lies due north of Anderson Valley - remote even by Mendocino terms, which is saying something. The Anthill crew derived a brooding, coniferous specimen in this vintage, full of Douglas fir, nori and dark earth aspects, and plummy skin grip to it. A year in the cellar will make it even better.

2011 Hirsch Vineyards Bohan-Dillon Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir ($34, 13.2%): While the rare 2010 Reserve may be one of the best wines ever to come from Hirsch, the vineyard's young-drinking effort, made by Ross Cobb (Cobb Wines), captures the nuance of this vintage on the coast. A blend of younger Hirsch fruit with neighboring parcels, it's bright and acid-driven, with more mineral edge than tannin, and a great fruitiness: sour cherry, watermelon, dried chamomile.

2010 Papapietro Perry Peters Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir ($54, 13.5%): Ben Papapietro and his crew tapped this site at the western edge of the appellation, near Sebastopol, for a deft take on a tricky year. A plush toasted-oak aspect and ripe black fruit mix with intriguing nutmeg and watermelon skin. Mostly, there's remarkable acidity, and a suppleness to the texture - a modest expression for this label, but a beautifully finessed one.

2011 Rhys Bearwallow Vineyard Anderson Valley Pinot Noir ($59, 13.5%): Rhys' Kevin Harvey has had this steep Mendocino site since 2008 this vintage it finally seems to have come into its own. There's a meaty, musky aspect - more darkly mineral than Rhys' Santa Cruz wines, and full of aromatics that bolster robust cherry fruit: winter savory, juniper, dried porcini. Densely flavored and ready to age.

2011 Haden Fig Cancilla Vineyard Willamette Valley Pinot Noir ($30, 13.5%): Before they took over the popular Evesham Wood label, Erin Nuccio and wife Jordan had this label of their own. Cancilla is a cool spot in a cool region, and this a cool year. And yet this wine exudes a savory, complex side - a sign of mastery in the cellar. Sea spray and dried herbs add to plum and huckleberry fruit, with just enough tannin to ensure some aging potential.

2011 Soter North Valley Willamette Valley Pinot Noir ($30, 13.4%): Pinot veteran Tony Soter and winemaker James Cahill found a floral nuance in this blend of several sites. There's weight from juicy plum flavors, but also jasmine, fresh mineral and a red currant vibrancy.

2011 Stoller Family Estate Dundee Hills Pinot Noir ($25, 12.7%): Winemaker Melissa Burr, a Willamette Valley native, nailed the silken texture that was elusive for many in a cold vintage. This younger-vines bottling, plush and oak-accented, evokes a sunny forest: bergamot, nutmeg and dried bark scents provide nuance to the deep cherry flavors.

2011 Suacci Carciere Russian River Valley Pinot Noir ($30, 13.2%): This effort from the Suacci family and winemaker Ryan Zepaltas isn't their estate bottling, rather from a mix of nearby parcels. It's a great expression of the tidy, dark-fruited Russian River style, buoyed by terrific acidity and lilac aromas.

CABERNET AND MERLOT

It is a good time to be a Cabernet lover on this coast, in part because 2010 provided a great, long-lived vintage, and in part because the beauty of Cabernet - as compared with heft - is making a welcome comeback.

This isn't universal, by any means, but both in California and Washington there's a level of nuance in many top wines that shows a willingness to combine opulent fruit with the variety's savory side, the latter of which seemed to get lost for a while (and still is in some high-dollar efforts).

On that: Prices of top wines are, sadly, creeping north again. We've heard the arguments, but all the logic surrounding Napa land costs and all the comparisons to classed-growth Bordeaux won't change the fact that Cab lovers are increasingly faced with tough wallet choices. That makes the efforts of wineries to provide affordable second wines, like Ridge's Estate Cabernet, all the more vital. Cabernet Franc, meantime, continues its worthy ascent. And Merlot, having endured its years in the doghouse, is re-emerging, with efforts that show just how distinctive the grape can be.

2010 Dominus Estate Napanook Yountville Red ($59, 14.5% alcohol): The rising price of the mainline Dominus makes its second wine an even better deal this year - in a vintage that was almost entirely Cabernet Sauvignon (98 percent), with just a touch of new oak. This is classic Napa benchland in its best state: fully fleshed, complex and showing a sleek side full of green olive and blackberry fruit. An especially age-worthy vintage.

2010 Larkmead Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon ($75, 14.7%): Andy Smith and Dan Petroski found a perfect balance of the cooler vintage and the lushness that the valley floor can yield at this historic Calistoga site. Dense and chewy, with a charred-herb complexity and ripe black fruit. A great example of modern Napa done right.

2010 Spottswoode Estate St. Helena Cabernet Sauvignon ($145, 14.5%): One of the most seamless Spottswoodes in years, with all the muscle of the St. Helena benchland, yet a total refinement of its fresh tannins. The deep, rich licorice and cassis are matched by fragrant bay leaf and lavender aspects, and layers that keep emerging.

2010 Spring Mountain Vineyard Elivette Spring Mountain District Red ($125, 13.8%): This vintage brought two new advisers to this historic property: Patrick Leon (ex-Mouton-Rothschild) and Bernard Hervet (Burgundy's Faiveley). It also yielded an Elivette with more Cabernet Franc (36 percent) and a markedly different style than of late - one that nods to earlier Napa without giving up its Californian bones. Smoky ancho chile and graphite add a savory side to fresh, intense fruit.

2010 Continuum Napa Valley Red ($175, 14.7%): By 2010, Tim Mondavi had all but completed his move to grapes from his Pritchard Hill estate. It was a year for mountain fruit to shine. A big dose of sultry oak (100 percent new) mixes with dried spearmint, cinnamon stick and sandalwood, and a perfect integration into the lush black fruit. Seductive in its display of Pritchard Hill tannins without coming across as stiff or overly lavish.

2010 Snowden The Ranch Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon ($42, 15%): In a ZIP code where $100 gets a shrug, the Snowden family - and winemaker Diana Snowden Seysses - brings remarkable finesse to the fruit from its longtime Napa property above Rutherford. The Ranch, their second wine, is more immediate, but its spice and silken tannins provide a depth to blackcurrant flavors that show Cabernet at its classiest.

2010 Betz Family Clos de Betz Columbia Valley Red ($55, 14.2%): The leaner lines of Betz's Merlot-dominant (58 percent) 2010 Clos are truly appealing, with a bit of warm new oak to underscore the savory side of that grape and of Cabernet: dried juniper, chicory and birch bark, all balanced by a distinct juiciness to the berry and blackcurrant fruit. There's a vivacity that's reminiscent of some Betz vintages from nearly a decade ago.

2010 Favia Cerro Sur Napa Valley Red ($145, 14.8%): Annie Favia and Andy Erickson tapped the bounty of Coombsville for this mix of two-thirds Cabernet Franc, with Cabernet Sauvignon making up the rest. The Franc provides a subtle smoked paprika aspect, plus black olive, coffee and sleek, classic blackcurrant fruit. It's the spicy side that elevates it, plus fine, bright tannins that reveal Coombsville's strength.

2009 Robert Sinskey POV Napa Valley Red ($38, 13.8%): From Rob and Maria Sinskey's biodynamic vineyards comes a sign of what both Sinskey and the Carneros region do so well, namely the black-tea freshness of great Merlot and the spicy, sultry side of Cabernet Franc (plus Cabernet Sauvignon). Tangy and still young, it's got a brightness to the tannins and tobacco and oregano accents to deepen the plummy fruit. Bonus for label photos that display a realistic side of Wine Country.

2010 Cadence Tapteil Vineyard Red Mountain Red ($45, 14.4%): There's lots to like in Ben Smith and Gaye McNutt's lineup from 2010, but the Tapteil, with its often brawny Red Mountain tannins, is a winner for the cellar. The tannins are there, but with a magnitude of brambly fruit, plus rich earth, espresso and burnt sage from a mix of about two-thirds Cabernet Sauvignon plus Franc and Merlot, that will keep getting better with time.

2010 Matthiasson Red Hen Napa Valley Merlot ($80, 13.3%): Steve Matthiasson's talents with white wines and Italianate fare are well known, but he's been championing Napa's classic reds for years - including this brilliant specimen of pure Merlot from Oak Knoll, and a vineyard (known as Block 74) that once provided Christian Brothers with top fruit. Loamy and accented with jasmine, walnut shell and smoke, its brambly fruit frames the most gorgeous side of an often trampled grape.

2010 Purlieu Le Pich Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon ($45, 14.5%): This newly launched Coombsville project combines the cellar talents of Julien Fayard and the vineyard skills of Steve Matthiasson. There's a particular charm to its second wine, Le Pich, which displays the juiciness that Coombsville can do so well, with a black-olive and cedary side to deep blackcurrant fruit. This degree of complexity in Napa rarely comes at this price.

2008 Mayacamas Mt. Veeder Cabernet Sauvignon ($75, 14 1/4%): A momentous year for Mayacamas, which was acquired by Charles Banks and the Schottenstein family from longtime owner Bob Travers. Travers made this current vintage, and the forward nature of the 2008s balances Mayacamas' hard-edged ways, making this as approachable as you'll find from the legendary Mount Veeder property. All the tension, earthiness, wintergreen and black-olive depth are there, but also fleshier cherry fruit that provides a weight that makes it ready to enjoy now - although another decade of aging wouldn't dent it a bit.

2010 Chateau Montelena Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon ($50, 13.9%): A fine vintage to witness the payoff of Bo Barrett's long work in Napa. This blended wine uses fruit from beyond the estate, aged mostly in older oak, in a vintage that's a reminder of Montelena's great successes over the years. Focused and spicy, with fleshy cherry, nutmeg and dusty tannins, a quintessential Cabernet.

2011 Leonetti Cellar Walla Walla Valley Merlot ($75, 14%): This grape remains well tended in the hands of the Figgins family, which has begun incorporating larger oak vessels into its Walla Walla cellar. The cool year, plus the alluring Leonetti style, add up to a fragrant, earthy specimen of Washington's best, full of chamomile, beef stock and robust cherry fruit. Age-worthy, but not austere.

2010 Scarborough The Royale Columbia Valley Red ($35, 14.4%): This mostly Merlot- and Franc-based blend from Travis Scarborough, based in the Seattle suburb of Tukwila, remains a treat. There's particular delicacy this year: a spicy, vibrant side that brings sage, olive and freesia accents to racy berry fruit.

2010 Gramercy Cellars Walla Walla Valley Cabernet Sauvignon ($48, 14.2%): Greg Harrington has finessed both the Cabernet and Rhoneish realms in eastern Washington, and this time it's the former that's the one to beat: a Washington Cabernet based on fruit from Pepper Bridge, his own estate and elsewhere, that's full of a sanguine tang, cured tobacco and the dusty tannins Walla Walla does so well, all framing beautifully extracted fruit.

2010 Januik Champoux Vineyard Horse Heaven Hills Cabernet Sauvignon ($55, 14.4%): A classic Washington pairing: veteran hand Mike Januik and the Champoux vineyard, which at 41 years has been a part of the state's wine lore since the very start. A super combination, with a quiet magnitude: hay, dust, a kirsch-like glow to its fruit flavors, and the power of tannins and subtle oak that demonstrate the maturity of Champoux's vines.

2010 Revelry Vintners The Limited Edition Reveler Columbia Valley Red ($35, 13.9%): Walla Walla's Jared Burns tapped several top sites for a classic Bordeaux-styled mix that displays fresh cherry fruit, subtle oak, graphite and a black-tea aspect. Densely flavored and very pretty.

2010 Ridge Monte Bello Santa Cruz Mountains Red ($160, 13.2%): Paul Draper is now the rare vintner opting for full disclosure on cellar work. Here he reveals a smidgen of deacidification in a cool, sleek vintage - and one of the best Monte Bellos of the decade. If just a touch behind the timeless 2009, this is still a nearly perfect wine: dense, meaty and retaining the ethereal quality Ridge does so well. The savory sides - celery, beef broth, a mineral tang - combine with zesty blackcurrant fruit that always marks this historic site. Expect to enjoy it for at least another 20 years.

2011 Andrew Will Columbia Valley Cabernet Franc ($25, 12.8%): His single-parcel wines were superb, but Chris Camarda has embraced affordability in an astonishing way - using the same top sources for bottles like this. This particular Franc combines fruit from Camarda's outstanding Two Blondes vineyard with Champoux and Ciel du Cheval for a result that's pleasantly smoky in its robust plum fruit, with heady accents of basil and fennel - a reminder of how charming Washington Franc can be.

2010 Stony Hill Vineyards Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon ($60, 13.5%): This second vintage of Cabernet from the McCreas, already making white wine in Napa for 60 years, is a great snapshot of Spring Mountain in subtle form: full of eucalyptus and medium-roast coffee, and vibrant redcurrant and plum fruit. The dried-leaf side of Cabernet is here, and plenty of structure to warrant a stay in the cellar.

RHONE-STYLE REDS

The big story for the Rhone-minded this year is a great spike in the quality of California Syrah. Not all of it by any means, but whether due to the chill of 2011 or a partial weeding-out of the less than obsessive, now is a time to take heart about the state of this wonderful but often under-loved grape.

Grenache continues to show its virtues, as does Mourvedre. In all, it adds up to a terrific time to be enjoying these varieties - and to discover both old terroirs like Napa's Phoenix Ranch and new ones like Mark Adams' patch of Paso Robles.

2011 Drew Family Valenti Vineyard Mendocino Ridge Syrah ($45, 12.8%): Jason and Molly Drew are less well known for Syrah, but this parcel at the western border of Anderson Valley shows the grape's beauty on an obscure coastal edge. Tons of spice here - a mix of green and black peppercorns, and a mint-leaf freshness that builds on plum and wild blueberry fruit. Its savory side is astonishing in its depth, less meaty than minerally, with perfect focus in its flavors.

2011 Hudson Vineyards Pick-Up Sticks Carneros Red ($39, 14.1%): Lee Hudson's vineyard work in Carneros is the stuff of legend -- including his Syrah -- but this Rhone-inspired mix, led by Grenache (with Syrah and Viognier) aged most in old oak casks is a brilliantly different take on a well-known region. Intensely perfumed with juniper and huckleberry, and a birch-bark warmth, it's nuanced and full of bright fruit.

2011 Lucia Garys' Vineyard Santa Lucia Highlands Syrah ($45, 14.1%): The Pisoni family's efforts with Syrah are less well known than a certain P grape, especially in the Garys' vineyard, but it might be what they do best. Intense, savory and balancing deep blue fruit with violets, fine-ground pepper, cardamom and a hint of savory wood, with impressively refined tannins to bolster the texture. A benchmark for California Syrah.

2011 Jolie-Laide Phoenix Ranch Vineyard Napa Valley Syrah ($36, 13.8% alcohol): Scott Schultz is better known for his intriguing Trousseau Gris, but he got hold of fruit from one of California's great Syrah sites in Napa's Coombsville area. It's warmly flavored and relatively generous in its ways: cardamom and violet amid a peppery funk - plus plummy fruit and a grippy texture. Schultz's work in the cellar of Syrah master Pax Mahle is paying dividends.

2010 Ledge Adams Ranch Vineyard Paso Robles Syrah ($55, 14.5%): While Mark Adams has put in time with the region's stars (Saxum), he also grew up in the Paso area this comes from own-rooted vines on his family's land, about a mile from the famed James Berry plot. This is big, powerful Paso that sacrifices neither focus nor savory nuance. Fermented with whole clusters in neutral oak, it's pungent and inky, full of sweet grilled-meat aromas, black licorice and plum liqueur.

2011 Four Fields El Dorado Grenache ($18, 14.4%): If Ron Mansfield is the Sierra foothills' grape guru, he and his son Chuck launched this effort as their own interpretation of Grenache, a grape Ron knows like few others. It's hard to find this much quality at the price, specifically in a blend from the well-known Fenaughty vineyard and the Mansfields' own Goldbud planting. Vibrantly scented, with charcoal and allspice aspects that lift blackberry fruit.

2011 A Tribute to Grace Santa Barbara Highlands Vineyard Santa Barbara County Grenache ($45, 14.4%): Angela Osborne's Grenache-focused project spread wings in this vintage to additional vineyards, but her original source high in the hamlet of Ventucopa remains a mainstay. The year brought a tenser, more evanescent aspect - plenty of warm caramel and carob scents, and a rooty low tone, like bitter chocolate, but also a delicate minerality to subtle strawberry flavors. There's more structure than it first shows.

2011 Wind Gap Sonoma Coast Syrah ($36, 12.7%): Considering the quality of Pax Mahle's varietal Mourvedre and Grenache, it's hard to anoint this wine for a second year in a row. But Mahle made his name on Syrah, and this blend of three top vineyards (Nellessen, Majik, Armagh) is almost overwhelming in its cracked black pepper spice and transparent, pure flavors. Dried forest leaves, dusky plum fruit and licorice root, plus a minty freshness and intense tannic structure mark it as a new standard for New World Syrah.

2010 Holly's Hill Petit Patriarche El Dorado Red ($20, 14.5%): The Cooper family's tiny Placerville label remains a top source for affordable, minerally Rhone-inspired wines. This mix of 86 percent Mourvedre with Grenache and Syrah, aged in neutral oak, provides a beautiful foothills expression: Flowers, white pepper and dried thyme accent fresh red berry fruit. Mourvedre to enjoy in the moment.

2011 Enfield Wine Co. Haynes Vineyard Coombsville Syrah ($36, 12.6%): John Lockwood, a veteran of Littorai and Ehren Jordan's Failla, tapped another Coombsville resource: the cobbly Haynes vineyard, which also houses some of Napa's oldest Chardonnay. Surprisingly fruity given the savory style - plum and aniseed and black olive - with a remarkable concentration of tannin that adds structure to back up that fruit. Showing Napa Syrah's best, expressive side.

2011 Sheldon Ceja Vineyard Sonoma Valley Grenache ($40, 12.8%): Dylan and Tobe Sheldon tapped a well-known vineyard at the edge of Sonoma, abutting Carneros, albeit not one known for Grenache. Their light hands in the cellar show in whole-cluster fermentation (atop some white-grape lees) and aging in neutral oak. The result is wonderfully silken and savory, with green-olive and lily scents to lift delicate strawberry fruit.

ZINFANDEL AND OTHER REDS

It's a wonderful time to be a lover of classic Zinfandel. From the Sierra foothills to the heart of Sonoma, there are now examples that show the beauty of this most Californian of grapes in its pure form.

That ranges from the work of old-vine believers like Turley and Bedrock (often incorporating the rest of the state's old field-blend roster) to a bottle like Lagier Meredith's Tribidrag - a very literal tribute to both Napa's bounty and the grape's noble, long history.

Carignane continues to provide its mettle up and down the state, and there are even some signs of hope for old Barbera, a grape with a proud (if uneven) California history, and one that deserves to be framed by noteworthy winemaking.

2012 Broc Cellars Vine Starr Sonoma County Zinfandel ($27, 12.7%): Chris Brockway has once again redefined what's possible with Sonoma Zin. Buoyed by grape-stem spice that offers a pink peppercorn and dried thyme savoriness, this is packed with red berry fruit - Zinfandel's enticing raspberry flavors, but more the freshness of a summer market than opening a jar of jam. Zinfandel that speaks fluent Pinot Noir.

2011 Forlorn Hope San Hercumer delle Frecce Amador County Barbera ($30, 13.9%): Matthew Rorick tapped one of the great foothills sites, Ann Kraemer's Shake Ridge Vineyard, for his work with Barbera. If many examples of that grape are unwieldy, this is pitch perfect: classic balsam aromas, a stony mineral side, tart cherry and oregano. Refined and tightly wound, it's a reminder of how Amador Barbera can succeed when handled with care.

2011 Hobo Branham Rockpile Vineyard Rockpile Zinfandel ($30, 13.2% alcohol): The Hobo wines aren't always the flashiest in Zin-land, but Kenny Likitprakong's 2011s are extraordinary - including what might be the most distinctive expression of Sonoma's Rockpile I've encountered. Exuberant and floral, with intense raspberry fruit and a marjoram aspect. It's a masterful tribute to the fresh and heady Zins that the hillsides near Dry Creek once offered.

2010 Limerick Lane Sonoma County Zinfandel ($30, 14.5%): Another project from the Bilbro family, this time from brother Jake, who has taken over this longtime name in Zinfandel. Limerick's appellation bottlings this vintage were outstanding: classically styled expressions of Sonoma Zin. This countywide blend brims with cedar, fresh blackberry and a celery-salt savory aspect.

2011 Turley Wine Cellars Judge Bell Amador County Zinfandel ($32, 15.4%): Judge Bell marks Turley's return to Amador County. (Larry Turley bought the old Karly property last year, but this wine predates that.) There's rich, brambly fruit, plus sagebrush and cinnamon, and a brightness to the tannins thanks to the granite-based sandy soils at the Story vineyard near Plymouth. It's big, as Amador Zin is, but remarkably well mannered. And since Turley's wines are setting Zin benchmarks these days, if this is hard to find, the wider-release 2011 Juvenile ($20, 15.5%) will provide just as much pleasure.

2011 Seghesio Sonoma County Zinfandel ($24, 14.8%): This historic label, still run by the Seghesio family but now owned by the Crimson Wine Group (Pine Ridge), continues to fight the good fight for Zin. Its blend from the Alexander and Dry Creek valleys is a great snapshot of both regions' abilities with the grape. A dusty, tannic side adds an edge to the sweetness, like crumbs from spiced cookies it anchors the raspberry, blackcurrant and classy oak notes.

2011 Bedrock Evangelho Vineyard Heritage Contra Costa County Red ($30, 15.2%): A tribute both to Contra Costa and Frank Evangelho's site in Antioch, a century-old mix of Zinfandel, Mourvedre, Carignane and various white grapes. Winemaker Morgan Twain-Peterson is a true believer in Evangelho, and his own description of the wine is enthusiastically unprintable. (So was mine, frankly.) The structural finesse of those sandy soils provides a dusty, coppery aspect that bolsters brambly blackcurrant and berry fruit, heightened by the fragrance of lavender and aniseed. Profound, inky and astonishingly complex, a victory for the virtues of old vines and field blends.

2012 Idlewild Testa Vineyard Mendocino County Carignane ($32, 13.2%): Sam Bilbro's family (Marietta Cellars) knows plenty about North Coast heritage varieties, many of which are highlighted by this newly launched label from Sam and his wife, Jessica. Their Carignane is from Testa, an old dry-farmed site in Calpella near Highway 101. With carbonic maceration on one-third of the fruit, this has both a high-toned fragrancy - iris, chamomile - and funky low tones. It's deeply fruited and distinctly textured, like the best part of chewing a cherry.

2011 Lagier Meredith Tribidrag Mount Veeder Red ($45, 15.1%): Quick translation - this is Zinfandel. But Carole Meredith, having solved the puzzle of the grape's historic roots, certainly earned the right to call it by its archaic name. She and husband Steve Lagier have produced an extraordinary specimen from their Napa property, full of candied violet and crushed stone to accent bright red fruit and wild blueberry. A beautiful example of Napa's abilities with the grape . no matter what name it goes by.

2011 Neyers Vista Luna Borden Ranch Zinfandel ($24, 14.6%): Bruce Neyers' label has created several homages to the classic Zins of the '70s, and this one is crafted by Tadeo Borchardt from Markus Bokisch's amazing property in eastern Lodi. It's got warm plum fruit and sassafras, plus a dry dusty side that shows the fine tannin derived from the radiant heat of cobbly quartz soils. A reminder of Zinfandel's charms from a generation ago, with both ample fruit and structure.

Top values from top producers

Here are more wines from the producers of our Top 100 Wines, all $40 or less.


Vidiano

The Vidiano is one of Greece’s rarest, old-world wines distilled from an equally rare grape variety-the Cretan Vidiano. Vidiano is a grape with a whitish skin and only a limited number of vineyards in Crete grow the variety. This white wine has a lemony green tinge and its flavors remind you of minerals, traces of aromatic herbs, ripe apricots and peach.

Vintners in Crete usually blend the Vidiano grapes with other local varieties for releasing the variety’s intrinsic flavors. Finding a bottle of Vidiano could be quite challenging as the demand overwhelmingly exceeds its limited supply. If you want to make the most of Vidiano, sip the wine with charcoal grilled halibut or salmon or crisply fried prawns.


The 10 Most Popular Moscato Wine Brands In the World (2019)

Italian Moscato is the most recognizable synonym for one of the oldest, most-versatile grape families in the world. Also known as Moscatel in Spanish, and Muscat in French, the group of grapes produces a range of different styles of wine, including sweet, low-ABV sparklers still, aromatic whites rosé dessert wines and occasionally reds.

The most commonly planted variety, Muscat Blanc (Moscato Bianco), stars in Moscato d’Asti, the classic fizzy style famously made in Piedmont, Italy. Along with Muscat of Alexandria, the grape is also used in the production of still white wines.

Pink Moscato gains its hue by blending in a small amount of red wine, while the rare Red Moscato is made using a grape variety called Black Muscat, which is a cross between Schiava, an Italian red grape, and Muscat of Alexandria. Put simply, Moscato has something for everyone. Want to know what’s currently trending? We culled Wine Searcher frequency data to compile the 10 most popular Moscato brands in the world right now.

This Is The Last Corkscrew You’ll Ever Buy

10. Coppo Moncalvina, Moscato d’Asti DOCG, Italy

Located on the Canelli slopes of Piedmont, Coppo is famous for its 18th-century underground wine cellars, which extend deep into the hillside and are recognized as a Unesco World Heritage site. Coppo pioneered a method for making quality wines using red grape Barbera, but its most popular offering by far is this bubbly Moscato d’Asti. Average price: $16.

9. Michele Chiarlo Nivole, Moscato d’Asti DOCG, Italy

Michele Chiarlo founded his eponymous winery in 1956, though he himself comes from four generations of Piedmont winemakers. Nivole, meaning clouds in the local dialect, is made using fruit from the sloping hills surrounding Canelli. The wine is fermented to a lightly sparkling, 5 percent ABV. Average price $24.

8. SkinnyGirl Moscato, Italy

Launched by former Real Housewives cast member Bethenny Frankel, SkinnyGirl Cocktails was acquired by spirits conglomerate Beam Suntory in March 2011. This sparkling, sweet Moscato is one of seven “low-calorie” wines the brand offers. Average price: $11.

7. Muscador Cepage Muscat Mousseux Rose, France

This budget bottle of rosé bubbles is the only French offering on this list. According to Muscador, it’s best served “as an aperitif, a dessert wine, or on other sweet moments of the day.” Average price: $5.

6. Innocent Bystander Moscato Sparkling, Victoria, Australia

Hailing from the Victoria region of Australia, Innocent Bystander is a blend of Muscat Gordo and black variety Muscat of Hamburg. According to Wine-Searcher, it is the most-searched-for pink Moscato in the world. Average price: $13.

5. La Spinetta Bricco Quaglia, Moscato d’Asti DOCG, Italy

La Spinetta is closely associated with premium Barolo and Barbaresco, but its Moscato is definitely not to be discounted. The Muscat Blanc for this sweet sparkler comes from a single, 50-acre vineyard, and production sits at around 110,000 bottles annually. Average price: $18.

4. Vietti Cascinetta, Moscato d’Asti DOCG, Italy

Grapes for this Moscato d’Asti are selected from small vineyards located in Castiglione Tinella, arguably the best region in the entire DOCG. Like La Spinetta, Vietti is another Piedmontese winery that’s better known for top-tier Barolo and Barbera wines. Average price: $16.

3. Bartenura Moscato, Italy

Bartenura Moscato is easily identified by its iconic, thin, blue glass bottle. The kosher, sweet Moscato is revered by everyone from novice wine drinkers to big-time celebrities like Drake. Average price: $13.

2. Paolo Saracco Moscato d’Asti DOCG, Piedmont, Italy

Like Vietti Cascinetta, Paolo Saracco Moscato vines are situated in renowned growing area Castiglione. The estate has been family-owned for over 100 years, and is currently operated by third-generation winemaker Paolo. Average price: $15.

1. Klein Constantia Vin de Constance Natural Sweet Wine, Constantia, South Africa

In 1817, South Africa’s historic Constantia estate was broken into two smaller properties: Groot (big) and Klein (small) Constantia. Both are operational today, and each produces a traditional late-harvest wine called Vin de Constance. A favorite of 19th-century European nobility, production of the sweet Moscato was devastated by the phylloxera outbreak in the 1870s, and didn’t properly return until the 1980s. The producer also offers a range of dry wines using international red and white varieties. Average price: $109.


Here's my (very individualistic ) list of Indian wines (in no particular order) that you could drink now.

1. Fratelli Gran Cuvee Brut:

I prefer Champagne (who doesn't?) to cava or prosecco because of the longer finish and more complexity that you get in at least some of the non-vintages and certainly in the prestige cuvees. But these are expensive wines and not always accessible. If you would like an Indian sparkling, I would unhesitatingly pick up the Fratelli brut. I like dry wines and Fratelli is as dry and sparkling as you can get in India-with a delicate and creamy finish. You can even pair it with a cheesy pasta or risotto. Or drink it on its own like I do. The best Indian sparkling, according to me.

2 . Myra Reserve Shiraz

I met Ajay Shetty, former banker turned wine entrepreneur in Bangalore about two years ago and sampled some of the Myra ones. Since then, I am astonished to see how far they seem to have come. Shiraz is certainly one of my favourite red varietals, because of its spicy notes that you can feel on the palate. Most (regular, not the wine snobs) drinkers of reds in India, I observe, seem to settle for the merlot. Expressions of grapes, of course, differ depending on where in the world (or India) they are coming from. But in general, I find merlots to be lacklustre and tame. I like bigger wines that most of those but even if you are not drinking one of the big labels, shiraz is a good option. The Myra Reserve Shiraz is oaked and yet it remains fairly easy to drink and elegant. It is generous on the fruit, which most Indians like (as do I) and is cost-effective too.

3. Krsma Sangiovese

4. Charosa Selections Sauvignon Blanc

Some of the smaller, boutique wineries have come up with some very interesting wines in the last 2 years. Nashik-based Charosa seems to be good with its whites, offers a good Viognier and a great sauvignon blanc, should you be so inclined.

5. Fratelli Sangiovese Bianco

Amongst the offerings from the bigger wineries, I am quite a fan of what Fratelli is doing. Sangiovese bianco is quite unusual because it is a white wine made from red grapes (only two other wineries do this apparently in the world). It has the structure that comes from a red, but is still light and crisp. I like it. You may too.

6. Sette 2011

Last year, I did a blind parallel tasting of Sette 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012 at Fratelli Vineyard's cellars in Akhluj. It was one of the most interesting exercises to undertake not just because it shows you how the wine-makers's top expression of his top harvest in the subsequent years but because it helps you understand your own palate better. Instinctively, my top pick was the 2010 - the much celebrated wine, which is now not available in the open market. But the 2011 is and that is a great Indian red to drink too. Shows you the strides Indian wine-making has made.

7. Grover Zampa La Reserva

In another fun, informal blind tasting in 2015, a beverage manager at a Delhi hotel gave me two glasses of unknown oaked reds of Indian wines and I was asked to pick out my favourite. One of the wines was Sette 2011 that I think highly of. But that evening, I unhesitatingly chose the Grover Zampa La Reserve. For the longest, this has been quite rightly held to be the best Indian red. I like it for its red ripe and spicy aromas-naturally with the shiraz in the blend (cab sauv-shiraz). The tasting proved (to me) at least the consistency of my palate and that I do like what I think I like! If you share the same taste, this may be the wine for you too.Disclaimer:The opinions expressed within this article are the personal opinions of the author. NDTV is not responsible for the accuracy, completeness, suitability, or validity of any information on this article. All information is provided on an as-is basis. The information, facts or opinions appearing in the article do not reflect the views of NDTV and NDTV does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.


6 Weird Fruit Wines You Must Try

Most of us have only one question when it comes to wine&mdash&ldquoRed or white?&rdquo&mdashwhich means we've been seriously missing out. Turns out there's a new trend in winemaking: using anything but grapes. Winemakers have moved beyond the vineyard to bottle everything from strawberries to elderberries, and the results are ridiculously tasty.

In addition to the array of fresh, fruity flavors these new vinos offer, there&rsquos also a health benefit: Each variety comes with its own unique blend of disease-fighting chemicals. &ldquoFermentation may improve the health benefits of fruit,&rdquo says Elvira de Mejia, PhD, a professor of food science and human nutrition at the University of Illinois. &ldquoWhen the sugars are removed by fermentation, some key chemicals, like anthocyanins, become more powerful.&rdquo

Need any more motivation to pop the cork? Didn&rsquot think so. Try a glass (or two) of these six delicious fruit wines.

&ldquoThis is a versatile wine,&rdquo says Dominic Rivard, an award-winning wine master and author of The Ultimate Fruit Winemakers&rsquo Guide. &ldquoYou can use apples for dry wine, cider, sparkling wine, or ice wine.&rdquo For a palate-pleasing bottle, look for a blend of aromatic apples (like Golden Delicious, McIntosh, and Red Delicious) and acidic ones (like Jonathan and Winesap).

Combining different types gives you complexity of flavor, but also nutritional variety. &ldquoApples that have been bred for size, color, and sweetness have lost a lot nutritionally,&rdquo says Mary Ann Lila, PhD, director of the Plants for Human Health Institute at North Carolina State University. &ldquoThose closest to the wild aren&rsquot very flavorful, but they&rsquore chockfull of health-beneficial compounds.&rdquo By combining several varieties, you get a pleasing flavor with lots of health benefits. The primary player: quercetin, which helps build up your immune response.

Try: Earle Estates Meadery Apple Enchantment 100% Apple Wine ($13.99, meadery.com)

Strawberry wine is best consumed fresh, so grab a corkscrew and start sipping&mdashyou don't need to let the wine breathe. &ldquoKeep it light&mdashit lends itself to the Rosé style very nicely,&rdquo Rivard notes. &ldquoIt&rsquos a fun, easy-drinking, summer-type wine.&rdquo

In your body, however, this wine gets down to business. &ldquoThe main component in strawberries is anthocyanins&mdashand in the wine, they&rsquore concentrated,&rdquo says Dr. Lila. These compounds are bursting with health benefits: In a University of California Los Angeles study, anthocyanin-rich strawberry extract was shown to destroy human colon cancer cells (even more effectively than blueberry, cranberry, or blackberry extracts).

Try: Ackerman Winery Strawberry Wine ($10.95, ackermanwinery.com)

Low in sugar and high in acid, blueberries are ideal for dry table wines, which are best served at room temperature, says Rivard. As for flavor? &ldquoBlueberry wine can fool a lot of people into thinking it&rsquos a grape wine,&rdquo he says.

Even though the two have a similar taste, the nutritional impact of blueberry wine is superior to the grape-based stuff: A 2012 University of Florida study found that blueberry wine has more free radical-fighting power than 80% of reds and 100% of whites&mdashwhich translates into more protection for your heart, digestive tract, and eyes, the scientists say.

Try: Boyden Valley Winery Blueberry Wine ($15.99, boydenvalley.com)

One of the few fruit wines that ages well, &ldquoblackberry wine reminds people of merlot,&rdquo says Rivard. &ldquoBlackberries are usually a little less acidic than other berries, so they give you a very round, smooth flavor.&rdquo

The deep color comes from the healthy chemicals inside: Each little orb houses a range of disease-fighting anthocyanins, but perhaps most notable is delphinidin. &ldquoThis compound helps decrease inflammation,&rdquo says Dr. de Mejia, &ldquoand we have found that it inhibits some enzymes related to type 2 diabetes.&rdquo

Try: Honeywood Winery Blackberry Wine ($12, honeywoodwinery.com)

Cranberry wine is characterized by a slightly acidic flavor, balanced out by a delicate sweetness. When it comes to its health benefits: &ldquoA lot of people who have urinary tract problems like drinking cranberry wine&mdashit&rsquos more fun to drink than the juice!&rdquo says Rivard. And it&rsquos a proven protector: &ldquoCranberries contain A-type proanthocyanidins,&rdquo explains Lila. &ldquoThese wash pathogenic bacteria out in your urine stream, which helps avoid infection.&rdquo Cranberry wine also contains nearly 99% less headache-inducing histamine than red wines, a recent Canadian study found.

Try: Rodrigues Winery Cranberry Wine ($14.50, rodrigueswinery.com)

Elderberry wine is a serious overachiever. A single glass houses more health-protecting antioxidants than Chardonnay, peach, apple, and plum wines combined, according to a recent study from Canada. You can credit Mother Nature: &ldquoElderberries grow in the wild&mdashand they can&rsquot run away when there is danger,&rdquo says Dr. Lila. &ldquoSo they have to have this wonderful cornucopia of compounds to protect them from adversity&mdashthings like UV rays, bugs, or drought.&rdquo The dark-hued berry also boasts magnesium, a mineral few of us get enough of.

As you can probably guess, this powerhouse fruit doesn&rsquot produce a weak wine. &ldquoIt is very full-bodied,&rdquo says Rivard. &ldquoElderberry wine has a lot of tannins in it, so it has a very long shelf life and will improve quite a bit over the years.&rdquo