Wine of the Week: $15 Is the New $10

"What's your favorite wine for under $10?" If I had a nickel for every time someone asked me that question, I'd probably have about $15.

When it comes to wine pricing, you'll often hear wine trade folks talk about "price points," in other words, a "maximum" price that allows us to categorize wine costs. Just a decade ago, we used to talk about "wines under $10." Today, taking into account our higher cost of living and inflation, that number is $15.

$25 is my personal price point for "weekday wines." I believe that $25 -- in other words, wines that fall between the $15 and $25 price points -- can deliver exceptional quality in wine. ($35 is my "Saturday night wine" price point, by the way; $50 my "special occasion wine"; I'll devote a future post to my quotidian rating system.)

This was just one of the reasons I was thrilled about the Tangent Sauvignon Blanc above, which you can find at Spec's for under $15 -- $11.46, to be exact!

Tracie P and I paired it the other (weekday) night with a dinner of Central Market rotisserie chicken, Uncle Ben's Long Grain and Wild Rice "Original Recipe," and steamed green beans dressed with San Giuliano extra-virgin olive oil from Alghero (Sardinia) and freshly squeezed lemon juice.

This wine, grown in the Edna Valley AVA (subzone of the Central Coast AVA) in California and raised in stainless steel vats, had everything I want in an inexpensive white wine: freshness, varietally correct aromas and flavors (think tom cat, spearmint, and white fruit), bright acidity, and a clean, refreshing finish.

In my view, Edna Valley has long surpassed Napa Valley to the north as a leading growing zone for white wines. Cooler temperatures and morning fog (thanks to the proximity to the Pacific Ocean) give it one of the longest growing seasons in California, and the wines -- when vinified in a food-friendly style -- tend toward bright acidity and balanced alcohol. This little beauty clocked in at 13.5 percent alcohol content, a bit high for my taste, but well integrated into the wine's light body and fresh flavor profile.

Sauvignon Blanc was popularized in this country in the late 1960s by Robert Mondavi, who introduced Americans to his Fumé Blanc. In the decades that followed, Sauvignon Blanc was eclipsed by California Chardonnay in popularity.

Could it be that Sauvignon Blanc is the new Chardonnay? Let's hope so.

What's your favorite wine for under $15? Please share your to picks in the comment section.

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