12 Wines for $12

Three critics share their top value picks-whites, reds, and even sparklers

Cono Sur Viognier 2008 ( Chile )

Average Price: $10
Tastes: A refreshing white with wild field flowers, lime, and apricot.
Ideal Pairing: Light curries

Santa Digna Cabernet Sauvignon 2005 ( Chile )

Average Price: $10
Tastes: A well-structured, elegant, and balanced Cabernet with classic notes of cassis and blackberries.
Ideal Pairing: Steak

Bellingham Shiraz 2005 ( South Africa )

Average Price: $11
Tastes: The dash of Viognier in this wine lifts and brightens its dark berry richness.
Ideal Pairing: Braised beef

Cookoothama Chardonnay 2006 ( Australia )

Average Price: $12
Tastes: A round, warm Chardonnay with ripe apples, butter, vanilla, and melon.
Ideal Pairing:Roast chicken

For more wine picks, check out Natalie's Top 5 Party and Gift Wines or visit her Web site at www.nataliemaclean.com

La Vieille Ferme Côtes du Ventoux Rosé 2007 (France)

Average Price: $9
Tastes: Dry, light, and yet long on the palate with ripe strawberries and good acidity.
Ideal Pairing: Salad with chicken

Ruffino "Libaio" Toscana IGT Chardonnay 2007 ( Italy )

Average Price: $9
Tastes: Fresh fruitiness, notable apple and fig notes, with green crispness in the finish.
Ideal Pairing: Meat potpies

Columbia Crest "Two Vines" Columbia Valley Merlot-Cabernet 2005 (WA, USA )

Average Price: $10
Tastes: Ripe, supple flavors of blackberries and dark cherries with some spiciness.
Ideal Pairing: Steak dishes

Freixenet Cordon Negro Cava Brut NV ( Spain )

Average Price: $11
Tastes: Hints of spice (geranium leaf?) with a touch of mellow apples and chalky minerality.
Ideal Pairing: Thin-crust pizza with goat cheese

For more wine picks, check out Roger's Top 5 Affordable 2005 Bordeaux

Gnarly Head Cabernet Sauvignon 2006 (CA, USA )

Average Price: $9
Tastes: Unusual mix of cedar, spice, earth, and juiciness. Lingering finish and not too tannic.
Ideal Pairing: Lamb dishes

Rolling Estate Shiraz 2005 ( Australia )

Average Price: $10
Tastes: White peppercorn on the nose with mouthwatering berry flavors. Complex and balanced.
Ideal Pairing: Lasagna

Altos Las Hormigas Malbec Mendoza 2007 ( Argentina )

Average Price: $11
Tastes: Black raspberry, black pepper, black currant, licorice, and even a bit of leather-with nice soft tannins.
Ideal Pairing: Steak, ideally Argentine-style

Clos du Bois Riesling 2007 (CA, USA )

Average Price: $12
Tastes: Sweet aromas, some melon on the nose, but tangy with a nice balance of fruit (lime, peach) and acid.
Ideal Pairing: Fish with beurre blanc

For more bottle picks, check out James's Best Bottles of 2008 Holiday Gift Guide


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