Good Value Wines for October

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Sparkling Wine

Louis Roederer Brut Premier Non Vintage Champagne (268771, $59.95) France: One of the best non-vintage champagnes on the shelf. This top-notch producer owns more than two-thirds of its vineyards, which helps with quality control. Toasty aromas of ripe peaches and yeasty richness. Toast the New Year in style! Score: 90/100.

White Wines

2006 Matua Valley Sauvignon Blanc (619452, $15.92) 12.5% alcohol, Hawkes Bay, New Zealand: Mouth-watering aromas of gooseberry, grapefruit and melon. Drink with salads, chicken, pork and shellfish. Score: 89/100. Best Value White Wine

2005 Vineland Estates Semi-Dry Riesling (232033, $12.95) Niagara: A lovely and refreshing white that makes an ideal personal house wine. Drink with salads, seafood, vegetarian dishes and chicken. Score: 87/100.

2005 Nobilo Sauvignon Blanc (554444, $15.85) 12.5% alcohol, New Zealand: Aromas of guava, grapefruit and herbal notes. A vibrant attack of mouth-watering acidity that makes this wine great with salads, vegetarian dishes and seafood. Score: 88/100.

2005 Villa Maria Sauvignon Blanc (426601, $16.15) 12.7% alcohol, New Zealand: Another herbal and refreshing SB that I've recommended for years. Balanced and juicy. Score: 89/100. Favorite White Wine

Red Wines

2004 Yalumba Shiraz Viognier (624494, $14) 14% alcohol Australia: Aromas of ripe plums and spices, lifted by the high note of the viognier (a white grape that's a minor part of this blend). Supple, silky and full-bodied. Drink with meat dishes. Score: 89/100.

2003 Katnook Founder's Block Cabernet Sauvignon (620070, $17.95) 13.5% alcohol, Coonawarra, Australia: A spectacular wine with rich, jammy notes of plums and berries. Generous and full-bodied with warm toasty oak notes. Drink with stew, lamb and steak. Score: 90/100. Favorite Red Wine

2003 Yarramen Black Cypress Shiraz (619650, $18.15) 13.5% alcohol, Hunter Valley, Australia: Big, juicy and straight-forward. Toasty oak and dark fruit aromas. Drink with meat dishes. Score: 87/100.

2005 JJ McWilliam Cabernet/Merlot (621599, $10.05) 14% alcohol, Australia: Jammy, juicy dark red fruit and berries. Full-bodied. Drink with lamb and beef. Score: 87/100.

2004 Matua Valley Merlot Cabernet (610964, $15.45) 12.4% alcohol, Hawkes Bay, New Zealand: Another winner from this producer. Balanced and full-bodied with aromas of dark red fruit. Closed with a screwcap. Score: 87/100.

2005 Twin Fin Pinot Noir (613281, $14), California: Light- to medium-bodied with ripe berry aromas. Drink with chicken and pork. Bottled under a screwcap (yay!) Score: 86/100.

2004 Fish Eye Cabernet (614297, $9.95) 12.7% alcohol, California: Purply, juicy and simple quaffer. Full-bodied. Drink with Sloppy Joes and hamburgers. Score: 85/100.

2004 Isla Negra Cono Sur Merlot (516294, $10.05) 14% alcohol, Chile: Fantastic value. Loaded with dark fruit and cassis. Drink with steak and hamburgers. Score: 88/100. Best Value Red Wine

2004 Mont Gras Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve (619205, $12.05) 12% alcohol, Colchagua Valley, Chile: Hot and alcoholic: packs a punch. Big black fruit. Drink with rare steak. Score: 87/100.

2003 Escudo Rojo (613224, $16.95) 13.2% alcohol, Chile: A blend of traditional Bordeaux red grapes, such as cabernet sauvignon and merlot. Aromas of dark red fruit, smoke and oak. Balanced and round, medium- to full-bodied. Drink with meat dishes. Score: 87/100.

2003 Trapiche Cabernet Reserve (614699, $11.95) 13.5% alcohol, Mendoza, Argentina: Argentina is the next big thing in terms of great value. Delicious wines. This one is full-bodied, rustic and hearty with aromas of dark fruit. Drink with meat dishes. Score: 86/100.

2003 Trapiche Malbec Reserve (614651, $11.95) 13.5% alcohol, Mendoza, Argentina: Malbec is Argentina's signature grape on the world stage. This grape, usually one of five blended in Bordeaux, stands alone here to make a delicious, generous wine with dark plum notes. Drink with grilled meats. Score: 87/100.

2004 Feudo Arancio Syrah IGT (621730, $12) 13.5% alcohol, Sicily, Italy: A terrific value! Aromas of ripe berries and plums. Drink with meats. Score: 88/100.

2003 Casela del Giglio Wild Dunes Shiraz (524819, $14.90) 13% alcohol, Italy: Intense and dense with black fruit. A pleasant backbone of mouth-watering acidity makes it perfect for pasta in tomato sauce, spaghetti, lasagna and spicy sausage. Score: 88/100.

1997 Los Molinos Gran Reserva Felix Solis (620971, $13.85) 13% alcohol, Spain: Made from the grape tempranillo. Notes of leather and dried red fruit. Lovely maturity; ready to drink now. Pair with roasts, grilled meats and game. Score: 88/100.

2004 Lagunilla Tempranillo (620963, $10.05) 12.4% alcohol, Spain: Hints of vanilla, smoke, leather and dried red fruit. Score: 87/100.

2004 Fonseca Periquita (25262, $9.35) 13% alcohol, Portugal: Juicy red with berry fruit. Full-bodied. Drink with stew and shepherd's pie. Score: 87/100.

2003 Guigal (259721, $16.20) 13% alcohol, Cotes-du-Rhone, France: Classic notes of cedar and cherries. Medium- to full-bodied. Score: 88/100.

2005 Jaboulet Parallel 45 (332304, $15.25) 13% alcohol, Cotes-du-Rhone, France: Redolent of cherries and cedar. Medium-bodied and balanced. Score: 88/100.

2005 Spier Merlot (622035, $9.95) 14.3% alcohol, South Africa: A delicious and simple red that's ideal for hamburgers and stew. Full-bodied. Great price. Score: 86/100.

2004 Inniskillin Pinot Noir Reserve (669390, $17.95) 12.6% alcohol, Niagara: Light-bodied and delicious with aromas of ripe cherries and strawberries. A simple and carefree wine that's ideal for salmon, pate, pork and chicken. Fermented 12 days on the skins. Score: 88/100.

2004 Jackson-Triggs Merlot Proprietor's Reserve (543876, $12.95) 13.8% alcohol, Okanagan, British Columbia: Balanced and juicy with red-black fruit. Spicy plums with a long finish. Drink with steak and lamb. Score: 88/100.

2003 Jackson Triggs Cabernet (665257, $14.10) 14.3% alcohol, Okanagan, British Columbia: Aged in French and American oak. Dark fruit with rounded notes of chocolate. Full-bodied and voluptuous texture. Drink with lamb and game. Score: 88/100.

Nat Decants 100-Point Scale

95-100 Brilliant, Exceptional
90-94 Excellent, Superb
89.5 Hovering on the doorstep of excellence, better than very good
85-89 Very Good
80-84 Good (still worth buying and drinking)
79 and below Average to poor (I don't include these in the newsletter due to space constraints)

Favorite Wines: This isn't necessarily the wine with the highest score, as high scores go to the wines that best typify their region and style. Rather my favorite wines are just that: the ones that appeal to me most personally and to my own taste.

Best Value Wines: Not necessarily the cheapest wine, but the one that maximizes the price-quality ratio. (Although I don't always go by strict mathematical ratios on this either, but rather what seems to me to represent tremendous value.)

For more details on how I do my wine reviews and tips on how to find these wines click here.

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Copyright 2006 by Natalie MacLean. All rights reserved. Please ask permission of the author before copying or using this material.