Great wine doesn’t have to be expensive. Recommending affordable wines has always been part of our coverage at Wine Spectator. In each issue, we highlight wines from our recent tastings that are easy on the wallet, and our tasting reports regularly feature examples that offer bang for the buck.
It’s typically the most expensive, top-scoring bottles that hold our attention, yet bargains lead us to regions and grapes that may be new or unfamiliar, offering high quality at prices that allow for easy exploration. There are few things more exciting in the world of wine than finding an outstanding version that’s accessible at any budget.
To create this new annual feature celebrating those wines that overdeliver on quality for the price, we’ve selected our Top 10 Values of 2021, capped by our choice for Wine Value of the Year. All of the wines on this list rated 90 points or higher on Wine Spectator’s 100-point scale, cost $40 or less and are made in large-enough quantities to be widely available. To make these selections, we also kept in mind the diversity of the global wine scene, looking for wines with solid track records that are good representatives of their regions. We hope you’ll find your new go-to among these options, or at least have some fun discovering new flavors.
Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough 2021
93 points | $17 | 100,000 cases made | 45,000 cases imported
One of the biggest wine stories in recent years has been the steady rise in popularity of Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand. This tiny country on the other side of the globe accounts for about 1% of the world’s total wine production, yet its influence reverberates on every continent.
Located at the northern end of the country’s South Island, the Marlborough region was built by accidental pioneers like Allan Scott. In 1973, Scott took a job planting the area’s first grapevines for Montana Wines, though there was no wine culture in New Zealand at the time and he was barely familiar with wine himself. Two years later, Scott and his wife, Catherine, purchased a block of land and started growing grapes for other wineries. He continued to help establish the region for other corporate brands until 1990, when the Scotts created one of the first independent wineries in Marlborough, focused on wines made from estate vineyards.
Not only is Scott one of the rare vintners who have worked every single grape harvest in Marlborough, but he has also remained a leader in the region, with a track record of terrific wines. At the center of his impressive portfolio is Sauvignon Blanc.
“Seeing [Marlborough] grow has been a highlight for me more than anything, because nobody ever knew that Marlborough would become such an important winegrowing area in the world,” Scott says. “We used to dream about things like that.”
His more recent dream was realized when his children, Josh Scott and Sara Stocker, showed interest in taking over the family business. “He finally let us have the reins,” Josh says with a smile. “We want to try new things with the wines. A lot of what we’re doing is more premiumization on the brand and really trying to take our wines—our status in the wine world—up further and further.”
Sara is in charge of vineyard management. “Thankfully, Mom and Dad established their vineyards in an area that is known as frost-free,” she says. “We just produce the best fruit that we can and then harvest it, nice and gently, and hand it over to the winery.”
Josh founded craft beer company Moa Brewing before taking over winemaking at Allan Scott. He has an experimental streak, making rosé spritzers and ginger wine in addition to the core bottlings. For the Sauvignon Blanc, he explains, grapes are harvested at night with machines, which break the skins slightly to get the desired maceration. In order to achieve greater minerality and less tropical flavors, Josh has been picking grapes slightly earlier than his father. “What we make is about structure, texture, balance,” he says. “And then, most importantly, drinkability.”
Together, the Scott family is focused on building the legacy of their winery. “Everyone talks about growth, but we don’t want to be growing in volume,” Josh says. “We want to be growing in quality.”
Tasting Note: Strikes a terrific balance between mouthwatering acidity, fresh herbal notes of lemon verbena and thyme, and core flavors of Key lime, Meyer lemon, pineapple and tangerine. Gains momentum on the finish, where the flavors sing in harmony and complexity. Drink now.—MaryAnn Worobiec
Special Designation: Smart Buys
Issue: Oct. 31, 2021
WineSpectator.com members: Find more great New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs and other wines
- Tasting Highlights: 8 Marlborough Sauvignon Blancs (Dec. 30, 2021)
- New Zealand Tasting Report: Demand and Supply (Oct. 31, 2021)
- Wine Ratings Search: New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, 85+ Points (rated in the past 12 months)