Which countries give the most best value wines?
Spoiler: You will be surprised
James Suckling has recently published his list of the Top 100 Value Wines of 2023. Certainly, this list is based on the US market, therefore distance from the States, taxes, custom duties also play a role, yet this list of great wines under 40 USD reveals some exciting tendencies – and Suckling’s team tasted 41.000 wines, this number is big enough to draw some conclusions. One would expect the majority of the wines from Italy and Spain however, these two countries are far from the top. Hungary is represented with one wine on this precious list: Sauska Merlot Kopár 2017 from Villány.
Who leads the top 50 wines?
If you start browsing the list, the countries you expect are nowhere to find. Portugal, Spain, Italy, South Africa and Australia are rarely mentioned in the first 50, while the absolute winner is Germany with 12 wines, followed by France and New Zealand with 7-7 wines each. Chile has only 5 wines here, though in the second 50 the South American country will catch up.
The ex-Austro–Hungarian countries (Austria, Hungary and Slovenia) are all in the first 50, what is more, the Hungarian wine, Sauska Merlot Kopár 2017 has hit the 7th position! The first Austrian wine is at the 17th spot (Alzinger Riesling Wachau Ried Loibenberg Smaragd 2022), the second one is the 24th position (Sommer Riesling Austria Handwerk 2021), while the Slovenian wine is at the 36th place (Movia Rebula Primorska Lunar 2018).
The supremacy of Riesling variety is clear, there are Rieslings not only from Germany and Austria, but also from Italy (Sud Tirol), and even the winner wine is a Riesling from France, Alsace (Muré Riesling Alsace Grand Cru Vorbourg Clos Saint Landelin 2019).
James Suckling makes a special mention about Sauska Merlot in the article introducing the list: “The Sauska Merlot Villány Kopár 2017 is unique on our list for being the only merlot. It can be found for under $20, even while displaying so much complexity, structure and length. It’s one for the cellar.”
And here is the description of the wine by James Suckling:
“This shows notes of ground spices, nut shell and cedar on the bed of ripe dark fruit and chocolate aromas and flavors. Full-bodied with a firm and dynamic tannin structure. Meaty and velvety with focus and balance. Densely packed with dark and purple fruit and spicy undertones. Long finish. Needs a few years to come together, but already attractive. Try after 2025.”
Top 100: New Zealand, Chile and Germany
If we look at the full list, New Zealand is the absolute winner with 18 wines, followed by Germany and Chile with 15-15 wines each. There is one more country with more than 10 wines: Argentina with 12 wines. So, if we look at the leaders, we can see 3 New World countries – not so surprisingly in a value list – and Germany. South Africa having only 2 wines on the list is quite a surprise, and it explains why some importers of South African wines are looking for new countries.
If we sort the list by countries, we can see the wine regions as well, and here we can also encounter some surprises. France gave 4 wines out of the 9 from Beaujolais. The United States seems to have more good value wines in New York (4) than in California (2) and Italy produces more good value wines in the North, in Trentino-Alto Adige (3 out of 5).
There are many more conclusion to be drawn, here you can find the list, enjoy and try the wines – remember, they are all under 40 dollars in the US.