I usually plan this weekly column thematically, to organize my reactions to particular styles, grapes or regions. However, there’s a place for unorganized advice as well.

As drinker and buyer, you probably don’t enter wine shops thinking, “I’m going to buy a Malbec” as often as thinking, “I hope I find something for $11 that’ll go with my black bean enchiladas” – or even, “I just want something I haven’t tried before that’s good.”

Below are wines that meet that spirit. Together they fit no organizing principle other than being very good (and very good value), and deserving wider appreciation. Whatever your preferences right now, something listed here might be just the ticket.

Wither Hills Sauvignon Blanc 2008, Marlborough, New Zealand, $12 (Nappi). N.Z. Sauv. Blanc has fallen into post-fad “been there” fatigue from everyone who’s had enough of grapefruit juice sprinkled on gravel. Here’s why you should come back: Marlborough competes head-to-head with Sancerre as the best place in the world for Sauvignon Blanc, and the Wither Hills is totally Sauvignon Blanc, but with a three-dimensionality too much overly astringent S.B. lacks. The combination of exoticism and pungency is amazing. The palate-whetting acidity is exuberant, the grapefruit is perfectly approachable (ripe but not sugary), and the variety of complex flavors and aromatics is sublime: herbs, candied lime, fig, gooseberry (really), lemongrass.

Villa Angela Pecorino 2009, Marche, Italy, $15 (Central). Such distinctly Italian pleasures here. However the grape came to be called Pecorino, there is a salty, aged richness to this wine, just like the cheese of the same name. There’s also a lusciously creamy mouthfeel, with the acidity all in the circumference; the center is soft, even custardy. Then, an extraordinary finish of salted nuts and toasted breadcrumbs. I drank this with hearty local mushrooms and Parmigiano (didn’t have Pecorino), and was very, very happy. Other dense, earthy, creamy foods would do just as well.

Tenuta di Pietra Porzia Frascati Superiore Regillo 2008, Lazio, Italy, $11 (Pine State). The name’s a mouthful, but just remember Frascati Regillo. All Chardonnay lovers trying to break out a bit (or if that’s not you, surely a close relative fits the bill), pay attention. It’s got all that richness – flan, muffin, clarified butter, almond – but the Frascati’s stainless-steel fermentation elicits a stony essence instead of oak-concocted mush and vanilla. Really just a fascinating, overperforming bargain of a wine: persistent minerality, delicacy, density, class. The food-pairing possibilities are myriad: grilled chicken, grilled veggies, butter-sauced fish, pasta alla carbonara, eggs, polenta.

Avalon Cabernet Sauvignon 2007, Napa, California, $11 (Central). Anyone who reads this column can probably guess Napa Cabs are not my first choice. Too often they’re too big, too egotistical, too striving, too alcoholic, too Jay Gatsby. (I’m skinny, introverted, can’t hold my liquor.) The Avalon is New World Cabernet for all of us who want to live to tell about it: clean, pure cherry and blackberry; touches of both vanilla and chocolate; underlying licorice and smoke; steady zing. Classy, honest, balanced Cabernet.

Marenco Brachetto D’Acqui “Pinetto” 2007, Piedmont, Italy, $23 (Pine State). One of the flat-out yummiest things on Planet Earth. Last week I wrote about Moscato D’Asti, the low-alcohol sparkling dessert wine of Piedmont. Here’s Moscato’s red counterpart, perfect for sipping or as (better than with) dessert. The nose is full of roses and cinnamon. On the tongue are gobs of cherry pie, fresh plums, Concord grapes. Creamy mouthfeel and subtle bubbles round it out, with a slight basil-and-mint bitterness on the finish that acts like tannin, elongating and sustaining the lusciousness of the straight-on red fruit.


Joe Appel’s day job is doing lots of different things at Rosemont Market and Bakery. He can be reached at: [email protected]