When It Rains, It Pours

There's a seasonality to wine, both in what we consume, as well as what the marketplace makes available.  For the most part the former defines the latter, but there's also another tempo in play that's harder to pin down - the availability of small production wines that seem to go as quickly as they come.

After a long period of wading through the usual stuff on the shelves, something seems to have shaken loose in the past couple of weeks and thank God for that.  The number of exceedingly enjoyable wines in the $10-$16 range I've had recently has more than made up for the preceding doldrums.  Following are a few of these wines.  Whether they're in your local market or not, each of them is a strong reminder that exploration is its own reward.

2016 Babylon's Peak Chenin Blanc Swartland South Africa $12
For a long time South Africa was a terrific place to source inexpensive, weird wines, which is why I steered clear for a long time.  But recent forays into the country's regions have been mostly a pleasant surprise - even if these wines don't really taste like the grapes they're labeled as.  This chenin blanc, which tastes more like a crisp Sancerre (sauvignon blanc), is no exception.  Bright, lively, and layered over a supple texture, it has a delicate acidity and dry finish that are at odds with the typical chenin blanc, but which also show in a lovely way here.  Will definitely be going to back for more soon.

2012 Domus Vitae Rosso di Montalcino $16
The most remarkable thing about this 100% sangiovese from Montalcino is its purity.  This is as textbook as it gets; no more, no less.  The slightly brown-tinged fruit stands unencumbered by fussy winemaking, letting the character of the region shine.  A darn good effort at a bargain price.

2015 Di Majo Norante Sangiovese Molise $9
Full and open, this very approachable red from the mountainous region southeast of Rome is a crowd pleaser.  Easy going enough to not require food, but versatile enough to flex with whatever is on the dinner table, this is a nice weeknight wine that won't disappoint.

2015 Chateau Blanzac Bordeaux $15
Unexpectedly international in style and accessible at such a young age, this bucks the trend of most value-priced Boardeaux.  From the lauded 2015 vintage, the merlot takes center stage, but doesn't crowd out the other players which provide structure and stuffing.  Oak framing is appreciable without being imposing.  Terrific company to grilled red meat and a wonderful way to introduce California-only drinkers to the wonders of Bordeaux.