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In the past several months UnCorked readers have frequently asked, “Can I find quality wines for less than $15?” You may remember last summer an UnCorked column touching on the topic — wines fitting your palate as well as your wallet. The answer now, as it was then, is absolutely — tasty wines with exceptional quality are readily available for $15 or less.

But before declaring any wine the next superb bottle for $10, $8 or even $5, keep in mind a few criteria.

In this price range, straightforward and simple are the best places to start in assessing the quality of a wine. No matter what price, a wine should always be balanced. For a white wine, consider taste and acidity. For reds, you want to think about tannins — too much leaves your mouth dry and exhausted while too little is much like drinking a sweet children’s drink.

For the zealous shopper there are many bargains to be found. The best place to start is at your local wine shop. Get to know the sales people — many fine wine retailers, just as any purveyor, are looking for ways to keep their customers loyal and happy. So, many bargains found are substantial buys or specials from the distributors, brought in just for you, the customer.

I recently explored central Arkansas wine shops in a search of quality wines under $15.

THE VALUES ($15 or less)

  • 2006 Marietta Cellars Old Vine Red, California (about $15 retail)
  • 2007 Mark West Winery Pinot Noir, California (about $10 retail)
  • 2007 Blackstone Winery Cabernet Sauvignon, California (about $9 retail)
  • 2005 Greg Norman Estates Pinot Noir, California (about $15 retail)
  • 2007 Anne Amie Vineyards Cuvee A Amrita, Willamette Valley, Oregon (about $15 retail)
  • 2006 D’Arenburg Stump Jump Red, Australia (about $12 retail)
  • 2007 Stevenot Winery Pinot Grigio, California (about $11 retail)
  • 2002 Aqua Pumpkin Merlot, Paso Robles, California (about $15 retail)
  • 2006 Chateau St. Jean Sonoma Chardonnay, California (about $12 retail)
  • 2007 Oyster Bay Wines Sauvignon, New Zealand (about $13 retail)
  • 2007 Four Bears Winery Cabernet Sauvignon, California (about $15 retail)
  • 2006 Beringer Founder’s Estate Merlot, California (about $10 retail)
  • 2007 Bonterra Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc, California (about $14 retail)
  • 2007 Francis Coppola Rosso, California (about $10 retail)
  • 2006 Hogue Cellars Genesis Riesling, California (about $13 retail)
  • 2006 Gnarly Head Cellars Old Vine Zinfandel, California (about $11 retail)
  • 2007 Twisted River Late Harvest Riesling, Germany (about $12 retail)
  • 2006 Liberty School Winery Chardonnay, California (about $15 retail)