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Smart Buying

Wine at a palatable price

Forget France and California. think red, white and bubbly from Spain and Argentina.

Argentina is the fastest-growing exporter of wine to the U.S. market. It’s not hard to see why: The country is producing impressive wines at reasonable prices. Wines made with Malbec grapes—lesser blending grapes from Bordeaux that have flourished in Argentina’s soil since they were transplanted there in the 19th century—are particularly hot. One elegant example is Bodega Luigi Bosca Malbec Reserva Lujan de Cuyo 2006 ($15 to $18), an inky red wine with raspberry and tobacco notes.

Tucked away in the northwest corner of Spain, Galicia is bottling some stunning white wines at affordable prices. The region’s Albarino grape produces crisp, dry, aromatic wines that pair perfectly with shellfish and other seafood and make a refreshing summer aperitif. You can find many fine examples of Albarino wines in the $10-to-$20 price range. One is Nessa Albarino Rias Baixas 2007 ($13 to $15), a fragrant wine with citrus and mineral overtones and enough acidity to cut through that fish oil.

Champagne, the effervescent wine of northern France, has been priced out of sight due to sturdy global demand and tight supply. The French government simply will not expand the region’s tightly delineated boundaries. But you can do very well at a fraction of the price with a sparkling wine from Spain, such as Mont Marcal Brut Reserva Cava 2005 (or 2006), which costs about $15. Mont Marcal is made mostly from indigenous Spanish grapes you’ve never heard of, but it is a delicate, refined potion.