As wine-growing and production methods improve throughout the world, inexpensive wines keep getting better. These are some of the best I tried last year. (Prices, availability and vintages may have changed over the months.)
2006 Bodegas Viña Mayor Ribera del Duero Crianza • This Spanish red made from tempranillo grapes is an aromatic, medium-bodied wine with a mouthwatering fragrance that tastes of black cherry and other black fruits. Purchased in October at West End Wines for $15.50.
2009 Sebastiani Pinot Noir • Darker in color than most inexpensive California pinot noirs, this wine from the Sonoma coast is medium-bodied with an enticing aroma of cherries and spice, layers of black cherry and plum flavors and a long spicy finish. The wine is well-balanced with good structure and acidity. Purchased in August at Dierbergs Brentwood Pointe for $13.98.
2007 Bodega Benegas Don Tiburcio • This blend from Argentina's Mendoza region has an enticing earthy smokiness. It is made from 50 percent malbec, 20 percent each of cabernet sauvignon and cabernet franc and 5 percent each of petit verdot and merlot. Purchased in November at Straub's Webster Groves store for $14.99.
2007 Columbia Crest Grand Estates Merlot • A product of vineyards in Washington State's Horse Heaven Hills and Wahluke Slope, this medium-bodied wine is soft and fruity, with vanilla notes from oak aging, good structure and acidity and a silky, mouth-filling texture. Purchased in March at Dierbergs Brentwood Pointe for $10.99.
2006 Bodegas Palacio Glorioso Rioja Crianza • This lively, medium-bodied Spanish wine is made from tempranillo grapes. It's a juicy wine packed with black cherry flavors laced with some tobacco, leather and spice. Purchased in October at West End Wines for $12.99.
2009 Hedges CMS • The name of this wine from Washington's Columbia Valley reflects the grapes used to make it: 39 percent cabernet sauvignon, 45 percent merlot, and 16 percent syrah. This dry but fruity wine, with concentrated black cherry and other dark fruit flavors, is an easy-to-drink crowd-pleaser that has good acidity and a long, pleasing finish. Purchased in November at Straub's Webster Groves store for $13.49.
2010 Muga Rosado • This serious and delicious wine from Spain's Rioja region is a complex, elegant rosé that tastes of apricots, peaches and passion fruit with a touch of bakery spice and ends with a refreshing citrus finish. A beautiful salmon color, the Muga Rosado is made up of 60 percent garnacha, 30 percent viura and 10 percent tempranillo. Purchased in August at the Wine Merchant for $11.99.
2009 Burgáns Albariño • The refreshing acidity of albariño wines makes me think of the ocean. Wines made from this grape have been called "The Wine of the Sea" because of the tempering effect the Atlantic has on the weather over the vineyards in Spain's Rías Baixas region. I like the Burgáns, which is produced by Martín Códax, because of its complexity and finesse. Purchased at The Wine and Cheese Place in June for $13.99.
2009 Efeste Evergreen Riesling • A dry, but not bone-dry, riesling from Washington State's Columbia Valley. Crisp and snappy, the Efeste is flavorful and complex with layers of subtle peach, apricot and red apple fruit. Purchased at Robust in February for $16.
2009 Simonnet-Febvre Saint-Bris Sauvignon Blanc • This fuller-bodied sauvignon blanc bursting with character is from France's Auxerrois region, which is just south of Chablis. The wine is complex, herbaceous and grassy, but it's not overly pungent like some sauvignon blancs from New Zealand. Purchased in March at Whole Foods for $12.99.
2009 Acrobat Pinot Gris • Acrobat is the entry-level label of King Estate, which is credited with bringing Oregon pinot gris to America's attention. This clean, refreshing pinot gris was made in the Alsatian style and tastes of melon, lemon and spice. Purchased in July at the Schnucks Ladue Crossing store for $12.99.
2009 Avant Chardonnay • A lightly oaked chardonnay from Kendall-Jackson in California's Sonoma County. The wine is bright and crisp, with the fresh flavor of green apples and citrus with some tropical fruit notes. Purchased in August at Friar Tuck for $13.99.
Non-vintage Blason de Bourgogne Blanc de Noirs Crémant de Bourgogne • A lively, creamy bubbly that's made of 90 percent pinot noir and 10 percent gamay. This sparkler from France's Burgundy region is crisp and snappy with a subtle strawberry flavor. Purchased in December at Trader Joe's for $10.99.