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Top 40 California wines under £40 – and how to find value

Our judges picked top California wines under £40 - and share their top tips for finding great value...

Top 40 California wines under £40

1. You can discover really cool producer without paying through the nose.

The truly hipster wines are not those big beasts from the heart of Napa; they’re either from Napa and Sonoma fringes, or not from these super-famous areas at all. And a lot of the coolest producers are not in it just to make money, so they don’t gouge.

We’ve got two wines from Berkeley’s urban winery Broc and two wines from Anderson Valley star Carpe Diem, as well as beauties from Melville, Lioco and M2. Believe me, these are cool dudes.

2. Don’t forget the old-timers

They may not be as fashionable as once they were, but they’ve owned their vines for a long time and can afford to offer wines at a fair price. We found delightful wines from Edna Valley, Firestone, Louis M Martini, Marimar Estate, Mount Eden, Nalle, Schug, Smith-Madrone, Trefethen and Wente. These have all been stars in their time – and they still can be.

3. Don’t just stick to the regular grapes

California has been rather slow to realise the quality of its old varieties, and slow to plant interesting new varieties to deal with warming conditions. However, it’s happening now, and we found delicious wines from Albarino, Carignan, Marsanne, Muscat, Riesling (it’s not mainstream in California!) and Petite Sirah, plus that old war horse, Zinfandel.

4. The less-faddish, less-pressured vineyard areas a chance.

In Napa Valley American Canyon, Oak Knoll and Yountville are much cheaper than the more commonly seen Oakville, Rutherford and Stags Leap. Seek out regions like Lodi – probably California’s best-value address for reds – Livermore, Monterey and the Santa Cruz Mountains. We found appetising wines from all of them.

The value is definitely there in California, if you know where to look. And we’ve got 40 prime examples to prove it.

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