For many years I've used the rule of 3x to stop buying wines that have just gotten too pricey. A great example these days are Chateauneuf du Papes which are now at that point. Given I was buying them at under $20.00 and now many of those are now over $60.00 I'm back looking for the future finds in the sub $25.00 range.
As a fan of Rhone varietals you can start in the Rhone and find some hidden gems. Let's start in the Northern Rhone. Producers like Patrick Jamin make sensational wines from the Cote-Rotie. But their third leaf red, the 2015 Patrick Jasmin Syrah Vin de Pays de Collines Rhodaniennes "La Chevalière" has since the 2013 vintage been a regular by the case buy. It's under $20 a bottle and is basically, Cote-Rotie without the big price.
Another great find are the wines from the Plan de Dieu, which loosely translated to Field of God. The 2014 Calendal and 2015 releases are great examples of what can be done with the Grenache and Mourvedre grapes in a valley floor setting. But other wines from the same region standout too. The 2016 Le Plan-Vermeersch Côtes-du-Rhône-Villages 'Plan de Dieu' is another well made, smooth, fruit forward and rich over performer. It has the kind of quality that you want in a wine that can grace a table and not leave anyone thinking it was just another ordinary wine.
East of the Rhone is the Ventoux. Producers like Even Bakke's Clos de Trias, Domaine Fondreche, Domaine Vintur, Vindemio, Pesquie, Martinelle are labels to look for that can rival some of the Rhone's best known names. I've been drinking wines from some of those producers as far back as the 90s and more a few years ago discovered Trias, Fondreche, Vintur and Vindemio when I was visiting my friends at Chene Bleu as part of Grenache Association activities the past 7 years. Another region is Beaumes de Venise. There, Domain Saint Amant is making stunning wines of all flavors. The Grangeneuve is a rich and robust blend of Grenache, Syrah, and Viognier which are co-fermented in stainless steel, then blended with a tiny component of old-vines Carignan. Coming from one of the highest vineyards in the Southern Rhone, all of the Saint Amant wines are delights.
Heading further south the area known as Provence has always been to me a hidden gem. While mostly known for Rose, especially given the big push it has seen the past five or six years, the region has some incredible producers making wines that are capable of punching above their weight. The Domaine du Dragon Cuvee St. Michel has been a favorite for years. So has the Commanderie de Peyrassol Rouge that is a blend of both Rhone and Bordeaux grapes. These two are perfect all year round red wines.
Last on my hit list of great wine finds that won't break the bank are wines from the Languedoc-Roussillion regions. The L'Effet Papillion reds and whites are sensationally made wines by the family behind Roc des Anges. The white is Grenache Blanc while the red is Grenache plus a few more grapes. Dollar for dollar this may be the best value around.
Finding great wines isn't hard. You just have to take the time, but the rewards over time are incredible.