Great wine does not have to be expensive. In fact, some of my most satisfying wines have come in the sub $25 range, not only because the wine was excellent, but the satisfaction of finding an excellent value adds an extra bonus to the experience. I know not everyone can afford to spend $40-50 or more on a bottle of wine, but that does not mean that you can’t enjoy some high quality juice! Without a doubt one of the most frequent requests I get from friends, family, co-workers etc. is “what is the best wine I can get for under $20?” The good news is with the advances of vineyard management and wine making techniques, there are more very good wines available in this price range than ever. So I have put together a little list of some of my favorites. I’ve tried to put a broad range of styles here to allow for different taste preferences and also to hopefully make sure that you can find some of these locally. The cut off price is $25 for this list.
Eyrie Vineyards Pinot gris – one of my favorite whites that I drink on almost a weekly basis; this is a steal of a wine with a phenomenal pedigree; this is a lees aged pinot gris in a bit of an Alsatian style with ripe stone fruits, delicious floral and honey notes, and rich spice. The palate is beautifully balanced with perfectly judged acidity and is a phenomenal partner at the table from Thanksgiving food to Thai curry. And to boot, it ages impeccably! $18
Eyrie Vineyards Pinot Blanc – similar to above, Eyrie produces stellar wines for excellent value (the pinot noir didn’t make this list due to being around $32, but it is also an excellent value for the quality). This is similar to the pinot gris, but has a little bit fresher profile, more lemon curd and peach pit, but still lovely depth and perfect balance. Another wine that is very versatile with food. $18
Mohua Marlborough Sauvignon blanc – really you could plug in any number of sauvignon blanc from New Zealand here as there are a multitude that are very tasty for under $15. Mohua happens to be one that I enjoy, but I could have easily picked 10 others. So really consider this to be a value category in itself. Generally filled with grapefruit, citrus, and bell pepper; these are crisp and simply refreshing! $12
Marc Deschamps Pouilly-Fumé – this is a lovely and classically styled example of Loire Valley sauvignon blanc, different than the Marlborough wines as it is less towards ripe tropical and citrus fruits and more in the realm of tart lime, lemon zest, crushed stone, and freshly cut grass. Delightfully crisp and linear, one of my favorite summer sippers.
William Fevre Chablis – a classic no frills example of what Chablis should be like; green apple, ripe lemon, crushed stone, iodine, and sea breeze. Crisp and clean with very good depth of flavor for the price. Delicious. $24
Dr. Loosen Riesling “Blue Slate” – a nice introduction to the Rieslings of Germany this shows some of the classic petrol, honeysuckle, ripe apple, and slate. This has some sweetness on the palate for sure, but has a nice vein of acidity that keeps it from feeling too sweet. Excellent pairing for sharp or salty cheeses or Asian cuisine. $14
Henri Perrusset Mâcon-Villages – This wine gives you a hint of what the riper style of Chardonnay from Burgundy is like with ripe apple, pear, apricot, and white floral notes. The palate is not crisp like Chablis, but has plenty of energy to match up to the ripe fruit flavors. $15
Domaine Champalou Vouvray – Chenin blanc is sometimes called the chameleon grape due to the myriad types of wines it can make; this is more toward the dry style with very crisp acidity driving the flavors. The nose shows honeysuckle, drying hay, lemon curd, and lanolin with hints of apples and apricots on the palate. Linear, but delicious this is very enjoyable. $18
Domaines de Triennes – this is a straightforward and simple quaffing rose from Southern France, but it is quite tasty and thirst quenching; strawberry, grapefruit, garrigue, and basil make an interesting nose and the palate delivers crisp, fresh flavors that make you forget the work blues. $15
La Bastide Blanche Bandol rose – my favorite roses in the world tend to come from Bandol, and unfortunately I am not the only one who tends to enjoy them so the prices have escalated… this lovely estate however remains an excellent example of the style with a great price tag. The nose shows classic ripe melons and watermelon, herbs, pepper, a touch of orange peel, and savory hints. The palate shows definite power coming from the mourvedre, but a nice burst of acidity keeps this taut and saline. Nothing better in the summer.
Domaine Thivin Beaujolais-Villages rose – I was skeptical of gamay rose initially, but this wine with its fresh strawberry, tart raspberry, and ripe watermelon is just pure deliciousness. The crisp and ripe fruit carries through to a mouthwatering palate that is really just pleasurable to quaff.
Segura Viudas Cava – almost certainly the best value bubbly out there; this shows lemon, lees, and floral notes with a delicious and easy to drink feel on the palate. No it isn’t as complex as a great Champagne and it doesn’t have the depth of higher priced players, but it is very good and since you can often find it for around $11 it is a winner.
Nino Franco Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore “Rustico” – a lot of prosecco is not very good; this however is delightful; the nose is classic with lovely lemon and green apple; baking bread, and mineral notes with some floral hints; the palate is fresh and dry unlike many prosecco wines that are off dry. $15
Roederer Estate Anderson Valley Brut – this has been my go to value US sparkler for several years now; yes there are better wines out there, but not at around $20! A classy wine with brioche, baked lemon, apple, and lilac. The palate is a bit more full bodied than most others on this list, but still has nice freshness. A great wine with sushi.
Domaine Lafage Vin de Pays des Côtes Catalanes Bastide Miraflors – this has been a consistent value red for several years now. A classic syrah and grenache blend from Southern France, this punches so far above its price class that it is slightly ridiculous. The nose has lots of red and black berry fruits with spice, garrigue, licorice, and violets. The palate has fabulous intensity and depth and yet maintains lovely freshness. Hard to believe this quality is only $14.
Laurent Perrachon Juliénas “Roche Bleue” – this is a lovely intro to the wines of Beaujolais which is another region that offers excellent value on many fronts. A nose of ripe raspberry, plum, and currants with spicy and mineral notes underlying; the palate has lovely fruit and acidity, yet has enough structure to age for 5 or so years. Cru level Beaujolais is often a killer value and this wine at $13 is definitely one of them.
Descendientes de José Palacios Bierzo “Pétalos” – another little know wine region and grape, the mencia wines from Bierzo in northwest Spain are another way to get a pinot noir type of wine without a pinot noir type of price tag. This wine is another consistent performer year to year; it shows black cherry, orange peel, red currant, and lots of cool stony and earth notes. The palate is often a little reticent initially with plenty of structure and lovely vivacity. I find this is best after 5 years or so in bottle and at $22 why not buy a case and age some!
Vietti Nebbiolo “Perbacco” – this wine is “Barolo lite” to me. All the same characteristics of these more well known nebbiolo based wines are present, but in an approachable and less dense package. Lovely red berry fruits, tobacco, tar, rose petal, and anise on the nose with a lighter, less tannic palate that lends itself to drinking after only a year or two. This wine has typically been made from all declassified Barolo juice and it is consistently delicious. The chance to try essentially Barolo from a producer that I (and many others) consider one of the best in the region for $25 is too good an option to pass up!
Castell’in Villa Chianti Classico – a sangiovese from a traditionally minded producer, this is what Chianti is meant to be like; this version shows the classic tart cherry and raspberry with licorice, spice, dusty earth, and mint. The palate does not have the depth of the Riserva bottlings (which can be legendary), but is delicious and approachable fairly early. A great wine with pizza and pasta dishes. $24
Saint Cosme Côtes du Rhone “Les Deux Albion” – I have enjoyed many vintages of this wine and in fact I served it at my wedding because it is consistently delicious and cheap! Dark fruits, garrigue, loam, underbrush, and incense on the nose; the palate can be tight initially, so I find it actually to be better after a year or two in bottle. Once it unfurls it is ripe and rich with polished fruit and spice lingering. A great wine for grilling. $17
Qupé Syrah Central Coast – one of my favorite US syrah producers; Qupe has some excellent higher end wines, but their Central Coast bottling remains an excellent value. Nice syrah typicity with ripe dark fruit, savory smoked meat, and floral notes. The palate has solid depth and good balance. This is another great wine for summer grilling. $17
Domaine Gramenon Côtes du Rhone “Sierra du Sud” – this is the only wine on the list that isn’t easy to find; but if you can find it, snap some up! This is a 100% syrah wine from a somewhat cult producer in Gramenon. Dark fruits, pepper, smoked meat, with hints of olive and violet waft up on the nose. The palate is rich and dense with present, but ripe tannins that definitely will allow you to lay a few bottles down. Probably the best syrah I’ve had for under $25.
Domaine Janasse Côtes du Rhone “Reserve” – this may be getting old, but the Rhone valley has lots of value! This stellar Chateauneuf producer also has fabulous Cotes du Rhone that drink like a baby Chateauneuf. Cherry liqueur, damson plum, baking spices, and dried violet provide a lovely nose for the rich and ripe fruit that flows onto the palate. A great dinner party wine as I have never served this to someone who hasn’t enjoyed it. $23
Lange Willamette Valley Pinot noir – I struggled to find a really good pinot noir to put on this list; given the popularity of the grape, prices are high and many that I really like fell just outside of this range. The Lange WV cuvee, however fits the bill. A quality producer (they make some excellent higher end pinots also), this is their entry level wine. It shows some classic WV characteristics with ripe cherry, cinnamon, floral notes, and in riper years a touch of cola. The palate is tasty and delicious with good energy, but lots of ripe red berry fruits. This is another crowd pleaser that almost everyone can enjoy. $24
Altesino Rosso di Montalcino – there sadly aren’t any Brunello’s that make the value list; but many Rosso’s provide some insight into the style and terroir of Montalcino at a markedly reduced price. Altesino is one of my personal favorites; they are definitely in the lighter styled, more traditional approach, but this suits sangiovese well. The nose has lots of red berry fruits, mint, tobacco, underbrush, and fresh floral notes. The palate is elegant and fresh with an ethereal feel that provides a lovely foil to many different lighter meat dishes. $22