Chuggable Wines For Under $20
High quality wine can be budget friendly too
Finding quality wine at an approachable price is somewhat of an art these days. The rule used to be the higher the price, the better the wine, the lower the cost, the lower the quality. While in some cases this may still be true, a new wave of producers and even some established regions have stellar products around that consumer sweet spot of $20—some even lower.
“Chuggable” is an innocuous term (and a badge of honor to some winemakers) from the simple to the polished wines made for every day enjoyment and celebrations. Regions like Portugal’s Vinho Verde, Italian wines from Sicily, Chile, and even regions right in our backyard like Columbia Valley, Washington and New York’s Finger Lakes all offer outstanding quality for an incredible price.
Most wine producing regions have put into place (some more strict than others) a consumer assurance system for quality. For example, The Italian DOCG (Denominazione di origine controllata e Garantita) and the French AOC (Appellation d'origine contrôlée) were pioneers in establishing these sets of laws. The AOC was started in the 1930s and the Italian DOC/G followed suit in the 1960s and 1980s, respectively. The goal was to protect the names of the regions, insure quality is consistent and to be a consumer advocates. These laws are updated from year-to-year to reflect the ever changing world of wine and consumer demands. Finding these designations on a label does not equate expense—there are some outstanding, affordable wines with quality designation.
Below are some of quaffable quality bottles that can be enjoyed at any time of the year from autumn get togethers to the dogs days of summer. The only problem might be keeping enough in stock!
Coonawarra, South Australia ($18)
This luscious Cab Sauv is 100% Coonawarra fruit, a region known for a unique soil known as terra rossa. This red-hued clayey earth situated in the Limestone Coast gives Australia’s answer to Bordeaux wines. Cabernet sauvignon and shiraz thrive here. Bill Moularadellis and his family have decades of winemaking experience in Australia. Kingston Estate’s 2017 Cabernet Sauvignon is nothing short of perfection. Robust black currant and purple plum notes erupt from the glass. Firm structure, vanilla spice and sleek tannin make this wine a treat for anyone. It won the Double Gold Medal for Best Cabernet Sauvignon $20 and Lower at the 2019 Berlin International Wine Competition. Quality, without the cost.
Finger Lakes, New York, USA ($12)
New York State has some of the finest growing conditions for riesling. Cool temperatures that are moderated by the handful of lakes to the rocky, gravelly soils. Because of this, it’s no surprise that riesling is one of the most planted grapes in the state. It’s produced in sweet and dry styles, and it always delivers. Owned and managed by the Cupp Family, Thirsty Owl Wine Company has been making wine since the early 2000s. Their goal is to create wines that show unique personality of New York’s Finger Lakes region. Their 2017 dry riesling is a high acid lovers delight complete with aromas of orchard fruit with a lemon-lime crisp finish. This vintage brought Thirsty Owl Wine Company the Gold Medal in the riesling category at the 2019 Berlin International Wine Competition. Please, sir, I want some more!
Alentejo, Portugal ($16)
Portuguese wines are a bargain hunter’s gold mine. The country flirts on the edge of the list of Top 10 Wine producing countries each year. Production, value, and quality increase each year while still keeping cost approachable.. With an array of diverse climates (the northern Minho region gets about 60 inches of rain per year and the country’s interior can see summer temperatures soar above 110 degrees) it’s not uncommon to see many grapes blended together in a wine. Furthermore, Portugal has a laundry list of indigenous grapes used to comprise these blends. Ribafreixo Wine Estate, located in the DOP region of Alentejo, transformed 282 acres of abandoned land into fertile grape-growing area. Their 2016 Patio Frio Grande Escolha bottling is 100% of the grape Antão Vaz, a native Portuguese grape that has toughened up to the extreme temperatures of Alentejo. Bright citrus and mineral notes are rounded off with a use of new French oak helped Ribafreixo take home the Gold Medal for Best DOP Portugal White at the 2018 New York International Wine Competition. Delicious by itself, but even better with white fish and soft cheese. Get it while it’s hot.
Lanzarote, Canary Islands, Spain ($17)
Spending a high dollar amount on the rosé is always a hard decision for consumers. However, it’s better to bend a little than break a lot. Luckily, winemaker Ignacio Valdera’s super sexy summer pink juice gives you value and zero buyer’s remorse. One-hundred percent of the grape Listan Negro coming from the volcanic Canary Islands (Closer to Africa than Spain) this wine over delivers and is sure to impress your wallet, friends and palate. Get your hands on some this salty watermelon juice, pronto.
Marlborough, New Zealand ($15)
Great New Zealand Pinot Noir is becoming less of an afterthought and more of a requirement on the dinner table. Pinot Noir needs a specific environment to thrive. Not too hot, not too cold, just right. The Southern Alps and the Antarctic current held moderate temperatures for this vineyard diva. Stoneleigh’s vineyards are located in Wairau Valley and are named for small stones that are sprinkled around the land. Winemaker Jamie Marfell, a New Zealand native, leads the team to success with bottlings of pinot noir, sauvignon blanc and chardonnay. Stoneleigh’s Latitude Pinot Noir combines soft, silky, tannins with a hint of spice and elegance. They took home the Silver Medal for Best New Zealand Pinot Noir Under $19.99 at the 2018 New York International Wine Competition. Your next great Pinot Noir is just a stone’s throw away.
McLaren Vale, Australia ($19 US, $25 Australia)
While inexpensive shiraz has a certain reputation, it’s well worth seeking out the quality bargains. In the 1990s, brothers Kym and John Davey took over an estate first farmed by their grandfather in the 1950s with the goal of producing top notch wines that express the terroir of McLaren Vale at affordable prices. If you’re seeking the perfect red to go with barbecue or other hearty summer fare, look no further than this juicy red with complex, earthy backbone. It took home Double Gold in the Shiraz $25 and Under category in the 2018 Melbourne International Wine Competition and is available stateside at select retailers.