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The Best Cheap Wine: 20 Bottles Under $20

By / February 7, 2017

Valentine’s Day is approaching and, for those of us who partake in the love fest, this means decisions to makewhere to book a dinner reservation, what romantic gifts to buy, which tender words of affection to exchange. Whether you’re in a new relationship or spending your 20th Valentine’s Day together, it can be overwhelming and get expensive quickly!

While chocolate and flowers are better than a kick in the teeth, splitting a nice bottle of wine can be a lovely experience. And let’s be honest, with everything that’s going on in the world, we could all use a little more love and wine. That’s why we put together a list of 20 wines under $20 that will impress your boo, your friends, or just yourself.

 

RED

1. Tribunal Red Wine – $9.99

Where to buy it: Trader Joe’s

This red blend is a Trader Joe’s gem — like their roasted plantain chips or goat gouda. For only $9.99, you get a bold, fruit-forward wine with plenty of spice to complement a Valentine’s Day home-cooked meal like steak, or pasta bolognese. The value here is real, and at 15% alcohol content, this bottle packs some serious punch.

 

2. Birichino Cinsault, Grenache, or Zinfandel – $19.99

Where to buy it: Whole Foods, K&L

Birichino makes excellent red wines from mostly old vines in the Santa Cruz mountain area. The winery name translates to “mischievous” in Italian, and many of its vineyards were purchased from reputed bootleggers! These wines are light, elegant, and bright, with a nice balance of fruit and acid. Plus the labels are pretty.

Bonus Tip: The Birichino Pinot Noir is delicious and sometimes on sale at Whole Foods for $19.99. Make sure you serve these lighter reds at a cool temperature — try sticking the bottle in the fridge for a few minutes before you open it!

 

3. Cannonau from Sardinia, Italy – $14.99

Where to buy it: most places that carry wine. Here’s an example from K&L

The native grape varietals of this Mediterranean island off the coast of Italy can impress without breaking the bank. For an easy entry into Sardinian wines, look for Cannonau, which is really just grenache! These wines offer round flavors of dark red fruit and spice with low acid, which make them pair exceptionally well with smoked meats, cheese, and grilled vegetables.

Bonus Tip: Look for the 2014 vintage, which was exceptional in Sardinia. Also, author Dan Buettner wrote in his book “The Blue Zones Solution: Eating and Living Like the World’s Healthiest People” that Sardinia has the highest population of centenarian men in the world. In addition to regular exercise and a healthy diet, he lists Cannonau as a key contributor to their longevity!

 

4. Shebang! Tenth Cuvee Red Blend – $11.99

Where to buy it: K&L or Wine.com

Shebang! is a project started by Morgan Twain-Peterson, who is the winemaker behind Bedrock Wine Co. and son of Ravenswood founder Joel Peterson. A Sonoma County native, Morgan also passed the Master of Wine exam and after completing his dissertation, will become one of less than 30 American Masters of Wine impressive! While you may not be a Master of Wine quite yet, you can experience Morgan’s winemaking skills with this delicious old-vine red blend at a terrific price point.

Bonus Tip: Look out for Bedrock Wine Co. wines, which are also very affordable and crazy good value. The North Coast Syrah and Old Vine Zinfandel are both under $30!

 

5. Gamay from Beaujolais, France – $15.99

Where to buy it: most places that carry wine, try Whole Foods or this example from Wine.com

If your ideal Valentine’s Day date looks more like ordering pizza and getting comfy on the couch, a nice Gamay from Beaujolais is just what you need! The natural acidity of Gamay makes it a perfect complement to the tomato sauce and a nice change from the more classic pairings of Zinfandel or big, tannic Italian varietals.

Bonus Tip: The best wines from Beaujolais are Cru Beaujolais and go for at least $20 a bottle. For cheaper versions, look for Beaujolais Villages or Beaujolais Supérieur. Serve these wines slightly chilled!

 

6. Seghesio Sonoma County Zinfandel or Cline Ancient Vine Zinfandel – $15.99

Where to buy it: Safeway or Wine.com

Seghesio has been in Sonoma County for over 120 years and makes renowned Zinfandels at various price points. Their entry-level Sonoma County Zinfandel is a great deal, with lots of black fruit, pepper, and spice. The Cline Ancient Vine Zinfandel is also ridiculous value for those lovers of classic California Zins.

Bonus fact: the Cline 2015 Ancient Vines Zinfandel won a gold medal at the 2017 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition!

 

7. Wines of Substance Cabernet Sauvignon – $14.99

Where to buy it: Safeway, Wine.com, K&L

To get a good Cabernet Sauvignon from places like Napa or Bordeaux, you usually have to shell out quite a bit of dough. This one from Charles Smith in Columbia Valley, Washington is full-bodied and killer value with up to 93 points from Wine Spectator. Expect layers of black cherry and tobacco with rich tannins that pair well with burgers, steak, or ribs.

Bonus Tip: Buy a case and drink over the next 4-5 years! Also look for wines by K Vintners, another label under the Charles Smith family with excellent Syrahs.

 

8. Kings Ridge Pinot Noir – $17.99

Where to buy it: Wine.com, K&L

It is hard to find good Pinot Noirs for under $20, but this one from Willamette Valley, Oregon, is pretty impressive for the price point. This region is known for Pinot Noir and has a climate similar to Burgundy. Fruit-forward with fresh acidity, this versatile wine will pair with a whole range of Valentine’s Day meals!

 

9. Andrew Murray “Tous les Jours” Santa Ynez Valley Syrah – $15.99

Where to buy it: Wine.com, K&L

If you like full-bodied wine, try this Syrah from Santa Ynez Valley, an AVA located in Santa Barbara, California. Founder Andrew Murray strives to produce wines in the style of Rhône valley regions like Hermitage and Côte Rôtie, which are known for their extraordinary Syrahs. Rich and juicy with dark fruit, soft tannins, smoke and spice — this is a big wine without a big price tag.

 

WHITE

10. Pine Ridge Chenin Blanc Viognier – $12.99

Where to buy it: Trader Joe’s, Safeway, Wine.com

Affectionately known as CB + V, this unique blend of Chenin Blanc and Viognier was a Pine Ridge experiment from the early 1990s. The fresh acidity of the Chenin Blanc is balanced by the rich, round, weighty, floral Viognier, and the result is delicious.

Bonus Tip: It’s pronounced “Vee-own-yay” — you’re welcome.

 

11. Lioco Sonoma County Chardonnay or Wrath “Ex Anima” Chardonnay – $18.99-$19.99

Where to buy it: K&L (Lioco, Wrath)

Chardonnay can be a polarizing grape variety depending on your personal preference for wines aged in either oak or stainless steel. If you prefer a lean, zesty wine with more acid and minerality, try the Lioco Sonoma Coast Chardonnay, or the Wrath Ex Anima Chardonnay.

 

12. Luli Santa Lucia Highlands Chardonnay or MacRostie Sonoma Coast Chardonnay – $18.99

Where to buy it: K&L (Luli, MacRostie)

For a Valentine’s Day that involves movies and buttery popcorn, you’ll want a more full-bodied Chardonnay. For a richer expression with more oak influence, try the Luli Chardonnay from the Santa Lucia Highlands or the MacRostie Sonoma Coast Chardonnay.

Bonus Fact: The creamy texture of some Chardonnays is from a secondary fermentation called Malolactic Fermentation (MLF) which turns tart malic acid (think green apples) to smooth lactic acid (think milk).

 

13. Muscadet Sevre Et Maine from the Loire, France – $13.99

Where to buy it: most places that carry wine, try Whole Foods or this example from K&L

If your Valentine’s Day meal includes mussels or oysters, then you’re already doing pretty well in the impress-your-date department. Take it up a notch with a bottle of Muscadet from the Loire Valley. This bone-dry citrusy wine has lots of acid and a salinity that perfectly complements briny seafood like oysters.

Bonus Tip: You can find affordable and high-quality bottles from Muscadet Sevre et Maine, the largest and most important appellation for this varietal.

 

14. Aromatic White Wine from Alsace, France – $19.99

Where to buy it: most places that carry wine, try this example from Wine.com

Some of us prefer to keep it casual for Valentine’s Day and order in some spicy deliciousness from our favorite Thai or Indian restaurant. Up the class by cracking open a bottle from Alsace, specifically one made of one of the four ‘noble grapes’ — Riesling, Pinot Gris, Muscat, and Gewurztraminer. These wines are all about the floral aromatics, and their high acidity tempered by rich texture makes them perfect for spicy cuisines.

Bonus Fact: Alsace, while technically part of France, is right near the border with Germany and has passed hands between the two countries multiple times throughout history.

 

15. Ribolla Gialla, Friulano, or Malvasia from Friuli, Italy – $17.99

Where to buy it: most places that carry wine, try this example from K&L

While most people are familiar with the food-friendly, bold red wines of Italy, there are tons of indigenous white grape varietals to explore as well. The Friuli-Venezia Giulia region, which sits in the top-right corner of Italy near Austria and Slovenia, makes wine from local grapes like Friulano, Ribolla Gialla, and Malvasia. Ribolla Gialla in particular offers high acidity, rich structure, and flavors of apricot and tangerine.

Bonus Fact: the Friuli region is also known for taking white grape varietals like Ribolla Gialla and applying red wine-making techniques to them, resulting in “orange” wines.

 

PINK

16. Mulderbosch Rosé – $9.99

Where to buy it: Trader Joe’s, Safeway, Wine.com

This South African rosé was first released in 1999 and is made from 100% cabernet sauvignon grapes. Unlike some rosés, the grapes for this wine are managed and picked specifically to make rosé. The result is a dry, aromatic wine with fresh acidity and lots of strawberry notes. Serve this with a plate of prosciutto and who wouldn’t feel loved?

 

17. Domaine de Triennes Rosé – $15.99

Where to buy it: Wine.com

If you’ll be spending Valentine’s Day somewhere warm, especially if a beach is involved, you need a bottle of rosé. Bright and crisp with notes of strawberry, this is a great example of Provencal rosé that is super affordable and delicious.

Bonus Fact: Two famous names are behind this wine: Jacques Seysses, founder of Domaine Dujac in Burgundy, and Aubert de Villaine, co-owner of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti (these wines fetch up to $20,000 per bottle).

 

18. Bonny Doon Vin Gris de Cigare – $13.99

Where to buy it: Wine.com

This vin gris is also made of mostly Grenache grapes harvested specifically for rosé production, during which they receive minimal skin contact. The result is a dry, full-bodied, creamy textured wine with crisp acidity and berry mineral notes. Pair this with a rack of ribs and get messy!

 

BUBBLY

19. La Marca Prosecco – $13.99

Where to buy it: most places that carry wine, Wine.com

If bubbles are your thing, or you find yourself in a time crunch, this prosecco from Veneto, Italy is widely distributed and very affordable. Light and refreshing, this sparkling wine will give you the perfect pre-dinner buzz without the next-day sugar hangover.

Bonus Fact: Prosecco comes in three levels of “perlage,” — the most bubbly is spumante, the second-most is frizzante, and the entirely still is tranquillo.

 

20. Lambrusco from Emilia-Romagna, Italy – $13.99

Where to buy it: most places that carry wine, here are examples from K&L, Wine.com (1, 2, 3)

For something different, pick up a bottle of fizzy red Lambrusco from the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy. Depending on the specific Lambrusco variety, you’ll get fragrant, aromatic, full-bodied wines with raspberry and strawberry notes, and plenty of acid. These wines are great on their own, but especially delicious when paired with the food native to the region, like fatty charcuterie, meaty sauces, and salty cheeses.

Bonus Fact: Lambrusco can be made either secco (bone dry), amabile (off-dry) or dolce (sweet).

By

Tal was born in Israel, grew up in Seattle, and has been living in SF for the past 6 years. When she isn't exploring her interest in wine, you can find her eating dumplings on Clement Street, watching the Warriors, or listening to live music. Follow her wine adventures on Instagram @wineyaac.

More articles by Tal Yaacovi

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