Wine

Expectation-Busting Reds for $20 or Less

Retailers recommend unexpected reds that will entice customers to try something new

Reds under 20
Photo illustration by Jeff Quinn.

There’s no question that the most popular corner of a wine shop is its $20-and-under section. So while selling wine there is rarely a problem, it can be tricky to get clients to deviate from their usual Cabernet or Pinot Noir—even when better values might be available. SevenFifty Daily spoke with retailers across the U.S. who are doing just that—offering $20-and-under outside-the-box bottles of red wine that deliver above and beyond their price point. Here are nine wines that won’t sit on the shelf long:

1. Colter’s Creek Syrah 2015, Idaho, U.S.; $17

Ilene Dudunake and Colter Syrah
Photo courtesy of Ilene Dudunake.

Recommended by Ilene Dudunake, owner of A New Vintage Wine Shop; Boise, Idaho

For Ilene Dudunake, Colter’s Creek Syrah provides not only a good opportunity to pass value on to her customers but a way to introduce them to a local, sustainably minded producer from Idaho’s Snake River Valley. Noting the wine’s eucalyptus, red cherry, and earthy notes, Dudunake is most impressed by the texture of the Syrah. “The tannins,” she says, “aren’t over the top, and it finishes quite elegantly.”

2. Viña Maitia Aupa Pipeño 2017, Maule, Chile; $16

Pedro Rodriguez
Photo courtesy of Pedro Rodriguez.

Recommended by Pedro Rodriguez, cofounder and owner of Grand Cata, A Latino Wine Co.; Washington, D.C.  

At their Grand Cata wine shop in Washington, D.C., Pedro Rodriguez and Julio Robledo stock wines exclusively from Latin America. “This has been a staple of our Chilean selection since day one,” says Rodriguez of this traditional-style Pipeño from Chile’s Maule region. The medium-bodied wine is made predominantly from old-vine, dry-farmed País, with a little Carignan blended in. “This wine is a dangerous companion because you definitely can drink more than a glass,” Rodriguez says. He recommends serving the pomegranate-inflected wine slightly chilled.

3. Cacique Maravilla Pipeño País 2017, Biobío, Chile; $20

Erin Scala
Photo courtesy of Erin Scala.

Recommended by Erin Scala, owner of In Vino Veritas Fine Wines; Keswick, Virginia

Apparently, Pipeño is having a moment in the Mid-Atlantic. In Virginia, Erin Scala also looks to southern Chile for delicious, value-driven reds. “Where else do you find wines made from centuries-old vines farmed by multigenerational winemaking families? I’m consistently blown away by the ridiculous values there.” Scala compares this light-bodied bottling from seventh-generation grape-grower Manuel Moraga Gutiérrez to Poulsard from the Jura. “[The wine is] savory and fruity, gulpable and glorious,” she says, “and in paradoxically equal parts, simple and complex.”

4. Marcel Lapierre Raisins Gaulois 2017, Beaujolais, France; $20

Lance Storer
Photo courtesy of Lance Storer.

Recommended by Lance Storer, store manager of Pogo’s Wine & Spirits; Dallas

“This Gamay punches well above its price,” says Pogo’s Lance Storer. While this bottling is made at Marcel Lapierre, one of the top wineries in Morgon, Storer notes that this particular cuvée is labeled Vin de France because of additional sourcing from other parts of Beaujolais. Across the board, the fruit is harvested early to retain energy and tension. “This easy-to-drink vintage,” he says, “is loaded with juicy cherry, raspberry, strawberry, and plum fruit, framed by spice and floral undertones.”

5. Cirelli Montepulciano d’Abruzzo 2016, Abruzzo, Italy; $19

Adam Fleischer
Photo courtesy of Adam Fleischer.

Recommended by Adam Fleischer, owner of The Wine Spot; Cleveland Heights, Ohio

Francesco Cirelli’s Montepulciano d’Abruzzo quickly became a staff favorite at The Wine Spot in Cleveland Heights during the holiday season last year. An excellent wine for entertaining, this Montepulciano, says Fleisher, is an earthy, vibrant wine that’s “great on its own but also loves to be paired with food.” But there’s more that has this wine flying out the door by the caseloads: It’s certified organic and made using natural yeast and with no additives, features that are important to Fleisher’s customer base.

6. Commanderie de Peyrassol La Croix Rouge 2016, Côtes de Provence, France; $17

Linda Lloyd
Photo courtesy of Linda Lloyd.

Recommended by Linda Lloyd, owner of City Center Wines; Boise, Idaho

“It’s rare to find a Provençal red at such a reasonable price,” says Linda Lloyd, the owner of Boise’s City Center Wines. This Syrah-Cabernet blend from a classic, centuries-old producer has been a hit with customers who are looking for a big red with concentrated, dark fruit flavors, she says, and gives her an opportunity to change New World wine drinkers’ opinions about wines from France.

7. Schaad Cellars Schaad Hill Vineyard Pinot Noir 2016, Chehalem Mountains, Oregon; $18

Richard Elden
Photo courtesy of Richard Elden.

Recommended by Richard Elden, owner of E&R Wine Shop; Portland, Oregon

“You gotta love a wine made by a guy named Forrest,” says Richard Elden, the owner of E&R Wine Shop in Portland. The wine in question is this Pinot from Schaad Cellars’ Schaad Hill Vineyard in the Chehalem Mountains, made from vines planted 12 years ago by Forrest [Schaad] himself. Schaad’s family has been growing grapes—including Chardonnay and Riesling in addition to Pinot—in the Willamette Valley for more than 35 years but only started bottling their own wines, in 2015. Says Elden, “We haven’t tasted an Oregon Pinot Noir under $20 that was clearer, brighter, or purer.”

8. Le Piane Maggiorina 2016, Piedmont, Italy; $19

Michael Teer
Photo courtesy of Michael Teer.

Recommended by Michael Teer, owner of Pike and Western Wine Shop; Seattle

“I love Le Piane’s Maggiorina for its easy-drinking quality, complexity, and soulfulness. It’s a lot of wine for under $20,” says Michael Teer, the owner of Seattle’s Pike and Western shop. In recent years, more attention has been paid to the wines of Alto Piemonte, a region that offers great valuein contrast to the ever-pricier wines of Barolo and Barbaresco. “This is a great introduction to the wines of northern Piemonte,” says Teer of this field blend of Nebbiolo, Croatina, and 10 other indigenous varieties. The wine, he says, offers “beautiful fruit, balanced structure, and modest alcohol.”

9. Corte Gardoni Le Fontane 2016, Bardolino, Italy; $15

Photo courtesy of Lucy Huffman.

Recommended by Lucy Huffman, general manager of Uva Wines & Spirits; Brooklyn, New York

“I love bringing Corte Gardoni Bardolino to a get-together because the tart fruit and bright acidity pair well with anything,” says Uva’s Lucy Huffman, while noting that the wine is delicious straight from the bottle and served with a slight chill, especially at a picnic or around a campfire. Le Fontane is produced in Italy’s Veneto from Corvina and Rondinella grapes grown on the southern shores of Lake Garda against an Alpine backdrop. “The alluvial lakeshore,” says Huffman, “is stony and warm, which is emphasized in the fruity minerality of the wine.”

Vicki Denig is a New York-based wine and spirits journalist and wine educator, discovering the world through the lens of a glass, one sip at a time. When not tasting or traveling, she can most likely be found running through Astoria Park or sipping on Cabernet Franc.

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