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Inexpensive reds for expensive tastebuds?

I'm trying desperately to get into red wine, but I'm encountering a bit of a problem. The only reds I seem to enjoy come with hefty price tags. Ideally, I'd like to find something around $20 or less. The problem is that most of the reds I've tried in that range are either god-awful or completely unremarkable. While I have no problem shelling out for a nice bottle on a special occasion, I would really like to find a couple reds that I can drink on a daily basis without completely breaking my bank.

I'm a big fan of Silver Oak (and, to a lesser extent, Caymus). I like full-bodied wines that aren't too acidic and have a very smooth finish. Any suggestions?

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  1. BV coastal reds are a great value right now ($10 and less). BV's top vineyards (Latour and tapestry) had great production for 3 years running. BV doesn't bump up production numbers for these wines, they are capped. The result is that lesser BV wines have benefitted from higher quality juice that was bumped down into "lesser" value priced lines. The Napa and Sonoma series cost a bit more, but have benefitted from this situation as well.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Brandon Nelson

      I like BV, too! South American Carmenere's are very very nice reds to try now also...Calina Carmenere specifically is excellent, and I've also had Anakena, both under $20. Tonight I'm having some Flichman Malbec Misterio that is pretty good, under $10. For a really cheap red that I just keep coming back to and am always happy that I do when I'm really low low low on $$ is Almira Los Dos, a Spanish red wine...used to be $5.99 here in SW FL but is up to $6.99 now...heh! Huge 'bang-for-your-buck' or QPR, as the correct lingo dictates. OH...please look for a thread "Best under $10" on this board...I've tried many excellent reds from that thread, notably Paul Jaboulet Paralelle 45, a French red--delicious!

    2. IMO the best values in great red wine would include:

      Valpolicella Superiore

      Ask your wine vendors what they have in the above.

      2 Replies
      1. re: Chicago Mike

        A few suggestions:

        1) Michael David's "Petite Petit" (Lodi), a 50-50 blend of petite syrah and petit verdot that is quite luscious, especially with a few hours of decanting, and retails for around $18 in the US.

        2) From Rioja, try the Conde de Valdemar Crianza 2003. Had it last night. It certainly needs time to breathe, but from what I tasted, it would be the perfect accompaniment to manchego cheese and serrano ham.

        3) From Chile, try Dona Paula's "Alluvia," a single vineyard cabernet franc that is quite restrained but really starts to shine with a few hours of "air time," especially when accompanied by a big hunk of red meat.

        4) From Monastrell, in Spain, try "Hecula," a really great value wine that should retail for around $12 in the US. It fits the description you have provided.

        5) From Italy (primarily Tuscany), try the wines from "Falesco," a company that makes wine in large volume but maintains pretty decent quality control in my opinion.

        I could go on, but I am sure that others will chime in. Everybody's taste buds are different.

        Generally speaking, you will improve the taste of any red wine by decanting it for about an hour, in a cool place (i.e. a root cellar, basement room) so that the wine is served around 15-17 C. I cannot enjoy warm wine anymore; the flavours get lost and it tastes very murky. If you do not have such a room, try this; pour the wine into a decanter, let it breathe for about an hour, then, with the aid of a funnel, pour it from the decanter back into the bottle, and put the bottle in your fridge for 15 minutes before drinking. This process will first oxygenate the wine and then cool it down to a temperature at which the flavours can gain clarity. And always do your research around food pairings; that can either make or break a wine (i.e. if you serve any red with a dish that has asparagus, the red is likely to taste awful; similarly, avoid pairing red wines with really spicy foods that have hot chilies).

        1. re: anewton

          Good call on the temp. Far, far too many serve their reds to warm. Even a '70 Latour will not benefit from that.


      2. Some of the Chileans and Argentinean reds are GREAT qpr. Catena is a good name to look for. I consistently like Escudo Rojo, a Cab blend made by the Mouton Rothschild folks in Chile -- costs $18, tastes $40.

        1. Had a party Friday night, opened up a case of 2005 Cotes du Rhone that I just acquired. Also had some King Estate 2006 Pinot Noir and 2006 Shea. The Cotes du Rhone was very much enjoyed by many in the group, smooth, good juice. I bought it for $9 a bottle by the case. I just ordered four more cases.

          2 Replies
            1. re: wally

              2005 Chateau Mont-Redon Cotes Du Rhone Abeille-Fabre

              Located at Roquemaure on the bank of the Rhone opposite the Chateauneuf-du-pape estate. I have stayed just downstream from there, only a mile or two from CdP.

          1. there are some good south african & spanish reds out there.

            for solid, affordable domestics i like:
            columbia crest
            peter lehmann
            coppola [esp. the diamond series]

            and i don't know which cotes du rhone duck833 is drinking, but i'm a big fan of e. guigal.

            1. Two that you might want to give a look to, provided that you can find them, where you reside:
              1.) Glen Carlou Grand Classique, Paarl, South Africa (best US$13.00 red, that I have ever had. Bdx. blend. Does not age well, so drink young.)
              2.) The Edge, Signorello Winery. Very good, at just a few $'s more. ("House Red" at Vidalia Restaurant, DC. May be hard to find, but well worth the effort. Another Bdx. blend, and reminds me of Bdx. that cost 10x as much. Do not know how it'll age.)

              You might want to list where you are, so folk can have a better idea of what might/might not, be available.


              8 Replies
              1. re: Bill Hunt

                Thanks for the rec on Edge. I've seen it at my local wine store, and have stood in front of it with my lips pursed, hemming and hawing, a few times.

                1. re: vickib


                  I bought the Edge 2 weeks ago and really enjoyed it. Do not have tasting notes, but from memory I would say that it was a dense, chewy wine that required the two hours of decanting that I gave it. I would definitely buy it again, even given that it retails for $30 in Canada (still a good value in my books).

                  (RE: my earlier post about good value reds, I realize I mistakenly said that Hecula by Bodegas Castano was from Monastrell, when in fact it is made from the Monastrell grape variety. Oops!)

                  1. re: anewton

                    Yes, it needs some time to open up. I usually do much of this in my glass, unless I'm pouring for guests, but it does need some time and some swirls. When I tasted it blind, I mistakenly guessed a 5er cru Bdx. I can only guess (ageability is not my strong suit) that it would do nicely, because of its balance and a good backbone of tannins - smooth, but there, none the less.

                    Wow, sorry to hear that it's that expensive in CA (Canada, not our neighboring state of California). Even based on the exchange rate (have not checked this hour!) I'd still buy it. I have also been fooled and impressed by several other offerings from Signorella. Gotta' visit them soon.


                    1. re: Bill Hunt

                      Wine is ridiculously expensive for wine up here in Canada. I was shocked when I was in California at the difference in price. A typical inexpensive wine up here for me is about $17-18, in the grocery store I would see the same wine for about $7-8. It is not about the exchange, we have HUGE taxes on our alcohol. :(

                      1. re: cleopatra999


                        I see similar, when in the UK. However, it goes both ways: US wines seem to be marked up (do not know the tariff situation) 300%, then you add the exchange rate. Similar for OZ wines, though noticably less than for US products. OTOH, FR & ES wines are about 60% of US prices BEFORE the exchange rate.

                        Still, Canadians can come to AZ and pick up real estate at good prices! It was not THAT long ago, that the CA $ was weak, compared to the US $. I have a feeling that the tables will turn, and turn, and turn. Still, I'm sorry to hear the inflated prices, regardless of the reason.

                        Winos should be able to buy most good wines at fair prices (I keep telling the sommeliers in the UK!). Otherwise, how can we be winos?


                        1. re: Bill Hunt

                          We just need to come to the states more often and bring our shipper boxes!!

                          1. re: cleopatra999

                            Hey, that's what I do, when I drive to Central Coast, Napa or Sierra Foothills.

                            Come down, while it's a great deal !!!!


                          2. re: Bill Hunt

                            Hi Bill,

                            Silly question maybe: But do you have to pay import tax if you buy wine from the Continent? Doesn't the EU allow you to import it tax free? I've noticed the prices are much cheaper on the continent.

                2. Have you tried going to a wine shop and presenting this question? I can't imagine paying $20 for an every day wine.

                  1. My broad suggestion would be barrique-aged Barbera. You may have to push your price tag up to $25 or even $30, but in the $20's thereare some excellent examples.

                    1. I would suggest wines from the Sierra Foothills of California - there are a lot of fantastic wines from this region, yet because it doesn't have the cachet that Napa or Sonoma does, the wines are far less expensive and a good value. Recommended producers include Terre Rouge/Easton, Cedarville, Cooper, di Arie, Gold Note, Miraflores, Fleur de Lys, Lava Cap, Madrona, Mount Aukum, Dillian, Amador Foothill, Latcham, and Deaver.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: Kenois

                        Try the reds from Pascual Toso in Argentina. Paul Hobbs consults here and they are quite nice and affordable (~$10 in PA). The Cab is really tasty and the Malbec is fantastic for under $10.

                      2. Is there a Trader Joe near you?

                        internet merchant wine.woot.com might interest you.

                        If you are willing to buy the equivalent of 3-4 bottles there are some nice box wines.

                        1. Had a $20 of cab the other night that I thought was absolutely delicious, 1975 vineyards.

                          1 Reply