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He avoids these reds/whites under $20...What say you?

914NYC Oct 13, 2008 05:29 PM

A friend told me he avoids Merlot and Chard. under $20.
Rather, he goes for Italian, Spanish, and Argentinian (Malbec)
For white: Voigner and SAuvBlanc under $20
What say you?

What are best under $20 genres ?

  1. b
    bricap Apr 29, 2009 10:00 AM

    I have yet to try a chard or merlot that I like. And if I have to pay a ton of money for a permium bottle to find out if I might, then it's just not worth it. Better to spend less on grapes I'll like at any price. I am also a big fan of the Italians, Spanish, and Argentinian wines under $20. There is a better QPR in this area. Portugese table wines are also cheap and very interesting to me.

    5 Replies
    1. re: bricap
      Bill Hunt Apr 30, 2009 09:45 PM

      I do agree. It should be about what one likes and nothing more.

      Still, I have no problem with either Chards or Merlots, that I like. I'm far less concerned about what the latest fad is, regarding what should be dispised and avoided. ABC? Not on my watch. It's about what I like, and nothing more. If it happens to be a US$400 bottle of Le Montrachet, or a US$600 bottle of Ch. Petrus, then so be it. If it's a US$12 bottle of SA Cab-blend, I can handle that too.


      1. re: Bill Hunt
        bricap May 1, 2009 11:44 AM

        Well, I learned with cabernet sauvignon, that I still don't like them, even when they are expensive. I just say what I said because people often tell me that I'd like the most expensive ones if I just tried them. One guy I know in wine sales told me to try a cab from the 80s. I'm like, man, how much to do that? If I don't like an $80, how am I going to like a $500 bottle?

        I'm a big fan of port, for instance. I know a lot of people who hate it. I'd never tell them, 'Well, you'd really like a 1994 Quinta do Noval Nacional."

        I think a better gauge would be region and terroir. I preferred a cheaper Oregon pinot over a more expensive Central California pinot (that didn't taste like pinot), for instance. Maybe there is a place that gives an expression to chard, merlot, or cab that I might like, but it's still like finding a needle in a haystack for me. Again, too many things I like to try to engage in this wild goose chase for the one place that makes it in a way I'd like.

        1. re: bricap
          olasek May 1, 2009 03:30 PM

          Had similar experiences with Cabs (unfortunately no one offered me a sip of >$100 cab) until I came across Turnbull 2005 which sells for a mere $33 mail order. I said to myself - wow, this is a cab I could drink 24/7!

          1. re: olasek
            Bill Hunt May 1, 2009 08:12 PM

            That is what an open mind can do for you. Glad you found one that rings a bell with your palate.


          2. re: bricap
            Bill Hunt May 1, 2009 08:11 PM

            Now, I am a big fan of Ports, and utilize every opportunity to imbibe.

            I'm with you on certain wines though. I have only found one Chilean wine, that I'd ever buy again. I get handed all sorts of bottles from distributors and retailers, with the "oh, you'll love this one... " Um-m-m, no. No I do not. With one exception, I find the rest dreck, and it's FREE!

            At the end of the day, it's about what one likes and enjoys. If you do not like Cab Sauvignon, Merlot or Chard, so be it. Considering those varietals, I find that there are fewer Merlots, that I really enjoy. That said, there are some that are perfectly sublime, just not the majority of the domestic (US), or several other regions. Chardonnay seems to have a bit broader appeal to me, in that there are more from around the globe, that I find something to enjoy. Still, I encounter many that I would never drink again, both US and imported.

            Still, I do not turn my back on varietals, or even countries/regions of origin. Heck, I found that one Chilean Cab, where I least expected it. I try to keep an open mind, unless I've had the specific wine before and know full well that it's not to my tastes.


      2. Bill Hunt Jan 6, 2009 06:39 PM

        These are very general terms here, but I kind of agree with your friend on those two varietals. Pretty much the same for Pinot Noir. Sure, that are possibly good ones (of these three grapes) for under US$20, but not many. Rather than try every possible one, I tend to go with higher priced wines from these three grapes - in general.

        As far as "under US$20" wines, the one that has impressed me is a Bdx. blend from SA, Glen Carlou Grand Classique. It does not age really well, but with a quick decant/'caraffing, or time in glass, it has been a rewarding sub-$20 red.

        Back to your friend, most Mendoza Malbecs, even well under US$20 have offered a lot for the buck. I'm sure that there are many poor Mendoza Malbecs, but I have not hit them.

        I've never encountered a sub-$20 Viognier, that I liked.

        There are tons of really good, albeit different, SB's under US$20. Too many to name.

        Have not had many sub-$20 Italian reds, that did anything for me. I'm sure they are out there, but I've not encountered them.


        7 Replies
        1. re: Bill Hunt
          thursday Jan 16, 2009 09:06 PM

          We had a winetasting party for New Year's this year and the grand winner of the evening was a $7 Vouvray from Trader Joe's. Not quite a Viognier but quite similar. I'm still an amateur, I suppose, at wine tasting, but I do feel like when you make rules like that, you spend way too much to miss out on some fantastic finds.

          1. re: thursday
            oolah Jan 16, 2009 10:31 PM

            Other than the fact they both start with a V and are both wine, in what way are viognier and Vouvray similar? I don't disagree that some good wine can be found for cheap, but your assertion that these two wines are "quite similar" is weird.

            I've very much enjoyed many under-$20 Vouvrays, but like Bill, I haven't had a under-$20 viognier that I've liked.

            1. re: oolah
              thursday Jan 20, 2009 07:04 PM

              Well, I'm an amateur as I said, and though I've done my share of tastings at vineyards and the like I've never ventured into high price points unless it's a gift, so maybe the differences become more marked as you get into higher prices or better quality...but both viogniers and the majority of the vouvrays have tended toward clean, bright whites with hints of fruit and honey. Sure, the vouvray is drier, but I've found them to be a lot more similar than, say, a Riesling and a Chardonnay. Which isn't saying much, but wasn't my point either. No rancor here, just stating my view.

              1. re: thursday
                oolah Jan 20, 2009 08:47 PM

                Yep, there's definitely honey in both, but try a Condrieu (made from the viognier grape) and a Vouvray side by side sometime and you'll be blown away by the differences.

                Condrieu is bigger and fuller, with apricot, citrus, and lots of tropical fruits. Vouvray (made from chenin blanc) is leaner, more mineral-driven and sometimes sweet, with honey, apples, lemon and herbs.

                Sadly, while very delicious Vouvray can be had at $15, entry-level Condrieu tends to start around $50.

                1. re: oolah
                  zin1953 Jan 21, 2009 05:55 PM

                  Vouvray = 100% Chenin Blanc = higher acidity; apples, lemon, wet stone (minerality); can range from bone-dry to very, very sweet (Sec to Moelleux); honey found only in those sweet wines affected by Botrytis.

                  Condrieu = 100% Viognier = lower acidity (but not "low," just lower than Vouvray); apricots, peach, pear, tropical fruits (I personally only get lots of citrus in *some* California examples and low-end, poorly made Viognier from weird locations in France). BUT one need not go to Condrieu -- several producers in the Southern Rhone produce a Cotes-du-Rhone Blanc from Viognier that range from very good to excellent. Look for Domaine Ste. Anne, among others, although truth be told, it's the best!


                  1. re: zin1953
                    Bill Hunt Jan 24, 2009 06:22 PM

                    I do find some of the replies above yours to be interesting. While I enjoy both, Viognier and many Vouvrays, I tend to find only two commonalities: they are both white and their names (as commonly used) begin with the letter "V."

                    While I find many examples of each, that I enjoy, I find them totally different wines.


                    PS thanks for the Domaine Ste. Anne reference. Most of the Cotes-du-Rhone Blanc that I have, and have had, have been Roussanne/Marsanne blends or one, or the other. Have not experienced this one, but will.

                    Even my wife has a "thing" for well-crafted Viogniers.

                    1. re: zin1953
                      Utahinboston Apr 29, 2009 12:09 AM

                      Thanks for the Viognier recommendation!

          2. wineglas Jan 3, 2009 04:58 AM

            "(also Champagne, but $20 won't do it there)"

            You are almost correct. I recently purchased NV Piper Heidsieck at $19.34 a bottle and it as better then most NV Champagnes under $50.

            1. b
              bclevy Oct 18, 2008 01:40 PM

              In the white category, to viognier I would add
              roussanne, or even better, blends of the two
              (or viognier marsanne blends). Northen CA wineries
              with wines of this type around $20 or less
              include Cedarville, Holly's Hill, Sierra Vista,
              Terre Rouge, and Cline. In fact to be honest
              I find chardonnay boring compared to roussanne.
              As mentioned by several other posters,
              pinot gris from Oregon is also a great
              substitute for chardonnay, at a much better
              price point.

              1. oolah Oct 13, 2008 11:55 PM

                I can't think of a single American wine under $20 I'd drink, merlot, chardonnay or otherwise. I also avoid Burgundy (red or white), Champagne and Bordeaux at those prices -- the good stuff from these appellations is always more expensive. Anything else is fair game.

                Some particularly good values are the Loire Valley, the Languedoc, Alsace, Spanish and Austrian wines, where I frequently find very drinkable $10-$15 wines.

                12 Replies
                1. re: oolah
                  whiner Oct 14, 2008 04:15 AM

                  >>>I can't think of a single American wine under $20 I'd drink<<<

                  I can think of one red and two white:

                  Seghesio Sonoma County Zin

                  Mason SB, Novy Viognier

                  But point taken that CA just isn't the place to go looking for value at the lower end of things.

                  1. re: oolah
                    zin1953 Oct 14, 2008 08:05 AM

                    >>> I can't think of a single American wine under $20 I'd drink <<<

                    I'll echo the Mason SB, and add the Edmunds St. John 2005 "Rocks & Gravel" -- $18.

                    1. re: oolah
                      ChefJune Oct 14, 2008 08:26 AM

                      <>>>I can't think of a single American wine under $20 I'd drink<<<>

                      Well, you all have a lot more money than I do! and although there are not a lot of great value American wines under $20, there are some! I could make a list if you want to read it, but... however, NOT Merlot, that's for sure!

                      Champagne under $20??? only at a fire sale! but there are some good everyday Burgundies and Bordeaux that are still less than $20. I do think, tho, that the Rhone Valley offers better qpr, especially on the under $20 budget, where I almost always am these days.

                      The best values outside of Sothern France, imho, are in South America. Malbecs and Carmeneres from Argentina and Chile are worth a look.

                      1. re: ChefJune
                        TonyO Oct 14, 2008 08:45 AM

                        Plenty of drinkable American wines under $20:

                        O'Reilly's Pinot Noir/Pinot Gris
                        Bogle Petite Syrah
                        Pine Ridge Chenin Blanc/Viognier
                        Dr. Frank Semi-Dry Riesling (NY State)
                        Columbia Crest Two Vines Shiraz (under $10)
                        Four Vines Zins (granted, some are over $20)
                        Boom Boom Syrah
                        Victor Hugo Petite Syrah

                        And the previously mentioned Seghesio/ Edmunds St. John wines and if time allowed, many more I'm sure.......................

                        1. re: TonyO
                          SteveTimko Oct 14, 2008 09:58 AM

                          Under $20 Chardonnay that's yummy: Foxglove, the second label for Varner.

                          1. re: TonyO
                            oolah Oct 14, 2008 10:09 AM

                            2 things:

                            1) I'm in NY, and by the time a lot of these California wines make it out here, they're more than $20 (e.g., the Rocks and Gravel, which is generally $20-22 here)

                            2) I have had most, but not all of these and they're just not my style. For my $20, I'd much rather drink a Bourgeuil, Chinon or Zwiegelt than a Bogle.

                            The problem I find with most cheap American wines is they're not content to be simple easy-drinking wines -- they're often tarted up with gobs of fruit or oak to seem more like an expensive cab -- totally wrecking any subtle flavors they may have had. But that's just my palate.

                            I certainly don't mean to imply I only drink $20+ wines -- 85% of what I drink is sub $20 from France.

                            1. re: oolah
                              bclevy Oct 18, 2008 01:47 PM

                              I think your comment pertains more to distribution of CA
                              wines. If all you can get at a low price point is Bogle,
                              this is the fault of distributors. Many Nothern CA wineries
                              sell out all their yearly production to club members, wine
                              list subscribers, and winery visitors. Very fine
                              wines can be purchased at a reasonable price in
                              this category, but you will never see them on wine shelves
                              on the East coast.

                              1. re: bclevy
                                orlwine Oct 19, 2008 01:28 AM

                                It's not always the fault of the distributors. For example, every 12-pack case of 750mL bottles of wine brought into the state of Florida is taxed $5.35 immediately. That's one of the highest tax rates in the nation for wine. Then you have shipping costs on top of that, and refrigerated trucks from CA are not cheap. Depending on how the wine gets of those trucks also affects the final cost of the wine.

                                1. re: orlwine
                                  zin1953 Oct 19, 2008 09:18 AM

                                  If you are talking about domestically produced (American) wines, wineries sell FOB to wholesalers throughout the country at the same price. And, yes, while refrigerated freight is expensive, and yes, while state taxes vary, the retail price for the wine is *relatively* consistent across the US.

                                  OTOH, the price of wines which are IMPORTED into the United States DO vary much more widely state-by-state than do domestically produced wines.

                            2. re: TonyO
                              grantham Oct 16, 2008 04:44 PM

                              Tony O, you are so correct as far as Columbia Crest goes! Almost everything from that vineyard is so quaffable. Steve Timko, at the risk of repeating myself, yet again, and discovering that I am SO prejudiced, Chardonnay? GIVE IT UP!!!!!!

                              1. re: TonyO
                                Vetter Oct 17, 2008 07:03 PM

                                Have California's lesser wines ruined everyone for American wine? I'm totally a local wines gal, and I have a good palate and decent tasting experience-- the Pac NW has some top notch wines around 20 bucks. I am honestly shocked to see the general attitude here. Maybe the boutique wines I adore don't make it outside my area much? I'm generally wondering. I don't touch Californian wine other than the odd bottle of Bonny Doon, because I don't have to.

                                And you can find lovely Oregon pinot gris for between 10-15 bucks. Avoid Rex Hill and other swill (Duck Pond, I'm looking at you), and you can do very nicely indeed.

                                Oh-- my new favorite cheap bottle of red (this week) is Tagaris Winery's budget label, Elisio Silva. Maybe some of you would enjoy some of that line. It's ten bucks here, and I'm seeing it around everywhere. K Vintner's also has a budget label that's in every Costco and grocery store that is quite respectable.

                                1. re: Vetter
                                  zin1953 Oct 17, 2008 08:11 PM

                                  Oh, boy (or girl), are YOU on the wrong track!

                                  No one here is a bigger "champion" of "drinking what you like" on this site than I. As I always used to tell my students, the most important thing you can say about a wine is "yum or yuck," and "not even the LAPD SWAT team will kick in your front door for serving red wine with fish or white wine with steak . . . "

                                  Roughly 75 percent of my cellar is European. Of the remaining 25 percent, approximately half are from California, a little less than half are from Washington State, with the remaining wines from New Zealand. Of the wines that constitute my "daily" drinking (i.e.: inexpensive wines that never make it to my cellar, but constitute the three-to-five cases at home for "casual" use), probably 85-90 percent are European because a) I can find far better values in European wines than I can from producers in the New World; and more importantly, b) because regardless of price, most of the time I prefer the way French, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, German, and Austrian wines TASTE compared to wines of various New World origins . . .

                                  But I will say I have far more Washington State Merlot in my cellar than I do Merlot from California. I have probably just as much, if not more, Washington State Cabernet -- certainly from the 1990s forward -- than I do from California (though I have a good deal more California Cabs from the 1970s and 1980s than I do Washington State from the same era.

                                  As for Oregon, I really enjoy some of the Chardonnay and Pinot Gris produced there, but generally prefer New Zealand to Oregon for Pinot Noir, and Burgundy to all . . . .


                          2. g
                            grantham Oct 13, 2008 11:42 PM

                            I always avoid American chardonnays, no matter what the price -- a member of the "Anything but Chardonnay" club. Merlot has to be spectacular to be imbibed.

                            4 Replies
                            1. re: grantham
                              ibstatguy Oct 19, 2008 09:02 PM

                              each to their own I suppose but such sweeping rules will mean that you will likely miss something worth trying. While I am rather sure that more than half of my wine is old world, I'm sure not above trying a CA chard or merlot simply because of their provenance.

                              1. re: ibstatguy
                                zin1953 Oct 20, 2008 07:54 AM


                                1. re: ibstatguy
                                  grantham Oct 24, 2008 10:40 PM

                                  You might have a point, but so many wines, so little time, one must prioritize.

                                  1. re: ibstatguy
                                    Bill Hunt Jan 6, 2009 06:41 PM

                                    Some people wear that ABC as a "badge of courage." You can substitute either varietal for the "C." I pay them no attention.


                                2. z
                                  zin1953 Oct 13, 2008 08:33 PM

                                  I have always had the "best" luck finding great FRENCH wines under $20 -- far more great wines than duds! -- than I have finding such wines from California . . .

                                  For REDS, I would look to French wines from the (generally) Southern Rhône (e.g.: Cotes-du-Rhone, Lirac, Gigondas), the Languedoc-Rousillion (Corbières, Pic St.-Loup, Coteaux du Langudoc, Montpeyroux) and the Sud-Ouest (Irouléguy, Cahors, Madrian), as well as Beaujolais and Corsica. I would also look to PORTUGAL and the wines from the Douro, Alentejão, Dão, Ribatejo, or the Estremadura; to SPAIN, and the wines from the Rioja (preferably the Rioja Alta or Rioja Alavesa), Manchuela, Montsant, Yecla, Campo de Borja, and Somantano; to ITALY, and in ITALY, to wines from Sicily, Abruzzo, Apulia, Umbria, as well as even Tuscany and Piedmonte.

                                  In addition to the Malbecs of Argentina, you/he might also want to look at the Carmeneres of Chile and the Tannats of Uruguay.

                                  For whites, I still look first to FRANCE -- there are any number of great wines from Alsace, the Loire, the Jura, and even from the Mâconnais, Côte Chalonaise, and Beaujolais, as well as some of the varietal wines bottled under the Vins du Pays d'Oc designation. From Spain, I'd look to Rias Baixas, Rueda, and the three Txakolina designatons; from ITALY, Umbria, Alto-Adige, Friuli, and the Veneto -- even Tuscany. Don't overlook the Gruner Veltiners from AUSTRIA and there are some great buys in Rieslings from GERMANY. Also there are a number of great whites from NEW ZEALAND, Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, Pinot Gris and Chardonnay from Marlborough and Central Otago, as well as some excellent Sémillons and Rieslings from AUSTRALIA's Hunter Valley and Eden Valley, respectively.

                                  Personally, I'd avoid South American whites in this price range, but YMMV.


                                  2 Replies
                                  1. re: zin1953
                                    whiner Oct 13, 2008 11:32 PM

                                    I wholeheartedly agree on the Australian Riesling point. The only Aussie wines I drink are their very good qpr Rieslings.

                                    1. re: zin1953
                                      PolarBear Jan 3, 2009 05:48 PM

                                      My first thought for a comment was no CA chards under OR OVER $20, Merlots I usually avoid but have "discovered" a few remarkable ones along the journey.

                                      Always enjoy your perspective, zin1953, especially since my taste in whites has turned to the other grapes, SB, the Chenin/Viognier by Pine Ridge previously mentioned, Albarinos from Spain, Vino Verde, an obscure Friula from Palmina, but most noteably the GVs from Austria. Lady PB and I had dinner at Hoppe's in Cayucos this past Tuesday evening and I couldn't believe my eyes looking at 7-8 different Gruner Veltliners, Lorimer was the only one I recognized. Even more puzzling was why they carry that many, we'd eaten at the Thai place in Pismo not long ago and they had pulled one of the two that they previously offered, which is why I usually bring my on bottles to complement their spicy dishes. A quick look at Hoppe's menu showed that their "Ahi Tower" dish was most likely a good match, but other than a scallop app or fish special, was really curious about the heavy weighting of the wine list. A brief discussion with the waitress revealed that the fellow that orders really likes the grape, well... so do I ... so carry on, just wish I could find more of these vintners offerings in our area (central CA).

                                    2. w
                                      whiner Oct 13, 2008 07:44 PM

                                      I also avoid Merlot and Chardonnay under $20. Actually, generally, under $40. And I, too,go for Spanish and Italian in those price ranges.

                                      Red: Lesser-known Spanish and Italian wines.
                                      White: Lesser-known Italian wines, with a few Spanish wines thrown in. Also, some basic Germans like Dr. L, Leitz Dragonstone, etc. Also some of the better value Alsatians. Also, Mason SB has never failed me for a cheapie for a party that I also genuinely enjoy drinking.

                                      2 Replies
                                      1. re: whiner
                                        Vetter Oct 17, 2008 06:56 PM

                                        No chard under 20 or 40? Wow. I find some of the Walla Walla WA chards and chard/viognier at the 20-25 dollar price point to be damn nice wines. And the Domaine Drouhin and Lange chards in Oregon around 20 are also fabulous.

                                        1. re: Vetter
                                          whiner Oct 20, 2008 10:47 AM

                                          I'm not saying I don't drink *any* CA Chard under $40. I find Landmark Damaris Reserve consistently to be an AWESOME wine. And there have been flashes of brilliance over at Walter Hansel, especially in their Cuvee Alyce. But I find these to be the exception to the rule.

                                      2. vickib Oct 13, 2008 06:27 PM

                                        It depends on your palate. I like French wine best, especially Burgundy, the Loire, and Rhone. (also Champagne, but $20 won't do it there) I also like wines from Germany, Spain, and Italy. I have this great wine store (I'm in SoCal), and I can always find something great under $20. The Loire is great for Sauvignon Blanc, and you can get some good Cab Francs in that range also. In Burgundy, whites from Mâcon are one example. I know a couple of nice ones for about $15. Cotes du Rhone are great, and often come in at that price point.

                                        2 Replies
                                        1. re: vickib
                                          RicRios Oct 14, 2008 10:51 AM

                                          "also Champagne, but $20 won't do it there"

                                          What happened with the Trouillard that used to be on Trader Joe's shelves for ... what ... $15 ?

                                          1. re: RicRios
                                            vickib Jan 21, 2009 06:13 PM

                                            Don't know about that, but if you're talking sparklers (not Champagne) under $20, well that's a whole new ball game.

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