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Oct 13, 2008 05:29 PM

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

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 ?

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  1. 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

      "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

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

    2. 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

        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

          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. 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

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

          1. re: zin1953

            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. 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

              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

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

                  1. re: ibstatguy

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


                2. 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

                    >>>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

                      >>> 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

                        <>>>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

                          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

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

                            1. re: TonyO

                              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

                                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

                                  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

                                    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

                                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

                                  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

                                    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 . . . .