I've had it with fruit bombs
I'm pretty sure it's been discussed before, but these big reds are so ubiquitous now...not just from CA but many from South America, and even Spain and Portugal (though often with less residual sugar and more tannin).
I'd welcome sub-$20 suggestions for more refined wines that don't insist on being big and "jammy."
Our local stores are rather downmarket....so Sherry-Lehmanesque suggestions may not help. :(
I love my family - and to each his own taste, of course - but having returned from a holiday week of nothing but heavy, alcoholic, low-acid, palate-fatiguing, boring wines with no sense of differentiation, much less place, I am so glad to be back to my own collection and preferences.
For sub-$20 wines, look to the Loire (muscadet-sevre-et-maine, Tourraine gamay, etc.) and Beaujolais (preferably cru for the latter, though village level is fine). Burgundy for that special occasion, or even a basic bourgogne.
I would say in general you want wines from higher elevations. Look for Mountain fruit from just about anywhere, or cooler climate wines. Valley floor wines Aka alot of california, Australia, and Argentian wines tend to be very fruit forward and "hotter" or higher alcohol. Cooler climate wines and mountain wines tend to have much more structure and finese to them as well as offer acidity to them. Lean toward wines from coastal regions.
Also try some washington state wines. In general they tend to not be overy fruit forward and offer complexity and acidity. There are some fruit bombs in washington as well, but not near as many as california, spain and australia.
Buy Italian wine -> more Acidity, needs food. (very general rule of thumb, ask your wine merchant for more details)
Get a rustic South African in your house: The Wolftrap from Boekenhoutskloof is very nice (and CHEAP!)
Get your hands on some Swiss reds, dunno if they fit in the price range, but you're looking for the see through reds with wood. Lovely stuff.
Thanks for all these suggestions. I'll be keeping an eye out for these.
Actually, I always knew a large percentage of red wines are not fruit bombs, but it seems that's what I've come across lately. I suppose I was venting more than anything...but I really am grateful for your suggestions.
These are my 2010 purchases within your requested specs:
2006 Pessac-léognan Ch. Picque-Caillou, $ 16.50
2008 Muscadet-sèvre-et-maine Sur lie Cuvée Harmonie, Michel Delhommeau, $ 12.99
2006 Côtes-du-roussillon-villages Mas del Rey (Jacques Montagné), $ 19.99
2008 Beaujolais Fleurie Poncié Dom. du Vissoux ( Pierre Chermette ) , $ 16.25
2007 Lirac, La Dame Rousse Dom. de la Mordorée (Delorme), $ 16.00
2008 Dolcetto di Dogliani Sorì dij But (Anna MariaAbbona), $ 12.98
2009 Jasnières Pascal Janvier, $ 16.99