Feature Coverage

20 Wines Under $20: Reds for Winter Moods and Foods

“I’m not one to adhere rigidly to the idea of drinking seasonally: reds when it’s cold, whites and rosés when the weather heats up. This is textbook nonsense that makes it seem as if temperature is the only consideration in choosing a wine.

“But this is winter, a time to hunker down. For many, that means seeking pleasure in long, slow cooking.

“In Manhattan, where I live, the idea of a hearth may be fanciful, but the warmth of the oven or stove, with a bubbling pot of beans or a simmering stew, serves the crucial figurative function.

“The sorts of deep, soulful flavors that come from blends of herbs and spices, long braises, and meats and birds roasted on the bone require specific sorts of wines. Most often they are reds, but not just any sort of red. These foods demand staying power and the ability to stand up to robust flavors.

“Yet they must also fulfill the fundamental roles of providing refreshment and enhancing meals without overpowering them. This means wines that are balanced and energetic, substantial rather than ethereal, yet not blusterous or domineering.

“Here are 20 red wines that meet those requirements, not ranked in any particular order. All are in that $15to$ 20 sweet spot where price intersects with quality and distinctiveness to yield great value. You can certainly find plenty of sound wines for less than $15, but chances are they will not be as interesting.

“For more than $20, you can start to add in wines that may fit the bill from more highly regarded regions, like the northern Rhône, Priorat, even Burgundy, though pretty soon you could be spending a lot of money.

“Staying in the $15 to $20 range requires searching outside of the status areas, and trying wines that often come from little known regions, are made from grapes that are not celebrated, and are frequently in limited production. If the wines are more familiar, like California cabernet sauvignon or Oregon pinot noir, they will often be made from young vines, or come from surplus grapes that were sold off.

“What you won’t find here are fabricated, artificial products made with technological shortcuts or grapes that come from inappropriate areas, which permit production of cheap bottles in great quantities.

“This means that most people will be able to find only some of these wines. As always, ask for other recommendations at the best wine shop nearby…

Volpaia Chianti Classico 2014
“I keep hearing that the public has turned away from Chianti. Perhaps people are tired of familiar names, or maybe Chianti was its own worst enemy, regularly redefining itself in the 20th century until nobody knew what to expect. Regardless, the result is that many of the wines can be great values, like this one from Volpaia, gorgeously fragrant of cherries, herbs, tobacco and earth, with the acidic structure characteristic of the sangiovese grape.”

Read the full article at New York Times.


Eric Asimov, January 12, 2017
20 Wines Under $20: Reds for Winter Moods and Foods