Top 10 Picnic Wines
Here are our picks for 10 amazing wines that are sold in stores across the country, that are delicious regardless of vintage, and that ring up at $20 or less per bottle.
Old Vine Zinfandel ($11)
The Bogle family has been farming in California’s Clarksburg region since the mid-1800s but only ventured into grape growing in 1968. The late Warren Bogle and his son Chris founded their eponymous winery about 10 years later. The family business is currently headed by Chris’s widow, Patty Bogle, and it farms more than 1,200 acres of wine grapes in the Sacramento Delta—some of which go into Bogle’s jammy, luscious Old Vine Zinfandel, one of the best Zinfandel deals on the market.
California Sauvignon Blanc ($12)
This Sonoma-based winery’s vivid California Sauvignon Blanc can convert even the most jaded Chardonnay drinker into a lover of zesty, unoaked whites. Mick Schroeter deliberately picks a percentage of the grapes earlier than most other producers do to retain the variety’s hallmark crispness and grassy zing, then balances the blend with riper grapes that add juicy lemon-melon fruit character.
Mendoza Malbec ($10)
Nicolás Catena is probably the vintner most responsible for helping Americans realize that Argentina has the capacity to produce world-class red wines, not just affordable everyday bottles. So it’s a bit ironic that Catena’s surprisingly inexpensive second label, Alamos, is so good—as evidenced by the remarkably consistent Alamos Malbec, with its velvety raspberry fruit and toasty oak notes.
It took a winemaker from California, Mark Shannon, to put Primitivo from Puglia on supermarket shelves in the United States. His bright cherry-flavored A-Mano Primitivo (an Italian grape that’s genetically identical to Zinfandel) is made from ancient vines in this up-and-coming region of Southern Italy.
Importing Italian wine to America wasn’t enough for John and Harry Mariani (though their family has been doing so for over 70 years); they wanted to make Italian wine as well. Now, with 2,400 acres of vineyards in Montalcino, the brothers produce excellent Tuscan reds under the Castello Banfi brand, including Centine, an earthy blend of Sangiovese, Cabernet and Merlot.
Pinot Grigio ($8)
Though Folonari first became famous for Soave back in the 1970s (and set the reputation of that wine back several decades by producing a mediocre, characterless wine), the company also produces a truly delicious Pinot Grigio that’s marked by mouthwatering acidity and bright green-apple flavors. And a note on that Folonari Soave: It’s gotten a lot better.
Cordon Negro Brut ($10)
Freixenet’s ultrapopular, black-bottled Cordon Negro Brut is probably the only sparkling wine in the world that’s as famous as Moët & Chandon Champagne. And it’s a lot less expensive but also very good. A crisp, dry sparkling wine with charming citrus notes and a touch of classic cava earthiness, it’s always reliable and a pleasure to drink.
Solaz Tempranillo Cabernet Sauvignon ($9)
Osborne has been best known for its Riojas, ports and sherries—unsurprisingly, as the company has been in those businesses for the past 235 years. But a few years ago, the family (led by sixth-generation Tomás Osborne Gamero-Cí vico) branched out into the Tierra de Castilla region near Toledo to produce some of Spain’s most appealing and inexpensive wines under its Solaz label. A brilliant example of its success is its fruit-driven, spicy Osborne Solaz Tempranillo Cabernet Sauvignon.
Yellow Label Riesling ($12)
Although Wolf Blass makes many notable reds (it has won Australia’s most prestigious wine prize, the Jimmy Watson Trophy, for its $70 Black Label Cabernet-Shiraz blend a record four times), the winery is also focused on high-quality whites, including a wonderfully zippy Yellow Label Riesling that’s clean, bright and dry, marked by refreshing flavors of lemon and lime.
Reserva Malbec ($15)
Though founded by an Englishman (Sir Edmund James Palmer Norton) and now owned by an Austrian (Gernot Langes-Swarovski of Swarovski crystal), Norton is deeply Argentine—as is clear from its spicy, black-fruited Reserva Malbec.