Best $20-and-Under Fall Red Wines
2015 Tasca d'Almerita Tenuta Regaleali Nero d'Avola, Sicily ($10)
The most widely planted black-skinned grape in Sicily, Nero d’Avola, was first identified in 1696 by a Sicilian botanist. Tell that to your friends well after you’ve opened a second bottle of this juicy red, which boasts black raspberry and chocolate-covered strawberry flavors, underscored by a current of deep earthy notes, sweet oak spice and dark chocolate on a lengthy finish.
2013 Castello di Bossi Chianti Classico DOCG, Tuscany, Italy ($20)
Made with 100 percent Sangiovese grown in clay and chalk soils in the Bossi Vineyard in Chianti Classico and aged in French barriques and large casks, this is a terrific, easy-drinking Chianti backed by great structure. A Beautiful deep ruby red in the glass, the nose and palate gushes with ripe black cherry fruit, graphite and sweet oak spice. Hints of vanilla bean and red florals round out a great finish. Seek this one out.
2015 Catena Zapata 'Catena' Cabernet Sauvignon, Mendoza, Argentina ($19)
Cabernet Sauvignon grown in the high grounds of Mendoza is capable of rich, powerful wines, with impeccable complexity, and this 2015 Catena Cabernet Sauvignon is no exception. Vines are rooted at incredible elevations — between 3,000 and 4,700 feet (close to double the elevation of any grapes growing in Napa Valley). Luscious dark berry aromas lift out of a deep, dark ruby colored wine, revealing layers of black cherry, black plum, violets, clove and creme-de-cassis. Full-bodied and absolutely pleasing.
2012 Nicolas Thienpont Château La Prade, Côtes de Francs, France ($18)
This five-year-old Merlot and Cabernet Franc blend is drinking beautifully right now — clean and fresh. Produced by the well-regarded winemaker Nicolas Thienpoint from his “La Prade” vineyard in the Cotes de Bordeaux, this is a terrific value wine that delivers excellent complexity—deep ruby in color, fresh aromas of red berries and sweet oak spice are met with an abundance of juicy blackberry fruit upfront, followed by violet notes. Best served with a good chill (30 minutes in the refrigerator).
2013 Falesco 'Tellus' Merlot Umbria IGT, Italy ($13)
Aged in French oak barriques, this 100 percent Merlot packs a bottle full of pleasure from the pop of the cork. Shimmering ruby in color with garnet hues, ripe and juicy black raspberry fruit oozes while vanilla bean notes kissed by sweet tobacco and plum jam rounds out a great wine, just barely hinting at black truffle on the finish.
NV Chateau de Saint Cosme Little James Basket Press, Rhone, Vin de France ($12)
This is one of my favorite value reds of the year. Although the 2015 vintage is associated with this wine, that’s because it was bottled in 2015. This mostly-Grenache-based wine is actually an assemblage (blend) of multiple vintages, with some wine in the cuvée dating back to 1999. Totally compelling, with complex aromas of dried violets and licorice, cinnamon and spice. The palate is awash in black cherry and strawberry compote, earthy notes, and has excellent tannic grip. A savory finish reveals layers of fried florals and spice.
2014 Plungerhead Dry Creek Zinfandel Old Vine ($17)
What’s not to like about this wine year in, year out? With a fresh look and plastic twist-off cap, this should be your go-to picnic or outdoor concert red. Rich and full-bodied, boasting a creamy mouthfeel, packed with gobs of blackberry and blueberry compote flavors, vanilla and toasty oak spice. Pure pleasure.
2013 Marchesi de Frescobaldi “Nipozzano” Chianti Rufina Riserva, Italy ($18)
Lovers of classic Chianti from a stalwart producer will want to lock down a case of this gem—ruby-garnet in color with classic sour red cherry aromas and flavors, juicy, with delightful plum, graphite and new-oak spice. Enjoy this vintage now and for another three to four years.
2015 Girl & Dragon Cabernet Sauvignon, North Coast, USA ($13)
This California cab is a solid bet for a powerful, robust red that delivers a great deal of enjoyment. Dark berry aromas, graphite, vanilla, and sweet oak spice, boasting a plush and mouthwatering mix of black raspberry, black cherry, mocha and dusty tannins to boot. I’m not calling this a “porch pounder” exactly, but I can’t deny how easily quaffable it is.
2014 Esporao Quinta dos Murcas 'Assobio', Douro, Portugal ($13)
I wish more gems like this red from Portugal’s Douro Valley flooded the American market — deep ruby in color with garnet hues, featuring a mix of wild red berry fruit, vanilla and baking spice, baked strawberries and caramel with a hint of mocha on the finish. All that complexity comes from 20-year old vines planted in extremely steep slopes. A great value discovery.
2015 Bodega Septima Malbec, Agrelo, Argentina ($9)
Here is your go-to, anytime, easy-drinking, Malbec that requires nothing more than a glass with a big bowl and a no-fail corkscrew. Wild mixed red berry fruit on the nose, hinting at deep earth notes lingering in a the shadow of cocoa nibs, dark brambly fruit, and milk chocolate on the finish.