Nine Red Wines Under $20 to Try This Fall
Breaking bread with family and friends, hosting the holiday gathering, or simply spending the evening by the fireplace? There’s a red wine for that. We asked TJ Douglas of the South End’s Urban Grape to share some economical picks from his shop for whatever the season brings.
Rio Madre Rioja 2013
Origin: Rioja, Spain
Douglas suggests this wine to bridge the gap between pinot noir and cabernet sauvignon lovers. “Light enough for pinot drinkers, but heavy enough to intrigue dedicated cab fans, this wine will make everyone at your holiday party happy without breaking the bank,” he says. It’s made with 100 percent Graciano grapes, a Northern Spanish varietal rarely seen on its own. “Extra points for creativity,” says Douglas. The 2013 vintage has fresh berries and cocoa on the nose and palate, and finishes with spicy black pepper notes.
2013 Brigaldara Valpolicella
Origin: Veneto, Italy
“Northeast Italy produces some of our favorite wines, thanks to its high elevation and pronounced mineral deposits in the soil,” Douglas says. Winemakers there are influenced by the nearby Germans and Austrians, he says, which results in more elegant, less fruit-forward wines than you find in other parts of Italy. “This is an easy-drinking, inexpensive wine that still offers a textured mouthfeel, pronounced tannins, and herbal overtones,” he says. It pairs perfectly with take-out pizza: “A greasy slice is just what this wine needs to soften its edges,” Douglas says.
Reunión Malbec 2014
Origin: Uco Valley, Mendoza, Argentina
One of the Urban Grape’s bestsellers, Douglas has also found this wine to be a popular option whenever he brings it to parties or potlucks. An expressive wine, it has plum and spice on the nose, red and blue fruits on the palate, and finishes with charcoal flavors. “The smoke and spice make this a killer pairing for roasted, grilled, or braised red meats,” says Douglas.
Luccarelli Negroamaro 2013
Origin: Puglia, Italy
“Negroamaro translates to ‘black’ and ‘bitter,’ but don’t let the characteristics of this dark, fleshy grape scare you,” Douglas says. This is a warming wine; the grapes benefit from the long, sunny days in the Mediterranean region where they’re grown, making the final product full and fat. The fruit, body, acid, and tannin of this particular vintage is well-balanced, too. “All that adds up to a wine that you can sip, glug, or pound, depending on your mood. No food required, and at $13 you can go ahead and buy yourself two bottles,” Douglas says.
Casa Silva Cuvée Colchagua Carménère 2014
Origin: Colchagua Valley, Chile
The ancestors of the Silva family, who make this wine, emigrated from St. Emilion, Bordeaux to Chile in the late 1800s. They brought along an industrious spirit, wine-making skills, and the Carménère grape. The ancient varietal originated in Bordeaux, but it is hardly ever found there anymore. “This wine will remind you of a modern-style Napa cabernet, without the price tag,” Douglas says. “The palate of black fruit, raspberry, wood barrel, and smoky bitter chocolate calls out for a hearty meal and a cold, snowy night.”
Marcel Lapierre Raisins Gaulois 2014
Origin: Beaujolais, France
Chilled reds aren’t just for the summer months. “Red wine is almost always served too warm. It tastes better at cellar temperature, but some red wines taste even better with a slight chill on them,” Douglas says. This young wine falls into that category. “Light-bodied with raspberry and cranberry notes, this explosive wine has excellent minerality and lemonade-style acid,” Douglas says. Try pairing it with duck and other gamier meats.
G.D. Vajra Langhe Rosso 2013
Origin: Piemonte, Italy
“If your heart longs for Italy, take a trip there in your mind by pouring this quintessential Italian wine,” Douglas says. To him, the cuvée smells like home, and fills his heart. “Sweet cherry, herbs, and a comforting worn leather smell turn into strawberry rhubarb pie on the palate. Booming tannins chew like a meal in itself, but the super-fresh style of the wine makes it approachable for novices and experts alike,” he says.
2012 Mercer Canyons Red Blend
Origin: Columbia Valley, Washington
This predominantly merlot, Syrah, and cabernet sauvignon blend is “cozy sweater weather in a glass,” Douglas says. Despite a nose of sweet vanilla latte, cocoa, and whipped cream, the full-bodied wine is full-bodied and dry. It “showcases America’s best rustic winemaking. This is plain old yummy wine that you don’t need to think about,” Douglas says. Bonus: Are you a fan of the Prisoner Wine Company‘s red blend? Douglas says this choice is a solid substitute, for half the price.
2014 Domaine de la Remejeanne ‘Un air de Remejeanne’
Origin: Côtes du Rhone
“Côtes du Rhone wines are known for their palate-friendly drinkability, and while eminently drinkable, this wine does not have the traditional ‘bubble gum’ fruitiness of most wines from the region,” Douglas says. The natural wine’s “potpourri nose gives way to a palate of pickled red fruits, charcoal, and granite. This is a high-toned wine, meaning it has lots of bright acid,” he says. It can be a bit aggressive, so pair it with some fat and salt to tone it down and “bring out its youthful playfulness,” Douglas says.
The Urban Grape, 303 Columbus Ave., Boston; 857-250-2509 or theurbangrape.com.