The end of 2015 is fast approaching, so what better way to close out the year then by updating our annual list of the best red wines under $20! This year’s list features a ton of new bottles never before highlighted on one of our Top 10 lists. France and California make strong showings in this year’s edition of the best red wines under $20, but we cover everything from Argentina to Washington, with stops in Australia, Italy, Portugal, Spain, Washington and even Turkey along the way! With multiple price points (all under $20 of course), varying styles, and lots of different grape varieties — the 2015 Top 10 has something for every winelover. Read on for our list of the best red wines under $20!
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First up on our 2015 listing of the best red wines under $20, is a 100% Garnacha from the Calatayud. One of the very best values in the wine world today, we’re huge fans of Garnacha from Spain and this one definitely delivers. A super rich, super ripe wine full of dark berry fruit, lots of spice, great earthy notes and plenty of minerality you’ll be double checking the $7 price tag after just one sip.
Next up on our best red wines under $20 list is blend of 70% Touriga Nacional and 30% Tinta Roriz from Dao, Portugal. This one has an SRP of $35 but can be found for as low as $11, a smoking deal. Next to Spanish Garnacha, Portuguese red blends are probably my top value recommendation. Don’t let the unfamiliar grape names throw you off — with tons of old vines those grape varieties used to make Port also make a killer table wine. This one needs a bit of time in the glass to open up but when it does you are rewarded with a smooth, rich and spicy wine with a long, dusty finish.
While most people tend to think of Cabernet when they think of California, in my opinion the Golden State owns the market on Zinfandel and Petite Sirah. This example of Zinfandel (with 3% Petite Sirah) from Mendocino is a perfect example, but areas like Lodi and Dry Creek Valley also produce killer examples that could have made our best red wines under $20 list. (And in fact, another one did — check out wine number two on this list). At just $13, the Artezin offers great value with flavors of cherry, cranberry, raspberry, strawberry, vanilla, black pepper, licorice and even a touch of cinnamon all working in harmony.
GSM blends (Grenache – Syrah – Mourvedre) are quite the rage these days. Made famous in the Rhone Valley of France, California has jumped into the market in a big way. Not to be forgotten in this mix is Australia, which can turn out some fantastic GSM blends as well. This example from the Barossa Valley is a particularly flavorful one that prices out around $14. With an intoxicating aroma, we knew this fresh, juicy and tart blend would be a shoo-in for our best red wines under $20 list as soon as we sniffed it.
Our only stop in Italy on our list of the best red wines under $20 is a 100% Negroamaro (nay-grow-ah-MAH-ro) from Salice Salentino (SAH-lee-chae sah-len-TEE-no) in Puglia. At just $12 this juicy and delicious, moderately tannic, dark berry bomb of flavor is sure not to disappoint and another reason to not be afraid of unfamiliar grape varieties.
For the first time ever on one of our top 10 lists, the country of Turkey makes an appearance with this blend of native and international grapes from Western-Northern Anatolia. 35% Okuzgozu (Oh-cooz-goe-zue), 30% Syrah, 15% Merlot, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon and 10% Bogazkere (Bow-aahz-keh-reh) combine to form a juicy, dry, spicy, smooth, savory and balanced wine. At only $13, this is a great introduction to an ancient winemaking region that is now rediscovering its roots.
There are a number of Malbecs that could have made our list of best red wines under $20 but once again the one that does is a Malbec based blend rather than a single varietal. Similar to last year’s Dona Paula Black Edition and the Hermanos Malbec Tannat the year before, our favorite Malbec this year is only 70% of that variety. The Santa Julia; however, is definitely unique in that it adds in 30% Cabernet Franc, a blend I haven’t seen before from Mendoza. A fantastic find at only $10 with the Cabernet Franc adding an earthy dimension to the fruity Malbec.
Next up on our list of the best red wines under $20 is a blend of Syrah, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Viognier, and Malbec from Horse Heaven Hills, Washington. Smooth, lush, velvety, balanced and delightful, rich dark fruit and nice touches of spice and chocolate lead into the dry, lingering, chocolate soaked fruit finish. This one might just be my new favorite red blend under $10.
France makes a strong showing on this year’s list of the best red wines under $20 with three of the top five selections. With 70% Syrah and 30% Grenache this blend from Cotes Catalanes, Languedoc-Roussillon is a worthy contender. Black cherry, blackberry, blueberries, plums, spice, pepper, herbal notes and even a little black olive all highlight this smooth, rich, juicy and delicious wine. With good acidity it’s a great option to have on hand as it will pair easily with lots of different foods. It ends dry with a bit of minerality coming through on the finish.
The only Cabernet on our list of the best red wines under $20 this year, this blend of 81% Cabernet Sauvignon, 11% Merlot, 4% Cabernet Franc, 3% Petit-Verdot and 1% Malbec comes from Columbia Valley, Washington. It opens with a wonderful aroma full of black cherry, caramel, vanilla, blackberry, plum, lots of baking spice, coffee, chocolate and more. Taking a sip reveals a seriously delicious wine where everything just comes together. With fabulous balance, tons of rich flavor and plenty of complexity this wine is simply a pleasure to drink. It ends dry with good length and features a burst of spicy mineral notes on the finish.
The next stop on our list of the best red wines under $20 goes back to France for the only box wine on this year’s list. And what a box this is with 90% Carignan from 120 year old vines! With a depth of flavor and subtle complexity that can only come from old vines, this wine features beautiful, candied red fruit aromas along with a touch of smoked meat from Syrah. Be sure to let it breathe because it just gets more and more expressive the more time it has in the glass. Tasting reveals rich and juicy red fruit with wonderfully integrated spice that carries over to the very dry, very long, slightly chalky finish.
The oldest vintage on our list of the best red wines under $20, this Zin with a touch of little Petite Sirah from Lodi, California comes with a price tag of just $16. Produced from 115 year old vines the wine features an intoxicating aroma that’s so strong it almost generates its own gravitational pull. Thanks to its smooth mouthfeel and loads of luscious berry fruit interlaced with excellent sweet tea notes, this wine is simply a treat for your tongue. On the finish the spice and black tea flavors culminate into a wonderful crescendo that resolves into chocolate and coffee notes that linger for what seems like days.
And finally we come to the number one wine on our list of the best red wines under $20! This blend of 55% Grenache from 60-75 year old vines and 45% Syrah from 40 year old vines comes from Saint-Drezery, Coteaux du Languedoc, France. The wine spends 12 months in concrete tanks and has been spotted for as low as $16 at Costco. The wine begins with the classic garrigue (herb) notes of the region but each sniff reveals something different in this wonderful and captivating bouquet. Smooth, lush and even a bit chewy in the mouth this is a full-bodied wine full of depth and character that puts most others at this price point to shame. It ends rich, very dry and extraordinarily long with some limestone mineral notes coming out at the very end.
You can also check out our list of the Top 10 White Wines under $20 and previous versions of the Best Red Wines Under $20 lists here.