Five Good, Cheap Wines for Under $20 (and Why They’re Good!)
As a matter of recourse, I started drinking wine in my early 20’s. Not because it was cool among my friends and peers (because it wasn’t; I was, in fact, made fun of by friends and even other prospective women) and not because I thought it would make me a more refined individual, although it helped.
[br][clear] Shallowly enough, I started drinking wine for three simple reasons:
[br][clear] (1) Beer was bound to make me fat.
[br][clear] (2) I could neither afford nor stomach (physically or morally) to drink the whiskey I enjoyed.
[br][clear] (3) There was a wine and cheese shop right around the corner from the one bedroom loft I could barely afford on what I made waiting and bartending at the time. I had a need to pinch the penny and still drink, respectfully, alone for the most part.
[br][clear] You see, for the same price I would’ve spent on (pick a fast food) and a (pick a six pack of beer/cheap booze), I could wander into the wine cellar of this shop, pick a 750 ml of an obscure up-and-comer, but decent, wine, traverse the rickety wooden stairs from the cellar to the cheese shop, buy a small hunk of whatever the counter worker told me would pair well (and they were never far off), and receive a small portion of bread, baked that day, as a courtesy on the way out the door. (I know… looking back I had it rough.)
[br][clear] But, what started as a simple way to save money, on what I perceived to be a classy evening meal, turned into a vehicle for understanding depth and combination of flavor.
[br][clear] It was also, as it turned out, good for the soul.
[br][clear] I had been cooking for a while, using wines in dishes, marinades, sauces, and finishes, but had never really consumed it on a regular basis. Wine was “old and complex”. I was “young and simple.” Don’t get me wrong, I knew protocol: white with this, red with that, buttery vs. tanniny. It seemed like wine was something I would get into later, when I was older and had less of a youthful incentive to get tipsy on less cash. Nothing could’ve been further from the truth.
[br][clear] You see, in moderation, wine is gentle but still robust in its intoxicating qualities. It can certainly make a foolish person act foolish, as any spirit can. But, It can make a conversationalist more inquisitive; a better listener. It can produce a more thoughtful intellectual. It can make lovers, of all kinds, more passionate on any front. It can produce laughs and tears all in the same sentence…an exquisite madness abounds. And, if your cards are played right you can get a good bottle cheep…even here in the states (I say sarcastically).
[br][clear] So when it comes to a drink for the soul, dinner accompaniments, parties with friends or a nice evening alone, these are the five wines I recommend for under $20. Mind you, no apologies. My tastes and flavors are mine, but they travel well among my guests and friends (and yes, for the most part I drink reds alone).
[br][clear] [strong]Spellbound Petite Syrah[/strong] [br][clear] Deep color. Floral and earthy with a peppery finish. Top notes of dark berry and reduced tannins. Pairs tremendously with lamb. Drink it alone when you’re on the verge of a bad temper. It’ll pull you out. 2010 was a good year.
[br][clear] [strong]Penfolds Koonunga Hill Shiraz Cabernet[/strong] [br][clear] Opaque, almost muddy. You can taste the grape throughout the wine opening up. The flavor never leaves the glass. You’ll get a heavy mineral or slate wrapped in fruit and surrounded by strong woods with a good balance of tannins and back-of-the-mouth feel. Great on a cold night with a big serving of pasta pomodoro or arabiata finished with a nutty parmagiano regiano. Good for a night of heavy thought.
[br][clear] [strong]Masi Masianco 2011[/strong] [br][clear] It reflects a golden light, which is reminiscent of its note of honey and flowers. A citrusy and straightforward wine that offers itself immediately upon opening. You’ll get a strong pear on the nose. Women love this wine in my experience, so serve it when they’re around or when you want them to stay. It’s great with seafood of course, but a chicken and pasta olio with plum tomato and shallot is a great pairing.
[br][clear] [strong]Cameron Hughes Meritage (any year)[/strong] [br][clear] Not too complex. Flavors of black currant and perhaps plum. A sweeter spice on the end, cinnamon or clove, and a longer finish than expected. This wine is palatable to many, so I tend to serve it when I’m entertaining. I love it with steak on the grill and will pour a little over it as it cooks. I also like it with cedar smoked salmon. This wine reminds me of good times with good friends.
[br][clear] [strong]Dreaming Tree Chardonnay 2010[/strong] [br][clear] This bears a great full mouth feel for a chard. It’s not an oaky wine by any means. In fact, I get an apple pie and brown spice scent when I open the bottle. You’ll get a citrus and pear note in the middle with a smooth finish. I like this wine with a good paella and good music. Don’t drink this one alone. If you know anything about wine you’ll feel guilty you didn’t share it.