The Wine Blog

Cheap Wine Cheat Sheet: Your Guide to Good Inexpensive Wines

August 18, 2014

20 Wines Under $20

Click to see our 20 favorite wines under $20.

No matter how much you typically spend on wine, there is nothing like the thrill of finding a deal: whether that is a cheap-and-cheerful-under-$20 selection, or a bottle that tastes like $60 but costs half as much. Values in the wine world are easy to find if you know where to look. Here are 3 of our favorite rules to finding really good inexpensive wines.

Go for the classics – the historically good inexpensive wines

Just because these wines are household names, does not mean that fame has gone to their heads. No matter how popular these wines have become they rarely rise above the $20 mark.

Cava & Prosecco: sparkling wines that are stellar values.

Cava is the definition of Champagne tastes on a beer budget. What it takes the Champenoise 15 months to accomplish the Spaniards can accomplish in 6 weeks. A less labor intensive production process translates to a less labor intensive price tag: A good Cava should retail for under $20, while our favorite Champagnes are $45 and up. Poema Brut is a great option in this category. Fans of the bubbles have another reason rejoice – Proseccos like Zardetto are another choice that is as easy on the palate as it is on the budget.

Portugal: an inexpensive wine lovers paradise!

Vinho Verde is another wine that never disappoints: crisp, clean, dry, slightly effervescent, and refreshing. Not only is it low in price (the best examples come in under $12), it is also low in alcohol and calories. The Broadbent Vinho Verde is one of our favorites.

Portuguese reds are also stellar values: dry, full, and earthy with more than enough fruit to keep things interesting. Turns out the grape varieties that make delicious port also make gorgeous still wines. The Douro and the Dao are two regions worth seeking out, and we love the Callabriga Douro.

Argentine Malbec: the wine that only tastes rich.

Malbec from Argentina is a grape that proves to be consistently delicious again and again. Flavors of black raspberry, plum and milk chocolate, with smooth, supple tannins – giddyup! We love the Bodega Enrique Foster Malbec Ique.

If pricey wines are cities, then check out the suburbs, or “up and coming” neighborhoods for good inexpensive wines.

Many well-known wine regions can carry a hefty price tag in the same way that living in any sprawling major metropolis can. Just as smart city dwellers may look to the less well-known neighborhoods and outlying regions, wine drinkers can do the same. If Burgundy is Manhattan, then Beaujolais is Brooklyn (Apologies to any New Yorkers that we might have offended with the aforementioned analogy. If you have a more apt example please leave it in the comments). Some examples of the above rule:

Instead of White Burgundy and California Chardonnay try Macon.

Chardonnay lovers can be a tough crowd to please: some love rich, ripe, buttery expressions, while others prefer clean and austere. Macon from southern Burgundy offers the best of both worlds, pairing a mouth watering acidity with loads of fleshy stone and citrus fruit. Cave de Lugny Macon-Lugny Les Charmes is (awful pun up ahead) an utterly charming example.

Instead of Burgundy look to Beaujolais.

Beaujolais lies at the southernmost tip of Burgundy. Instead of utilizing the predominant Pinot Noir of its neighbor to the north, Gamay is the name of the game here. These babies feature a vibrant acidity, and are bright, fresh, bursting with red berry fruit. If you can find a selection from one from one of the “cru” regions in the area, you are truly winning. These are the vineyard sites that produce wines of unique character. Chateau de la Chaize Brouilly is one such example.

Instead of Chateauneuf du Pape, check out Vacqueryas and Gigondas.

We are suckers for the earthy, meaty, spicy charms of Chateauneuf du Pape, but we are definitely not fans of that price point. Check out its neighbors to the north Vacqueryas and Gigondas. Both are wines are powerful and concentrated with bushels of black berries, and loads of dark mineral.

If you like Barolo and Barbaresco try Nebbiolo from the Langhe.

 It is tough to find a substitute for the king and queen of wines, but Nebbiolo from the Langhe is dollar for dollar one of the best values out there: elegant and full bodied with astringent tannins, high tone acidity, and complex aromatics. Pertinace Langhe Nebbiolo is a great example.

Think different: offbeat wine regions and varieties can offer great values.

If you want to find some real deals, you need to get adventurous. Do not be afraid of the unknown. You have everything to gain and nothing to lose. If you are already well-versed in the selections below, we would love to hear some of your favorite examples.

If Pinot Grigio piques your interest, check out Gavi di Gavi, Vernaccia di San Gimignano, Verdicchio, or any of the hundreds of funky Italian varieties.

Don’t get us wrong – there are lots of great value Grigios out there, but that is just the tip of the great white Italian iceberg. Italy is flush with complex, racy, mineral-driven white wines, like the Beni di Batasiolo Gavi di Gavi Granee and Tenuta le Calcinaie Vernaccia di San Gimignano. In addition to the white wines listed above, check out floral Arneis from Piedmont, full-bodied feisty Friulano from Friuli (naturally), and Pinot Bianco from the Alto Adige.

Chenin Blanc from South Africa

Chenin Blanc from the Loire reaches glorious expressions in Vouvray, Savenieres, and Jasnieres  to name a few regions. These wines are gorgeous, but the good ones are not for everyday drinking. South African Chenin, like the Badenhorst Chenin Blanc Secateurs, is fresh, full, and floral, but much lighter on the budget.

Loire Valley reds like Chinon or Bourgueil instead of California or Burgundian Pinot Noir

Cabernet Franc is the predominant red grape in the Loire Valley. Its wines can vary from light and fresh to downright rustic (it is one of the grapes that gives Bordeaux a boost after all). The best examples are silky smooth steals like the Guy Saget Chinon Marie de Beauregard.

If you dig Cabernet Sauvignon, check out one from Chile.

A good inexpensive Cabernet Sauvignon can be hard to find. It has the ability to grow anywhere, under almost any conditions, and can withstand many methods of vinification. This is awesome for unskilled winemakers, as Cab is super forgiving. The flip side of this coin is that it can be challenging for consumers to find regions that offer consistent bang for the buck.

The key is to finding good values is to look to cool climate regions where Cabernets can ripen slowly, and maintain balance between fruit, tannins and acidity. One of our favorite locales to make this happen is Chile’s Colchagua Valley. If you want to put theory into practice, check out the Montes Cabernet Sauvignon Classic Series.

For our full list of our favorite inexpensive wines check out

“20 Wines under $20.”

Download Drync for iPhoneiPad or Android.

download_on_the_app_store_badge_us-uk_135x40_0801 google android

Amy Ullman Marketing Manager Drync Drync marketing manager, Amy Ullman,will do almost anything for glass of Champagne, loves finding a good deal, and is sucker for anyone who laughs at all of her stupid jokes.