Wednesday, November 19, 2014

TOP 20 UNDER $20 of 2014!!!

It's that time of the year—the mercury drops, the holiday season approaches, the days get shorter… and the Wine Minx posts her "Top 20 Under $20"! Like leaves falling from the tree and shiny-nosed Rudolph, my most popular blog is BACK.

Don't look so forlorn, Andrew—you're buying us wine!
You may recall that last year was a tricky one; I didn't even find 15 wines for the list, alas. But in 2014 I had a surfeit of lovely options to choose from… so there are actually 21 this year. Why not? My blog, my rules!

Yes, there are three rosé sparklers—because they are just THAT DARN GOOD. Chile, Portugal, and Spain had a solid showing (no surprise, they're great for value wines,) but we were nicely spread out all over the world with ten different countries represented, including Greece, Austria, and Morocco. Yep, Morocco. 

I would gladly drink a case of each of these, but will note some particular standouts with a "*" because they deserve it. Okay, enough o' my yakking, let's get to it!


2010 Luis Pato Vinho Espumante, Portugal: was served this at Oxheart restaurant when I was in Houston. Amazeballs! Tart and tangy but unusual and herby too. Let it warm up and open up. Delicious. Made from the Baga grape. ~$13.

*NV C. Greffe Vouvray Brut Excellence: nose of taffy and white flowers, orange peel, white chocolate. Pleasing mousse, rich in flavor, a bit of brioche to ground it, straddles the line beautifully between complex and easy-drinking. Well, well, well, what a find. ~$19.

NV Dürnberg Brut Sparkling Rosé, Austria: made from Zweigelt, with loads of fruit! Well-balanced, herby, excellent aperitif, good body and character. Supremely quaffable. An absolute party fave. ~$15.

*NV Louis Bouillot Rosé, Cremant de Bourgogne: light pink. Tasty strawberry and honeycrisp apple. Dry, good zingy mousse, nice balance, long finish, great to pair with pork or T'giving turkey! More, please. ~$16.


*2013 Caliterra Tributo, Leyda, Chile: 100% Sauvignon Blanc. Pale straw gold color, fresh nose of kiwi and gooseberry, lemon, papaya, lime curd. Well-balanced fruit and acidity, grass and fresh herbs on the (long) finish, minerality, kelp/seaweed, quaffable but complex. ~$15

*2012 Feudo Arancio Grillo, Sicily: I drank Grillo as I recently wandered all over Sicily, falling in love with its good weight and body, and lemony, herby character, with intriguing spicy white florals. Feudo Arancio makes a great one, yummmm. And only ~$9!

2012 Saracina Unoaked Chardonnay, Mendocino, CA- white peach, pear, lemon zest, fresh tarragon on nose. Big body, goosed by 4% Viognier in blend, not too high alcohol. In the mouth, tasty fruit and yellow flowers, solid acidity, and minerality on the finish. ~$17.

2012 Ouled Thaleb: white blend (60% Faranah, 40% Clairette) from… Morocco! Pale straw color, melon, grassy, light, spicy finish, lite acid, v. quaffable, minerality, pear, yellow flowers, orange blossom, yellow apple, melon, bit of mint, medium weight, pleasant finish. ~$14.

*2013 Esporão Monte Velho, Portugal: 40% Antão Vaz, 40% Roupeiro, 20% Perrum. Don't let those unusual grapes throw you. Very floral nose, a bit spicy, with white peach and melon. Über rich in the mouth! Luxe. Long finish, just enough acid to balance. Holy cow, love this. A ~$10 STUNNER.

2011 Astica Torrontes, Cuyo, Argentina: pale silvery-gold. Straw and white flowers, rich in the mouth, lemon zest, excellent acidity, long finish. Your next "house white," at only ~$6. 

2013 Quinta da Aveleda, Portugal: 80% Loureiro and 20% Alvarinho— maybe the best Vinho Verde I've ever tried. Not the usual "light and forgettable," it was super-tasty, with green melon, grapefruit, a good body, and steely minerality. Delicioso! ~$9.


2012 Domaine de la Sanguliere Rosé Juliette, Provence. Tried this when I was looking for rosés to suggest for a friend's restaurant. Extremely quaffable, loads of berry fruit but also herbs and minerality. Can't stop sipping this one! Don't think about it only for summer, either. ~$13.


*2011 Cuatro Pasos, Bierzo Spain: Mencía is the grape. A crowd-pleaser for sure. Spicy macerated berries, pepper, smoke, lots of herbs. Complex, with a well-balanced, lengthy finish. On second thought, forget the crowd, drink it all yourself. ~$10.

*2011 Saint George Aghiorghitiko, Nemea, Greece. Tons of floral perfume, rose, violets, bright and tangy in the mouth, cranberry, pomegranate, bit of earth and herbs. Medium-body wine in a light-body suit. Excellent. ~$14.

2013 Campo de Borja Los Dos, Spain: Grenache/Syrah blend. Medium ruby color, bright cherry nose! Bramble fruit. Bit of mushroom and herbs. Spicy in the mouth, with crunchy fruit that turns plush on the long, bright finish. Cheerful and a little sexy. A steal at ~$8.

*2012 MontGras Antu by Ninquén Syrah: Colchagua, Chile. Medium ruby, interesting nose of lilac, violets, pepper, blackberries, clove, licorice, and a bit of oak. Light but lingering spice. Less-ripe fruit on palate, but rich, long, integrated finish. Herbs, touch of vanilla and chocolate, juicy and lovely. (I drew a heart.) ~$12

2012 Underraga Pinot Noir, Maipo, Chile: ripe bramble fruit, blueberry, spice, clove, sweet pork sausage kinda thing, smoke, sage.V bright acidity, needs to be paired with food, yum! ~$11.

2013 Luzon Verde Monastrell - black fruits, plum, heady aromatics, bit of chocolate, not overly heavy-duty. Good acidity, tasty. A very solid offering at ~$10.

*2012 Sobon Hillside Zinfandel, CA: smoky, peppery, black cherry, blackberry nose. Punch of bright berry fruit and ripe plum, lip-smakingly tasty, simmers into long, balanced, soft finish. Super ripe fruit but nice balancing pepper and minerality. ~$12.

2012 Avignonesi Rosso di Montepulciano: cedar, cherry liqueur, bit of licorice, sage. Tasty and well supported by balanced tannins, herby and woody notes emerge over the finish.  Great representation of Italian flair for only ~$18.


NV Taylor's First Estate Reserve Port, Portugal: the youngest of their offerings and arguably the most approachable. Intense fresh fruit, luscious, quite "wine-like," as its higher alcohol is tempered by the brightness of the fruit. Wow. ~$17.

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Well, Wineaux, there you have it. 21 stunning wines under $20. Plenty of variety to get you through Turkey Day, the holidays, AND the New Year, without breaking the bank! Try some, let me know what you liked, or if you have your own 2014 <$20 faves.