Tuesday, December 17, 2019

2019: Top Ten Wines Over $20 (But Under $50)

What were some of my favorite wines of the past year?

Welcome to my second Top Ten Wine List. Yesterday, I posted my Top Ten Wines Under $20, which I hope you enjoyed and found useful. Now it is time for my Top Ten Wines Over $20, though these wines also cost less than $50.

Like the prior list, this list includes wines that not only I enjoyed, but which I also found to be particularly compelling for various reasons. They might be especially delicious, something more unique or just excellent values for the price. They all stood out, for some particular reason, above the other wines at this price point that I have tasted this past year.

This is a purely subjective list, based on my own preferences, and makes no claims about being the "best" wines out there. It is primarily the wines which spoke to me the loudest, even when they were subtle wines. These are all wines that I highly recommend and which I believe many other wine lovers will also enjoy.

The wines are not listed in any particular order and each choice is linked to my more detailed prior review. All of these wines are worth your consideration but please also note that the prices are approximations and the actual price may vary in your area. In addition, some of the wines might not be available in your local region, though you might be able to order them from the winery or an online store, dependent on your state's shipping laws.

1) 2004 Shavnabada Mtsvane ($39.99)
This is an amazing Georgian wine, quite unique and absolutely delicious. It is made from 100% Kakhuri Mtsvane, where the grapes were foot trodden and then it was macerated in qvevri for about five months, before aging in the qvevri for another 11 years! The wine has a light mahogany color, with an intriguing nose of nuts and savory spices. On the palate, it is a complex melange of savory notes, with basically no fruit elements. I was enthralled with its flavors, hints of salted nuts, smoke, as well as savory spices and herbs. In addition, the taste is very clean and elegant, a feeling of freshness, and you might not even believe it has been aging for 11 years. Phenomenal.

2) Gonzalez Byass La Copa Vermouth Extra Seco ($21.99)
You almost never see Vermouth on other top ten wine lists but that needs to change, especially with the surge of so many excellent artisan Vermouths. And this isn't the first year I've had Vermouths on my Top Ten lists. This La Copa Extra Seco, a Spanish Vermouth, has a 17% ABV and was produced with numerous botanicals, including wormwood, savory, clove, and cinnamon. In addition, some red fruits were added "to achieve a long and persistent balsamic aftertaste." All you have to do is to smell this vermouth and it will remind you of a Fino Sherry. On the palate, it is bone dry, like a good Fino, with a compelling blend of flavors, including citrus and peach, herbal notes, and a hint of bitter. It is fresh and elegant, with a pleasant mouthfeel and a long, pleasing finish. It would be easy to drink this on its own, simply slightly chilled.

3) T.W. Hollister Oso de Oro Dry Vermouth ($37)
Another excellent Vermouth, the Oso de Oro, made in California, with a 16% ABV, begins with a base of "quality white wine" and is macerated with a blend of 12 botanicals that include orange peel, wormwood, chamomile, rosehip, and hyssop. It was dry and light, with an intriguing melange of herbs, bright fruit, and a touch of bitterness. Nice acidity, a lengthy finish, and such a pleasing taste on the palate. It went down so easy. You can enjoy this Vermouth on its own, though I loved it mixed with some club soda and ice. It would also work well in a cocktail though I'd suggest making it the star of a cocktail rather than as a minor ingredient.

4) 2016 Hudson-Chatham "Block 3 North Creek Vineyard" Baco Noir ($24.95)
Produced in the Hudson Valley of New York, this Baco Noir wine is quite compelling. At only 12% ABV, it is easier to drink multiple glasses, and you'll want to do so with this wine. With a light red color, this wine possesses an appealing fruity nose with subtle hints of vanilla and spice. On the palate, it is smooth, delicious and easy drinking, but this isn't a simple wine but rather one with some interesting complexity. It also possessed bright cherry and raspberry flavors, subtle spice notes, a touch of vanilla, and excellent acidity. This is a versatile food wine, great for pizza to burgers, salmon to roast pork.

5) 2015 Gitana Winery Lupi Reserve ($27.99)
I loved the label of this Moldovan wine, with its wolf paw print, as "Lupi" means "wolf," and it's named after a pack of wolves that wander through the vineyard. This wine is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Saperavi, which was aged for two years in big, used oak barrels and then for another year in new barrique. This is a complex and delicious wine, with plenty of rich, black fruit flavors, mild spices, some vanilla notes, and hints of chocolate. It is full bodied and powerful, yet with well-integrated tannins, and paired beautifully with lamb.

6) 2017 Gilbert Picq Chablis ($24.99)
At a superb dinner at Mooncusser Fish House in Boston, this was one of the wines paired with our multi-course seafood dinner. It was an absolutely delicious Chardonnay, from the Burgundy region of France, with complex notes of white flowers, citrus, and minerality with a hint of briny salt. It went great with a halibut crudo and I would love to try this wine with oysters too. This is the style of Chardonnay I love the best.

7) NV Domaine Mittnacht-Freres Crémant d'Alsace Extra Brut ($22.99)
Crémant d'Alsace has a special place in my heart and I loved this example. The Crémant was produced from an intriguing blend of 60% Pinot Auxerrois, 10% Pinot Blanc, 10% Riesling, 10% Pinot Gris, and 10% Pinot Noir, all from 25+ year old vines. The wine, with a 12% ABV, was aged on the less for about 18 months. With a light golden color, and plenty of tiny bubbles, this Crémant was bone dry, with high acidity, and intriguing subtle tastes of green apple and peaches, and an underlying steely minerality. Elegant and delicious, this would be a great pairing with oysters or fried foods, as well as even a simple bag of potato chips.

8) 2017 Antiquum Daisy Pinot Gris ($24.99)
This Oregon wine, from a farm that practices "grazing-based viticulture," is named in honor of the owner's daughter, is intended to be an everyday wine. It is easy drinking and delicious, with fresh flavors of citrus, pear, and lime, bright acidity, and an underlying backbone of minerality. An excellent summer wine, with plenty of complexity at this price point, this would also be a nice pairing with a variety of seafood.

9) 2015 Henry's Drive "H" Syrah ($27.99)
I enjoyed a few delicious Australian wines this past year and loved this wine, made from 100% Syrah and with a 14.1% ABV. I found this wine to have a rich, red color and an appealing nose of blueberries and floral notes, with just a hint of spice. On the palate, there was an initial bust of bright fruit, cherry, raspberry and blueberries though it wasn't jammy in the least. As the taste progressed, there was an undertone of spice notes, especially on the finish. The tannins were well-integrated and the wine presented as silky and elegant, with a fairly lengthy and satisfying finish.

10) 2015 Pombal do Vesuvio ($27.99)
This Portuguese wine is a blend of 50% Touriga Nacional, 45% Touriga Franca, and 5% Tinto Amarela. At only 13.5% ABV, the wine had a rich, dark red color with a pleasing nose of red fruits and floral notes, a touch of violets. On the complex palate, the red and black fruit flavors were prominent, accented by some dusty spices, bright acidity, well-integrated tannins, and some underlying minerality. The finish was long and satisfying, and there was a mild earthy touch as well. Definitely an excellent food wine, with everything from pizza to burgers, steak to pasta with a hearty ragu.


Nine wine countries and regions made the list this year, one more than last year. France ekes out first place, with two wines on the list. The rest of the list is occupied by Australia, California, New York, Oregon, Georgia, Moldova, Spain, and Portugal. The list is also broken down into one Sparkling wine, two Aromatized wines, one Amber wine, two White wines and four Red wines.

I have plenty of other recommendations for wines at this price point on my blog. There are top notch wines from countries all over the world, made from an incredibly diverse selection of grapes and you can still find plenty of values too. My advice is that you seek out wines outside of your comfort zone. Explore the multitude of diversity in the wonderful world of wine. Taste and try anything new, unique or potentially interesting. I am sure your search will lead to new favorites.

If you have some of your own recommendations for wines that are over $20 but under $50, please add them to the comments.

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