Tuesday, December 21, 2021

2021: Top Ten Wines Under $20

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

As 2021 has arrived, it's time to reflect upon the past year, to remember and savor pleasant memories. I've already posted a couple of my annual Favorite Lists, My Favorite Restaurants and My Favorite Food-Related Items, and it's time now to starting covering my Favorite Wines. This first list are my Top Ten Wines Under $20

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 stand out, for some particular reason, above the other wines that I've 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 strongly recommend and which I believe many other wine lovers would 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 value 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) 2020 Ameal Loureiro ($18)
It's no surprise that there's more Portuguese wines on this list than any other country. Portugal often offers many delicious value wines. This wine is produced from 100% Loureiro (from 20 year old vines), sits on the lees in stainless steel for about 7 months and has a 11.5% ABV. Although it's from the Vinho Verde DOC, this isn't what you may think of as such a wine. I fell in love with this wine from the first sip. It possessed an intriguing nose, stone fruits and floral elements, and on the palate, its complexity and rich flavors burst through. It was crisp, fresh and dry, with a delightful melange of citrus, peach, floral notes, minerality and subtle herbal touches. This wine was well-balanced with a lengthy and delicious finish. I'd highly recommend buying this wine by the case, to impress your guests during the year.

2) 2020 Esporao Bico Amarelo ($12)
This Portuguese wine, from one of my favorite producers, is a blend of about 40% Loureiro (from Quinta do Ameal) and 30% each of Alvarinho & Avesso (sourced from nearby growers). With an ABV of 11.5%, the wine remains on the lees for 3-4 months, and possesses no effervescence. On the palate, it's light, crisp and refreshing, with bright notes of lemon, citrus and floral elements. It's a simple wine, in a good way, something to just sip and enjoy, especially on a fine summer day. It would also pair very well with seafood or light dishes. 

3) 2019 Uivo Renegado ($15)
This Portuguese wine is rather unique, a field blend of more than 25 indigenous grapes, both red and white, in a rough 50/50 mix. The vines are 70+ years old, and grow on 2 hectares of schist and granite at an altitude of about 650 meters. The grapes are trod by foot in large granite lagares, and undergo spontaneous fermentation with wild yeasts. About 5% of the wine is aged for six months in 2-3 year old chestnut barrels and the rest is aged in cement. It's also not fined or filtered, and has only an 11.5% ABV. The wine has a dark pink color, resembling a Rosé, and on the nose, there are red berries and subtle herbal notes. On the palate, it's crisp and fresh, with tasty cherry and strawberry flavors, and a savory element, a subtle melange of herbs and spice. There is also a hint of spritz, which enhances the refreshing nature of the wine. It possesses plenty of complexity, especially at this price point, and has a pleasing finish too.  

4) 2017 Chateau Vartely Individo Saperavi ($16)
From Moldova, this wine is made from 100% Saperavi, aged for about 12 months in oak and has only a 13.5% ABV. This was a pleasing, easy drinking wine, one which should appeal to many different palates. It possessed a fruity aroma, with only a hint of spice, and on the palate, the fruit was prominent, delicious notes go ripe plum, blackberries and black cherry, with subtle spice notes and a hint of herbs. It was silky and smooth, with a moderately long and enjoyable finish. Simply delicious, although it wasn't a simple wine! You could enjoy this wine on its own, although it would work well with a wide variety of foods, from pizza to burgers.

5) 2020 Tussock Jumper Chenin Blanc ($11.99)
From South Africa, this wine is made with 100% Chenin Blanc and has a 13.5% ABV. It was produced with minimal cellar intervention, and spent about four months aging on the lees. I found this vintage similar to that of 2017, possessed of crisp acidity, tropical fruit flavors, and some subtle mineralogy. There were some peach notes in this vintage, and it had a pleasing and fairly long finish. I paired the Chenin Blanc with some simple seared scallops, and it was a fine pairing. This wine is very food friendly, and perfect for the summer, sipping on its own, or paired with salads, chicken, and seafood. 

6) 2017 Vina Skaramuca Plavac Premium ($16)
This Croatian wine is made from 100% Plavac Mali from vineyards in Pelješac and the Dingač. It was fermented in stainless steel, aged for 6 months in large 3000L barrels, aged for another 6 months in the bottle, and has a 13% ABV. This is a lighter, easier drinking Plavac Mali, with plenty of tasty red and black fruit flavors, good acidity, and some subtle spice notes. This is an everyday wine, perfect on its own or with everything from pizza to burgers, tacos to salmon.

7) 2017 Fronton de Oro Tinto ($19.99)
From Spain's Canary Islands, this intriguing wine is a blend of Listán Negro and Tintilla de Rota.  The wine is fermented in stainless steel tanks, and then aged in mostly used American oak for about three months. With only a 13.5% ABV, only about 4,000 cases of this wine are produced. This is a medium-red colored wine, with an appealing nose of red fruits, floral notes, and hints of spice. On the palate, there's a freshness to the wine, with delicious and juicy tastes of cherry, blackberry, and plum. Good acidity, nicely balanced, a hint of earthiness, and on the finish, there's a nice peppery kick. With a nice complexity, this wine very much appealed to me. It would pair well with burgers to pizza, barbecue to salmon.

8) 2020 Bott Freres Rose d'Alsace ($19.99)
The wines of Alsace also have a special place in my heart. This tasty Rosé is made from 100% Pinot Noir, from 20 year old vines in chalky soil, and was aged in stainless steel tanks for about 8-10 months. With a 14% ABV, the wine has a rich pink color and an appealing aroma of fresh red berries and floral notes. On the palate, it's fresh and crisp, with tasty red fruit flavors, especially raspberry and strawberry, with a floral accent, and a nice streak of minerality. Well balanced, complex, and with a lengthy finish, this Rosé is absolutely delicious, perfect on its own or paired with food. 

9) 2020 Sainte-Famille Lost Bell Baco Noir ($19.99)
Nova Scotia wineries are producing some interesting and delicious wnes. This Nova Scotian wine is made from 100% Baco Noir, although the winery website doesn't provide any details on this wine and its production. It has an 11% ABV, making it one of the lower alcohol red wines I've had in some time. It's a dark colored wine, with pleasant black fruit aromas and a hint of spice. On the palate, it's medium-bodied, easy drinking, with lots of juicy black fruit flavors, including blackberry and black cherry. It's an everyday wine, fine on its own, although it will pair well with everything from burgers to pizza, pasta to stews. It is a relatively simple wine, but not a one-note wine.

10) Jost Vineyards Selkie Rose Frizzante ($19.99)
Also from Nova Scotia, this sparkling wine is produced from a "proprietary blend" of grapes, which may include a couple hybrids, DeChaunac and Marquette. It's a lightly sparkling wine, produced by the Charmat method, and only has a 8.5% ABV, making it much lower alcohol than many sparkling wines. It doesn't appear this wine underwent any oak aging. The Rosé has a bright oink color and an appealing nose of bright red fruits. On the palate, it is fresh and crisp, with a light effervescence and delicious red berry flavors with hints of citrus, and a mild sweetness on the finish. It's tasty on its own, although it would pair well with a variety of dishes, including dishes with a bit of spicy heat, as the mild sweetness would work well. 

Seven countries/regions made the list this year, with Portugal in first place, occupying three spots on the list. Nova Scotia was in second place with two spots, and the other countries, Moldova, South Africa, Croatia, Spain, and Alsace, occupying one spot. As for wine types, the list is also broken down into one Rosé, three Whites, five Reds, and one Sparkling. I have other wine recommendations on my blog and you just have to search for them. 

If you have some of your own recommendations for excellent wines under $20 you've enjoyed, please add them to the comments.

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