You've spent all your cash on presents, but what about the wine?
December 23rd, 2011
11:00 AM ET
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Ray Isle (@islewine on Twitter) is Food & Wine's executive wine editor. We trust his every cork pop and decant – and the man can sniff out a bargain to boot. Take it away, Ray.

Holiday entertaining, gift giving, travel, you name it—the result of this season is a bank account that’s about as robust as a scarecrow on a bad day. And yet, what are you going to do, skip the wine? Utter madness. To that end, here are some of my favorite value picks from a year of tasting at Food & Wine.

$10 and under

2010 Valentin Bianchi Elsa Malbec ($8)
Nothing not to like here: plummy Malbec fruit, nice substance, soft tannins, yet enough structure to keep the wine from just being a juicy blob. Because who wants to confront a wine glass filled with juicy-blob-ness?

2010 Bogle Chardonnay ($9)
The grapes for this wine come from Clarksburg, California, which the Monkees never said a darn thing about in the song. That’d be Clarksville. And in fact when they wrote it, they were actually thinking of Clarksdale, but decided Clarksville sounded better. Ponder that little factoid while drinking this juicy, warm-climate white.

2010 Toscolo Chianti ($10)
My pick for Italian steal-of-the-year, this is classic Chianti at a weirdly low price. Bright raspberry-cherry fruit, vivid and with a touch of that Italian Sangiovese (the grape involved here) dry-leaf character; bring on the pappardelle with lamb ragù.

2010 Jaume Serra Cristalino Cava ($10)
Affordable bubbly is a necessity this time of year. Buy this one by the case. Crisp and citrusy, a perennial bargain, it comes from Spain’s Pènedes region.

2010 Pacific Rim Columbia Valley Dry Riesling ($10)
An almost infinitely adaptable food wine, this white from Washington State—primarily—has zesty citrus flavors and light herbal notes (jasmine tea comes to mind). I qualified where it’s from because, surprisingly enough, 20 percent of the blend was shipped over from Germany.

$11 to $20

2007 Hecht & Bannier Languedoc Red ($12)
A Southern France negociant firm (i.e. they buy up grapes or finished wine from small producers around the region), H&B is producing some spectacular bargains. All of their reds are good; this one is the steal of the bunch, a mocha-scented wine made from organically grown Syrah, Grenache and Carignan.

2007 E. Guigal Côtes du Rhône Rouge ($13)
Go figure why Guigal’s ’07 Côtes du Rhône is still available, but it is, widely, and that’s a fine thing. Terrific year in the southern Rhône, classic producer, and the result is a full-bodied, spicy, fragrant red that begs for slow-cooked wintery dishes like short ribs, leg of lamb, and so on.

2010 De Morgenzon DMZ Chardonnay ($15)
De Morgenzon makes one of South Africa’s best Chenin Blancs, but it’s both expensive and hard to find. This lightly oaky-yet-lively Chardonnay draws on the same winemaking talent—it was a standout in a tasting of under-$20 Chardonnays I did.

2010 Joseph Cattin Alsace Riesling ($15)
A bit hard to find, but worth the hunt: think aromatic lime candy notes, but no sweetness—it’s crisp as can be, with a minerally end and graceful spice notes.

2010 The Show Malbec ($12)
The wine for your I-love-big-reds friends, this Argentine Malbec is rich and bold, with intense berry flavors that seem entirely apropos to the bucking bronco on the label.

NV Lini Labrusco Lambrusco Rosso ($16)
The star of the recent Lambrusco resurgence (trust me, there’s one going on), Lini’s basic red Lambrusco is buoyant with fruit, has a nicely crisp, slightly tannic texture, and is a great dinner party wine. Ignore any memories you have of goofy, sweet Riunite; this is a real wine.

2007 Chateau Souverain Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon ($18)
This Cabernet isn’t exactly cheap, but it’s definitely a value because it tastes like it ought to cost at least ten bucks more than it does: rich flavors, gentle tannins, and spot-on Cabernet character.

More from Food & Wine:

Christmas Dinner Ideas

Best Fried Chicken in the U.S.

Best Gifts Under $20

Best Pizza Places in the U.S.

Easy Food Gifts

© 2011 American Express Publishing Corporation. All rights reserved.

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Filed under: Content Partner • Food and Wine • Sip • Wine

soundoff (75 Responses)
  1. WineDineDaily

    Great Wine list under $20. Here are some more wine suggestions for the Holiday

    December 25, 2011 at 9:20 pm |
  2. Jack

    I'm not going to profess to being that good with grammar. I don't know the ins and outs of it and go mainly by experience.

    December 25, 2011 at 1:38 pm |
  3. josh

    chillable red in the box is the best.

    December 24, 2011 at 10:14 pm |
  4. Chalupa

    Trader Joe's has a red and a white for $1.99 and United Foods has one $3/10 that are good.

    December 24, 2011 at 7:30 pm |
    • Backdoorman

      I am currently in prison and can tell you that I make some of the finest pruno this side of the Mississippi river.

      December 24, 2011 at 7:34 pm |
  5. derp

    you know its cheaper to buy a wine kit for lets say $80 and get 30 bottles that means each bottle will only be $2.66 each and not eight to 15 each derp

    December 24, 2011 at 2:22 pm |
    • M.E.

      I guess this means you're giving me your share of the good bottles. You have fun with your bathtub Welches grape juice wine.

      December 26, 2011 at 1:03 pm |
    • SixDegrees

      I've had several home made wines. The best made excellent drain cleaners.

      December 26, 2011 at 6:00 pm |
  6. tabby cat


    December 24, 2011 at 12:04 pm |
  7. kat anne

    my favrite wine is the one color red

    December 24, 2011 at 11:39 am |
  8. Beth

    Cupcake is a really good, inexpensive wine. Great for large parties. Everyone enjoys it. Runs $9.00-$11.00 per bottle.

    December 24, 2011 at 10:52 am |
    • RickPachuto

      I agree. Cupcake Chardonnay and Merlot are absolutely wonderful for the attractive price. Their Red Velvet, chocolately and sweet, is a little too sweet for me, but is still a unique value.

      December 25, 2011 at 2:54 am |
  9. Spaklrsz_UKnowDazWhutUrThnkng_Fabulos284

    this'z jost onna dee wurz rittn bligs evar.

    December 24, 2011 at 10:28 am |
  10. Bob Wirth

    Regarding your reference to the song Last Train to Clarksville, it was actually written by songwriters Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart, who, despite writing a lot of songs for the group, were not actually in the Monkees.

    December 24, 2011 at 8:45 am |
  11. jesse

    I'm sure most of these wines are good and all, but what I have to recommend to anyone looking for good wines is take a look at your local vineyards first. Often times they are cheaper than the mass produced wines that we see under big corporation labels and can give you some surprises when you find good ones. I live in Las Cruces and I had previously been shopping in family recommended lists till I started getting tickets, for free :D, to our local wine festival. It's then at I found out that most of the local wines go for about $10-$15 and many are very uniqe in flavor. Now I only really shop locally for mine.

    December 24, 2011 at 1:40 am |
  12. Jenn

    I try to stick with local wines. They tend to be cheaper, and I'm supporting a local winery. :)

    December 24, 2011 at 1:36 am |
  13. Rod

    Well, it's been fun deciphering your bestial yaps and grunts, but I must be off. Good night, and don't let the bedbugs, rats and fleas bite.

    December 24, 2011 at 1:26 am |
    • To the Pied Piper

      None will bite since they'll all be following you. Nighty night.

      December 24, 2011 at 6:48 am |
  14. moe smith

    here's the wine list of vinters who paid CNN royalties to mention their names. Cheers!

    December 24, 2011 at 1:20 am |
    • meemee

      Yes and notice how many are actually UNDER $10.00? There are some excellent Napa, Sonoma made wines for less than $10.00 and only one got on this list as an $18.00 example.

      I traveled in Southern France in 1997-8 and found that they are not at all shy of selling very green specimens to the public.

      December 24, 2011 at 3:15 pm |
  15. AngerBot

    lol @ "...ought to cost at least ten bucks more than it does..."

    December 24, 2011 at 1:14 am |
  16. Rod

    Enough of this working class babble! Is this free Internet night at the trailer park? Don't you people have some television to watch? Kind of them to provide laugh tracks for you...

    December 24, 2011 at 1:11 am |
    • You should know

      It must be free... you're online.

      December 24, 2011 at 6:49 am |
    • Joey

      And you just ooze elegance and sophistication. How the rest of us wish we were you. lol

      December 24, 2011 at 11:23 am |
  17. Ijoke

    What about a Rioja or Campos viejo? Freixenet or Segues Viudas?

    December 24, 2011 at 1:01 am |
  18. Phishkiss

    Im a fan of sweet wines, tried Arrow Creek sweet red, should be on sale in your area from 14$ to around 7-8, not very sweet at all just a touch but very bold, and Pacific Rim reisling is a great tasting white and a little more sweet than the red, I give em both 4/5, and as an earlier poster said, barefoot moscato is one of the best moscatos ive tried and around only 5-6$ a bottle, its very sweet and with a lower alcohol content its a great Christmas eve party with family wine

    December 24, 2011 at 12:27 am |
  19. Rod

    You "cork sniffers" know nothing about wine. You would find the subtle complexity of a fine wine confusing and frustrating. Stick to your screw-top "fortified" grape juice.

    December 23, 2011 at 11:57 pm |
    • bruce Heinemann

      dear Rod... do go suck on your rod....

      December 24, 2011 at 12:44 am |
      • Phishkiss

        Lol, Rod be trollin', got his umadbro mask and everythin'

        December 24, 2011 at 1:12 am |
      • Hint: Below your boyfriend's belt

        Rod is clearly suffering from delusions of grandeur. He'd need a suction pump and a 3-foot hose to get anywhere close to his goal. But who's got time for a treasure hunt anyway... now, let's talk about his "partner" [if you catch my drift]

        December 24, 2011 at 6:54 am |
    • Hint: Below your boyfriend's belt

      We'd much rather sniff a "cork" than what you've been sniffing, old man.

      December 24, 2011 at 6:51 am |
    • The Plumber & Poolboy

      Rod we're sorry about what we did with your ol' lady and all, we swear. I mean even for her it was pretty nasty. Stop hating.

      December 24, 2011 at 11:26 am |
  20. Mick

    Okay, everyone stop clowning around for a second. Here are the best wines under ten bucks (assuming you're getting them from a decent discount store):

    – McWilliams Cabernet Sauvignon
    – Nieto Senetiner Cabernet Sauvignon
    – Bogle Petite Sirah

    I hear wine also comes in white, but I wouldn't know.

    Okay, go back to clowing around! Go now!

    December 23, 2011 at 11:33 pm |
  21. Jokersmoker

    A couple of my favorites:
    I can't believe it's not vinegar

    December 23, 2011 at 11:30 pm |
  22. jimg

    where's Chuck

    December 23, 2011 at 11:28 pm |
    • Rocco

      I was thinking the very same thing! It's funny how the snobs never mention Chuck even after they've been fooled at blind tastings.

      December 23, 2011 at 11:39 pm |
    • winesnob?

      the last tie i tried a chuck (sauv blanc) it tasted like watered-down banana juice.

      December 24, 2011 at 12:00 am |
  23. Keksi

    Jesus wouldn't drink any of those.

    December 23, 2011 at 11:17 pm |
    • Pt

      Your right, not when he can make his own!!!!

      December 23, 2011 at 11:32 pm |
  24. Amom

    Hey! I like Riunite Lambrusco. Actually I prefer the sweet (after dinner), fruity wines. Barefoot Moscato is a good wine under $10. A great Missouri wine is Stone Hill Pink Catawba, a light rosé, fruity and sweet. It's delicious and should be around $10-$14.

    December 23, 2011 at 10:48 pm |
    • roger

      Barefoot is really good wine about 6-7 dollars a botle in some stores.

      December 23, 2011 at 11:15 pm |
  25. someguy

    Wild Irish Rose! (vomits)

    December 23, 2011 at 3:58 pm |
  26. jojo the indian circus boy


    December 23, 2011 at 3:40 pm |
  27. Short Bus

    Nick is none too bright, but we expect him to flourish in a career in the custodial arts.

    Just sayin.

    December 23, 2011 at 2:04 pm |
  28. nick

    haHAH its so funny when idiots get mad on the internet! makes the day that much better.

    December 23, 2011 at 1:46 pm |
    • St.Nick@nick

      You must be mistaken,No one gets mad during the Holidays....Now open your mouth for some Christmas sausage.

      December 23, 2011 at 2:08 pm |
    • nunyabuizwax

      I like it when dicless wonders named nick post on the internets. Just sayin...

      December 23, 2011 at 2:12 pm |
  29. DavidFriedman

    I prefer sniffing my girlfriend's blossom!

    December 23, 2011 at 1:28 pm |
    • Gary

      Who doesn't?

      December 23, 2011 at 4:19 pm |
    • The Witty One™

      Which wine do you like to pair with fish?

      December 23, 2011 at 4:34 pm |
      • Shawn


        December 23, 2011 at 6:31 pm |
    • scribble

      yah, me too

      December 24, 2011 at 12:15 am |
  30. T. Bagher

    No wine in our house!
    In our family, we always say "Alcohol Free Is The Way To Be"...We prefer nice, wholesome family activities like a sing along, or maybe some charades. Got to be in bed early before Santa arrives!

    December 23, 2011 at 12:58 pm |
    • Scott


      December 23, 2011 at 1:19 pm |
    • nick

      Give me a break...What do they serve at communion? You must be the anti-christ. Keep your opinion about alcohol to yourself, theres plenty of people that can and do drink responsibly.

      December 23, 2011 at 1:33 pm |
      • T. Bagher@Nick

        Nick, we will pray for you. There's help if you want it:

        December 23, 2011 at 1:44 pm |
      • Sir Biddle@nick

        Nick, you forgot to capitolize the word Christ. Just sayin...

        December 23, 2011 at 1:57 pm |
      • sockpuppet

        nick, twice now you reacted to sarcastic, trolly need to get your trolldar fixed

        December 23, 2011 at 2:00 pm |
    • Mick

      Yeah, we like charades too. But: Drunk. Off. Our. Ass.

      December 23, 2011 at 11:13 pm |
      • Jenn

        I'd toast to that!

        December 24, 2011 at 1:35 am |
    • cosmicsnoop

      Nude Twister is always fun with the family on Christmas eve.

      December 24, 2011 at 6:02 am |
  31. The Witty One™

    As long as there is a cork for me to sniff then I am good to go.

    December 23, 2011 at 11:55 am |
    • nick

      that wasnt very witty....just saying

      December 23, 2011 at 1:36 pm |
      • The Witty One™@nick

        It's a long running joke around here. To let you in on it, there was an article, A Wine Awakening Part three, where some dude just came in and berated people for sniffing corks. OMG! You should have been there! It was totally crazy! HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA.

        I will promptly change my name to The Witless One.

        Thank you.

        December 23, 2011 at 1:43 pm |
      • Cafe Maitre'D

        "Nick, party of one? Your seat is available in the STFU cafe. Looks like you will be dining alone again, as usual."

        December 23, 2011 at 1:43 pm |
      • Jerv@2 and nick

        LOL! No it was very funny!

        December 23, 2011 at 1:46 pm |
      • nick

        sounds like you spend to much time on the internet....just saying....

        December 23, 2011 at 1:48 pm |
      • The Witty One™@nick

        Ding ding ding! You are correct sir!

        December 23, 2011 at 1:50 pm |
      • CN Red@nick

        When did you flush your sense of humor down the old crapper, nick?

        December 23, 2011 at 1:50 pm |
      • numbnutz@nick

        Here is some lotion and tissues so you can go back to what you do best. while trolling the internets.

        December 23, 2011 at 1:51 pm |
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