Welcome to Imbibe Magazine's between-issues look at liquid culture with drink recipes, news and more. From coffee to cocktails, Imbibe celebrates your world in a glass.

Monday, December 17, 2012

20 Under $20—Imbibe’s 2012 Holiday Wine Picks

We’re suckers for holiday festivities, and to help keep the wine flowing all season long, we’ve rounded up 20 of our favorite bottles under $20—so grab a glass and celebrate.


Sparkling, Aperitif & Dessert Wines

Teeny, supremely creamy bubbles sparkle in this Spanish cava from a well-regarded family estate in the Penedes region. Produced in the Champagne method with a blend of regional indigenous grapes, it’s one of our favorite fizzers in any price range with bright lemon acidity, chalky minerality and a bone-dry finish.

From France’s Champagne region to the desert of New Mexico, the Gruet family produces magnificent French-styled bubbly. One of our favorite domestic sparklers in its price range, this wine spends two years maturing before bottling, resulting in sophisticated flavors of green apple, grapefruit and almonds.

Hosting a holiday brunch this year? Then look no further than this sprightly, subtly sweet Italian offering with notes of fresh peaches and pears, orange blossoms and honeysuckle sweetness on the finish. And for more Moscatos we love, check out our Nov/Dec 2012 issue.

From grandma’s glass to the cocktail coupe, sherry has seen quite a resurgence over the past several years, and this palate-piquing offers is an exquisite example of Spain’s most famous fortified wine with brisk acidity, mouth-watering salinity and a hint of olives and almonds.
$16/500ml., drinkupny.com

Rich and figgy with note of toasted hazelnuts, dried fruits and dates, this tawny Port holds onto a bright acidity that helps keep the sweetness in check. A longtime favorite in our book, and at a price that’s hard to beat. Serve after dinner with dessert or cheese plates.


Whites & Rosés

Jakob Schneider Kabinett Riesling 2011
This off-dry Riesling from Germany’s Nahe region deliciously balances fresh fruit up front with stone-like minerality on the finish making it a great option both on the holiday table and off.

South American Sauv Blancs are picking up steam and this one from Chile’s Maipo region is a real stunner. It’s clean and green with tropical fruit flavors and a bright grassy zip.

Combining grapes harvested from some of Sonoma County’s top appellations—think Russian River Valley, Alexander Valley and Carneros—this barrel-fermented Chard offers flavors ranging from lush tropical fruits to Meyer lemon to almonds.

Light, bright and refreshing, this Greek offering finds fans for its fruit-forward and floral flavors. It has enough oomph to stand up to richer holiday dishes, but with a lower ABV that makes pouring a second glass easy.

The eye-catching label is what first attracted us, but one sip turned into two and we’re sold from the inside out. Crafted from the Syrah grape in France’s Languedoc region, expect food-friendly flavors of ripe red berries and just a hint of fresh mint.

This free-run, stainless steel rosé from one of South Africa’s most reputable estates offers richness and body from the Cabernet grape with a fruit-driven freshness and flavors of grapefruit zest, cherries and pomegranate.


Reds
An Italian wine with both German and Austrian influence, this bottle from Alto Adige wine industry super star Martin Foradori is brisk and lively with a nuanced bouquet of flavors that range from black currants to mushrooms to sweet tobacco. A great one to gift to wine geek friends—just be sure to pick up an extra bottle for yourself.

With so many different personalities around the holiday table it can be hard to please everyone, but a bottle of Barbera usually does the trick thanks to its easy-drinking balance of fruit, acidity and tannin, and this offering from the Oddero estate comes in at close to half the price of comparable bottles but with all the taste we’ve all come to love.

The Gamay grape often gets a bad rap no thanks to the mass-produced Beaujolais Nouveau wine released every November, but elsewhere in France’s Beaujolais region winemakers are getting serious about Gamay crafting ethereal expressions like this wallet-friendly bottle that boasts food-friendly acidity and notes of violets and truffles. And for more Beaujolais we love, check out our September/October 2012 issue.

When the holiday season just calls for a wintry bottle of Cab, this inexpensive offering does the job with its dense, fruit-and-spice palate and oaky tannins on the finish. Just be sure to stock up, as you’ll be ready to crack a second bottle before you know it.

Biodynamic-produced Pinot Noir for under $20? Believe it. Crafted in Oregon’s Willamette Valley just outside the coastal foothills, this unadulterated offering is ripe and elegant with flavors of crushed raspberries and subtle smoke.

Red berry fruit, green pepper and spice—this $10 Chilean Carmenere has it all. Casa Silva consistently produces some of the best wines of Colchagua Valley and this bottle remains among our go-to favorites any time of year.

A classic wine for the holiday table, this cool-climate Zin from California’s Sonoma Valley offers up all the traditional Zinfandel flavors (think robust red berries and peppery spice) but without the big-budget price tag. 

This oaked Shiraz from California’s Layer Cake offers juicy fruit flavors that are perfect for a holiday table.
$13, bevmo.com

More fleshy and fruit-forward than traditional, all dry-fruit-and-dust Riojas, this vibrant Tempranillo from the famed Gonzalez Byass sherry house (the family-owned company responsible for the beloved Tio Pepe fino, among others) offers a decidedly modernist take to winemaking, with flavors of bright cherry, fresh herbs, and even some cocoa and spice.