What is the best red wine for everyday sipping? The answer to this common question can be found right here. (Some bottles were sent for editorial consideration.)
Best Cabernet for under $15 would easily be one of the varietally correct, approachable wines from Paso Robles, like Liberty School Cabernet Sauvignon ($13) or J Lohr Seven Oaks Cabernet Sauvignon ($15), both at Central Market. From Napa’s William Hill, their North Coast Cabernet Sauvignon is a steal for $14, as is Z Alexander Brown North Coast Red Blend , both at Total Wine. Raymond Winery R Collection Cabernet, with layers of baking spice, chocolate, and cherry, will only set you back $12, at Wine.com. For options under $10, try Chile’s Concha y Toro or Argentina’s Alamos, both widely available.
For Cabernet under $25, try Franciscan Cabernet ($19), Educated Guess adding Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot for a textured blend ($22), food-friendly, always consistent Justin Cabernet Sauvignon ($20), and Penfold’s South Australian Max’s Cabernet Sauvignon produced as a tribute to Chief Winemaker Max Schubert ($20). All at Total Wine.
Some think great Bordeaux for under $25 is an impossibility, especially high-quality Bordeaux. Thankfully the elevated blends that are Bordeaux’s Cru Bourgeois du Medoc meet premium standards, terroir-driven taste, and affordability, as the classification, monitored by an independent body, denotes all three criteria have been met. 2014 produced 278 Cru Bourgeois wines, including Chateau Tour Saint Joseph Haut-Medoc ($23 at Total Wine) and Chateau Greysac ($23 at Central Market.)
Italy’s Castello di Gabbiano blends Cabernet, Merlot and Sangiovese in their “Dark Knight” ($17) with cherry, fig, and dried herb. Similarly, Texas’ Fall Creek layers the same varieties in their Vintners Selection blend for an earthy expression of Hill Country fruit ($25). Tuscany’s Aia Vecchia celebrates classic Bordeaux varieties in their Lagone defining approachability with an incredible price, $14 at wine.com.
Quality Pinot Noir under $20 can be hard to find, as the difficult to grow grape inherently has a higher price. However, wineries like Erath, Willamette Valley Vineyards, Torii Mor and Adelsheim in Willamette, and California’s MacMurray Estate, Siduri, Pali and Cambria Benchmark are producing luscious, varietally correct, regional Pinot Noir wines that are ideal for enjoying daily, all retailing around $20-$25.
Tempranillo fans try one of the many Texas offerings from wineries like Pedernales, Llano Estacado, and McPherson’s La Herencia or “the heritage,” the wineries robust Spanish-style red. All around $20, at Spec’s.
Barolo wines are some of the most celebrated and expensive in the world, often held for special occasions. However, the Nebbiolo fruit, grown throughout the surrounding Langhe region has the complexity and structure of classic Barolo, without the price. Vietti Nebbiolo Perbacco is one of the best, highlighting the savory qualities of the variety for $26, at Pogo’s. Renato Ratti Langhe Nebbiolo melds dried fruit and woody herbs, $22 here.
Rhone varieties, like Mourvedre, Syrah, and Grenache, thrive in our Texas terrain, producing spicy blends for Pedernales, Lewis Wines, and Brennan all under $30. From Northern Rhone, Ferraton Fere & Fils “Smaorens” celebrates the region with a biodynamically farmed blend highlighting the earthy, rocky French terroir, delivering a spectacular wine for the price, $14 at Central Market.
For Zinfandel lovers, affordable options include the sustainably farmed wines from Lange Twins ($15) and sister winery Caricature ($13), and recently re-branded Plungerhead Old Vine Zinfandel, highlighting herbaceous notes with jammy black fruit, $10. Hess Select Treo ($16) celebrates the legacy of the winery with a non-traditional blend of Petite Sirah, Syrah, and Zinfandel for a peppery, spicy wine. All at Goody-Goody.