It’s not difficult to find affordable wines to please a crowd. In fact, some of the best-priced, most-accessible bottles are designed to satisfy the palate of the general public. It can be more challenging to source affordable bottles crafted with narrow qualities: single vineyards, small or rare growing regions, native varieties, organic production, natural crafting, old vineyards, family wineries or award winners.
It’s challenging, but certainly not impossible. Generally speaking, the more specificity that goes into vineyard characteristics or cellar work, the more bucks added to the bottom line. But there are so many exceptions to this rule. Here is a lineup of wines under $20 (half are under $15) that boast a characteristic or two that stands out of the crowd.
These are favorable for holiday entertaining because guests will feel they are being served something special, yet the host will stay on budget. If there’s a room of wine-curious folks, these bottles serve as fine conversation starters—a cast of characters at any celebration:
The rare French growing region: Domaine Labbe Abymes Vin de Savoie 2018 (100% Jacquere | Savoie, France |$13)
Domaine Labbe is run by Alexandra and Jerome Labbe, 10 hectares of vines in France’s alpine Savoie region, neighboring Switzerland. This wine is a gem from a small producer situated in a relatively rare source. It’s hard to believe it’s available for less than $15.
The natural wine: Ulls de Mel Vi Blanc 2018 (100% Xarel.lo | D.O. Penedes, Spain | $18)
This natural white wine from the Spain’s Catalan region is made with wild yeast and has no additives, including sulfur. Each new vintage contains 10% of the previous harvest, which has aged for the year in French oak.
The Cali classic: B.R. Cohn Sonoma County Silver Label Sauvignon Blanc 2018 (100% Sauvignon Blanc | Sonoma County, California | $17)
The fresh acidity of Sauvignon Blanc makes it a friendly pair with a variety of foods and it also shapes up as refreshing aperitif. Because the grapes are sourced from around Sonoma County, rather than a single appellation or vineyard, this is an excellent price on a quality wine.
The organic sparkler: Masia Salat Organic Cava NV ( 40% Xarel·lo, 35% Macabeo, 25% Parellada | D.O. Cava | $13)
Every party (this should be written down somewhere) requires bubbles. An organic Cava with an easy balance makes for a handy cocktail or aperitif. This would also be lovely with dessert cheeses or a selection of salted nuts.
The old vine French vineyard: Château des Cres Ricards Stécia 2017 ( 60% Syrah, 25% Grenache, 15% Carignan | AOP Terrasses du Larzac | $15)
Terrasses du Larzac is a Languedoc appellation located northwest of Montpellier. The grapes for this bottle come from parcels of 21 and 11 year old Syrah vines, 42 year old Grenache vines and 49 year old Carignan vines. This is a bottle for roasted beef and winter grilling.
The 100-year old award-winner: Nino Franco Prosecco Rustico Valdobbiadene Superiore DOCG (Valdobbiadene | 100% Glera |$19)
More bubbles: Nino Franco celebrates a 100 year anniversary in 2019, one of the oldest wineries in Valdobbiadene. The fourth generation of this family of producers is at the helm now, furthering their reputation with the number one spot on Wine Enthusiast’s 100 of 2019 list.
The unexpected French twist: Paul Mas Reserve Pinot Noir 2018 (100% Pinot Noir | IGP Pays d’Oc | $13)
This wine is a part of the Paul Mas single vineyard collection, made fully of fruit from the estate’s Saint Hilaire Vineyard near Pézenas. A southern French Pinot Noir is relatively rare, so this is a chat-worthy wine to serve with your turkey.