8 Wines (way) Under $20 To Get You To Spring

Winter blues got you down? Get yourself to your local wines shop (or online retailer) and chase the cold weather doldrums away with some uplifting vino!  The selections below, mostly reds with a couple of whites thrown in for balance, reflect an ongoing evolution of taste.  Neither white is a chardonnay, as I can't seem to choke down the domestic versions of it these days. Most of the reds have bright acidity in common, and half are what I'd consider on the lighter end of the density (bit not flavor) spectrum.  All of these wines, however, I'd consider slam dunk recommendations.  If your local retailer can't put their hands on these, check http://marketviewliquor.com and/or http://b-21.com, two of my go-to online retailers.  And if you can't find these specific wines, fret not, just ask for a reasonable facsimile (same wine/region.)

Palladium Soave $11
Soave has become one of my favorite areas to explore for value and drinking pleasure. These whites shine with life and are consistently balanced. Look for subtle floral aromatics, medium-weight fruit, and food-friendly acids.

Muralhas De Moncao Vinho Verde $8  
Vinho Verde gets a bad rap from a lot of wine lovers because it's become synonymous with what I call "breakfast wine" - wine wines low in alcohol, light on substance, and in tall, skinny bottles. This stereotype has done wonders keeping the price ceiling on these wines low.  But what few drinkers know is that Vinho Verde is not a type of grape, but a region in northern Portugal.  And some of the whites made there are excellent. Case in point is this brilliant wine made of 70% albarino. Don't let the bottle shape (or price) fool you - this is good stuff.

Le Paradou Grenache $9

This insanely drinkable $8.99 red bursts with energy and flavor. It found its way into my shopping cart on impulse a year or so ago.  Since then I've re-ordered it multiple times, so it must be good.

Julia James Pinot Noir California $11
A terrific little wine perhaps best described by what it isn't: cloying, overheated, cola-infused fruit syrup. Which leaves pinot noir just as God intended. Yum. Poured by the glass at a local wine bar, the distributor told the wine shop down the street that they were out of stock. Which is industry speak for "we're only selling it to bars/restaurants who don't want their customers to know the glass they're paying for is buying us 1.5 bottles.  Fine.  (I ordered it online.)

Ruffino Chianti Superiore $9
I recently wrote about this wine and have enjoyed it twice more since.  It's nothing fancy, but available just about all over the place and a darn honest Chianti.

Thymiopoulos Naoussa Xinomavro 'Young Vines' $19
Head and shoulders the most expensive wine in this cataloging, and worth it. Saline and sublimely complex, this unusual red is like a Barolo that's been rolled down a steep hill planted to herbs and wildflowers and into deep blue seawater.

Domaine Cabirau Cotes du Roussillon $13
Bordering on intense, this meaty, structured red drinks like a Cotes du Rhone that grew up with chiseled muscles and a pair of hairy balls. Higher octane than I'd prefer, but it pulls it off just fine and that only adds to its swagger.  One of those wines you'll be squeezing the last drop out of the bottle.

Louis Latour Domaine de Valmoissine Pinot Noir $15
Grown more than 400km from Burgundy (that's why it doesn't cost four times as much), this domain is in the mountains between Marseille and Nice way in the south of France, lending this a bit more heft without being clumsy. Though not terribly sophisticated, it's got a fantastic one-two punch: classy lines and a friendly price tag.