When looking for wines, I usually gravitate to wines that can be sipped without food because they are Just. That. Good. And I rarely, if ever, pay much more than $20. There are too many fantastic choices for $20 and under.
For this article, I have selected some of my favorite grape or regional varieties. I prefer less fancy varieties because they are more like a good table wine that can be had everyday.
When pairing these, or any wine, with food, one safe rule of thumb is to think of where the grapes were grown and the food of that region. However this rule was made to be broken, so feel free to experiment.
La Quercia Montepulciano d’Abruzzo Italy ($12) 100% Organic
Grown on a windy hillside overlooking the Adriatic Sea, this wine goes well with lasagna, meatballs, Bolognese sauce over pasta, lamb, pork and grilled meats. Think Italian!
Bodega Norton Reserva Malbec ($19)
Grown in Argentina on a plantation founded in 1895, this wine goes well with Carolina style pulled pork or chicken with barbecue sauce, beef tenderloin, heavier Asian foods, beef stew, prime rib, or pasta with mushrooms and sausage.
Finca El Portillo Malbec ($11)
Another, slightly cheaper, Malbec from Argentina, this also goes well with Carolina style pulled pork or chicken with barbecue sauce, beef tenderloin, heavier Asian foods, beef stew, prime rib, or pasta with mushrooms and sausage.
Sierra Cantabria Tinto Rioja ($13)
Made by a family with a strong belief against using herbicides and pesticides in their vineyards, this wine goes well with cured meats, mushrooms and olives. Think Spanish!
Coltibuono Cetamura Chianti ($11)
This Etruscan wine was conceived with the intention of creating a young, pleasant wine, perfect for every day. The wine has and essence of cherries and wild berries and is considered soft and balanced. Could drink with or without food. Great with cheeses.
Edna Valley Vineyard Paragon Chardonnay ($12)
An award-winning wine which tastes of quince, pear, apple, apricot, pineapple, clove, cinnamon and vanilla. With all those flavors, who needs food? But if you must eat, try chicken with rosemary and lemon, turkey or chicken sandwiches, fish, lobster or crab.
Clean Slate German Reisling ($9)
From the Mosel River Valley, this wine tastes of peach, lime and subtle mineral flavors. It goes well with vegetarian dishes, especially root vegetables, cheeses, grilled or caramelized onions, chicken and fish.
2013 Pine Ridge Chenin Blanc-Viognier ($15)
From the Sacramento River Delta, this wine goes wellwith a number of dishes, from light salads to seafood to, most notably, foods with a hint of spiciness, such as Thai curry, a sushi dish, or seared halibut.
Lucien Albrecht Gewürztraminer Reserve ($19)
A classic Gewurtz made from a vineyard established in 1425. Most likely, they know what they are doing after 500+ years. This wine can be had alone or with any meat or rich, creamy poultry dish.
Little James Basket Press Vin de Pays d’Oc ($13)
This is a lighter wine. A blend of Viognier, Sauvignon and Muscat d’Alexandrie, this tastes of citrus, melons and white flowers. Great with funky cheeses, morels and, believe or not–asparagus. Quoting Robert Parker: “Louis Barruol has been at the top of his game since the late 1990s, and over the last few vintages, he has been making some of the finest wines in the southern Rhone as well as France.”