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Affordable Red Wines You've Never Heard Of

Four red wines under $20 that you never tried before! All of them worth trying.

Quite often, people come into my store and want a red wine that’s outside the ordinary.  Sometimes they know their favorite wine, but they’re looking for a change.  Other times, they want to buy a gift and present something different.  Finally, there are people who are still looking for a wine for all foods, and they need to explore to accommodate both their menu and their palette.  For myself and a colleague, the desire to depart from a favorite wine is both professional and personal.  We like to know what’s new out there, but we also love to mix things up.  For those of you looking for some wines outside the box, I have four red wines, three domestic (!) that you can try at home.  As usual, none of them will break the bank.

Duck Walk Vineyards Petit Meunier, Long Island NY, 2009 - Originally a French grape, Petit Meunier is usually part of the recipe for Champagne.  As wine makers work outside the box, however, they are using some grapes for wine in different ways.  New World wine makers such as American (NY) ones are the first to try new things with old grapes.  The result is often rewarding.  I opened this up and was pleased to taste spice and berries.  I don’t see a lot of Petit Meunier wines, so this one was bought also for the vineyard’s choice to do something different.  I really like this wine.  If you get yourself to Long Island, or find a wine store that sells this wine, or another Petit Meunier, give it a try!

Arrowhead Scarlet’s Select, Lake Erie PA, NV - Ever heard of the Lemberger grape?  Me neither!   It makes a unique, ruby-red medium bodied wine with a flavor similar to Grenache grapes.  I drank this with soup and the vintner recommends eating meat, roasted vegetable, or mild cheeses with this wine.  If you ever see a Lemberger wine in your life and travels, give it a try.  It has more flavor than Pinot Noir, but less weight than Cabernet Sauvignon.  It could easily find its way into your menu!

Tramontane, Pyrenees France, 2011 - Another new grape!  Carignan Noir is the only grape in this wine.  The Carignan Noir used to make this wine was grown on old vines, which gives the wine a luscious bright and red fruit flavor with strong floral hints.  This wine is just good, and it isn’t expensive either.  It has a medium body and you could drink it  with many foods — fruit salad, poultry, sandwiches, and pizza … to name a few.  Carignan is believed to have originated in Spain and Aragon and found its way into France via the Algiers.  It is usually grown in the south of France and is included in red wine blends from that region, but Tramontane proves that the grape can stand on its own to make a good wine.

Atwater Meritage, Finger Lakes NY, 2009 - Meritage is not one varietal, or even two.  “Meritage” is a made-up term that combines  merit and heritage to brand a Bordeaux-style blend of grapes.  It copies the French style, so rather than going for juicy flavor, it goes for deep and complex flavor.  This Meritage has Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Cabernet Franc.  For a blend of such heavy-bodied wines, the Atwater feels light in the mouth but has all the flavor you’d expect from this trio.  It has a bit of grape tannin that you’ll feel on your gums, but it won’t leave your whole mouth dry the way some very tannic wines do.

As one colleague  said to me, you’ll find some diamonds in the rough when you try a red wine from a cold climate.  This wine is a perfect example.  The Finger Lakes is most known for its white wines, but this Meritage deserves both the word “merit” and “heritage”.  Its delicious!

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Diana Combs February 06, 2013 at 07:08 PM
Hello Richard, my name is Diana. Thank you for your comment! All those wines were under $20 when I bought them. In future posts, I will include prices if affordability is a particular factor.
mhorine1 February 07, 2013 at 11:12 PM
Thanks for showcasing some of NY's offerings!
Diana Combs February 08, 2013 at 04:13 AM
You're welcome! NY has some great wines, it is always a matter of finding them. :)
landry February 11, 2013 at 02:06 PM
Diana- have you ever tried a good Carmenere? Its a Chilean wine that usually runs under $15 a bottle. I was living in Costa Rica for the past 3 years and they are big Carmenere drinkers. Its inexpensive there because there isn't the huge import tax that there is on wines from Europe or the US so we drank a lot of it :) Cesar at Wine Exchange on Vanderbilt carries a decent one that was on sale for, I think, $7.
Diana Combs February 11, 2013 at 04:47 PM
Hi Landry, Actually yes I have. I think one brand is in another blog post. I also bought a different brand a couple of days ago (but not from Wine Exchange). It will probably be featured in the next article about affordable unusual reds. Thanks for the suggestion!

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