In your quest for great bottles $20 and under, don’t be afraid to venture to France. While it is often associated with really, really expensive Bordeauxs, you still can find some great values there.
So consider a Côtes du Rhône (pronounced Koht du Rohn). It is basically a blend of red grapes from France’s Rhone Valley, which is in the southeast corner of the country. And arguably one of the best values in France.
The majority of a Côtes du Rhône is usually either Grenache or Syrah but there are actually there are 22 grape varieties that the winemaker has the freedom to play around with and put in the bottle.
I like the E. Guigal Côtes du Rhône Red 2012 ($14), which is 50% Syrah, 45% Grenache and 5% Mourverde, (a full-bodied red grape grown in the region).
This wine is a deep ruby color, thanks to the Syrah. And you’ll get dark fruit, like cherries and blueberries, and maybe even a little pepper, when you smell it.
It’s really drinkable right now though it will sit in your wine cellar for another four or five years, if you have that kind of patience.
And even though this is considered an introductory wine for E. Guigal, one of the most famous producers in the Rhone Valley, it certainly doesn’t taste like one. Even long-time wine drinkers will appreciate its full body and structure.
But one of the biggest reasons to love this wine is that it works so great with all your party food. I’m talking hot dogs, hamburgers, BBQ – even nachos.
Or better still — Mac and cheese. Yes, I said it. Yum.
A quick shopping note though: If you are ever looking to spend a little more money, look for Côtes du Rhône bottles that also say “Villages.” They are, in theory, a step above a regular Côtes du Rhône.
I’m sticking with the $14 bottle though. My nachos are screaming for it.