I’m a bit of a wine snob, let’s get that right out there in the open. My monthly wine budget is equal to my monthly food budget, and often I actually end up spending more on wine than on food. Almost always when I go out for dinner, I’ll order wine that’s more expensive than the main dish.
Having said that, it’s not necessarily true that the more you pay for a bottle (or glass) of wine, the better it’ll be. And I’ve been promising my mother that I’d put together a guide for people who don’t want to spend a shitload of money every time they want a nice red to go with dinner. So here it is.
Scar’s Top Red Wines For Under £20
This post focuses on red wine, because I drink that most often and I know more about it than white or rosé or champagne or dessert or any other kinds of wine I’ve neglected to think of when writing this sentence.
So without further ado: the wines.
Bordeaux: Château Ferrande Graves 2013
A very drinkable red wine with a slightly buttery undertone (something I often seem to taste in a good Bordeaux), Château Ferrande Graves’ 2013 release will go down well on its own or with a meal. Not bearing a huge price tag, it’s nonetheless a versatile wine that will go with almost anything, from spaghetti & meatballs to venison steaks.
I usually drink this on its own, or if I’m having an unassuming meal that includes fairly run-of-the-mill flavours. I wouldn’t pair it with anything too adventurous; for that, I’d want to find something that brought out the specific flavourings I was showcasing. But if you’re on a tight budget or you haven’t decided what to cook yet, this is a good all-rounder.
Acidity-wise, it’s great; not too little, not too much. It goes down easily but leaves a bit of a dry aftertaste: not unusual for a bordeaux. A medium-bodied, straightforward wine that your friends will love and won’t find pretentious.
In Decanter’s 2015 wine awards, it received a bronze rating.
Buy it from: Nicolas wine stores.
Rhône: Les Sorcières du Clos des Fées 2015
Alright, I’ll admit it: I first bought this because of the name. However, it quickly became one of my go-to wines for a simple night in.
Like the Ferrande, it goes with almost anything and is an unassuming, drinkable wine. It doesn’t have quite as much of a flavour profile as the Ferrande, preferring simply to fly under the radar, accompanying whatever you’ve decided to serve and making your evening happily fuzzy around the edges.
As J.J. points out on Vivino, it’s lighter than you might expect for a Rhône wine, and I think it’s this that makes it slip down so easily. You can quite quickly forget what you’re drinking and end up three quarters of the way down the bottle before you’re like… wait a second, I have to work tomorrow.
A nice mixture of fruity with the barest hint of spice, Sorcières will pair well with red meat and similarly rich meals. Not too rich though, or the wine won’t be noticed.
It is also, of course, an excellent choice for a Hallowe’en soirée.
Buy it from: online; you won’t find this one stocked in the shops. I buy mine from Your Sommelier, who might be able to find some for you if you ask nicely; or from Vinatis, who currently have the 2016 in stock.
California Blend: Apothic Red 2014
The kind of wine that bridges the gap between people who’ll only drink stuff they can buy on a tight budget and people who subscribe to the “life’s too short to drink bad wine” philosophy, Apothic Red is a velvety smooth blend with an intrinsic sweetness that might just broaden your palate and make you want to try more premium wines in the future. It’s made from zinfandel, syrah and cabernet sauvignon.
In some ways I think Apothic was how I got into wine in the first place: it was the first wine I bought from a supermarket that seemed to actually have a taste I could pick out.
After the first time I bought it, I stopped looking automatically for the special offers bin when I entered my local shops and instead started perusing the shelves where the bottles had security tags on them.
A few months later I found someone’s old discarded wine rack, and that grew my love affair with wine into the mild obsession it is today.
Anyway, back to Apothic. Serve it with red meat to bring out the sweet juiciness; with chocolate to complement the velvetyness; or possibly even with fish, just to be contrary, especially if you’ve cooked it in a buttery sauce.
Buy it from: your local supermarket. Wait until it’s on offer and you’ll be able to pick it up for less than a tenner.
Zinfandel: Ravenswood Old Vine 2014
I think this is probably a lot of people’s go-to red wine, because it just tastes like red wine. I know that probably sounds ridiculous, so I’ll try to explain.
If you managed to get inside the heads of everyone who’s ever had a glass of red wine, from people who just think wine comes in four types (red, white, rosé, fizzy) to people who spend their lives comparing tasting notes and vintages, and you asked them the question “What does red wine taste like?”, and then you took all their responses and somehow used these to create a flavour profile from which you made a bottle of wine, I think this is what it would taste like. Which I suppose means I think it’s very generic, but oddly enough it’s generic in a good way.
Definitely a bit peppery, with some red and black berry flavours, a little bit fruity and a hint of chocolate, a teeny bit of vanilla, a very slight undertone of oak: in short, all the things you’d expect from a red wine, brought together in a simple, unassuming bottle that you can probably pick up for about fifteen quid.
Naturally it’ll go well with red meats because it’s a red and that’s pretty much a sacred combination, but you could also pair it with flavourful fish and poultry dishes without too much aggro. You could also put together a cheeseboard that was heavy on the smoky-peppery side of things and it’d do a nice job of pairing with those too.
Buy it from: most supermarkets.
What are your favourite red wines for under £20? Did I miss out any of your favourites? Let me know in the comments!