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Five Wines Under $20 to Drink Right Now

Jon Bonné goes shopping for the bottles that over-deliver for under $20.

Bargain” is perhaps the worst of wine words. It holds all the wrong connotations, in that “bargain wine” is code for something made with the lowest common denominators: cheap, cynical, industrially produced.

“Value” indicates something different. It’s an x-ray of a wine’s innate worth. The quality of being cheap isn’t what matters, so much as a wine over-delivering on pleasure-per-dollar. It’s an essential idea. So, with summer upon us and much drinking to do, what better time to revisit it?

Below are five wines under $20 that prove that there’s no secret to making these wines. Find decent fruit. Make wine from it relatively simply. Don’t overshoot your goals.

Miotto Prosecco Col Fondo "ProFondo"

No secret that we’re fans of col fondo prosecco at PUNCH. This method, in which the wine gets a second fermentation in bottle the same way that Champagne does, is the one thing to elevate prosecco from the oceans of bad in which it so often swims. Col fondo is, however, a more spendy way to make a wine synonymous with bottomless mimosas. So while the Miotto isn’t the most profound example ever, it hits the basics super well: bright, lemony and refined, with that subtle prosecco sweetness, and the cloudy, creamy aspect that defines col fondo.

  • Price: $14
  • From: Summit Selections

Casale Marchese Frascati Superiore

I drink a lot of this wine when I find it, because Frascati, the classic wine of the Roman trattoria, deserves a better fate than the dustbin of Italian wine history it’s been swept into; and because good Frascati ticks all the white-wine boxes: It’s fresh without being shrill, full-textured without being boring. The Marchese often has a lemon-oil side to it that feels right for grilled fish, and it delivers with remarkable consistency.

  • Price: $12
  • Vintage: 2016
  • From: Polaner Selections

Vigneto Saetti Lambrusco Dell'Emilia "Rosso Viola"

The sparkling (typically) red called lambrusco remains one of Italy’s great underrated pleasures. But the few made “naturally”—i.e., without added sulfur dioxide—can be, shall we say, challenging. Luciano Saetti is generally the most successful with this approach. This latest vintage is chewy, almost bark-like—Saetti is always this way—with ripe plum fruit and a sense of cool clay minerality (like, wet clay). Its textured label, wine’s equivalent of a velvet Elvis painting, is still very much present.

  • Price: $19
  • Vintage: 2017
  • From: Louis/Dressner Selections

Castello di Farnetella Chianti Colli Senesi

Chianti, can you ever be redeemed?  There are a lot of reasons why Chianti is primordially uncool today, but that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be enjoyed. And while the Colli Senesi, in the hills around Siena, is the most Lebowski-esque (read: ambition-free) of Chianti’s subzones, it too has its pleasures. Like this property, owned by the important house Felsina. Its straightforward bottling is chewy, tobacco-edged, with bright cherry fruit and that essential dustiness—exactly the sort of clean, no-makeup Chianti that could mount a revival.

  • Price: $15
  • Vintage: 2015
  • From: Polaner Selections

De Forville Barbera d'Alba

At a moment when there’s plenty of cash-money to be made in Piedmont, the Barbaresco house of De Forville takes the noble step of being serious about its lesser wines—and not charging a lot for them. Their basic nebbiolo d’Alba remains a screaming value, but their barbera, in particular, avoids the tendency to fancify this grape. It’s not a small wine (14 percent alcohol) but it’s shimmering with energy—all ripe black fruit, a toasted poppy-seed spice and that unmistakable barbera acidity.

  • Price: $17
  • Vintage: 2017
  • From: Rosenthal Wine Merchant

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