5 Wines Under $20 for Party Time, excellent!

Give the gift of value wines this holiday season


Now that you have Cyber Monday-induced carpal tunnel syndrome, it’s time to put the mouse down and use the gray mush between your ears for a bit. I know, it’s not as fun as spending money, but a well-considered gift might save you a little money and make someone else happy, to boot.
 
As the holiday season gets rolling, you’re going to be invited to plenty of parties. Sometimes, you just won’t know what to bring. I’m here to crack that code with five great gifts for your hosts, each gift being $20 or less. All you have to do is answer a few simple questions!

Party image via Shutterstock

Is the Host a Stranger?

It happens to the best of us, you get roped into going to parties where you don’t really know the host or his or her taste in wines. If your host is a stranger, take the easy route with bubbles.
 
I have a preference for Prosecco. There are so many great bottles of Prosecco out there under $20 that are all festive, fun and easy to drink, with perfumed pear and apple fruit and just a hint of sweetness. In an ideal world, your host will enjoy your bottle as a hangover helper the day after the party. While they might not remember where the Prosecco came from, they sure as heck will appreciate it.
 
What to buy: Col Vetoraz. This stuff is addictively delicious. It’s sort of a high-end Prosecco in a nice package, so that helps with the whole gifting and not looking like you just came from Trader Joe’s thing.

Do You Want to be Less of a Stranger?

And I’m talking much, much less. If so, consider festive bubbles that are pink and delicious. Fantinel introduced a sparkling rosé at some time over the past few years that may have previously been called Prosecco Rosé. This is just their Brut Rosé.
 
This is wine made for fun. A little off-dry but bursting with red and white fruits, this is clean, fresh and decidedly slurp-able. A single bottle is a perfect single serving, so you better be buying two or more. At this price, that’s a no brainer.
 
This is a great party wine. Stock up and share this holiday season.

Is Your Host a High School Buddy?

Besides possibly being a little pathetic (trust me, I know my high school buddies so I speak from experience here), you are in luck. These folks have known you for so long that you could re-gift that bottle of quince-flavored orange wine from Papua New Guinea that’s been sitting in your kitchen since Menudo was topping the charts and probably get away with it.
 
If you’re the one buying wine, you might be the wine guy or gal in your group, so let’s reconsider. You are old friends, so the party you’re heading to is probably more low key and food centric than most. Consider introducing your friends to one of the most food-friendly, easy to drink reds that they probably haven’t tried: Carmenere.
 
Coming mostly from Chile, Carmenere is a Bordeaux variety that fits neatly between Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc. At its best, it’s got modest tannins, great fruit and really lovely herbal complexity. Lapostolle’s Cuvee Alexandre is a wonderful example that shows uncommon focus and great freshness.

Is Your Host a Coworker?

This can be a touchy subject. If he or she is a subordinate, you don’t want to come off like a total tool. In this case, remaining modest yet generous is key.
 
On the other hand, if your host is one of your superiors, you need to be a kiss ass without coming off as a kiss ass. Again, maintaining a certain sense of modesty is essential here. So, what should you do?
 
Obscurity, go for obscurity. Of course, obscurity poses its own problems, like finding the wine in the first place, so you can only go so obscure. Where does great wine come from where no one seems to buy?
 
I’m going to vote for South Africa. While in South Africa, I’m going to look for really nice packaging and a big bottle. Not that I’m shallow, just shrewd. DeMorgenzon’s DMZ line rings all those bells and you can find some of the wines stateside. Take your pick from Shiraz for the red and fruity with classic, mineral and spice accents or Chardonnay for a classic example of cool climate, New World Chardonnay. These are steals at these prices and are worth stocking up for gifting all year round.

Are You Clueless?

Relax, we knew that about you. Just kidding, actually your friends just mentioned it, so I had no previous knowledge of your abject cluelessness when it comes to people and wine.
 
What’s the failsafe? What can you always bring to a party that will make you look like a champ? That is the million dollar question and I only have a handful of 2 cent answers, but if I had to pick just one wine to make you look like a knowledgeable, considerate, inquisitive, forward-thinking wine geek I would have to say, “aaaarghh…”.
 
After much hemming and hawing, I would ultimately suggest sticking with what’s tried and true. People love Pinot Noir and it’s easy to drink, plus there’s a lot of great juice out there. So which one is the $20 or under wonder?
 
Take a look at Brophy Clark, whose Santa Maria Valley and Santa Rita Hills Pinot wines come in right around $20 a bottle. For that coin, you get some really good, opulent but not overwrought Pinot in a very nice package. It’s the $20 wonder of 2012!

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Comments

  • Snooth User: courgette
    124481 148

    Now I DEMAND to know more about quince-flavored orange wine from Papua New Guinea! Other than that, great (and hilarious) post, GDP.

    Nov 27, 2012 at 1:24 PM


  • Snooth User: JSIGLOBAL
    1161320 33

    Enjoyed the selection some new ones, I agree Carmenere is one of the Best Flavorful Easy Reds in the world, not all are good though. Even someone who is not a fan of Red Wines will enjoy. They are light and refreshing.
    I am a fan of the Stellenbosch Region in South Africa for their reds. With the hint of eucalyptus because the vines are near forest of these trees.
    This is more upscale and totally different. But a great gift for Dinner table conversation.

    Nov 28, 2012 at 12:34 AM


  • Why are you suggesting $20 wines from USA to someone who lives in Australia - can't you suggest Australian wines? (and since I already told you which wines I enjoy, why suggest those I don't)? I have just joined so maybe I have not configured correctly. Advice please.

    Nov 28, 2012 at 4:15 AM


  • Snooth User: Ivesreeves
    1163949 134

    Thank you for the amusing and breezy guide to inexpensive wines for the festive among us! It provided this reader with both good advice and fodder for a chuckle or two. Your Brophy Clark recommendation paid dividends for me at a recent writers collaborative workshop here in San Francisco. A number of us sipped the BC Pinot. Some tasted cherry, others remarked about the wine's distinct licorice characteristics. Those of us with more refined palates quietly enjoyed both.

    Dec 01, 2012 at 1:57 AM


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