These Wines Cost Less Than $20—and They’re Perfect for Holiday Entertaining
Stock up on these chef-approved, crowd-pleasing favorites for the holiday season.
Many people assume that if I'm drinking wine it must be a high dollar, fancy bottle of Champagne. And don’t get me wrong, I will splurge from time to time on a solid bottle of bubbles from Perrier-Jouët, Krug, Billecart-Salmon or Ruinart, but truth be told I'm usually drinking wines that are super affordable. For bubbles, Lambrusco, Cava, Prosecco and Franciacorta (which I still deem the underdog of the sparkling wine world) are on heavy rotation in my household. In the summer months, a crisp, green Vinho Verde from Portugal or my true Spanish love, Albariño—mostly around $12 to $15 bucks a pop. As for reds, i’m still trying to figure it out, but that’s the whole point of wine—drink what you like.
For parties this year I’m in to both bringing and drinking Anna de Codorniu Brut Reserva Blanc de Blancs or any bottle of Franciacorta I can get my hands on. In my non-expert but drinks a lot of wine opinion, Lambrusco is the king of the holidays, especially next to a charcuterie spread and Lini 910’s Lambrusco Rosso can truly do no wrong. I don’t care what you’re serving, it will be a hit.
If you don’t feel like thinking too hard about what wine to bring or serve, we tapped a few of our favorite chefs, bakers, and tastemakers in the industry to give us some trusted recommendations on bottles ringing in $20 and under. Most importantly, you can find most of these at standard wine shops and grocery stores, and even at Trader Joe’s, Costco and ALDI.
Rosé All Year
Katy Kindred, owner of Kindred and Hello, Sailor, introduced me to Ameztoi Txakolina Rubentis Rosé last summer and i’ve been hooked ever since. “First of all, it goes with literally everything,” Kindred says. “It's also lower in alcohol than most wines as well, which makes it good for those times of year when you imbibe a little more than usual.” Bonus: it’s got a little bit of spritz, which “makes it feel festive,” she adds.
A Great Salad Red
For an easy drinking red, look no further than Jean-Baptiste Duperray Glou-Glou Gamay when perusing the wine aisle. “Glou-Glou is a light bodied red with nice minerality, lots of fruit and medium+ acidity,” says Nathan Wentworth, general manager at Basic Kitchen. “This is a crowd pleasing, easy drinker that pairs great with holiday salads, cured meats, and cheeses.”
Apres Ski French Fry Wine
What to throw back with Apres ski grub? Simple. Paige Courtney, who oversees Powder Restaurant and Waldorf Astoria Park City’s food and beverage program, is a huge fan of Pine Ridge Chenin Blanc Viognier in this situation. “It goes beautifully with apres food like oysters , tuna tacos, and truffle fries,” she says. It’s a top pick at both Trader Joe’s and Costco so you can’t really go wrong when serving it.
Grocery Store Wine (That’s Great)
No time to hit a local wine shop? Chef Matt Bolus of The 404 Kitchen and Red Pebbles Hospitality is all about SIMI Pinot Gris. "It's an extremely versatile wine that pairs beautifully with so many different foods,” he says. Crisp and refreshing, Bolus notes it drinks really well for its price. “I love to pair this wine with stewed greens, any seafood, pork or poultry,” he adds. “You can't beat it and you can find it in most any grocery store."
Tuesday Night Wine
“I can’t leave Trader Joe’s without a bottle of sparkles,” says Jennifer Cornet, food and beverage publicist at Bread & Butter. La Granja 360 Cava Brut is $6.99 and is perfect when you just need a glass or two on a Tuesday night and don’t want to open something pricey,” she adds. “When I send my husband to the store solo he could never find the wine I was explaining—so now I just tell him ‘the one in the Champagne section near the bottom with the blue goose’ and he gets it right every time!”
All-Star Food Status Wine
“It’s All-Star food status,” says chef Chris Coleman of The Goodyear House, of Macedon Pinot Noir, one of his go-to wines. “It pairs well with everything from seafood to poultry to lighter red meats,” he adds, but most of all, juicy and jammy without being overly sweet. “I always keep a few bottles to uncork whenever I’m entertaining; once the food hits the table this wine tastes way more expensive than it actually is.”
Two-Buck Chuck For Cooking
It’s always great to have a stockpile of “cooking wine” in the house. "I use the Two-Buck Chuck (Charles Shaw) from TraderJoe’s when cooking,” says chef Derek Dupree of Bernie's, further stating that high quality wine isn’t necessary when cooking. All that’s important is the basic flavors of wine. “I use the Charles Shaw Sauvignon Blanc when making Beurre Blanc,” he says. “All those flavors you are looking for when cooking with white wine are there, so you might as well go with a great price point."
Don’t Forget about ALDI
"The [Band of Bohemia] sous chefs and I went out to one of the better Peking Duck restaurants in Chicago and Côtes De Provence Rosé, from ALDI, was absolutely dynamite with our meal,” says executive chef Soo Ahn. “The wine is affordable, refreshing and easy to drink [and] It pairs well with anything from sashimi/crudo to a lovely duck dish,” he says. “It's versatile, and tasty!"
Cheap Wine that Tastes Like Not-Cheap Wine
“Avalon Cabernet Sauvignon is one of my favorite buys when it comes to picking up wine in a grocery store,” says Sam Slaughter, author of Are You Afraid of the Dark Rum? and Other Cocktails for 90's Kids. “It’s a perfect price at right around 12 bucks and I love the mix of chocolate, vanilla, and berry flavors that come out of the wine. It’s easy to drink and tastes like a wine worth way more than you’re paying.”
An Elegant Dinner Party Red
Neil Loomis, wine and beverage director for Fine Dining Restaurant Group (also home to Bin 22, my go-to wine shop/wine bar in Jackson Hole), turns to a very affordable red—we’re talking just under the $20 mark—during the holidays. “Andre Brunel Cotes du Rhône Cuvee Sabrine is a very small production Villages style red,” says Loomis. “Grenache based with some Syrah and Mourvèdre blended in, this wine is harmonious and elegant. It’s not Chateauneuf du Pape but for $20 retail, it over delivers in every way.”
Jennifer Wagoner, wine director at Proxi and Sepia, notes bubbles should be shared all year long, especially during the holidays—but that doesn’t mean you have to break the bank on a fancy bottle of Champagne to please guests. The Michelin-starred sommelier suggests scooping up a few bottles of Nino Franco Rustico Prosecco Superiore DOCG. “This bottling comes from the region of Conegliano Valdobbiadene, which is where the highest quality wines in the region are produced,” she says. “This wine is a great value and a total crowd-pleaser from one of the oldest wineries in the region.”
A Wine to Drink While Baking and Wrapping Presents
Drinking wine while baking, plus a little The Beach Boys' Christmas Album, is one of my favorite pastimes. Thankfully, Justin Burke-Samson, baker extraordinaire and owner of Bonjour Y’all Bakery, recommends a bottle that’s around the $13 mark—because #procrastibaking is a real thing. “Girl & Dragon Cabernet Sauvignon is a powerful and robust wine that punches with all the holiday flavors—dark berry, vanilla, sweet oak spices, and mocha,” he says. “Despite the bold flavors and aromas, it is extremely approachable and easy to drink.” Taking it a step further, it also pairs extremely well with fruit pies, cobbler, peppermint chocolate cake and even holiday bread pudding. “Over at the bakery we use Girl & Dragon to poach our pears for our spiced pear galettes and baked mulled wine pear dumplings.”
Best for BBQ and Meats
It’s true, Texas is home to some really great wines that are becoming more accessible to more than just Texas natives. In the case your holiday feast consists of BBQ/delicious grilled meats, Chef Burtwell of Cabernet Grill is all about Pedernales Cellars Texas Tempranillo. Made from fruit from the Texas High Plains, it has notes of ripe red cherries, strawberry jam, plum, blackberries, leather and a slight smoke. Chef loves it for its versatility as a true “food wine,” noting how well it pairs with the aforementioned plus simple spreads like cured cheeses and more.
Best Sidekick for A Cheese Plate
You’ve poured your heart into the perfect cheese and charcuterie spread but what to set out for the perfect pairing? Bubbles! And no need to get all fancy. Marissa Mullen, cheese expert and brains behind That Cheese Plate, suggests scoring a few bottles of La Marca Prosecco, roughly $15-ish a pop. “This is a light, bubbly wine with the perfect balance of sweet and dry tasting notes,” says Mullen. “Prosecco is my favorite with cheese—the bubbles act as a nice scrub to cleanse your pallet.”
A Standout for Fish and Crudo
"When you’ve been serving the freshest fish and crudo from around the world for 19 years wine choice is very important,” says Chef Dave Pasternack of Esca, who turns to a bright, fresh Sicilian wines from Fuedo Montoni in this case. “Grillo Della Timpa is excellent with fresh crudo—its faint nose of vineyard flowers, apricots and peaches and its balanced acidity make it a perfect complement,” Pasternack says. “The Catarratto Del Masso may be the perfect wine for our most popular dish at Esca, Branzino al Sale (branzino encrusted in salt and baked).”