10 Affordable Red Wines

Not only is Jordan Salcito Momofuku’s very capable beverage director, she’s also the founder of Bellus Wines, which makes her our go-to wino when it comes to all things according to the grape. Now that it’s cold out, our weeknights and weekends are often comprised of bunkering up with lots of red wine (that and Chinese food are the only essentials we need to be happy).

But just like in Friends when Monica and Rachel tell Chandler one’s got to go with low fat ice cream post-break up if you’re getting screwed over all the time, we’ve got to find red wines that are reasonably priced since – uh – we love drinking red wine all the time.  Salcito provided us with just that: 10 wines that won’t break the bank that are – in fact – absolutely delicious choices. Peruse above and start shopping; red wine waits for no weekend.

1) Chave ‘Offerus,’ St. Joseph, Northern Rhône, France – $31

The Chave family is longest-established family-run winery in the Northern Rhône Valley – they’ve been making benchmark wine on these granite hillsides since 1481, three centuries before the American Revolution.  Vines that produce this wine are grown without chemicals or pesticides on steep, granite slopes overlooking the Rhône river.  The wine is an insane value and a textbook example of Northern Rhône Syrah – notes of black pepper, smoked meat, violets, dark fruit.  Think of this as ‘Baby Hermitage’ (the most famous wine in the region, located just across the river and prized by the likes of Thomas Jefferson among others) at a fraction of the price.

2) Cruse Wine Company ‘Valdigué,’ Napa Valley, CA – $29

Valdigué is another name for a little-known, highly delicious grape also known as ‘Napa Gamay,’ and it’s as juicy as quaffable as the ‘real’ Gamay, from Beaujolais (even though the two grapes are entirely unrelated).  Michael Cruse is a brilliant and meticulous winemaker based in Petaluma, crafting the best Valdigué in the country as well as several other stunning wines from vineyards throughout the state.  He also makes the hard-to-track-down but exceptionally good sparkling cult wine ‘Ultramarine.’ 

3) Domaine du Pélican ‘Trois Cépage,’ Jura, France – $39

Guillaume d’Angerville is best known for his world-class Volnays from his family’s estate, Domaine Marquis d’Angerville.  But after tasting a Jura wine blind one night at a Parisian restaurant a few years ago, he fell for the region, bought a small estate and is now making some of the purest, most balanced wines in the region at his Domaine du Pélican.  This bottling is from a blend of three grapes (hence ‘trois cépages) – Poulsard, Trousseau and Pinot Noir. 

4) Monte Bernardi’s ‘Fuoristrada’ Sangiovese – $13

This ‘boxed wine’ is hands-down one of the best deals in the wine world.  Michael Schmelzer of the esteemed Monte Bernardi estate in Tuscany saw a void in the market for excellent-quality wine bottled in TetraPak, so he started to bottle organically-grown Sangiovese in recyclable one-litre boxes and offer high-quality wine at insanely low prices.  This is a perfect wine for a picnic, hike, the beach, or dinner at home for that matter.

5) Edmund St. John ‘Bonne Jolly’ Gamay, Sierra Foothills, CA – $23

A few regions outside of France are starting to grow Gamay, but Edmund St. John is the OG Gamay grower here in the states, and his Sierra Foothills wines are beautiful.  The ‘Bonne Jolly’ is meant to be as pleasing as the name, and his vines produce a wine that’s ripe, mineral and refreshing.

6) Lamoresco ‘Nerocapitano’ Frappato – $36

This is a rugged, tenacious Frappato from Sicily.  The wine is floral and aromatic but also a wild, unruly, gamey and just generally delicious.  It’s surprisingly versatile, full-bodied enough to drink alongside something like a roasted lamb but also subtle enough to sip on its own. 

7)  Enderle & Moll Pinot Noir ‘Basis,’ Baden, Germany – $25

This recent discovery is one of the purest, most expressive Pinot Noirs (Spatburgunder in Germany) around, period.  The two men behind this winery are deeply committed to quality, and this wine, a blend of several vineyards in the area, is their friendliest priced.  Hunt down these bottles before the secret is out!

8)  Any of the wines from Louis-Antoine Luyt in the Central Valley, Chile – $13-$19

Luyt is originally from Burgundy, but when he visited Chile a few years ago, he believed that the land was capable of producing extraordinary wines and decided to make Chile his home instead of returning to France.  Today, he’s making compelling, delightful examples from lesser-known grapes like Carignan and Paìs.

9) Ridge Vineyards, ‘Three Valleys’ Zinfandel – $19

Few Zinfandels have more balance and focus than those crafted by Ridge, the iconic Sonoma winery overseen by Paul Draper since 1969.  This bottling, ‘Three Valleys,’ is bright and lively, fruit forward and gently refreshing at once.  Fruit is sourced from several vineyards throughout Sonoma and is an excellent, classy red for less than twenty bucks.

10) Les Vins Contes ‘Poivre et Sel’ Gamay + Pineau d’Aunis – $23

Poivre et Sel means ‘salt and pepper’ in French, and thanks to the slight peppery note from the Pineau d’Aunis (a light red grape from the Loire) and the mineral salinity from the soil on which the grapes are grown, this wine tastes like a bit of both.  It’s nuanced and charming, a darling of the ‘natural wine’ movement and a crowd-pleasing wine all around.

Want more tips from Jordan Salcito? She gave us her favorite wine glasses to go with yet another list of great wines