Moving on to “30 under $30 affordable wine” part two, AKA: wines you can drink daily on the budget if you’re not in the Roy family (shoutout Succession).
Some disclaimers: The wines presented are the ones I found most exciting and with incredible QPR (quality-to-price ratio). The selections are based on my palate. If you get one of these wines and don’t like it, at least you didn’t spend over $30.
Prices are all based on the WineSearcher average, so these wines may be more affordable/more expensive depending on your market.
Frederic Magnien Cremant de Bourgogne Blanc de Noirs Extra Brut
Price $23 [WineSearcher]
We are returning to our Champagne alternatives for lazy days. And this alternative sparkler comes from an unexpected place; the greatly lauded hills of Bourgogne. Sure, as I have ranted previously (primarily due to my love for the region and inability to afford these wines), Burgundy has reached some astronomical prices. But this hasn’t got to the Cremant De Bourgogne, the Champagne-equivalent outside of France. So, a 5th generation winemaker farming some of the Cote’s best vineyards can produce a beautiful, elegant sparkling for just above $20.
100% Pinot Noir. From organic, village-level vineyards in the Cote de Nuits. Vines are 30 years of age. Style is Extra Brut, with only a 4 g/L dosage.
Benanti Etna Bianco
Price: $29 [WineSearcher]
Who better to show the beauty and precision of Etna’s Carricante wines than one of the region’s pioneers, Benanti? As in Burgundy, Mount Etna’s wines are defined by terroir- soils, exposures, and elevations of the individual vineyards, called Contrade. Some of these Contrade farmed by Benanti are among the world’s best wines and are steep in price. But for just about $29, you can acquire the Etna Bianco, an incredibly fresh wine with notes of crushed rock and salinity, often reminiscent of a high-quality village Chablis. Bring out the oysters!
100% Carricante, a white grape indigenous to Sicily. Vineyard ages of 20-60 years. Fermented on native yeast and aged on fine lees in stainless steel for 2-3 months.
Heymann-Lowenstein Schieferterrassen Riesling
Price: $27 [WineSearcher]
My love for Riesling indeed knows no bounds. These are some of the most outstanding white wines ever. But it’s easy to typecast Rieslings from different German regions. For example, Mosel Rieslings are linear, and Rhiegau Rieslings are rich and powerful. That is often the view. But this entry-level Riesling is intense, highly textural, well-ripe, and entirely dry for a sublime experience.
Hand-harvested fruit planted on the steep slate terraces of the Mosel. The fruit is picked late, and about 10-20% are affected by botrytis, fermented with natural yeast to dryness, and aged on lees in a traditional 1000 L “fouder” cask.
Bret Brothers, Macon-Villages, Cuvee Terroirs du Maconnnais
Price: $28 [WineSearcher]
These days, micro-negociants are producing some of Burgundy’s most exciting wines. A “micro-negociant” takes the sourcing approach of a classic negociant but, rather than buying barrels or -sometimes-finished and bottled wines, purchases exclusively the grapes and focuses on high-quality winemaking. As a result, there has been a trend in these producers setting the standard for high-quality yet affordable Burgundy that is unmatched. To me, the Bret Brothers Macon Cuvee is an excellent example of the possibility of Southern Burgundy, a place considered “less so” than its northern counterpart, to produce wines of balance and richness. This wine showcases minerality and hints of herbal notes, but the purity of the fruit is unmatched. In addition, all the grapes sourced by Bret Brothers and La Sourfrandiere (their estate “sister” property) are organically certified or farmed, which is very impressive.
100% organic grapes. Whole cluster soft pressing. Fermentation is done with indigenous yeast. Aged for 11 months in a combination of stainless steel (90%) and 228 neutral oak barriques.
Domaine Richou Anjou Blanc Les Rogeries
Speaking of white wines with texture, something you can almost chew on, enter stage left with this absolute powerhouse from the Loire. In this wine, the chameleon variety of Chenin Blanc finds incredible structure. The wine has the ripeness of fruit but searing acidity that entices and delights. One of the best pairings I have ever experienced was with this wine, a crisp romaine salad with a champagne-vinegar dressing, and brie and pear grilled cheese. Seriously cannot recommend the pairing (and the wine) enough.
Grown in rhyolite soils. It is aged for 16 months in new and old oak barrels.
Domaine des Forges Savennieres Moulin du Gue
Price: $20 [WineSearcher]
[Somewhat] unintentionally, the white wines in this list are arranged by richness and structure on the palate. And as we started with fresher, more linear wines, we are finishing on another full-bodied, honeyed, layered Chenin. After all, many costly wines tout the “layered” structure and the ever-evolving complexity on the palate. This wine does too, yet at a more meager price point.
Nonetheless, the poor volcanic soils and the perfect exposures of the region of the tiny area of Savenneires (where I came to visit Nicolas Joly) have done their magic to produce this profound wine. There are flavors of lemon drop, pear drop, quince, green apple, dried pineapple, marmalade, and herbs, all complemented by the wooly textural nature of Chenin Blanc (much like the Richou). The wine can benefit from decanting and aging. And while a good grilled brie sandwich on some brioche wouldn’t go amiss as a pairing, I enjoyed this with salmon Nigiri, and it elevated the flavors while cutting through the fat and cleansing the pallet all at once.
It is grown in shallow soils of schist and sand. Hand-harvested, with multiple passes, allowing for diverse ripeness levels. Some botrytis bunch rot ads to the complexity and texture. It is aged on lees for 11 months in 400-liter barrels.
Triennes Rose, IGP Var
Price $16 [WineSearcher]
It is amusing- albeit understandable- that two iconic figures of Burgundy, whose wines can fetch upwards of $10-20K per bottle, have come together in the South of France to make everyday drinker wines. But that’s what happened with Triennes, a project of Jacques Seyssess of Domaine Dujac and Aubert de Villaine of Domaine de La Romanee Conti. And it is no surprise that these wines are both approachable, of great value, and exceptional wines.
In truth, I was very cautious of initially trying Triennes. Despite the low price threshold (only about $13 where I work), I have been unimpressed by Provence before. It’s easy to make the Provancale Rosé, and it can be made “en masse,” so the region’s quality has generally been overhyped and subpar (unless you freeze the wine so you don’t taste anything or throw some fruit into it). But I was seriously impressed by Triennes. It got me thinking, “what made this wine so much more impressive than the other roses from that region?”
With some research, I found that the focus is on the vineyard. Triennes invested in their vineyards, utilizing organic practices to grow grapes and control yields, thus concentrating the fruit flavors while maintaining acid. Great vines start in the vineyard, regardless of whether you are an icon of Burgundy or a producer of $16 Rose in Provence.
Cinsault, with Grenache Syrah and Merlot. Pretty standard winemaking, grapes pressed softly off skins and fermented at a low temperature to dryness.
Tenuta delle Terre Nere Rosso Etna
Price: $23 [WineSearcher]
Yes, we went a little heavy on the whites for this list (I am counting the Rosé as a white). But the reds from now on are genuinely incredible. We return to Sicily with Tenuta delle Terre Nere, “the winery of black soils,” growing stunning Nerello Mascalrese on old vines in the shadow of Mount Etna. I had the great fortune to taste one of this winery’s “Contrade,” the Calderara Sottana, and it was one of the absolute highlights. Of course, the entry-level Etna Rosso is no slouch either, receiving high praise from the critics and the market. This wine is incredible, blending the elegance and fine tannins of a great Pinot Noir with a distinctly Mediterranean flavor profile that has to come from Sicily.
Nearly 100% Nerello Mascalrese, with a little bit of Nerello Capuccio added. Vines’ age range from 5-50 years. Nothing else was noted, although it is “aged in wood.” From tasting, it is mainly neutral barrels.
Weingut Becker-Landgraf Gau-Odernheimer Spatburgunder Rheinhessen
Price: $17 [WineSearcher]
German Pinot is on the rise! With warming temperatures, the northern country is beginning to produce some phenomenal “Spatburgunder” (their term for Pinot). One of my favorites that stood out was the Becker-Langraf, not because of its typicity or “Burgundy-esque” nature but because it has an entirely different character of Pinot. This wine has some perceived softness and is black fruit forward. Yet it has plenty of verticality, as Germany is (still) a colder region, and thus the wines have ample acidity. A bit of umami is interlaced throughout this wine, but mushrooms and dried herbs aren’t as prevalent or aggressive as in some other Pinot wines. I also tasted this winery’s Sainkt-Laurent, which had a bit more resemblance to a French Pinot (which is odd), but I wanted to recommend this wine because it both intrigued me and intrigued astounded me.
Grown on limestone, shells, and clay. Manually harvested with several passes through the vineyard. Matured in 30% new and 30% second-use barriques (the rest being neutral). Aged in oak for 15-18 months, then bottled unfiltered.
Domaine de la Chanteleuserie Cuvee Alouettes Bourgueil
Price: $20 [WineSearcher]
I am finishing this list on a good note with a very pretty Bourgueil Cabernet Franc. After all, Domaine de la Chanteleuserie signifies “a Place Where Larks Sing.” The cuvée is light-bodied but still presents itself as soft and velvety. These flavors are rich and fruity, with just hints of pyrazine character interlaced.
It was a great comfort to me during the 2020 Covid lockdowns and made me miss driving through the village roads of the Loire. Indeed, a wine could do with just a little chill on a nice warm summer night.
The grapes come from 45–60-year-old vines. It is aged 12 months in stainless steel tanks to preserve fruitiness and freshness.
Check out the whole series here
Check out all the other recommendations for great wines!