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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