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In your quest for great bottles $20 and under, don’t be afraid to venture to France. While it is often associated with really, really expensive Bordeaux, you still can find some great values there.
Consider a red Côtes du Rhône — basically a blend of red grapes from France’s Rhône Valley, in the southeastern corner of the country, and arguably one of the best wine values in France. The majority of red Côtes du Rhône is usually either grenache or syrah, but there are actually 22 grape varieties that the winemaker has the freedom to play around with and put in the bottle.
Guigal's 2012 is 50 percent syrah, 45 percent grenache, and five percent mourvèdre.
This wine is a deep ruby color, thanks to the syrah, and you’ll get dark fruit, like cherries and blueberries, and maybe even a little pepper, when you smell it. And even though this is considered an introductory wine for Guigal, one of the most famous producers in the Rhône, it certainly doesn’t taste like one. Even long-time wine drinkers will appreciate its full body and structure. It’s really drinkable right now, though it will sit in your wine cellar for another four or five years, if you have that kind of patience.
But of the biggest reasons to love this wine is that it works so great with all your party food. I’m talking hot dogs, hamburgers, barbecue, even nachos — or, better still, mac and cheese. Yes, I said it. Yum.
A quick shopping note though: If you are ever looking to spend a little more money, look for Côtes du Rhône bottles that also say “Villages.” They are, in theory, a step above a regular Côtes du Rhône. I’m sticking with the $15 bottle though. My nachos are screaming for it.
(Each week, I’ll present another wine. Please let me know what you think, and don’t hesitate to offer other recommendations — your price cap is $20, though.)
Tracy Byrnes is a recovering Fox Business anchor and reporter who fell in love with the wine world and who writes that "I truly believe that the world would be a happier place if we all drank more wine." She covers wine regularly at http://www.wineonthestreet.com.