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12 Everyday Red Wines Under $30

Weeknight wine should always be affordable, approachable, and accessible

Janice Williams By August 2, 2022
woman drinking glass of red wine while relaxing at home
Illustration by Pix. Photo courtesy of Michelle Leman via Pexels.

There are moments in life that call for luxurious bottles of wine to share with friends. Then there are the weeknights when the only thing on the agenda is ordering takeout, binging Netflix, and drinking a glass of something that requires as much thought as throwing on a pair of sweatpants. That’s when it’s time to break out the everyday red wine. 

“After a night of working the floor, talking, and running around the restaurant, I am tired and ready to relax. So a refreshing wine with some minerality that’s easy to drink and light on its feet is usually my go-to,” says Clara Klein, the lead sommelier at Denver restaurant Sunday Vinyl, owned by Frasca Hospitality Group

As of late, the bottle that delivers all of Klein’s weeknight wine needs is a 2020 Les Athlètes du Vin, made with the red-skinned grape Grolleau in France’s Loire Valley region. It retails for about $20. “Dark and juicy and mineral. It’s just perfect when I’m wiped out after a long day,” Klein says.

As for what makes a good everyday wine, there are a few attributes to look for. 

Affordability and accessibility win

The first is price.

“People want something that won’t break the bank. Guilt-free drinking on any night of the week, that’s what makes an everyday red wine,” says Klein. Though, that doesn’t necessarily mean that the cheaper option shouldn’t be any less fabulous than a special occasion bottle. “Even wine on the grocery list should be enjoyable to sip side-by-side with dinner,” adds Klein.

Finding high-quality wine below $12 isn’t impossible, but it takes a lot of knowledge and work to track them down. Quality generally improves markedly at the $12 price point and jumps again at $15. As Eric Asimov, the New York Times’ wine critic, says, “it’s been my experience that the greatest concentration of values for wine can be found in the $15-to-$25 range.” He says, “at $20, you have a much greater probability of finding a distinctive, intriguing bottle than you would at $10.”

Something else to consider is accessibility; supply chain issues mean there is not as much wine on shelves as in the past. This doesn’t mean falling back on the big commercial brands that are plentiful in retail. It just means a bit more experimentation is in order. And when you find something you like, stock up.

Easy-drinking and unforgettable red wines

Not everybody can handle robust reds on a regular basis.

“In the spring and summer, I crave red wines that are juicy and easy going, maybe even with a little chill,” says Klein. 

Look for lighter-style reds when your palate desires something fresh and vibrant. Often, these wines are high on the acidity scale and display an abundance of bright and fruity character, with good examples being Gamay and Pinot Noir. 

Austrian wines like Blaufränkisch and Zweigelt offer great fruit and spice nuances, and though the tannin structure is light and silky, the wine still has the depth and acidity to pair well with most foods. Even Cinsault, with its punchy fruit, floral, and herbal flavor, can turn up the dial for an easy-drinking adventure on a random weeknight.

For drinkers looking for heavier reds, there are even more options to plunge into. But first, check out the lighter red suggestions.

Lighter everyday reds to try:

bottle of Chateau Ste. Michelle Merlot

Chateau Ste. Michelle Merlot (~$17)

From one of Washington state’s oldest wineries comes this no-fuss single varietal wine — a Merlot made with grapes grown in the Columbia Valley region. The red wine is easy to drink with fresh aromas of black cherry and new leather. Red fruit flavors and spice come into play on the palate and are supported by fresh acidity and barely-there tannins. The finish is long and smooth, displaying notes of sweet fruit.

bottle of Anita und Hans Nittnaus Burgenland Blauer Zweigelt

Anita und Hans Nittnaus Burgenland Blauer Zweigelt (~$19)

Anita und Hans Nittnaus produce complex and approachable wines like this Zweigelt in Austria’s Neusiedlersee region. With its luminous ruby hue, the wine is fresh, fruity, and spicy. Intense fragrances of tart red cherry lead the aroma while strawberry, spice, and juicy acidity take charge on the palate.

bottle of Karavitakis Winery Crete The Little Prince Red

Karavitakis Winery Crete The Little Prince Red (~$20)

This wine hails from the Greek island of Crete and is made predominantly with the indigenous grapes Kotsifali and Mandilaria. Light and easy to drink, the wine smells of fresh-picked cherries and cranberries. Those flavors show up on the palate too, along with mild tannins and plenty of zippy acidity. Give this wine a slight chill for optimal drinking.

bottle of Te Mata Estate Vineyards Hawke's Bay Gamay Noir

Te Mata Estate Vineyards Hawke's Bay Gamay Noir (~$21)

Now here’s a candy-apple red wine that’s bursting with fruity character and electric acidity. Hailing from the Hawke’s Bay region of the North Island of New Zealand, this wine displays intense aromas of ripe and juicy strawberry, watermelon, and cherry. The palate is just as fruit-forward but also features a spicy melody of flavors like clove, cinnamon, and tarragon.

bottle of Natte Valleij Stellenbosch Cinsault

Natte Valleij Stellenbosch Cinsault (~$22)

The Cinsault grapes used for this wine come from a collection of vineyards across South Africa’s famous Stellenbosch region. What follows is a shining example of the depth and vivacity that Cinsault is capable of. The aroma is full of Cinsault’s signature floral character along with notes of fresh raspberry that spill onto the palate. With a smooth, round mouthfeel, the wine tastes of fresh red fruit muddled with rooibos tea leaves, white pepper, cinnamon, and just the slightest hint of earth. Fresh acidity and fine, soft tannins give it a structured edge that’s felt through the lingering finish. Chill this before drinking for maximum pleasure.

bottle of Au Bon Climat Santa Barbara Pinot Noir

Au Bon Climat Santa Barbara Pinot Noir (~$24)

This Pinot Noir produced by Au Bon Climat is made with fruit grown in the Santa Barbara region of California. In a sense, this wine drinks like a basket of berries — strawberries, blackberries, all the berries. Those notes are intense on the palate and in the aroma. However, the wine gets a lift from the spicy nuances of anise and clove. Smooth tannins and clean acidity bring it all together with an enjoyable finish.

bottle of Viña Ventisquero Leyda Valley Grey Glacier Las Terrazas Vineyard Pinot Noir

Viña Ventisquero Leyda Valley Grey Glacier Las Terrazas Vineyard Pinot Noir (~$24)

Here’s a contrasting Pinot Noir from Chile’s Leyda Valley. Produced by Viña Ventisquero, this deep ruby red wine has a nose peppered with red and blackberry aromas and flavors. However, the wine is awash with zippy minerality, mouthwatering acidity, and an earthy, sweet tobacco leaf backbone. Mild tannins give way to a smooth mouthfeel and a juicy finish that goes on and on and on.

Big, bold, and memorable red wines to try:

Robust Cabernet Sauvignons from all corners of the world can provide savory warmth and make great pairing partners for heartier dishes. Zinfandel can be fruit-froward, often showing jammy and concentrated blackberry and strawberry notes, and yet the wine still has the tannin structure and body to stand up to spicy dishes and meats. 

And don’t forget about the red blends, plenty of which lean on the medium-body side and can display a range of flavors and aromas that make them perfect for drinking alongside a weeknight meal or entirely on their own.

bottle of Bogle Vineyards Zinfandel Old Vine

Bogle Vineyards Zinfandel Old Vine (~$12)

Produced in California by Bogle Vineyards, this Zinfandel is rich and spicy with intense aromas of black pepper and nutmeg that are greeted with flavors of cranberry and raspberry on the palate. The acid-driven finish is refined, elegant, and long with hints of toasted oak and vanilla.

bottle of Castello Banfi Toscana IGT Banfi Col di Sasso

Castello Banfi Toscana IGT Banfi Col di Sasso (~$13)

Enchanting black cherry nuances lead the way in this deep ruby red wine. Made with a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Sangiovese grown in Tuscany, this medium-bodied wine is bold with flavor yet remains pillowy and soft in texture. Meanwhile, plush black and purple fruit flavors and a hint of smoke and spice influence the aroma and palate. Fine tannins and clean acidity give it some backbone while the finish is long and lingering.

bottle of Casa Lapostolle Colchagua Apalta Red

Casa Lapostolle Colchagua Apalta Red (~$20)

Cabernet Sauvignon, Carmenere, Syrah, Merlot and a touch of Grenache sourced from Chile’s  Colchagua and Rapel Valleys are blended together to create this dynamic red wine. Though it boasts a silky texture, deep red, nearly violet-colored wine packs a bold punch. On the nose, the wine is cool and collected with balanced black fruit and spicy aromas. A wave of bright red fruit arrives on the palate along with coffee and chocolate nuances, elevated fine tannins and fresh acidity. The finish is long and elegant.

bottle of Château de Coulaine Chinon Rouge Bonnaventure

Château de Coulaine Chinon Rouge Bonnaventure (~$22)

Château de Coulaine produces this easy-drinking Cabernet Franc in the heart of the Chinon winemaking region of France. Aromatic with ripe red fruit flavors that also appear on the palate, the wine displays opulent spice character with round, smooth tannins and juicy acidity. A note of salinity comes alive on the back end and through the finish that is concentrated with red fruit flavor. Drink this wine with anything or nothing at all.

bottle of Castell d'Or Priorat DOCa Esplugen Seleccion

Castell d'Or Priorat DOCa Esplugen Selecció (~$29)

Full-bodied, plush, and spicy — those are the first words to come to mind after a sip of this wine. Predominately made with Grenache, the vibrant ruby red wine also features a splash of Carignan and Cabernet Sauvignon grown in Spain’s Priorat region. The final result is a smooth, red wine that’s bursting with ripe red fruit and baking spice aromas and flavors. A hint of smokey wood comes alive on the palate, which is framed by supple tannins and fine acidity. The finish is long and memorable.