With the end of summer too soon in sight, every ray of sun, every minute of PTO, every drop of wine seems precious. But you don’t have to dry up your bank account to quench your thirst. From Italy to Argentina, tremendous values can be found in every corner of the wine world. Here are eight summer favorites, no more than $20 each, that sacrifice neither complexity nor your savings.
1. Avinyó Cava Brut Reserva 2014 (Penedés, Spain) $20
Prosecco has come to dominate our national psyche when searching for everyday bubbles. But when looking for bang-for-your-buck, I’m more likely to place my bets on cava. The Spanish sparkler more closely resembles champagne, made by the same method of second fermentation in the bottle. While cava can be grown in several pockets of Spain, the best, such as this one from Avinyó, come from Penedés, just down the coast from Barcelona. Avinyó’s Brut Reserva bursts with snappy citrus flavor—chalky lime pith and lemon blossom—worthy of any celebration, or just a late-summer night.
2. Fattoria Moretto Lambrusco Grasparossa di Castelvetro Frizzante Secco NV (Emilia-Romagna, Italy) $20
Sparkling red? Yes, it exists—and lambrusco is the most famous of them. Lambrusco comes from just outside the foodie hot spot of Modena, alongside such other gastronomic treasures as balsamic vinegar and Parmigiano Reggiano. To Americans, lambrusco was once synonymous with a cloyingly sweet red fizz. But the best examples—the ones the locals drink—are dry and gratifying. This rendition, from the small family estate Fattoria Moretto, is a frothy amalgam of black cherry, raspberry, and a tinge of salty charcuterie that gives the wine a sultry bite. Serve chilled.
3. Susana Balbo Torrontés “Crios” 2016 (Argentina) $12
When you think of Argentine wine, you likely think red. What else could they possibly pair with all that asado? But Argentina’s signature white grape, torrontés, is almost always a steal. If you like moscato, torrontés is actually its genetic grape grandchild. Torrontés exhibits many of the same exuberant floral and herbaceous characteristics as moscato, but the Argentines make it dry and without the bubbles. This one from Susana Balbo’s entry-label “Crios” charms with aromas of orange blossom, ginger and white peach, coupled with a saline kiss on the palate.
4. Bodegas Shaya Rueda 2015 (Castilla y León, Spain) $15
You may have learned the name albariño over the last few years, the white Spanish variety that’s gaining ground with Americans. But for the Spanish themselves, rueda remains their most popular quality white wine. Made primarily from the verdejo grape, rueda comes from central Spain and seems to capture the brilliant sun that soaks these stony, wind-swept vineyards. They’re also rarely expensive. Boisterous, round and purely joyful, this version from Shaya satisfies with notes of ripe apple, pear skin, honeydew, and pollen.
5. La Guita Manzanilla NV (Jerez, Spain) $15 ($9 for 375 mL half bottle)
Sherry considers itself in the midst of a renaissance, creeping onto the menus of craft cocktail bars across the United States. But the utterly idiosyncratic fortified wine from southern Spain is also worth considering as more than just a cocktail ingredient. Manzanilla is sherry’s most delicate expression, vinified in the seaside town of Sanlúcar de Barrameda. La Guita embodies everything I love about manzanilla—it at once emulates the doughy, almond flour aromas of a pastry shop, as well as the salty Atlantic breeze that makes this wine possible.
6. Château Gassier Rosé Côtes de Provence “Esprit Gassier” 2016 (Côtes de Provence, France) $19
No wine hue has come to emblemize warm weather quite like rosé. But with more of the pink stuff flooding the market than ever before, now’s the time to be choosey when buying a bottle. Hailing from Provence, the rosé motherland, Château Gassier’s “Esprit Gassier” doesn’t disappoint. With crisp notes of wild strawberry, tangerine peel, and rosemary, the “Esprit Gassier” does exactly what a rosé should do: It refreshes you.
7. Corte Gardoni Bardolino “Le Fontane” 2016 (Veneto, Italy) $14
Just because you’re presently “allowed” to wear whites and linens doesn’t mean you have to cut out reds from your summer cellar. In fact, a number of light-bodied red wines merit a little time in the fridge. Beaujolais quickly comes to mind when brainstorming chillable reds, but consider bardolino. Grown in Italy’s Veneto region near the shores of Lake Garda, bardolino is all too often overlooked for a wine this delightful and of this much value. Corte Gardoni’s Bardolino “Le Fontane” tastes of violet, thyme, and smoked cherry pit, with a tranquil purity that recalls the northern Italian landscape from which it’s born.
8. André Brunel Côtes-du-Rhône 2014 (Côtes-du-Rhône, France) $14
While the rest of these summer wines aim to combat the dog days at hand, everybody should have a bolder red in stock for when they’re firing things up themselves. France’s Southern Rhône Valley houses a stunning array of affordable wines that offer an ideal counterpoint to American grilling. André Brunel makes some of my favorite Châteauneuf-du-Pape wines, but their entry Côtes-du-Rhône provides the perfect stepping stone to its big brother. With juicy, complex flavors of spiced plum, chaparral, and cured meats, this wine should be in your glass next time you throw a burger on the grill.