The best red wines under $20

by Michael Cooper / 18 August, 2017

Don’t let anyone tell you there aren’t any good local pinot noirs for under $20, $25 or $30.

About 1000 pinot noirs are crowding the shelves, including a multitude of distinguished reds in the $40 and above category. But can you buy a decent, satisfying pinot noir for under $30?

The good news is that intensifying competition between the wineries is producing better pinot noirs in the lower price brackets. If you prefer not to pay over $20, it’s wiser to select a merlot from Hawke’s Bay or an Aussie shiraz. But if your budget stretches to $25-30, you can definitely find some classy, rewarding pinot noirs.

$20 and Under

Left Field Nelson Pinot Noir 2015 •••½

This bargain-priced red from Te Awa was matured in French oak barrels (mostly) and tanks. Deep ruby, with mouthfilling body (13% alc/vol) and good depth of ripe cherry, plum and spice flavours, showing some savoury complexity, it offers fine value at $18.

Pa Road Marlborough Pinot Noir •••½

From te Pa, this partly barrel-aged red was grown in the Southern Valleys. Ruby hued, it is full-bodied (14% alc/vol), fresh and tasty, with plum, spice and dried herb flavours, showing some savoury complexity and a smooth finish. $20

Sacred Hill Marlborough Pinot Noir 2016 •••½

A drink-young charmer, this is a mouthfilling (13.5% alc/vol), ruby-hued red, with cherry, plum, strawberry and spice flavours, showing a touch of complexity, and a well-rounded finish. Priced right. $20

Seifried Nelson Pinot Noir 2015 •••½

Matured in French oak barrels, this sharply priced red is drinking well in its youth. Full ruby, it is mouthfilling (13.5% alc/vol) and savoury, with plummy, spicy flavours, showing good complexity and depth. $20

$25 and Under

Bronte Nelson Pinot Noir 2015 ••••

From Rimu Grove, this estate-grown red was matured in French oak casks. Deeply coloured, it is fragrant and full-bodied (14% alc/vol), with fresh plum, cherry and spice flavours, good ripeness and depth and some savoury complexity. Delicious young. $24

Delegat Awatere Valley Pinot Noir 2015 ••••

Offering fine value, this estate-grown Marlborough red was fully barrel-aged. Deep ruby, it is full-bodied (13.5% alc/vol), savoury and supple, with good flavour richness and complexity. Drink now or cellar. $25

Gibbston Valley Gold River Central Otago Pinot Noir 2015 •••½

This is the pioneering winery’s red, which it describes as being for “immediate enjoyment”. Matured in seasoned French oak casks, it is deep ruby, mouthfilling (13.5% alc/vol) and buoyantly fruity, with generous plum and dried-herb flavours, fresh and smooth. $23

Main Divide North Canterbury Pinot Noir 2014 ••••

This drink-young style from Pegasus Bay was grown at Waipara and matured for 18 months in French oak barriques. It is deep ruby, full-bodied (13.5% alc/vol) and fresh, with strong, plummy, spicy flavours, savoury notes adding complexity, and a finely textured, persistent finish. $25

Thornbury Central Otago Pinot Noir 2015 ••••

Offering fine value, this Bannockburn red was matured in French oak barriques. Mouthfilling (13.5% alc/vol), it is sweet-fruited and supple, with generous, ripe-cherry and spice flavours, a touch of complexity, gentle tannins and excellent harmony. $25

Waipara Hills Waipara Valley Pinot Noir 2015 •••½

This youthful, ruby-hued red was partly barrel-aged. Fragrant, with a plummy, spicy bouquet, it is mouthfilling (13% alc/vol), with vibrant fruit flavours, showing good depth, a touch of complexity and a smooth finish. $22

$30 and Under

Babich Family Estates Headwaters Organic Marlborough Pinot Noir 2014 ••••

Certified organic, this deep-ruby, single-vineyard wine was oak-aged and bottled unfiltered. Generous, savoury and supple, it is full-bodied (13% alc/vol), with concentrated plum/spice flavours, showing good ripeness and complexity. $27

Bannockbrae Goldfields Central Otago Pinot Noir 2015 ••••

Already delicious, this bright-ruby red was grown in the Cromwell Basin and aged in French oak barrels. It is mouthfilling (14% alc/vol), scented, savoury and silky, with ripe plum, cherry and spice flavours, showing good complexity and length. $30

Carrick Unravelled Central Otago Pinot Noir 2016 ••••

An organically certified red that was barrel-aged for 11 months. Full-bodied (13.8% alc/vol), it is fresh and supple, with cherry, plum and spice flavours, woven with lively acidity, considerable complexity and the structure to age well. $27

Greenhough Nelson Pinot Noir 2015 ••••½

This great-value red was hand-picked and barrel-matured for a year. Full, bright ruby, with a fragrant, ripe bouquet, it is mouthfilling (13.9% alc/vol) and sweet-fruited, with generous plum, cherry, spice and nut flavours, showing excellent complexity and harmony. $28

Millton La Cote Gisborne Pinot Noir 2015 ••••½

Certified organic, this hill-grown, hand-harvested red has loads of personality. Full-bodied (13.5% alc/vol), it is savoury, with youthful, ripe-cherry, plum and spice flavours, showing excellent complexity, harmony and potential. $30

Mission Martinborough Barrique Reserve Pinot Noir 2015 ••••½

A single-vineyard red that was matured for a year in French oak barriques. Mouthfilling (14% alc/vol), it has generous, ripe-cherry, plum and spice flavours, is complex and savoury, and has a firm, lingering finish. Well worth cellaring. $29

Paul Henry’s Own Central Otago Pinot Noir 2016 ••••

This softly mouthfilling red from Invivo was blended with help from broadcaster Paul Henry. Floral, it is deep ruby, full-bodied (14% alc/vol) and smooth, in a sweet-fruited style with generous cherry, plum and spice flavours, and loads of drink-young appeal. $30

Pencarrow Martinborough Pinot Noir 2015 ••••

Palliser Estate’s second-tier label consistently offers good value. Already drinking well, this French oak-aged red is bright ruby, mouthfilling (13.5% alc/vol), harmonious and smooth, with satisfying depth of cherry, plum, spice and nut flavours, in the classic, well-ripened, savoury regional style. $29

Rocky Point Central Otago Pinot Noir 2016 ••••

Delicious young but ageworthy, this second-tier label from Prophet’s Rock was hand-picked and French oak-aged. Deeply coloured, it is fresh, mouthfilling (13.5% alc/vol) and supple, with rich, ripe, plummy, gently spicy flavours, savoury notes adding complexity and good harmony. $29

Te Kairanga Runholder Martinborough Pinot Noir 2015 ••••½

Bargain-priced, this is a deep-ruby, concentrated red with an inviting floral bouquet. Estate-grown and French oak-matured, it is full-bodied (13.5% alc/vol), with rich, ripe, cherryish flavours to the fore, good complexity and a silky-smooth finish. Lovely drinking from now on. $29

Terra Sancta Mysterious Diggings Bannockburn Central Otago Pinot Noir 2015 ••••

Softly seductive, this estate-grown red was aged in seasoned French oak barrels and bottled unfined and unfiltered. Floral, savoury and supple, it’s a full-bodied wine (13% alc/vol) with gentle, ripe-berry, spice and nut flavours, a silky texture and good complexity and harmony. $27

Tohu Awatere Valley Marlborough Pinot Noir 2015 ••••

Grown in the upper Awatere Valley and French oak-aged, this deeply coloured, mouthfilling red (13.5% alc/vol) from Kono NZ has strong plum/spice flavours. An exuberantly fruity style, with some complexity, it shows good intensity. $28

Vidal Reserve Marlborough Pinot Noir 2015 ••••

This fine-value red was grown in the Wairau and Awatere valleys and matured in French oak barriques. Instantly attractive, it is full-bodied (13.5% alc/vol), with fresh, strong cherry, plum and spice flavours, showing good ripeness and complexity, and a smooth, lingering finish. $26

Wooing Tree Beetle Juice Central Otago Pinot Noir 2015 ••••

A single-vineyard Cromwell red that was hand-picked and barrel-aged. Deep ruby, fragrant and supple, it’s a refined, mouthfilling wine (13.5% alc/vol), with ripe plum and spice flavours, finely integrated oak, good complexity and lots of drink-young appeal. $28

Yealands Single Vineyard Awatere Valley Pinot Noir 2016 ••••

Estate-grown in the sweeping Seaview Vineyard, then oak-aged, this youthful, full-bodied (13.5% alc/vol), sweet-fruited red is already enjoyable. Vibrantly fruity, it has strong plum/spice flavours, with a touch of tamarillo and a well-rounded finish. $27  

This article was first published in the August 19, 2017 issue of the New Zealand Listener.

RelatedArticlesModule - wINES

Latest

PM announces ban on all military-style semi-automatic weapons and assault rifles
103805 2019-03-21 00:00:00Z Crime

PM announces ban on all military-style semi-automa…

by RNZ

Ms Ardern pledged the day after the terrorist massacre that "gun laws will change" and would be announced within 10 days of the attack.

Read more
No mention of right-wing extremist threats in 10 years of GCSB & SIS public docs
103770 2019-03-21 00:00:00Z Politics

No mention of right-wing extremist threats in 10 y…

by Jane Patterson

There is not one specific mention of the threat posed by white supremacists or right-wing nationalism in 10 years of security agency documents.

Read more
Deirdre Kent: The woman who faced down the wrath of Big Tobacco
103798 2019-03-21 00:00:00Z Profiles

Deirdre Kent: The woman who faced down the wrath o…

by Joanna Wane

As the face of anti-smoking lobby group ASH, Deirdre Kent played a vital role in the smokefree New Zealand movement.

Read more
Māori leaders say acts of terror nothing new in NZ
103766 2019-03-21 00:00:00Z Currently

Māori leaders say acts of terror nothing new in NZ…

by Leigh-Marama McLachlan

Māori leaders are calling on New Zealanders to reject the notion that 'this is not us' in the wake of the Christchurch mosque attacks.

Read more
Cynthia Millar and the strange beauty of the ondes martenot
103723 2019-03-21 00:00:00Z Music

Cynthia Millar and the strange beauty of the ondes…

by Elizabeth Kerr

The sci-fi sound of the ondes martenot is playing a key part in the upcoming performance of an epic symphony.

Read more
Christchurch gunsmith warned police about white supremacists last year
103662 2019-03-20 00:00:00Z Crime

Christchurch gunsmith warned police about white su…

by RNZ

A Canterbury gunsmith living and working says he told police less than six months ago they needed to look at the rise of white supremacists with guns.

Read more
12 moments that show how New Zealanders have united in the face of terror
103665 2019-03-20 00:00:00Z Social issues

12 moments that show how New Zealanders have unite…

by Vomle Springford

In the following days after the Christchurch terror attacks, New Zealand has come together to support the victims of the shootings.

Read more
How modern art inspired the music of Anna Clyne's Abstractions
103649 2019-03-20 00:00:00Z Music

How modern art inspired the music of Anna Clyne's…

by The Listener

The works of the English contemporary composer feature in the NZSO’s forthcoming The Planets series.

Read more