Oct. 19, 2011 at 9:21 AM ET
With the changing weather it’s time to warm up with a range of reds. These span the style scale from elegant to powerful but all fall under the $12 mark, making it easy to raise a glass or three.
Light and bright:
2009 Mark West Pinot Noir, California, $12
It’s tough to make Pinot Noir that falls into the well-priced category, but Mark West has done it. With red berry zip and a hint of earthy aromas, it’s a Pinot that will please.
2009 Arrogant Frog “Lily Pad Noir” Pinot Noir, Languedoc, France, $10
A beret-clad frog with a jaunty grin adorns the label of this wine that offers a bit more weight than other affordable Pinots. Juicy and easy-drinking.
2009 Louis Jadot Beaujolais Villages, France, $12
One of best vintages for Beaujolais in recent history has given this wine depth and character. Made with Gamay grapes, there’s an appealing lightness and succulence.
2009 Rioja Vega, Rioja, Spain, $12
Slide into fall with this lovely red. Hailing from the classic Spanish region, Rioja, it’s made from the Tempranillo variety and is vibrant and elegant.
2009 Mandolin Syrah, Central Coast, California, $10
A Syrah for Pinot drinkers, this lighter, brighter style is one to pop with pork or even with fleshy fish.
2008 Finca Constancia “Altozano” Vino de la Tierra de Castilla, Spain, $10
A Tempranillo and Syrah blend that captures the racy side of red. Red berry fruit notes are topped off with a hit of peppery spice on the finish.
2009 Banfi Chianti Classico, Italy, $12
It’s normally a challenge to find simple Chianti that fits the $12 price point, much less one from the highly-regarded Chianti Classico zone, but Banfi has managed to produce a structured yet sleek version at a surprising price.
Smooth and supple:
2009 Torres “Sangre de Toro” Catalunya, Spain, $10
A deliciously silky red that over-delivers quality for the price. Made with Garnacha (Grenache) and Carinena in Spain’s northeastern corner. With crowd-pleasing freshness, you’ll want to stock up on this one.
2009 Kenwood “Vintage Red” California, $9
Kenwood is a Sonoma winery known for top bottlings (like their Jack London label) that you may want to crack open on weekends, but the quaffable “Vintage Red” is a Zinfandel-based blend for weekday sipping.
2009 James Oatley “Tic Tok” Shiraz, Mudgee, Australia, $12
The name is an ode to the family patriarch – a clockmaker and this is a red worth twice the price. From the cooler climate area of Mudgee, it’s a Shiraz with style.
2008 Waterbrook Merlot, Columbia Valley, Washington, $11
Located in the hot spot of Washington, Walla Walla, Waterbrook crafts pricey reds, but this supple, sippable Merlot tucks in at a cool price.
2009 Cellar No 8 Red wine, California, $10
A mélange of eight varieties including Petite Sirah, Merlot, and Grenache, this just may become your house red. Fruit-driven and juicy, it’s a happy-maker.
2009 Naked Earth red, South of France, $12
Made with organically grown grapes, this blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Grenache is not overly serious but offers good drinking with burgers or pizza.
2009 Bota Box Cabernet Sauvignon, California, $5 (500ml)
A to-go wine that can slip in a purse or pocket, this eco-friendly mini-box holds three glasses of smooth Cabernet. It’s ideal for the beach, outdoor party, or just when you want a little glass without the glass.
Full-bodied and fleshy:
2009 Dancing Bull Zinfandel, California, $12
With dark berry fruit flavors underscored by a kick of smoky aromas, this hearty Zin is made for fall sipping. Try alongside a wood-fired pizza or last of the season BBQ ribs.
2009 Healdsburg Ranches Cabernet Sauvignon North Coast, California $12
This Cab over-delivers in quality. It showcases intensity of fruit and mouthwatering vibrancy. Sure it will pair with a steak, but try roast chicken or grilled eggplant.
2008 Purple Cowboy “Trail Boss” Cabernet Sauvignon, Paso Robles, California $12
Named for some rodeo dudes who enjoyed vino and showed off their purple teeth, this plush red has power. The brand also supports the “Tough Enough to Wear Pink” organization for breast cancer awareness.
2009 Concannon Cabernet Sauvignon, Central Coast, California $10
Making wince 1883 Concannon ranks among California’s most historic producers. This affordable but still fairly complex Cab is the real deal.
2010 Bodega Elena de Mendoza Malbec, Argentina, $11
Malbec is known for its saturated dark fruit character and this one doesn’t disappoint. It’s rich, it’s ripe yet balanced with a whack of freshness making it ideal to saddle up to the dinner table.
2009 Yarden Mount Hermon, Galilee, Isreal, $12
Yes, this wine is kosher but it’s so much more. Made from Bordeaux varieties, it delivers complexity that belies the price. Lush but with an edge of tannic grip it’s one to pair with grilled meat dishes.
Leslie Sbrocco is the author of "The Simple & Savvy Wine Guide" and founder of ThirstyGirl.com.