Wines Under $20

Fire up Nonna’s pasta sauce recipe we’re having Valpolicella this week!

Learn just a little bit about Valpolicella and you will be on your way to finding some of the best values in the NSLC  AND I want to introduce you to one of those great values that you might want to pick up this weekend.

First to the lesson. Did you know there are actually 5 different levels of Valpolicella, each one rarer, more expensive and more wonderful? Most of us look for the least expensive version but that’s not likely the best value. So here are the different classifications of Valipolicella: Level 1, Valpoilcella Classico, Most of the Valpolicella you see in the store falls into this category and you can pick one up for $15 or $16. You might want to take a pass on Classico; there’s much better value ahead. Level two is known as Valpolicella Superiore; an everyday wine that spends a year in oak. Versions of this category sells at the NSLC for $25. Skip this one too. There’s still better value ahead and, inexplicably, it sells for less. Okay, now let’s jump ahead to the top category of Valpolicella. It’s a very rare desert wine called Reciota della Valpolicella and we’re going to skip that one too because it’s just too damned expensive and hard to find. Drop down a level to the delicious Amarone Valpolicella. Amarones are awesome in part because they’re made from grapes that are dried and concentrated for 3 to 5 months. It takes twice as many of these dried grapes to make a bottle of Amarone as compared to a Classico. Many producers wait up to five years before releasing their Amarone. These wines are amazing but will leave you crying in your glass because they still sell for $44 to $47 at the NSLC and there are more expensive and wonderful versions at the private wine store around town.

If you’re still with me, thank you. It has been a bit of a journey but we’ve arrived at an amazing wine at a great price. The mid-level of Valpolicella is called Ripasso. It’s made by mixing the pomace (the grape skins and bits) from the Amarone I mentioned above with Valpolicella Classico. The resulting wine is incredibly delicious and a Valpolicella Ripasso is on sale right now at the NSLC  for under $20.

Folonari Ripasso Valpoilcella  (2014) is 2 dollars off right now and sells for $17.99. My palate tasted cherries, blueberries and black pepper.  The nose has hints of cherries and green peppers. This wine goes amazingly well with pizza and pasta with tomato sauces, arugala salad, anything peppery really. Trust me on this one, Folonari Ripasso Valpoilcella is a very good wine at a great price for this level of Valpolicella.

If you have a suggestion for a wine (under $20) that we should all try, drop me a note; take a picture of the label if you haven’t tossed the bottle in the recycle bin. Email it to