Wine Wisdom

Best Budget and Splurge Picks by Alum Wine Experts

Budget Wines

  • Domaine Bellevue Touraine, Sauvignon Blanc or Rose—Caroline Hermann ’92
  • Chateau de Lascaux Syrah-based blend—Caroline Hermann ’92
  • Skeleton Malbec (“It’s from Patagonia. It is also interestingly made in one-liter bottles. It is a great value—not too fruity but still full-bodied.”)—Abigail Hitchcock ’94
  • White: Honig Sauvignon Blanc Napa Valley. “It’s a consistently good value and widely available, with crisp lemongrass and grapefruit aromas and flavors. ($15-$20)—Deborah Harkness ’86
  • Red: Bodegas Montecillo Rioja Crianza. “Always a winner, with rich cherry and plum fruit notes combined with deeper, darker nuances of leather and herbs.” (under $10)—Deborah Harkness ’86

Splurge Wines

  • 1998 Chateau Haut Brion—Caroline Hermann ’92
  • Chateauneuf du Pape (“This was my first a-ha wine. It had so many more layers than I was used to.”)—Dominique De Vito ’83
  • 2009 Paul Matthew TNT Pinot (“Hands down! All the pinots he makes are fantastic”) —Nicole Brun-Cottan FP’05
  • Champagne Perrier-Jouët—Abigail Hitchcock ’94
  • Merry Edwards Russian River Valley Pinot Noir (“She does everything herself, and you can tell.”)—Corey Burdick ’02
  • Sparkling: Pehu Simonet Champagne Brut Selection Grand Cru. “A delicious French wine with apple and wild strawberry aromas that follow through in the flavors, with the addition of dough and mineral elements. Lively, fresh, and perfect for a celebration.” ($30-$50)—Deborah Harkness ’86

Suggestions from Deborah Harkness’ Good Wines Under $20 Blog

wine in racks at Hudson-Chatham Winery

Hudson-Chatham Winery
photo by Deirdre Haber Malfatto

By day, Deborah Harkness ’86 is a history professor and a New York Times best-selling novelist. In her free time, she’s a wildly popular wine blogger. Her blog, Good Wines Under $20, was started on a whim when she needed to learn how to blog for an unrelated work project.

The frivolous practice site became an instant hit, earning recognition from publications like Saveur and Food & Wine. Part of Harkness’s appeal is her anti-wine-snobapproach: “I’m not a master sommelier. I took a wine appreciation course once,” she laughs. “But wine was always on the dinner table at my house growing up. I associate wine with food and family.” And with value, too: “I have a very firm ceiling of $20 on my blog,” she says. “That’s my budget. I don’t know about the rest of the world.”

Clearly, she’s not alone: Harkness has attracted thousands of thrifty readers who rely on her affordable tips. Here she shares her favorite budget wines with us. When in doubt, she says, “Try the grape you’ve never heard about before,” and explore unexpected regions. “There are some great wines being made in Virginia and New Mexico,” she says—for under $20, naturally.

—By Kara Baskin ’00




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