By, Curt Sembello

After years of experimenting with exotic reds from far-flung places, the most popular wines of 2020 are close to home. The most popular red wines this year are familiar friends from California, Italy, Spain, and Australia. Best of all, they aren’t expensive!

1.  Robert Mondavi Private Selection, Cabernet Sauvignon (CA)

Robert Mondavi’s offerings have always been among the top selling red wines, and this cabernet explains why. It has a bright acidity and flavors of Bing cherries, plum, blackberry, vanilla, coffee, and oak combined with aromas of spice, black pepper, and blackcurrant. It’s the ideal accompaniment to a large pasta dinner.

2.  Menage A Trois Red (CA)

One of the top 10 red wines on Amazon, Menage A Trois offers this blend of zinfandel, merlot, and cabernet sauvignon that has distinct flavors of dark berries, cherries, and notes of pepper and tobacco. It’s Silky, soft, and fruit-forward with firm tannins. It pairs well with grilled steak–and perhaps even poultry.

3.  Josh Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon (CA)

The vintner describes Josh Cellars cabernet as “round and juicy with flavors of blackberry, hazelnut, cinnamon, and hints of vanilla and toasted oak,” but tasters don’t tend to find it as complex. This light and smooth wine has no off flavors, but it’s young and best aerated. Josh Cellars sources the grapes from the most popular wine regions of California, including Sonoma and Napa. It’s an adequate table wine and priced well.

4.  Stella Rosa Black (Italy)

Stella Rosa Black would be a top contender in a list of wines ranked sweetest to driest. Light, fizzy and saccharine, Stella Rosa ferments this wine in Charmat-style, pressurized tanks that create natural carbonation. A blend of red varietals, one tastes dark summer berries in every sip. Some critics find it too sweet, but it pairs beautifully with strong, savory cheese, nuts, and dark chocolates.

5.  Meiomi Pinot Noir Red Wine (CA)

Meiomi makes their pinot noir with grapes from Monterey, Santa Barbara, and Sonoma and ages the wine in French oak barrels for six months. Their pinot noir a crisp, silky, strawberry-forward wine with notes of mocha, dark berries, and oak. It’s a beautiful looking wine, indeed, with a rich color. Some might add it to a list of sweet wines. Drink it alongside a sharp cheese board or the darkest chocolate in the house.

6.  Victoria Park Eden Valley Shiraz/Syrah (Australia)

This earthy shiraz has a bouquet of red berries and pepper and tastes of pomegranate, cola, and cherry. Other experts have noted it to be “amaro-like,” which is a kind way of saying the finish is a touch astringent. It goes great with braised beef, gouda, and duck. Tasters also like it with veal and venison.

7.  SIMI Sonoma County, Cabernet Sauvignon Red Wine (CA)

From the Alexander Valley, this blended cabernet contains smooth tannins with flavors of red and black fruits and notes of spice that yield to a velvet finish. SIMI Winery dresses up their 88% cabernet sauvignon with 5% merlot, 3% syrah, 3% petite sirah, and 1% malbec grapes. It’s spectacular with duck, lamb, and any dish involving smoky-flavored mushrooms.

8.  Justin Cabernet Sauvignon (CA)

This should fall on any list of good red wines. Aged 14 months in 25% new American oak barrels, Justin Cabernet Sauvignon tastes of black cherry, blackcurrant with oak and vanilla mid-palate. It has a long fruit-and-spice finish and noticeable but silky tannins. Absolutely perfect with a thin-crust pizza or shepherd’s pie.

9.  Blackstone Winemakers Select Merlot (CA)

A sub-$10 bottle that won’t end up down the drain? Is it possible? Blackstone merlot could well be the best cheap wine on the shelves. This varietal combination is 78% merlot, 12% syrah, 7% petite sirah, and 3% other red. With flavors of plum jam, dark chocolate, and black cherry, it’s smooth and fruit-forward. Blackstone merlot accompanies salmon and asparagus as well as eggplant Parmesan.

10.  San Gregorio El Vergal Tempranillo (Spain)

Spain’s El Vergal vineyard creates this intense, full-bodied, silky tempranillo that tastes of
summer berries, plum, and licorice. The flavors open the longer it airs, so allow adequate time for it to breathe. It’s medium in acidity and tannins, and serves as a striking contrast to light, crisp wines of summer.

Regardless of your palate; sweet or dry, fruity or earthy, astringent, firm, or soft, these red wines will enliven your dinner through the winter months. Share a bottle with those close to you, and toast to a new year.

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