With appreciation of good wine becoming more commonplace, many wine drinkers are prepared to pay more money to discover new, and hopefully better wine. With an ‘upgrade’ to the $50 ceiling opens up for us another different ‘class’ of wine expanding our options.
Of course, that’s if you’re fortunate enough to be able to. But also this is only if you are prepared to do the necessary research to ensure that’s the case (no pun intended, just a bottle will do!). Only then can you reap the potential rewards.
|1. Marques de Murrieta Reserva Rioja 2016
|2. Carema Riserva 2015
|3. Achaval-Ferrer Quimera 2016
|4. Double Lariat by Jamieson Ranch Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon 2014
|5. Baileyana Firepeak Pinot Noir 2018
|5. Reata Las Brisas Pinot Noir 2015
Luckily for you (ok, even more luckily for us), we selected some of the best red wines for under $50, and delivered our verdict on which one that we think is well worth you trying yourself.
Our Best Red Wines Under $50 Reviews and Comparisons
1. Carema Riserva 2015
Nebbiolo is an Italian varietal closely associated with its native Piedmont region, where it makes the Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita wines of Barolo, Barbaresco, Roero, Gattinara, and Carema. The last, Carema, is one of the lesser-known but is very deserving of greater discovery and appreciation.
This 2015 Riserva is a fine example as you’d expect from a winery that bears the name of not only the grape but of the wine too. So much so, that Antonio Galloni of Vinous calls it a “total knockout, breathtaking wine,” awarding it 95 points.
Further praise comes from Wired for Wine’s supplier who describes it as “arguably the best-kept secret in our book,” adding that it has “ultra-low production, and we are limiting this to one case per account.”
Good to drink now through to 2035, the opportunity to get hold of a bottle is pretty rare, so one not to be missed. Especially at this price.
- Variety: 100% Nebbiolo
- Appellation: Carema, Piedmont, Italy
- Winery: Nebbiolo di Carema
- Alcohol: 13.5%
- Bottle: 750 ml
What We Like About Carema Riserva 2015
This is a dark Carmela, packed with aromas and flavors following aging for 36 months in oak casks.
Initial pleasant hints of boozy fruits and dried flowers give way to the all-out appeal and power of cherry, cocoa, cinnamon, tobacco, licorice, and dried herbs on the nose.
In the mouth, Carema Riserva 2015 is luxuriously soft and complete with deep layers of darker cherries, and lesser, coffee, chestnut, and cocoa. All provide for a good mid-palate density, with a long finish aided by the bright acidity, strong structure, and persistently sweet tannins.
It could be drunk with pretty much anything. Or nothing, on its own. The winery itself says that it’s “a particularly good match with roast meat, game, red meat, [and] ripe but not strong cheeses.”
What We Don’t Like About Carema Riserva 2015
We found it not quite as clear and bright as a previous vintage that we’ve tested, and a bit hot in the aftertaste from the acidity.
- Well-balanced and interesting
- Surprisingly delicious
- Great summer light red
- Perhaps lacks intrigue
- Needs more time
2. Achaval-Ferrer Quimera 2016
From Mendoza in Argentina, this is a gorgeous and fruity blend of Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Petit Verdot.
The aging of 12 months in French Oak barrels lends it some old-world elegance for either drinking now or to hold.
It’s best served at an ever-so-slightly warmer 16-18 degrees Celsius for a wine of this medium body. Decant for at least an hour before drinking, and when you do it will pair perfectly with red meat, as you’d expect from an Argentinian red.
- Variety: 45% Malbec, 19% Cabernet Sauvignon, 18% Cabernet Franc, 18% Petit Verdot
- Appellation: Mendoza, Argentina
- Winery: Achaval Ferrer
- Alcohol: 14 %
- Bottle: 750 ml
What We Like About Achaval-Ferrer Quimera 2016
This a harmonious marriage between the light femininity of the brighter fruits and herbs, and the rugged masculinity of the dark and earthier.
Of the latter, it’s the rich dark plums, blackberries, blueberries, and cassis with notes of pointed balsamic, stony graphite, smoky tobacco, and spicy oak that are just about the best. But like any good and successful marriage, the lighter touch is required for balance and support, in the form of seductive red berries, cedar, chocolate, rosemary, and vanilla. This is held firmly by a broad build of tannins.
Achaval-Ferrer Quimera 2016 is as deep and complex as it sounds. As well as delicious.
What We Don’t Like About Achaval-Ferrer Quimera 2016
All that said, we may expect a little more polish and refinement, thanks to those French barrels. Although with just 12 months of aging it probably didn’t warrant these expectations.
- Amazing assemblage
- Perfect for red meat and nice pasta
- Like a sexy love story
- Not as smooth as hoped
- A little acidic
3. Marques de Murrieta Reserva Rioja 2016
2016 was a cooler year in Rioja, which meant for a large crop. The grapes for this cuvée were harvested later than usual then, at the end of September.
The result? A fine and textured Rioja, subtler and with more finesse than is usual. Certainly, more than the previous vintage that we’re familiar with. The detail and texture on the palate, as well as the tannins, are very different.
What isn’t, is that it still reassuringly has the power of a more traditional Rioja. And as such, it pairs with most foods.
- Variety: 87% Tempranillo, 6% Graciano, 5% Mazuello, 2% Garnacha
- Appellation: Rioja, Spain
- Winery: Marques de Murrieta
- Alcohol: 14%
- Bottle: 750 ml
What We Like About Marques de Murrieta Reserva Rioja 2016
Marques de Murrieta is a safe and consistent marque of the best quality and value. As always, their experience and attention to detail shine through in the almost four years of production of this 2016 Reserva.
There are notes of the dark forest and black olives, that precede a rich palate of tangy black cherry and currant flavors in this nicely balanced red. There are also hints of oak from the two years in new and partly new American oak barrels in 225L American oak barrels.
After that, it is aged for 18 months in a bottle, for the tannins and acidity of orange peel to be well-integrated and supportive for its supple texture. Balanced, in a savory style. Tempranillo, Graciano, Mazuelo, and Garnacha. Drink now through 2026.
Marques de Murrieta Reserva Rioja 2016 is a complex, structured and powerful red, yet with a surprising fineness and elegance.
What We Don’t Like About Marques de Murrieta Reserva Rioja 2016
We’ve heard reports of some variation and inconsistency between bottles.
- Rich body, balanced tannins, semi-dry, and good acidity
- A subtle, but pleasing oak sensation
- Color is a beautiful deep ruby red
- The nose was over caramelized
- Short, dry, and somewhat bitter palate
4. Double Lariat by Jamieson Ranch Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon 2014
Although it is only 30 miles long and 5 miles wide, and produces only four-percent of the Golden State’s wine, the Napa Valley gives the impression of dominating America’s, and not just California’s wine scene.
The region has built yet has a worldwide reputation for wines of great quality and distinctive character. That’s largely due to its unique geography creating a favorable climate, and microclimates within, and a diversity of soils. The valley has as many as 40 soil types, so two wineries next to each other can produce very contrasting wines. At its southernmost tip, Jamieson Ranch Vineyards produces excellent wines that exhibit the historical ruggedness and boldness of America’s West.
With 2014 Double Lariat Cabernet Sauvignon, this character is tempered somewhat by it having been barrel fermented and aged in French oak for 16 months. This vintage and subsequent ones have consistently been awarded high points by respected critics.
- Variety: 87% Cabernet Sauvignon, 7% Merlot, 2% Petite Verdot, 4% Assorted Reds
- Appellation: Napa Valley, California
- Winery: Jamieson Ranch Vineyards
- Alcohol: 14.7%
- Bottle: 750 ml
What We Like About Double Lariat by Jamieson Ranch Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon 2014
The beauty of this wine comes from the integration of dark and red fruits, oak, cedar spices, and seductive tannins. That makes for a luxurious and sumptuous Cab.
With notes on the nose of anise, blackcurrant, vanilla, chocolate, and cedar, and on the palate of blackberry, plum, cassis, black and red cherries, and raspberry. And a very fine and lingering finish.
The result is a big bold red with a civilizing elegance, which is so good that purchase is limited to 3 bottles per customer.
Drink now or hold for up to a decade. It pairs particularly well with sweet lamb, smoked beef, and earthy mushrooms.
What We Don’t Like About Double Lariat by Jamieson Ranch Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon 2014
We’d hoped that it would have opened up more after decanting with several hours of air. But disappointingly, it remained a little closed. For our preference at least.
- Drinks like wine at twice the price
- Very fine wine-making
- Extremely good for a young vintage
- Concerns over quality control
- Nice fruit but a little too sweet
5. Baileyana Firepeak Pinot Noir 2018
Baileyana’s Director of Winemaking, Rob Takigawa, has worked his way up at the winery for over the last 20 years. That’s a lot of experience and knowledge of fruit from the estate’s Edna Valley Paragon Vineyard.
Paragon is set in the heart of the Valley, who’s location just 5.4 miles from the Pacific Ocean makes it the coolest of all of California’s growing regions. Its grapes display many of the nuances of the unique region.
Baileyana Firepeak Pinot Noir 2018 showcases these wonderfully. Especially when paired with seared tuna or salmon, rare meats, rustic stews, or simple roasted chicken or pork.
- Variety: 100% Pinot Noir
- Appellation: Edna Valley, California
- Winery: Baileyana
- Alcohol: 15.5%
- Bottle: 750 ml
What We Like About Baileyana Firepeak Pinot Noir 2018
The coolness of the climate makes for an extended growing season in the Edna Valley. This allows the grapes to develop the fullest varietal expression of complex and intense flavors, as exhibited with Baileyana Firepeak Pinot Noir 2018.
Red cherry and berries, cinnamon, mint, and tobacco show on the nose. The palate is crisper with darker fruits, vanilla, root beer, and cola flavors, and pinches of baking spice and thyme.
All are complemented by firm acidity and structure, before the climax of an ample finish courtesy of soft supple tannins.
Read Related Topic: Best Red Wines Under $30
What We Don’t Like About Baileyana Firepeak Pinot Noir 2018
If you enjoy a nice glass or two on its own (and let’s face it, who doesn’t), then unusually for a Pinot, this isn’t for you. For sure it’s a wine to be enjoyed with food.
- Nice mix of berries and a slight spice
- Smoky, sultry, and seductive
- Long bright finish
- Not enough to it
- Too strong for a Pinot
6. Reata Las Brisas Pinot Noir 2015
Reata Las Brisas Pinot Noir 2015 however, is definitely one for drinking on its own. It’s a more usual lighter-bodied Pinot than the 2018 Baileyana. Although that’s not to say that it is not to be enjoyed with food also. Paired with a poached salmon with a squeeze of lemon or duck with an orange citrus glaze, it’s a delight.
Reata picks the grapes from the Las Brisas vineyard in Sonoma County’s hills. Here, the cooling coastal air lets the grapes reach their optimum maturity. Added to this norm, in 2015 dry, warm weather in the late Spring and a mild summer crafted this particularly fragrant, colorful, and elegant Pinot Noir. This vintage is rated better than any other year for this wine, of which only 150 cases were produced.
- Variety: 100% Pinot Noir
- Appellation: Las Brisas, Sonoma County, California
- Winery: Reata
- Alcohol: 14.5%
- Bottle: 750 ml
What We Like About Reata Las Brisas Pinot Noir 2015
An outstanding Pinot. Elegant, expressive, flavorful, and mouth-watering. A very easy wine to drink with minor oak and hints of vanilla, but expressive raspberry, cherry, pomegranate, redcurrant, and strawberry.
Well-structured and Alluringly aromatic, sumptuously flavorful, and well-structured. It moves around the mouth with a lovely silky feel. Perfectly balanced, there’s a hint of minerality at the long, lingering finish.
This is a very impressive Pinot. Especially for the price.
What We Don’t Like About Reata Las Brisas Pinot Noir 2015
It might be a little too dry and spicy for some drinkers’ tastes.
- A full-flavored, yet light-bodied Pinot
- A standalone joy
- Delicious with duck
- Spicier than expected
- A bit tart
As we wrote in our introduction if you’re privileged to be able to up your spending to the $50 ceiling, a whole different class of red wines awaits.
We selected, tasted, and reviewed what we believe to be amongst the best red wines under $50 that are currently available. There’s a nice choice of single varietals and imaginative blends for you to discover.
As such, with a range of different wines for different occasions, it’s very difficult to choose a single one and declare it the best. They all have their own merits, but we believe Marques de Murrieta Reserva Rioja 2016 to be the best. At least to our tastes.
We’ve given you our thoughts and recommendations on which are the best red wines under $50, and where to buy them. We think that you should treat yourself and try. We believe that you’ll enjoy them as much as we did. Go on…you deserve it!
See Related Topic: Best White Wines Under $30