The United States consumed 913 million gallons of wine last year. With so many vineyards producing to keep up with demand, it’s hard to distinguish what bottles will be worth the investment. The average price per bottle has increased significantly in the last two years, but price doesn’t always mean quality. If you’re constantly lost in the liquor store, or if you generally pick your bottles of wine by the sale price or pretty label on the front, we’re here to help you sort it out.

Enter 21 and Under: our monthly series covering the best bottles of wine at liquor stores around Denver ringing in at less than $21 — because you don’t have to break the bank to pop a cork.

After exploring Argonaut in Capitol Hill last month, we decided to head west to Mondo Vino in the Highlands.

IMG_0017This small, exposed brick-laden boutique shop has been serving the Highlands community since 1999. Owner Duey Kratzer and his team are all you could ever hope for when navigating a new wine shop alone — thoughtful, knowledgeable but approachable. They’re willing to answer any question, but not without first making you feel comfortable enough to ask it in the first place. Duey hand-picked these five favorites exclusively for the readers of 303 Magazine.

IMG_0027THE BOTTLE: Ca’Furlan Cuvee Beatrice Prosecco Extra Dry, Italy NV ($15)

THE NOSE: Bright and full of citrus notes. True to its Northern Italian roots, this prosecco from the Veneto region is full of bright green grapes.

THE PALATE: Fresh and full of tiny bubbles. Apples, almonds and citrus shine through.

THE PAIRINGS: This light-and-airy wine is perfect for a Sunday afternoon. Sip it with any sort of light appetizers, like a fresh salad or cheese plate.

IMG_0026THE BOTTLE: Sattlerhof Sudsteirermark Sauvignon Blanc, Austria 2013 ($15)

THE NOSE: Peppers, cucumber and a hint of lemon rind.

THE PALATE: Richer than many bottles of Sauvignon Blanc, this one shines with noticeable hints of white pepper and a great texture. Sudsteiermark is a small wine-producing region in the south of Austria. The unique climate produces crisp, aromatic white wines.

THE PAIRINGS: Like a lot of whites, this one is terrific with a white fish. Also pair it with any vegetable-forward meal, especially in spring. This one would be asparagus’ best friend.

IMG_0022THE BOTTLE: Castelfeder Breitbacher Schiava, Alto Adige, Italy ($17)

THE NOSE: Light and balanced with a strong red-fruit aroma.

THE PALATE: Light and balanced with high mountain herbs. Smooth but present tannins with high acidity for freshness. The Shiava region of northern Italy can produce a wide variety of flavors, but this bottle boasts an uncomplicated, easy-drinking one.

THE PAIRINGS: Pair this one with a prosciutto sandwich and hard cheeses.

IMG_0024THE BOTTLE: Sait Cosme Cotes du Rhone, France 2015 ($18)

THE NOSE: The scent of a Syrah. Dark plum fruit-forward with licorice and a high-toned roasted meat aroma.

THE PALATE: Heavier on the palate with tannins that give way to red currant and baked spice bread. The Rhone Valley in France produces many varietals, but middle-weird Syrah is a stand-out.

THE PAIRINGS: Sip and savor with the classic roasted meat and herbed potatoes pairing.

IMG_0020THE BOTTLE: The Whole Shebang Tenth Cuvee, California ($19)

THE NOSE: A tried and true Zinfandel. Think dark cherry and raspberry.

THE PALATE: This bottle is a “rare red blend,” a term given to a varietal with an unlikely grape combination. In this case, Old Vine Zinfandel, Syrah, Mourvedre and Cinsault. The results? A fruit-forward drinker with a bit of French herbs. Its rich texture and soft tannins roll into a long finish.

THE PAIRINGS: Dry rub barbecue with a classic meat. Don’t forget the cornbread!

What wine store should we explore next? 

All photography by Alex Palmerton.