With summer officially over, it’s time to ring in the new school year. After shelling out serious dough for back-to-school supplies, clothes and books, moms and dads are in desperate need of a glass of wine, especially in celebration of an empty, quiet home. Below are our picks for budget-friendly wines—all under $20—to toast your kids’ sweet return to academia.
Coniglio 2014 Leola Chardonnay (Sonoma County); $20, 90 points. Named for the producer’s mother, and with a whimsical, though understated painting of a bunny on the label, this Chard delivers great value and quality, imparting fragrant orange blossom and jasmine on the pretty nose before unveiling a medium-bodied, balanced ripeness of melon, pear and anise. —Virginie Boone
Hecht & Bannier 2015 Rosé (Languedoc); $13, 89 points. This is a clean and vibrant rosé, with upfront notes of lavender, menthol and bay that frame red cherry and berry tones. The palate is fleshy and fruit-forward, with bold flavors of peach and strawberry that transition seamlessly into the citrus-zest finish. Best Buy. —Lauren Buzzeo
Vignavecchia 2013 Chianti Classico; $18, 90 points. Luminous and fresh, this opens with aromas of red berry, violet, chopped herb and a whiff of baking spice. The vibrant, linear palate offers red cherry, strawberry, white pepper and star anise alongside racy acidity and polished tannins. Enjoy through 2018. Editor’s Choice. —Kerin O’Keefe
Marqués de Gelida 2010 Brut Exclusive Gran Reserva Sparkling (Cava); $18, 88 points. Aromas of waffles and corn flakes suggest maturity and complexity. This feels open and wide, with depth to the palate. Direct flavors of lime and tangerine finish more citric and minerally than the nose, with a lasting sense of freshness. —Michael Schachner
Elk Cove 2015 Pinot Gris (Willamette Valley); $19, 91 points. One of Oregon’s finest values in Pinot Gris, this offers big, juicy flavors of luscious apple and pear, backed with punchy citrus. The ample acidity tastes of lemon and grapefruit, and a notable wash of minerality comes up in the fini sh. The blend includes small percentages of Gewürztraminer and Muscat. Editor’s Choice. —Paul Gregutt