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The Bottom Shelf: Guide To Buying Cheap Wine

The Bottom Shelf: Guide To Buying Cheap Wine April 17, 2018

cheap wine

What's the best cheap wine?
Let’s be real. Some nights you want to feel fancy AF, but you just don’t have the cash on hand to do so. Maybe it’s the end of the month and you’re saving up for rent. Maybe you’re stuck working a minimum-wage gig in a  city where the rent (and everything else) is too damn high. Or maybe you just can’t accept the idea that what "experts" consider a “good” bottle of wine costs at least $20 to $30. Well, have no fear. We’ve done the tipsy legwork to find the best wines out there at a reasonable price. And by "reasonable," we mean under $10. Because ain’t nobody got time to take their chances on a cheap wine only to discover that its palatability is on par with Two Buck Chuck. We’ve got proof that just because it’s cheap, it doesn’t have to be bad.

Reds: Alamos Malbec

cheap wine
IMAGE BY: Total Wine

Price: $8.97 (Total Wine)

Quality: 4/5

Taste: 4/5

Smoothness: 3/5

Cool Factor: 3/5

Black cherry, chocolate and toast. If you’re looking for something that appeals to the dessert for breakfast drinker in you, this is it. Malbecs are also great reds for summer drinking, since they’re not especially heavy but tend to have more body than your typical Merlot. Basically, if you want to appear more cultured than an average sorority sister but still know nothing about red wines, go with this one.

Reds: Robert Mondavi Private Selection Cabernet Sauvignon

cheap wine
IMAGE BY: Total Wine
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Price: $6.97 (Total Wine)

Quality: 4/5

Taste: 3/5

Smoothness: 5/5

Cool Factor: 2/5

Robert Mondavi is one of those labels every amateur wine drinker recognizes in the aisle of their local supermarket, so don’t expect any points for creativity here. Its Cabernet is everything you’d expect from them: easy drinking, smooth, basic. Be a basic bitch. Go for Mondavi.

Reds: Tarima Monastrell

cheap wine
IMAGE BY: Total Wine

Price: $7.79 (Total Wine)

Quality: 5/5

Taste: 4/5

Smoothness: 3/5

Cool Factor: 5/5

This Spanish sleeper actually rates a 91 by Wine Advocate, so if you’re looking for a wine with street cred, here it is. It’s also a Mourvèdre varietal, which just dropping in everyday conversation will make you sound like a legit wine enthusiast. Pairs nicely with oversized glasses and a discussion on Faulkner.

Reds: Garnacha de Fuego Old Vines

cheap wine
IMAGE BY: Total Wine

Price: $7.99 (Total Wine)

Quality: 4/5

Taste: 3/5

Smoothness: 3/5

Cool Factor: 4/5

Another highly rated red, this Spanish Grenache is just behind the Monastrell in terms of quality, but flavor-wise, it’s more of a hard slap to the mouth than the Grenache’s smooth palatability. It’s concentrated and punchy, and exactly the type of red you need to take on that reunion you’ve been dreading for the last six months.

Reds: Solnia Tempranillo

cheap wine
IMAGE BY: Total Wine
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Price: $9.99 (Total Wine)

Quality: 4/5

Taste: 3/5

Smoothness: 4/5

Cool Factor: 4/5

One of the few wines that’s actually described as “sexy,” Tempranillo varietals are exactly that. Spicy, fruity, and medium bodied, it’s a perfect table wine that’ll appeal to everyone on your dinner party guest list. Throw that shit in a decanter and you’ve suddenly stepped up your game from boxed apps and boxed wine to fancy AF host.

Reds: Noble Vines 181 Merlot

cheap wine
IMAGE BY: Total Wine

Price: $8.99 (BevMo)

Quality: 5/5

Taste: 4/5

Smoothness: 4/5

Cool Factor: 2/5

Ah, good ol’ Merlot. The wine for the “casual” drinker. Basically, the wine that says, “I’m too old for sweet pinkish blends, but I still have no f—ing clue what I’m doing, either.”

Reds: Save Me San Francisco Soul Sister Pinot Noir

cheap wine
IMAGE BY: Total Wine

Price: $9.29 (Total Wine)

Quality: 4/5

Taste: 3/5

Smoothness: 5/5

Cool Factor: 3/5

Strawberry and vanilla focused, this California Pinot is easy and approachable. It’s pretty middle of the road, too, as far as everything else is concerned. Like you, middle of the road guy, who always has to ask your waiter to make a decision for you between two separate menu items.

Reds: Dark Horse Red Blend

cheap wine
IMAGE BY: Total Wine
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Price: $8.27 (Total Wine)

Quality: 4/5

Taste: 4/5

Smoothness: 3/5

Cool Factor: 2/5

It’s hard to go wrong with a blend, and over the last few years, red blends have made the transition from being sort of taboo to some of the more sought-after wines. The benefit here is that you’re going to get a little bit of everything, so no matter what you’re planning to pair it with, chances are it’s going to work.

Whites: Chateau Ste. Michelle Columbia Valley Riesling

cheap wine
IMAGE BY: Total Wine

Price: $5.97 (Total Wine)

Quality: 3/5

Taste: 4/5

Smoothness: 3/5

Cool Factor: 3/5

Rieslings come in all shapes and sizes, and can fall anywhere from dry to super sweet. This Washington wine is dryish, but still has a fruity flavor, which makes it a good option if you’re looking for something sort of sweet but don’t want to deal with the monstrous hangover of a legit dessert wine.

Whites: Cupcake Prosecco

cheap wine
IMAGE BY: Total Wine

Price: $10.29 (Total Wine)

Quality: 4/5

Taste: 4/5

Smoothness: 4/5

Cool Factor: 3/5

…Like the one you’d get from your typical Prosecco. If you have no idea what a Prosecco actually is, it’s essentially Italian Champagne. See, there’s this whole thing about not being able to call a Champagne Champagne unless it’s actually from Champagne, but… never mind, just enjoy the Prosecco (and the headache that comes with it).

Whites: Clos du Bois Chardonnay

cheap wine
IMAGE BY: Total Wine
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Price: $6.69 (Total Wine)

Quality: 3/5

Taste: 3/5

Smoothness: 4/5

Cool Factor: 2/5

Clos du Bois is the wine you grew up watching your parents drink poolside. Easy, approachable, nostalgic. It has a familiarity to it, even if you’ve never tasted it. It’s the wine you’re first drawn to in the aisle, because the label stirs sweet, childhood memories of that time your mom got shit-faced at her 40th birthday party and called out your dad in front of all of their friends for not doing enough around the house.

Whites: Mallee Point Moscato

cheap wine
IMAGE BY: Total Wine

Price: $7.29 (Total Wine)

Quality: 4/5

Taste: 5/5

Smoothness: 3/5

Cool Factor: 4/5

Think of Australia, and you’re probably imagining sunshine and sandy beaches, exotic wildlife, and the Hemsworth brothers. Well, this Australian wine is made to pair with all of those things. Moscato is a crisp, easy drinking white — an alcoholic sparkling water, if you will, and a great choice for sipping on whilst gazing upon beach-going Hemsworth lookalikes.

Whites: Blue Vin Riesling

cheap wine
IMAGE BY: Total Wine

Price: $9.99 (Total Wine)

Quality: 4/5

Taste: 5/5

Smoothness: 5/5

Cool Factor: 4/5

Blue Vin Riesling is a light-bodied, fruit-forward white that pairs well with pretty much anything grilled on an outdoor barbecue. You can take it to that backyard jammer your S.O. forced you to go to and bring back the bottle to use as a modern, stylish flower vase. Win/win!

Whites: Nobilo Sauvignon Blanc

cheap wine
IMAGE BY: Total Wine
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Price: $9.97 (Total Wine)

Quality: 5/5

Taste: 4/5

Smoothness: 4/5

Cool Factor: 4/5

A step up from Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc is a dry white that’s good for drinking and cooking (and drinking while cooking). This New Zealand varietal scores a 90 with Wine Spectator, boasting a crisp, fruity flavor and a medium body. It’s one of the best whites out there, and at $9.97 a bottle, it’s kind of hard not to buy an entire case (which would probably discount the per bottle price even more, just saying).

Whites: Gnarly Head Chardonnay

cheap wine
IMAGE BY: Total Wine

Price: $7.99 (Total Wine)

Quality: 5/5

Taste: 3/5

Smoothness: 4/5

Cool Factor: 2/5

Another high scoring wine, the biggest difference between Gnarly Head and Clos du Bois is that Gnarly Head has the tiniest bit more street cred, most likely on account of its name. This generation of wine drinkers aren’t looking for fancy winery labels. F— that nonsense; give us the shit with the weird looking tree on it.

Whites: Finca Nueva Rioja Blanco

cheap wine
IMAGE BY: Total Wine

Price: $7.99 (Total Wine)

Quality: 5/5

Taste: 4/5

Smoothness: 5/5

Cool Factor: 5/5

It’s literally described as “elegant,” so we can’t imagine there being a fancier white wine out there at this price range. This is the bottle you bring to a real black tie affair, like the Oscars screening party your old college roommate throws every year that you have to pull out your old prom dress for. Pinkies up, bitches.

Roses: Chemin des Sables IGP Mediterranee

cheap wine
IMAGE BY: Total Wine
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Price: $9.99 (Total Wine)

Quality: 3/5

Taste: 4/5

Smoothness: 3/5

Cool Factor: 2/5

In all honesty, no Rosé is going to make you look cool. Rosés are not cool wines. But this Chemin des Sables comes in a pretty bottle, also at least it’s got that going for it.

Roses: Domaine Des Hunaudieres Rose Luberon

cheap wine
IMAGE BY: Total Wine

Price: $8.99 (Total Wine)

Quality: 5/5

Taste: 4/5

Smoothness: 4/5

Cool Factor: 4/5

This French Rosé certainly does some justice to its type. It’s crisp, cherry-berry in flavor, and light on the palate. One that you most definitely should not be drinking unless lounging in a cherry print two-piece and a pair of heart-shaped sunglasses.

Roses: Underwood Rose in a can

cheap wine
IMAGE BY: Union Wine Company

Price: $6.99 (BevMo)

Quality: 3/5

Taste: 4/5

Smoothness: 4/5

Cool Factor: 5/5

This fruit-forward Rosé makes our list for its portability alone. Rosé. In a can. You can take it to the beach. Take it to the pool. Sneak it into the theater. The world is your oyster, friend. Drink your fancy wine wherever the f— you feel like.

Roses: La Vieille Ferme Rose

cheap wine
IMAGE BY: Total Wine
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Price: $5.99 (Total Wine)

Quality: 2/5

Taste: 3/5

Smoothness: 4/5

Cool Factor: 2/5

La Vieille Ferme Rose lands pretty much midway in every category, but shit, it’s $5.99 a bottle. Sometimes, you just need to put your snobbiness aside and really think about the best thing to do to get your wine buzz on. This is the best thing.