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Think you can't find a good wine at the grocery store? Think again
Sure, we enjoy the rare and esoteric when it comes to wine, but sometimes you’re at a grocery store in your hometown, or across the country, and are looking for something that’s reliably good and a good deal. So here are five memorable grocery wines that you can find for less than $25:
SEGURA VIUDAS Brut Reserva Non-vintage (Cava, Spain) $9: Every refrigerator should have a bottle of bubbles in it at all times. Whether it’s for an impromptu brunch, a celebration, or if you’re just looking to make any day more fun and festive, a crisp, refreshing bottle of bubbles like this cava will add sparkle to your world.
JOEL GOTT Sauvignon Blanc 2011 (California) $12: While California is best known for high-priced cabernet sauvignon, bargains abound in the world of white wine. A zesty sauvignon blanc puts a little zip and zing into your wine glass and is a welcome partner to light seafood and vegetarian dishes.
HEDGES CMS Red 2010 (Columbia Valley, Wash.) $14: This blend of cabernet, nerlot, and syrah from Washington State is the perfect house red. The cooler 2010 vintage produced a more restrained red that will even impress staunch Francophiles.
DOÑA PAULA Estate Malbec 2011 (Mendoza, Argentina) $14: If you’re looking for a richer, heartier red, there are few bigger bargains than malbec from Argentina. It will add sizzle to your steak.
GRAHAM’S Six Grapes Reserve Port Non-vintage (Portugal) $21: Like sparkling wine, every home deserves a bottle of port. Whether for relaxing after work, creating a sauce, or enjoying with a square of dark chocolate, port is indispensable.
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The 12 Best Low-Carb Wines for Weight Loss
Ready for some news that's about to make happy hour even happier? You can indulge in a glass of vino without throwing off your low-carb diet. The secret to spirit success: Seek out low-carb wine options that are lower in alcohol and residual sugars—which are also lower in calories and carbohydrates as a result.
But because wine isn't required to have a nutrition label, how do you know?
Grocery Store Wine Showdown (Cabernet Under $20)
Wine Somm, Madeline Puckette, analyzes grocery store Cabernet under $20. The question is, are these wines actually good, or should we be afraid?
Is There Such Thing as Good Cabernet Under $20?
It’s the ultimate question.
It doesn’t matter if you’re rich or poor, everyone wants great wine at a great price. So, I put the grocery store selection to the test and picked out three Cabernet Sauvignon wines and analyzed them. Here’s what I learned:
- Louis M. Martini Cabernet Sauvignon Sonoma County (2015). This wine retails for anywhere from $15–$19. Definitely a decent find if you can find it for $15. It was my favorite of the bunch, but it also gave me red flush (more on that below).
- J. Lohr “Seven Oaks Estates” Cabernet Sauvignon Paso Robles (2016). This wine retails for anywhere from $11–$17. Not hate-able, especially if you can find it for $10, but the yeast program was so prevalent in the aromas it made me think I was drinking blackberry yogurt.
- Smith & Hook Cabernet Sauvignon Central Coast (2016). This wine retails for anywhere from $17–$21. Smith & Hook was like a weaker shadow of the Louis M. Martini. Plus, it was more expensive! For the price, I’d rather drink the Gallo brand wine (i.e. the Louis M. Martini.)
A Critique on Grocery Store Cabernet Under $20:
The Best Wine Tools
From beginner to professional, the right wine tools make for the best drinking experience.
They Looked Amazing.
One thing we sommeliers always look at is the color of wine. Color tells you a lot about a wine. It helps one determine the grape varieties used, the vintage, the region where it was grown, and even how the wine was made.
That is, if the color is honest.
When looking at these wines, I was surprised at the level of color extraction. It’s rare to see this level of intensity in value wines. So, it got me wondering. Why are they soooo dark?
Well, one rumor that floats around the industry is the use of grape-based color concentrates like “Mega Purple” and “Ultra Red.”
That being said, I can’t even figure out where to buy these additives online. Is Mega Purple a myth? I did find a few used in the home brew market (see sources). It lead me to believe that there are color additives out there, they’re just hard to find.
What About Color Additives?
No one has ever admitted to using wine grape color concentrates, so I was unable to make a conclusion in this video.
If you’re curious, the irreverent W. Blake Gray has tasted straight grape color concentrate and he said “it is almost flavorless,” but smelled like a “gymnasium floor.”
They Smelled Pretty Good.
The next thing we Somms do to assess wine is to smell it.
Louis M. Martini – This one actually smelled like Cabernet Sauvignon. It had all the right markers in the right places, even if they were a little overripe. There was baked black currant, green peppercorn, black cherry, vanilla cake, and even some herbal notes of mint. Not bad for a 15-dollar Cabernet.
J. Lohr – This one was a bit strange. It smelled more like the winery’s yeast program than a single-varietal wine. It smelled sour and milky, like blackberry yoghurt, with some subtle whiffs of fresh thyme and vanilla. That said, I can see why some wine drinkers might love these aromas – they’re fruity and creamy.
Smith & Hook – This was the only Cabernet leaning more towards the red-fruit spectrum (e.g. less ripe and more balanced). It had aromas of baked raspberry and dried raspberry bramble, along with a healthy wallop of creamy yeast. Still, the aromas were hard to distinguish and the wine was not particularly aromatic.
They Tasted Crafted.
All three wines had an explosive zing of sweet-sour acidity that tasted like Sweetarts (the candy). As a trained taster, I associate this flavor with acidification.
Let’s be fair: adding acids to wine isn’t a bad thing. In fact, one of the common acids added to wine – tartaric acid – is derived from grapes. You’d be surprised how many wineries acidify. The problem with acidification is when it’s easily identifiable in the taste. It suggests that the flavor isn’t really a realistic reflection of what wine grapes can do naturally.
Another thing I noticed about these wines was the tannin – or lack thereof. Cabernet Sauvignon is a high tannin grape variety, but these wines seemed to drop the tannin out in the mid-palate. Where’d the tannin go?!
There are a lot of wine consumers out there who don’t like high tannin wines. And, it’s understandable because tannin tastes bitter and astringent. Still, it’s a crucial component that makes wines age-worthy (and is the only thing in wine that’s good for you).
The first wine I tasted gave me red flush within a minute or so of tasting it.
They Gave Me Red Flush.
As soon as I took a sip of the first wine in the tasting my face started to swell and turn red. (You can actually see it in the video, even with the color correction!)
The truth is, even though I taste wine frequently, I’m pretty sensitive to red wines and flush often. (Or, at least I used to.) Here’s what I’ve learned about myself:
- It’s most likely not from sulfites.
- It could be from increased levels of histamines (yeast derivatives) interacting with the other stuff (phenols, acids, etc) in red wine.
- If the flushing comes on quickly (like it did in the video), I need to drink a glass of water to avoid a headache.
- I generally flush more with bold red wines from hot climates and from cheap wines.
- After the initial flush happens and I drink water, I’m usually fine.
Obviously, these observations are not made in a controlled, scientific environment, so they’re rife with inaccuracy. Still, the flushing thing is a real problem and it happens to a lot of people (especially to those folks of Asian descent.)
After tasting these wines, I brought them home to my husband. He proceeded to drink the Louis M. Martini without a quibble.
The next night he drank the Smith & Hook but griped a bit about how I ought to buy better wine. (After all, I am a sommelier – for shame!)
He poured the J. Lohr down the drain.
Go From Beginner to Expert
Tools and accessories that help you expand your knowledge.
- Measuring color in wine with UV Spectrophotometry from Hunter Lab.
- Global Concentrate's Red Grape Concentrate
- Vinclasse's Grape Juice Concentate at Wines Vines Analytics on some Mega Purple.
- Wine Folly has no affiliation with wine brands.
About Madeline Puckette
James Beard Award-winning author and Wine Communicator of the Year. I co-founded Wine Folly to help people learn about wine. @WineFolly
The Best Grocery Store Wines for Less Than $25 - Recipes
The Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board is ramping up capacity to fulfill online orders and has extended curbside pickup, now available at 48 stores in Philadelphia, up from the original 10. But many Philadelphians are continuing to shop for wine at their local grocery store because so many now offer beer and wine sales.
The wine selection maintained by grocers tends to reflect the most popular national brands and are almost always regular stock items that are also sold in Fine Wine and Good Spirits stores. However, they will typically cost a little more in grocery stores than they do at the state store, since their wine inventory must be purchased from the PLCB at only a 10% discount below the retail price.
While many mass market wines can be a disappointment for wine drinkers, there are plenty of big-name brands that are well-made and delicious. For convenience shoppers, here are some “best bets” in key categories from among those brands most likely to be stocked in grocery stores for under $20.
Sparkling Domaine Ste. Michelle “Brut” / Columbia Valley, Washington. This crisp lemony Washington bubbly is made by the Champagne method, drier than most proseccos and hard to beat on price.
Chardonnay Kendall-Jackson “Vintner’s Reserve” / Sonoma County, Calif. Snobs may sneer at this popular wine for being a touch sweeter than most, but its vanilla-nut flavors are pleasingly plump.
Sauvignon Blanc Starborough / Marlborough, New Zealand This unoaked dry white is a fragrant and citrusy delight, especially with salads and vegetable dishes.
Pinot Grigio Ecco Domani / Venezie, Italy Many Italian pinot grigios can be lackluster, but this lovely wine features delicate orchard-fresh flavors of fresh pears.
Riesling Clean Slate / Mosel, Germany The quality of this off-dry wine is remarkably high, featuring complex flavors of green apples and jasmine tea and a long finish.
Cabernet Sauvignon Josh Cellars / California Cabernet sauvignon doesn’t always perform well at value prices, but this one is loaded with pleasing blackberry pie flavors.
Merlot Concha y Toro “Casillero del Diablo” / Chile This winery’s “reserva” line offers excellent value, with this merlot with black cherry and plum flavors being one of the best wines.
Pinot Noir Angeline / California Few under-$20 pinot noirs actually taste of pinot noir, but this easy-drinking example with raspberry flavors reliably does the trick.
Malbec Alamos / Mendoza, Argentina One of the first malbecs to break into the U.S. market is still a great wine for the price, offering flavors of blueberry jam and violets.
Chianti Banfi / Tuscany, Italy This iconic vintner consistently produces excellent wines, including their modest entry level Chianti featuring dry sour cherry flavors.
Our award-winning Wine Department is a pleasure to discover. Our buyers travel the world to meet winemakers, so expect some impressive finds that don’t appear anywhere else in town.
Whether you’re looking for white wine, red wine or something bubbly, our skilled consultants are always ready to help with any selection or pairing for your menus. If you can’t find what you’re looking for, we’ll special order your requests.
Our stores regularly hold wine and beer tasting events for our customers. These events are themed and complemented by delicious artisan cheeses and bread. Check out our events calendar to find a tasting near you.
Louis Latour Montagny Grand Rocher 1er Cru Chardonnay
Those hallowed shelves of Wegmans and those hallowed vineyards of Burgundy have at least one thing in common: They inspire fanaticism in their disciples. Chardonnays from Burgundy are known for their nuance, with purity of fruit and well-integrated French oak. They are rich and buttery, without being cloying, and this selection from Burgundy’s OG Maison Louis Latour is ripe for pairing with another buttery brethren: lobster. If you’re game to attempt the Feast of the Seven Fishes this season, this is an excellent pairing for the likes of our Lobster Risotto .
Kung Fu Girl (Charles Smith)
This wine is part of the Charles Smith collection (you may recognize Charles Smith from such labels as Velvet Devil Merlot or Boom Boom! Syrah).
Formerly a band manager in Denmark, Charles Smith is known to be a bit, er, out there. He is a big personality with a huge mop of curly blonde hair and an unapologetic attitude. It makes sense then that he makes wines that don’t necessarily follow the rules.
That said, this dry Washington Riesling is actually somewhat classic. Juicy fruit cocktail leads to a zesty overtone of fresh lime. A hint of elderflower rounds out this easy-to-drink, yet pleasantly crisp white. Smith designed this wine as an alternative to the many heavy reds in his portfolio to accompany spicy Asian food, and boy does it do the trick.
If you head out to sushi and realize too late the restaurant is BYO only, not to worry, pop over to the nearest supermarket and you will likely find this bad boy on the shelf (or even better, in the fridge . ).
Best Grocery Store Red Wine
Buying red wine at the grocery store can be the beginning of a relaxing evening. Simply pick up a great bottle of Merlot or Malbec and enjoy it while you cook a great dinner for yourself and your family.
These are some of our favorite affordable red wines that are easy to find at the grocery store. You should be able to purchase these wines at your local supermarket, and you can enjoy them with dinner tonight. Whether you love affordable Cabernet Sauvignon, good value Pinot Noir, or are looking for a new favorite budget-friendly varietal, we have some great suggestions for you.
Having wine on hand can be a lifesaver if you have unexpected company. 17 Affordable Wines You Can Always Have On Hand
Add some sparkle to your cart
For non-Chandon bubbles and aperitif hour, Bolaños buys Mionetto Prosecco ($14) from Ralphs, a West Coast supermarket chain. He has worked in Italian restaurants for years, and says the Mionetto makes a brilliant Aperol spritz.
Basaldu turns to Crémant, a French sparkling wine that’s made like Champagne, but without the high price tag. At the start of the pandemic, she would put trout roe atop an omelet alongside a glass of Domaine Allimant-Laugner Crémant d’Alsace Rosé ($18), made from 100% Pinot Noir.
How to Buy the Best Possible Wine at the Grocery Store
Or a liquor store. Or a gas station. Really anywhere but a wine shop. Because although wine shops are always preferable, sometimes it’s just not possible where you happen to be. Here’s how to get a decent bottle when you are left to your own devices in the beverage aisle.
Focus on varietals you know and love. I’m all about trying new things, but now is not the time for experimentation. You want to get out of there with something you’ll enjoy, not throw back with your nose plugged. For me, I would drink Gamay out of a deskside trash can if it came down to it, so I always go Beaujolais. That way even if it kinda sucks, it won’t suck that bad.
Find recognizable regions. And the more specific, the better, like Mount Etna in Sicily or the Carneros sub-region of Sonoma. Many wine producing regions have strict regulations winemakers must follow in order to list the region on the bottle. While a designated, regional wine doesn’t necessarily mean it’s going to be the best, it does mean it is held to a certain standard and is likely to be of better quality than a vague $5 one from “France.”
Keep climate in mind. The warmer the climate, the fruitier and sweeter the wine is. The cooler the climate, the more tart and acidic the wine. This is why a Pinot Noir from California can taste drastically different from a Pinot Noir from Oregon. While no one expects you to know every region’s climate off the top of your head, considering it and using your best judgment with what you remember of geography class will lead to better purchases than just grabbing a pretty label.
Take a look at the ABV. The Alcohol by Volume is listed on every bottle, and it can give you a good glimpse of what’s inside. The ABV is determined by how ripe the grapes were when they were picked. The higher the ABV, the richer the wine. If you like bigger, bolder wines you’ll do well with a higher ABV, like 13% or above. If you like lighter, drier wines, stick to wines with an ABV lower than 13%.
Read the whole label. Finding “Sauvignon Blanc” in a cool font tells you nearly nothing about the wine, so make sure to read both the front and back of the label. Often wineries will have their own tasting notes, and they also may tell you more about their winemaking, like the use of oak fermentation if you enjoy richer wines with hints of vanilla, or sustainability practices. This will prevent you from getting home and hating the bottle because you didn’t see they overused the word “buttery.”
Worst case scenario, just add. Let’s say you followed these tips and you still came home with a bunk bottle. Don’t dump it, just fix it up. For white wines, add sparkling water, a bit of citrus and whatever fruit you have in the fridge for a quick spritzer. For red wines, turn it into mulled wine or make a Kalimotxo by adding Coca-Cola. Yes, that is a thing. And too much will give you a hangover, but damn is it delicious.
I hadn’t shopped for wine at Trader Joe’s in 25 years or more. The original Trader Joe’s was down the street from where I lived in Southern California as a young man. At the time (way before Two-Buck Chuck), it was a crunchier experience with bulk granola and nuts, and an aisle of stacked value wines. For under $4, I could try a vouvray from France, a riesling from Germany or a petite sirah from California. What I found in 2018 was an abundance of good, solid wine labels, offering value and dependable choices. Some of these were Trader Joe’s private (or “captured”) labels, but this follows a TJ tradition that goes back to the days when I first started shopping for wine. They’re still at it. And it isn’t just Two-Buck Chuck country.
This list is for the shopper needing one-stop convenience. Most of these wines can also be found at many local chain liquor stores. Keep this list handy. Prices may vary from store to store. You could also use this as a grab-and-go list for your favorite BYOB restaurant. It works better for reds than whites for quick consumption (the chill factor), but most restaurants can ice down a bottle of white or rosé pretty quickly.
Alfonso Cevola of Dallas spent the greater part of his adult life in the wine trade. He's now a proactive wine consumer.