Good Cheap Wines – 100 Quality Wines Anyone Can Afford to Buy
A bottle of wine is an elegant and delicious addition to any meal. People drink wine to celebrate, to match with a particular meal, or just to unwind at the end of a long and stressful day. There is a popular misconception that wine has to be expensive, and this is just not true. Even on my very limited budget, I enjoy three bottles of wine a week, and I don’t have to sacrifice taste for cost. Here is a list of the 100 good cheap wines available right now. You can buy almost all of these incredible wines for under $20 a bottle — though I have included a few that trickle just a bit above this mark. Get over your fear of spending a ton of money on wine, and head to your local wine retailer to find one of these great deals to enjoy with your dinner tonight.
A side note — you won’t find many pinot noir wines on this list. I simply haven’t found many solid pinots for under $40 or $50 dollars — there are cheap pinots on the market, but they all seem watered down and fairly flavorless. Having said that, there are plenty of good, cheap red wines to be found on this list. Enjoy.
Best overall good cheap wines
These are my choices for the the top wines available for under $20 — all varietals considered. Stock these sixteen wines and you’ll have a wine for any occasion, all at great prices. To keep you in anticipation, I’ll save the best for last.
- 2005 Te Kairanga Sauvignon Blanc ($12.99) – This would have been a list of 15 if not for this little stunner of a Sauv blanc — not normally a varietal I really enjoy. I simply had to add this wine for its low cost and big payoff. This New Zealand white is straw colored and heavily floral, with notes of passionfruit and lime. The flavor lingers in your mouth in a way you just don’t expect for a wine under $50. If you’ve never tried a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, this is a great starter, and at just under $13 you can’t go wrong.
- 2004 Dry Creek Vineyard Zinfandel Heritage ($7.99 – $12.99) – Described by most reviewers as an “old school” Zin, this Sonoma masterpiece would be a steal for triple the price. Peppery, spicy, and featuring slight blackberry floral notes, this inky purple wine is what a Zinfandel ought to be — bright, long, and juicy. Avoids the “jammy” flavors of some of the newer style Zinfandels.
- 2005 Beckmen Vineyards Cuvee Le Bec ($16) – A red blend from California’s Central Coast in the style of classic Rhone reds, this blend has an amazing array of flavors to offer — from woody and leathery to smoky and slightly fruity.
- 2004 Domaine Larochette-Manciat Pouilly-Vinzelles Les Longeays ($15.99) – A value wine from Burgundy, this white is a bright straw color (a good quality in most white wines) with a unique aroma — almost all mineral and almond, with no fruit “nose” whatsoever. The mineral notes continue upon tasting, although there is a slightly “citrus” quality to the flavor. This wine will be a conversation piece among your wine loving friends — and they’ll probably choke when they learn how little you paid for it.
- 2004 Toad Hollow Merlot Reserve Richard McDowell Vineyard ($19.99) – Merlot has a “bad boy” reputation in America — the wine snob main character of the wine obsessed film Sideways famously refused to drink Merlot, and many of my friends who enjoy wine shy away from this often complex red. Plummy aroma and flavor, fruitier than many merlots, and with a texture like silk, this Merlot refuses to be ignored.
- 2003 Herdade do Meio Alentejano Garrafeira $20 – Unfortunately, this great cheap wine is not easy to find in the US — don’t let that stop you from trying to track it down online or from a collector. This is a red blend from Portugal that is worth well more than its $20 price tag. An earthy and spicy aroma leads to a surprisingly fruity palate — “fruit forward” as wine collectors say — and heavy tannins. Considered a “table wine” in Portugal, this is an entry level red blend that will please any lover of red wines.
- 2004 Chateau Falfas Bordeaux ($19.99) – Take a whiff of this Bordeaux’s aroma, and you’ll be blasted with notes of candied strawberry and cherry. The flavor is similar in the mouth, with just a hint of cedar. Considered a “new world Bordeaux” by wine know-it-alls, this is a French Bordeaux that American palates can agree with.
- NV Soligo Prosecco Brut ($15.99) – No bitterness to this Prosecco — just creamy lemon and citrus and an elegant bubble shape. Gentler than a typical sparkling wine, this is a perfect label for your next celebration.
- 2006 Handley Pinot Noir Rose ($18) – A bone dry alternative to sweet white wines, this Rose (made from stately Pinot Noir grapes) will win you over with aroma and flavors of strawberry and raspberry. The major complaint about Rose wines is that they don’t pair too well with food — this elegant Rose is an exception to that rule. At $18, don’t be afraid to serve this unique Rose with your next meal.
- 2003 Chateau Coupe-Roses Minervois Cuvee Vignals ($16) -A blend of Syrah, Grenache, and Carignan, this red stands up to the strongest food flavors you can throw at it. Pairs perfectly with beef — blackberry flavor, with herbal notes and a slight sweetness that surprised the hell out of me. I hear the $16 price tag I attribute to this wine can be cut by as much as half if you dig about online. An amazing value red wine.
- 2005 Sineann Gewurztraminer Resonance Vineyard ($16)- I am not a fan of Gewurztraminer as a rule — most varieties of this German white are simply too sweet for my taste. But this release from Oregon made me do a double take. Super spicy and dry, with just a touch of fruit, I had to check the label again to make sure I was drinking a Gewurz. Looking for a white wine that’ll stun those who may shy away from whites? This aromatic white from the Willamette Valley will blow them away.
- 2006 Bodega Renacer Malbec Punto Final ($13.99) -Malbec is quickly becoming a popular varietal in the United States — I have seen more wine bars and restaurants offering this unique grape in the last two years than ever before. Originally used in France as a blending grape, the varietal has caught on in Argentina where it flourishes. This release is fruity without being sweet, and the aromas are all leather and anise seed. Earthy and even a bit mineral, this is a complex wine, even for a Malbec, and should be enjoyed all on its own — no need to pair with food. Never tried a wine from Argentina before? This is a great bottle to start with.
- 2004 Sandoval Cabernet Sauvignon ($11.99) -The least expensive of my favorite 16 wine values, this extraordinary Cab tastes like a $40 or $50 wine — stock up on as much of this as you can find, as it is becoming less available since its appearance on just about everyone’s “great wine values” list. Dark chocolate flavors tease your tongue, and after a moment you catch the berry, pepper, and vanilla notes hinted at in the aroma. A perfect Cabernet in my opinion.
- Cameron Hughes Lot 25 Carneros Sparkling Wine ($20) -A sparkler from Sonoma, California, this wine raced to the top of my “top 16″ list with its impressive drinkability. I prefer bubbly on the dry side, and this wine does not disappoint, although there’s a touch of sweetness to ensure that all your guests will enjoy. Sweet apple flavor matches with an amazing golden color that must be seen to be believed — pick up a case of this for your next party and impress your guests.
- 2000 Royal Tokaji Tokaji Aszu 5 Puttonyos Red Label ($20) -Perhaps the strangest wine on the top 16 budget wine list, this wine from Hungary surprised me with orange, honey, and even brandy notes on the nose. Flavor was similar in the mouth, with just a bit of acidity and sweetness. Looking for a wine to impress your wine snob friends? I can almost assure you they’ve never heard of this label.
- 2004 Escafeld Petit Verdot, ($19.95) -Though not made from a well known varietal in the United States, this wine could change all that. Made in California (where the climate allows the picky Peit Verdot grapes to ripen perfectly late in the season) this is a robust and punch-you-in-the-face red. The aroma of coffee and chocolate must be experienced to be believed — and the flavors of blackberry are well balanced in acidity to keep this wine from being too fruity. I would drink this wine every day of my life if I could find enough of it . . .
Best good, cheap sparkling wines and champagnes
Believe it or not, there are some great tasting bubblies to be had for less than $20. Here are ten great celebration wines that won’t put a dent in your party budget.
- Roederer Estate Brut, Anderson Valley (Around $20) – One of the pricier “budget” sparklers on our list, this is a delicious California wine that hits your palate with a toasty and nutty flavor before the flavors of citrus and pear wash over your tongue. Roederer is best known for making the celebrity bubbly of choice — “Cristal”, which retails for around $300. In a way, when you drink this budget champagne, you’ll be living the rock star lifestyle at a rock bottom price.
- Argyle 2000 Brut ($16) -This bubbly sets the standard for budget champagnes in America — this wine features those much sought after “tiny bubbles” with flavors of citrus and green apple. Don’t let the price fool you — this is a sophisticated wine, only slightly sweet with a fruit tone.
- Non Vintage Barefoot Bubbly California Premium Extra Dry ($9) -A very popular California vintner — Barefoot makes a sweet chardonnay blend champagne that somehow manages to also come across as incredibly dry on the palate. A crowd pleaser, this sparkler features flavors of bread, honey, and citrus. With a cute label and a name like “Barefoot”, both the wine and the label will be a big hit at your next party.
- Mumm Napa Brut Prestige, Napa Valley ($16) – This is a straight up budget champagne, well worth the less than $20 price tag. Crisp and dry with a gentle sparkle, you and you guests will enjoy the aroma of citrus and melon.
- Gruet Brut Blanc de Blancs ($13) -I live in New Mexico, and have the privilege of living near many of the wineries producing solid vino from this non traditional “wine state”. Gruet is getting a ton of buzz in the wine world for their range of sparkling wines, and this affordable sparkler is an exceptional example of the “Blanc de Blancs” tradition. Enjoy this wine’s mature taste (for flavor, think pear, apple and hazelnut) for under $15.
- Korbel Sparkling Natural Chardonnay ($12.99) -Chardonnay-exclusive champagne is a relatively new category in sparkling wine – since Chardonnay is “America’s favorite wine”, it is natural for a company to use the singular grape varietal to make an outstanding champagne. This is another very “drinkable” bubbly, though wine snobs will say its a bit too sweet. Avoid this wine if you prefer more “dry” wines.
- Veuve Clicquot Non Vintage Brut Yellow Label ($34) – This is a bit out of our “budget range” — but if you’re willing to make a small splurge, this is an excellent champagne to venture out for. Veuve Clicquot is smooth and creamy at first taste with that classic toasty champagne finish. If you’re generally put off by the sweetness of champagne, this is a good choice, as it is also not too “dry” for the novice champagne drinker.
- Freixenet Brut Nature ($9) – In Spain, sparkling wine is called “cava”, and Spanish sparklers are usually terrific values. I picked Freixenet because their line of cavas is exceptional, and for less than a ten spot you can pick up this very dry and smooth bubbly, with what wine connoissuers call “a mineral complexity.”
- Martini & Rossi Prosecco ($12.99) – The Italian version of champagne is called “prosecco” and is less “bubbly” than most sparkling wines. A gentle bubbly wine, Martini & Rossi’s prosecco is a very “drinkable” wine with a clean and crisp finish. The flavors found here are a mix of bread and peach, apple, and melon. Surprise your guests with a less traditional “prosecco” toast at a great price.
- Cook’s Grand Reserve California Champagne (Approx. $5) – Not only the cheapest on this list, but also likely the most “drinkable” budget sparkler — I often find this beauty on sale for as little as $2.50 a bottle. Perfect to buy in bulk for large parties and suitable for those who fear champagne, this wine is dry with a mild fruit flavor and overtones of vanilla.
Good, cheap European-style red blends
A great way to find an awesome deal on a red wine is to look for a European-style red wine blend — that is, a wine composed of many different grapes. These are incredibly tasty, and many of them are great deals at twice the price.
- Cousino-Macul 2004 Finis Terrae ($18) – This Cab and Merlot blend from Chile will knock your socks off with flavor and aroma. From cherry and vanilla to oak and plum, its all here. Aromas of herbs and black currant entice you to drink up. An amazing and complex blend, this wine is a steal at just under $20.
- 2003 Vino Nobile di Montepulciano ($22) -This was not a great year for the grapes that go into this blend — the result is a severely “alcohol” taste that almost overpowers the typical red blend flavors of blackberry, currant, and dark berries. Even through the alcoholic flavor, the aroma and mouth feel are well worth the cost of this wine. A unique blend meant to be drunk as soon as possible.
- Martin & Weyrich 2003 Insieme ($15) -Spicy and peppery with plenty of cherry and fruit, this is a well balanced red blend that is not too tannin heavy — don’t expect an overly “alcoholic” taste. Pairs great with Italian foods.
- Foppiano Vineyards Lot 96, Bin 001 ($9) -An incredible value, this wine features heavy tannins and alcohol, and a big “punch” to the nose in terms of fruit aroma. Flavors are typical for red blends — dark fruit and cherries.
- Lucas & Lewellen Vineyards 2003 Mandolina Classico Toccata ($19) -Made in the style of the popular and usually pricey “Super Tuscan” wines, this blend is not the most affordable on the list, but certainly one of the tastiest. Made from a blend of Sangiovese, Cabernet, and Merlot grapes, this is a wine you will not soon forget. Expect berry aroma and flavor, along with notes of cherry and currant.
- Altano 2004 Douro ($8) -Cherry and red fruit dominate this extremely affordable red blend that registers somewhere between a sweet and a dry red. Great for the price, but not my favorite blend — this wine should be consumed as soon as possible, as age can only descrease the flavor and aroma.
- Arnaldo Caprai 2003 Montefalco Rosso ($19) -A “typically Italian” blend — this is another everyday drinking wine in the classic Italian style. Not too intensely flavored, but bolder than similarly style blends. Expect dark fruit and cherry on the nose and in the mouth.
- Perrin & Fils 2006 Perrin Réserve ($10) -A beautiful ruby color in the glass, this blend is ideal for stocking around the house for everyday drinking. Spicy in the nose and on the palate, there is a slight licorice undertone to the expected dark ripe fruit flavor.
- Cellar de l’Encastell 2006 Marge ($20) -A mostly Grenache blend that is heavy with cherry and blueberry notes, this wine is spicy and full of flavor. Decant this wine for an hour or so to fully appreciate its flavor. Long lasting and “big” in the mouth, this blend rivals reds that cost three times as much.
- Trentadue 2003 “0ld Vines Red” Sonoma County Red Wine ($14.99) -A dark, inky-purple wine that is almost opaque in the glass, this blend from Sonoma is made up of 5 classic red grapes, and the heavy dark fruit flavors are evidence of this varied blend.
Good cheap Cabernet sauvignons
One of the most popular and well known red wine varietals, Cabernet sauvignon can be found world wide. Cabernet is pretty unique in that you can find incredible Cabs for really cheap. Most of the Cabs on my list are less than $10 — many of them under $5. Here are the ten best deals on this popular and tasty red.
- Fish Eye Cabernet Sauvignon 2003 ($7.99) -Dark plum flavors and a fairly heavy alcohol content set this Cab apart from its equally priced competition — I also detected a bit of pepper on the nose, which is strange for a Cab but certainly a welcome guest to the party.
- Glen Ellen Cabernet Sauvignon 2003 ($4.99) -Well paired with a pizza, this is a Cab that is uniqe for being not all that dry — many wine drinkers would call it downright sweet. The main flavor and aroma here is cherry. Enjoy it with your favorite pie for a perfect Italian-American feast.
- Marcus James Cabernet Sauvignon 2004 ($4.79) -A very dry, crisp Cab that is extremely inky-dark in color — berries, cocoa, vanilla, and spice flavors are all a part of the Marcus James experience. A complex wine priced just under $5.
- Long Neck Cabernet Sauvignon 2003 ($5.99) -Cherry and ripe fruit overwhelm you when you pop the cork on this Cab, and the flavors are youthful and aromatic without being too sweet. Strangely light in color for a Cab, this bottle could probably stand a few years to age.
- Asti Winery Cellar No. 8 2005 ($9.99) -Lots of ripe fruit flavor here without crossing the line into ‘fruit bomb’ territory — this Cab is an incredible deal, and could easily be sold for three times the retail price. Smooth and concentrated texture belies the fact that this is a pretty inexpensive Cab.
- Root : 1 2005 ($10.99 – $12.99) -When opening this bottle, be prepared to be blown away by the intense nose — the aroma is almost too complex to be broken down. Cocoa, berries, and ripe fruit are easily identified, but are so intense as to be almost offensive to some wine lovers. This is a “love it or hate it” wine that not all Cab lovers will enjoy, due to the intense nose and flavor profile. This wine was well reviewed all over the web, and is thus difficult to find.
- Five Rivers 2004 ($8.99) -Raspberry and leather (?) on the nose make this Cab stand out in my memory — the flavors are more typical for a Cab, though the raspberry overpowers the blackberry and pepper flavors also present. A great value Cab that tastes more like a $20 bottle.
- Red Diamond 2005 ($7.99) -A bold Cab, very “jammy” with heavy fruit on the nose and palate, and even slight lingering flavors of chocolate and coffee. Not my favorite Cab on the list, but still a pleasant wine from Washington State. Well priced and easy to drink.
- Paringa 2005 ($9.99) -Incredible complexity of both aroma and flavor, be prepared for lots of spice and fruit, and even an herbal note that made me wish I’d picked up an extra bottle — especially at the price, just under $10.
- Los Vascos 2005 ($9.99) -Another Chilean Cab that surprised me — I simply cannot believe I found this Cab for less than $30. The aroma is made up of strong floral notes, and there’s a mysterious smokiness that lingers in the nose for a while. A flavor of strawberry surprised me at first sip, but didn’t linger. A mysterious little Cab that won’t break the bank, and is versatile enough to be served with all kinds of food, from veggie dishes to steak.
Good cheap Syrah / Shiraz
Huge in Australia, this wine varietal is catching on in a big way here in the States. Below, you’ll find ten great Syrah wines for under $20.
- Yalumba “Y” Series Shiraz + Viognier 2006 ($10) -Not a pure Shiraz, blended with Viognier, this wine is unique to Shiraz wines for its odd purple color — not off-putting but interesting. Tart cherry with mineral notes and an amazing aroma.
- D’Arenberg Shiraz/Viognier McLaren Vale The Laughing Magpie 2003 ($9) -A wonderful aroma of blackberry, licorice, and mint does not disappoint — the flavors carry out on the palate. An easy to drink, tasty, very juicy Shiraz blend with a great price tag. I keep a few bottles of this Shiraz blend around for everyday drinking.
- Columbia Crest Two Vines Shiraz 2005 ($7) -Wine Spectator magazine convinced me to try this pure Shiraz, and I was not disappointed. Very characteristic of this very specific varietal — expect ripe plum and spice throughout this wonderfully priced bottle. Perfect with a spicy meal.
- Yellow Tail Shiraz 2007 ($7) -The ubiquitous Yellow Tail label is much maligned as “cheap wine” — and it is inexpensive. However, the 2007 Shiraz they produced is the best of all the Yellow Tail wines I’ve tried, and priced right to pick up a case or two. Eat this with your favorite strong flavored cheese for a wonderful taste blend. Full-bodied featuring notes of spice and vanilla.
- Smoking Loon Syrah 2007 ($9) -At such a great price, you’d expect this Syrah to be light on flavor and aroma — but it doesn’t give in one bit. Blueberry flavor, with allspice and cassis aromas.
- Fetzer Valley Oaks Shiraz ($10) – A unique cherry aroma, described by some reviewers as “crushed cherries”, invites you to taste this delightful Shiraz. Flavor of cherry is paired with a bit of spice and, strangely enough, a hint of pepper.
- Rosemount Shiraz 2004 ($9) -A “big” Shiraz — almost overwhelming berry and cherry aromas along with big spice and “alcohol” flavor in the palate. An “everyday” Shiraz that pairs well with all types of food.
- Purple Moon Shiraz 2004 ($3.99) – Wonderful dark purple color in the glass and characteristic Shiraz flavor — expect lots of dark berry and cherry aroma and flavor. Could stand a slight amount of chill — just under room temperature — to bring out its Shiraz character.
- Penfolds Rawson’s Retreat Shiraz Cabernet blend 2007 ($8) -Mostly Shiraz, this blend shows almost none of the flavor or aroma you’d expect of a Cabernet, even though a full 24% of the wine is made from Cab. Expect standard Shiraz flavor notes — heavy fruit with a little spice. Great wine to pair with barbecue.
- Lazy Lizard Shiraz 2005 ($8) -Blueberry and spice, characteristic of this varietal. A great everyday Shiraz, especially at such a low price.
Good cheap Chardonnay
This is still one of the most popular white wines in America, and its popularity has created some great deals due to the sheer amount of Chardonnay on the market. These ten Chardonnays are the best values around.
- Stone Cellars 2007 Chardonnay ($5) -If you can get past the oddly chemical aroma (perhaps the bottle I tasted was slightly corked?), you can’t get a better Chardonnay for the price. Sweet fruit and oak aroma matches the sweet flavor — perhaps a bit too sweet for some.
- Oak Vineyards 2005 Chardonnay ($4) -Bright straw in color, the oaky aroma gives no hint at the excellent apple flavor hiding in this very affordable Chardonnay.
- Lindemans South Africa Chardonnay 2005 ($6.99) -Melon on the nose, with heavy citrus and melon on the palate, this Chardonnay is very crisp, but in a good way (at least for my taste). I would go so far as to say this is the most “tart” Chardonnay on this value list.
- Jewel Collection Un-Oaked Chardonnay 2004 ($9.99) -The lack of oak exposure in this unique Chardonnay makes it worth its price — without the oakiness, Chardonnay is more akin to a Sauvignon Blanc. If for no other reason than this is a unique form of Chardonnay, you should pick up a few bottles and shock your friends. You’ll have to show them the label to prove it is indeed made from Chardonnay grapes.
- HRM Rex-Goliath Giant 47 Pound Rooster Chardonnay 2004 ($4.99) -Hands down the winner of the “weird name” award for this list, this Chardonnay from California is floral with a nose reminiscent of a hoppy beer, strangely enough. Smooth texture with a heavy pear flavor, this is an easy drinking white wine — perhaps a good choice for those who aren’t necessarily “wine drinkers”.
- Way Out White 2003 Chardonnay ($5) -An inexpensive French Chardonnay with a nose of honey and peach, this is a good everyday table white wine with an easy finish.
- Xplorador Chardonnay 2005 ($4) -Grapefruit and vanilla aroma perfectly matches the flavors once in your mouth. A medium finish Chardonnay from Chile with a lasting flavor of vanilla. Great wine for the price.
- Rosemount Diamond Label Chardonnay 2007 ($13.99) -Crisp aroma of honeydew and sweet fruits. The flavors are similar, with perhaps a grapefruit-y, citrus-y tinge and a big hit of white peach. Doesn’t linger in the mouth for long.
- Banrock Station Semillon Chardonnay 2005 ($5) -Light-yellow in color with a severely citrus aroma. Smooth and tasty, only slightly sweet — much more dry than the other Chards on this list. If you’re looking for a Chardonnay on the dry side, here’s your wine.
- Forestville Chardonnay 2003 ($5) -Oaky and mineral aromas don’t change much once the wine is in the mouth. A surprisingly fruit-less Chardonnay with a unique mineral taste that lingers in the mouth. Try this Chardonnay for an experience like no other, especially at this price.
“Two Buck Chuck”
Known formally as “Charles Shaw”, these wines are made exclusively for sale at retail giant Trader Joe’s. The “Chuck” in question is Charles Shaw — a real character in the world of wine, who flies in the face of wine snobbery. Shaw once quipped that he could grow wine “on asphalt”. All of these wines retail for between $1.99 and $4.99 at Trader Joe’s stores across the country, and while they may not all suit your taste, they are perhaps the best deal in all of the American wine world. If you want to serve wine on a real shoestring budget, look no further than the famous “Two Buck Chuck” line of wines.
- Cabernet sauvignon
- Chardonnay -Even at its low price, Shaw’s 2005 Chardonnay bested all other wines at a California Wine Competition hosted by the 2007 California Expo and State Fair. The inexpensive wine received a “98″ rating, and “double gold” medals as “Best of Class” and “Best Wine of California”. Chardonnay is known as “America’s favorite wine”, and this low price alternative is a great wine to keep around for you and your dinner guests.
- White Zinfandel
- Sauvignon blanc
- Valdiguie ( a “Beaujolais” style red)
- Pinot grigio
- Shiraz -Another award winner, Shaw’s 2002 Shiraz beat out more than 2,300 other wines at the 28th Annual International Eastern Wine Competition, receiving another “double gold” medal. Shaw’s Shiraz is further proof that great wines need not be expensive, no matter the varietal represented. This Shiraz is well reviewed around the web — a superb review can be found by following the link below.
- Napa blend (around $5) -Not available at all Trader Joe’s locations, the “Bronco Wine Company” which bought out Charles Shaw a few years ago pulled off the impossible with this blend, earning the “Napa” label on a $5 bottle. This is a difficult feat — to earn the “Napa” appelation, 85% of the grapes used in a wine must be from the Napa valley. If you can get your hands on a bottle of Chuck’s Napa, you’ll enjoy the least expensive Napa wine on the market.
Good cheap sak e
There is as wide a variety of flavors and textures of sake as there are in Western wines. Sake is not consumed in America on a massive scale (outside of sushi bars and Japanese restaurants), sake is still a popular choice for many — and it would be a shame not to recognize these ten great budget rice wines. It is important to note that technically sake is closer to a beer than a wine in terms of how it is made — but the flavor and texture are similar enough to wine, and most Americans drink it as a wine. This is enough for me to justify including these picks on a list of great value wines. Many of these complex flavors will set you back a bit more than the $20 limit I impose on wines, but sake is a different commodity altogether, and can be a bit pricier due to importation costs and lack of availability.
- Suminoe ($30) -Fresh and light, balanced and subtle. Well worth the extra few bucks for an outstand sake that tastes like twice its price.
- Fu-Ki ($8 – $11) -Sweet and syrupy. Heavy alcohol content.
- Gekkeikan Sake Silver ($10 – $13) – Clear in color with a very light rice taste, almost flavorless and beautiful on the palate. Light aroma.
- Hakutsuru – $8 (reserve label $20) -Fresh and clean with an almost spearmint flavor at the back of the palate. Reserve label is intensely minty and to be served ONLY cold.
- Momokawa Silver Dy ($15) -Fruity, smooth, and mellow with a pale yellow color. A surprising sake find.
- Gekkeikan Gold ($14 – $20) -Fairly hefty ‘rice’ flavor and aroma, make sure not to serve this sake too hot, as the standard “heat” for warm sake might ruin the intense flavors of this wonderful drink.
- Haiku ($13) – Intensely flavored with odd notes of jicama and honeydew, this is a unique sake that will blow away your expectations.
- Nagasaki Sake ($20) – Off-dry flavor, slightly sweet, with spice and mineral notes. Like a complex white wine from Europe — perfectly paired with all types of Eastern cuisine.
- Moonstone Plum Sake ($13) -Natural plum flavor and slight almond notes on the back of the palate — a surprisingly high quality sake for such a low price.
- Horin Gekkeikan ($30 – $40) -Tons of flavor here — lime, mint, and bread dough notes set this sake apart from its competitors as my personal favorite. If you can find a bottle for the price mentioned above, snatch it up. Worth every penny, this sake is good served warm or cold and perfectly compliments Japanese food.
Best of the rest of the good cheap wines
These are the misfit wines of the great wine deal world — not fitting into any of the above categories. Try one today and discover what the world of inexpensive wine has to offer.
- Bonterra Vineyards 2006 Mendocino County Zinfandel (California) ($14.99)
- Omaka Springs 2007 Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc (New Zealand) ($14.99)
- Vicentini 2005 “Terre Lunghe” Soave (Italy) ($13.99)
- Fratelli Pala 2006 “Crabilis” Vermentino di Sardegna (Italy) ($13)
- Château les Eymeries 2006 Bordeaux Blanc (France) ($12)
- Huber 2006 “Hugo” Niederösterreich Grüner Veltliner (Austria) ($13)
- Mas de Gourgonnier 2005 Les Baux de Provence (France) ($12.99)
- Riondo non-vintage Veneto Prosecco (Italy) ($12.99)
- Maison Lafage 2006 “Côte Sud” Vin de Pays des Côtes Catalanes (France) ($12.99)
- Mionetto Valdobbiadene Prosecco Brut (Italy) ($12.99)
- La Tour Boisée 2006 “Plantation 1905″ Vin de Table Rouge (France) ($12.99)
- Hayman & Hill 2006 “Interchange” Santa Barbara County “Reserve No. 22″ White Blend (California) ($12.99)
- Charles Smith Wines 2006 “Holy Cow” Columbia Valley Chardonnay (Washington State) ($12.99)
- Montpezat 2005 Coteaux du Languedoc Palombières (France) ($11.99)
- Foppiano Vineyards “Lot 96″ California Red Wine (California) ($11.99)
You can also find more on this subject at this site, Cheap Wine Ratings, which is an ongoing discussion of the subject of good cheap wines.
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