Drink Only the Best Wines Under $10 This Holiday Season

Photo (cc) by lowjumpingfrog

Cheap-wine aficionados, what are you drinking this holiday season?

You can be fickle. Your favorites come and go. One day it’s a box of certified organic Yellow+Blue chardonnay. The next it’s Alice White cabernet sauvignon.

The holidays are a great time to add new wines to this changing repertoire. Here are recommendations, wine face-offs, and six tips for drinking and serving the very best of the cheap wines.

In the box

If you’ve been leery of boxed wines, it’s time to relax. They can deliver good value. “Boxed wines have come a long way since the el cheapo days,” writes Forbes contributor Katie Kelly Bell:

Boxed wine stays fresh a minimum of four weeks, it’s shatter-proof, portable, will never have cork taint, and is more environmentally conscious. In fact the total energy used to produce one box is about one-third the energy required to produce a glass bottle, leaving a carbon footprint one-half the size that of a wine bottle.

Bell gathered friends and neighbors for a boxed wine taste-off. Everyone was pleasantly surprised, she says, at the quality of the wines they tried.

Boxed wine is typically found in 1-liter to 3-liter boxes. A 3-liter box has 20 servings of 5 ounces each, according to this wine party planning guide. The standard 750-milliliter bottle contains five servings. So, when you’re comparing prices, a 3-liter box of wine is equivalent to four bottles.

Here are the top three reds and top three whites (each contender costs the equivalent of $10 a bottle or less) chosen by Katie Kelly Bell’s group.

Boxed-red favorites:

  1. From the Tank Vin Rouge (3 liters), 2010.
  2. Maipe Malbec (3 liters), 2010.
  3. Black Box Cabernet Sauvignon (3 liters), 2010.

Boxed-white favorites:

  1. French Rabbit Chardonnay (1 liter), 2010.
  2. Three Thieves Bandit Pinot Grigio (1 liter), 2010.
  3. La Petit Frog Picpoul de Pinet (3 liters), 2010.

Tip: After pouring a glass of boxed wine, give it a few minutes to breathe, she recommends.

Chuck vs. the duck vs. the rooster

My current house wines are from Rex-Goliath, the vintner with the strutting rooster on the label. But if you live near a Trader Joe’s (a grocery chain on the West Coast, the East Coast and some points in between) you’re likely to love the famous Charles Shaw brand, which comes in an array of varietals and was nicknamed “Two-Buck Chuck” because it cost $2 a bottle in California. Until fairly recently, that is. Two-Buck Chuck is priced up to $3.79 in some places ($2.49 in California). But the name’s stuck.

YouTube reviewer Harry Constantinescu compares three popular cabernet sauvignons under $10 — by Rex-Goliath (“a hamburger wine”), Charles Shaw (“a good wine for the value” but “really, really flat”) and Smoking Loon (“a little complexity” but “a little tart … a little bitter on the finish”).

He preferred the Smoking Loon to my “chicken wine” (as my grocery store clerk fondly calls Rex-Goliath) but only slightly. He says of the big chicken: “Nothing special but I’m telling you, for $7, it’s a crowd-pleaser, this wine.”

Chuck vs. Three Wishes

Huffington Post reviewer Nile Cappello (he describes himself as “no sommelier” but “quite the expert when it comes to cheap wines”) compares Charles Shaw’s chardonnay, cabernet sauvignon and merlot with their equivalents from Three Wishes, the Whole Foods label. Three Wishes’ label is “much, much prettier,” and Cappello prefers its cab. But Two-Buck Chuck won the chardonnay and merlot face-offs.

6 more tips

1. Ignore cheap pinot noir. “The bottles I ended up buying on my shopping expeditions were all a waste of money — insipid, dull, even actively unpleasant,” writes Food & Wine’s executive wine editor, Ray Isle.

2. Make malbec your friend. “If full-flavored, capably made, appealing wines that you can buy for a song strike you as interesting, then affordable malbec’s great,” Isle advises.

3. Go for the volume discounts. Grocery stores and wine merchants often offer a discount when you buy six bottles or more. The typical price break is 10 percent, but you’ll occasionally see special grocery store discounts of 15 percent.

4. Chat up folks at the wine shop. The folks at your local wine store love good wines, of course. They, and the smart staffers at grocery store wine departments, make it their business to be ready with tips on drinkable, low-cost wines.

“Can you recommend a couple good wines for under $10 (or $15)?” customers ask them every day. Are these salespeople knowledgeable? It varies widely. You’ll have to be the judge by sampling their recommendations. Even expert wine tasters often fail to get it right. Once you find a staffer whose taste matches yours, keep going back for more referrals.

5. Find more great cheap wines. Wine Enthusiast magazine publishes a “Ten Wines Under $10” column each month. Every month brings more wine tips.

Do your own research using Wine Enthusiast’s huge database of reviews. Here’s how:

  • Click on the Buying Guide.
  • Directly under “Buying Guide” you’ll see “search” and “advanced.” Click “advanced.”
  • You’ll find 11 filters, like “types,” “regions” and “varietals.” Use filters for “types,” “Wine Enthusiast rating” and “price.”
  • Click “types,” choose “all wines” and click “apply filter.”
  • Next, click “price” and set the sliding bar to $10. Click “apply filter.”
  • Finally, click “Wine Enthusiast rating” and set the sliding bar to 100 (100 points, the top rating). Click “apply filter.” This delivered a whole lot of results – 12,259, in fact. Fun for browsing but impossible to handle. To narrow the search, also use other filters like “varietals” and “vintage.”

6. Compare prices online. Many sites, such as WineShopper.com and WineAccess.com, are available to help you. Use your favorite search engine to find them.

What are your favorite cheap wines? Share your recommendations below or on our Facebook page.

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.

Read Next
How to Invest in Real Estate for as Little as $500
How to Invest in Real Estate for as Little as $500

If stock market volatility has you looking for other investment options, here’s a way to diversify — even if you don’t have tons of money.

12 Ways to Maximize Your Social Security Checks
12 Ways to Maximize Your Social Security Checks

You may be eligible for more retirement income than you realize.

Why Cutting the Cord Can Be Confusing — and How to Decide If It’s for You
Why Cutting the Cord Can Be Confusing — and How to Decide If It’s for You

Streaming TV might sound like the antidote to sky-high cable bills, but cutting the cord is easier said than done.

6 Types of People Who Can’t Count on Social Security
6 Types of People Who Can’t Count on Social Security

If you fall into one of these groups, don’t assume that you will receive benefits.

7 Other Retailers With Free Prescription Delivery
7 Other Retailers With Free Prescription Delivery

Amazon’s new pharmacy is hardly the first to offer free shipping.

View this page without ads

Help us produce more money-saving articles and videos by subscribing to a membership.

Get Started

Most Popular
7 Kirkland Signature Items to Avoid at Costco
7 Kirkland Signature Items to Avoid at Costco

Even if it seems you save a bundle buying Costco’s Kirkland Signature brand products, they may not be the bargain they appear to be.

If You Find This Thrift Shopping, Buy It
If You Find This Thrift Shopping, Buy It

Whether you resell it for a big profit or add it to your own wardrobe, this type of clothing is a hidden steal.

3 Ways to Get Microsoft Office for Free
3 Ways to Get Microsoft Office for Free

With a little ingenuity, you can cut Office costs to zero.

9 Things You’ll Never See at Costco Again
9 Things You’ll Never See at Costco Again

The warehouse store offers an enormous selection, but these products aren’t coming back.

Organize Your Home With These 10 Thrift Store Finds
Organize Your Home With These 10 Thrift Store Finds

Resolve to be clutter-free in 2021 with these secondhand purchases.

11 Laws You Could Be Breaking Without Knowing It
11 Laws You Could Be Breaking Without Knowing It

Seriously? Fibbing about the weather is a crime? This and other little-known legal traps await the unwary.

Is This Treatable Condition Causing Your High Blood Pressure?
Is This Treatable Condition Causing Your High Blood Pressure?

Researchers say too many doctors are overlooking this potential source of hypertension.

13 Things Seniors Can Get for Free — or Almost Free
13 Things Seniors Can Get for Free — or Almost Free

There are many ways to get cheap or free services and goods after reaching a certain age.

These Are the 3 Best Used Cars You Can Buy
These Are the 3 Best Used Cars You Can Buy

These vehicles boast reliability, safety and long-lasting value.

Taking a Multivitamin? Here’s Why You Should Reconsider
Taking a Multivitamin? Here’s Why You Should Reconsider

A new study has bad news for the millions of Americans who spend money on multivitamins.

This Surprise Factor Can Raise Your Risk of Dementia
This Surprise Factor Can Raise Your Risk of Dementia

Nearly half of U.S. residents may face this threat.

21 Items to Cut From Your Budget That You Won’t Even Miss
21 Items to Cut From Your Budget That You Won’t Even Miss

Start off the new year by implementing these small-but-smart savings strategies. They’ll soon add up.

This Is America’s New Favorite Grocery Store
This Is America’s New Favorite Grocery Store

Consumers say a familiar name has become their go-to source of grocery items.

Does Wearing 2 Masks Protect You Better From COVID-19?
Does Wearing 2 Masks Protect You Better From COVID-19?

A growing number of people are wearing two masks instead of just one. Should you join them?

Internet Providers Can’t Charge You for This Anymore
Internet Providers Can’t Charge You for This Anymore

Starting this month, your ISP no longer can bill you for this fee.

15 Painless Ways You Can Cut Costs in 2021
15 Painless Ways You Can Cut Costs in 2021

Follow these tips to save, so you’ll have money for things that really matter.

10 Cars You Are Most Likely to Keep for 15 Years
10 Cars You Are Most Likely to Keep for 15 Years

The cars that owners hold onto the longest have one thing in common, a new study shows.

Prepare to Pay More for These 31 Drugs in 2021
Prepare to Pay More for These 31 Drugs in 2021

More than 700 prescription medications have seen price hikes so far this year. Here’s a look at the worst.

The 10 Golden Rules of Becoming a Millionaire
The 10 Golden Rules of Becoming a Millionaire

I’m a millionaire several times over. I got here the same way you can — by following these simple steps.

View More Articles

View this page without ads

Help us produce more money-saving articles and videos by subscribing to a membership.

Get Started

Add a Comment

Our Policy: We welcome relevant and respectful comments in order to foster healthy and informative discussions. All other comments may be removed. Comments with links are automatically held for moderation.