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Drinking great wine doesn’t have to break the bank, and it certainly doesn’t require sacrificing quality for quantity. There are plenty of inexpensive wines available that are made from responsibly-farmed fruit, have little manipulation in the cellar, and most importantly, taste delicious. From pinot noirs to chardonnays, here are the best cheap wines across a variety of categories—all of which are around $25 and under.
Best Overall: Marcel Lapierre 'Raisins Gaulois'
In the world of affordable wines, it doesn’t get better than Lapierre’s 'Raisins Gaulois.' This bottle is produced by one of Beaujolais' most highly-regarded winemaking families. Organic, well-made and seriously easy to drink, this wine is loaded with flavors of tart cherries, juicy red fruit and white pepper. Serve slightly chilled with charcuterie, cheese, Taco Tuesday favorites and more. You’ll never go wrong with this bottle.
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Best White: Empire Estate Dry Riesling
Riesling might just be the wine world’s most misunderstood grape. Contrary to popular belief, not all Riesling wines are sweet, and this bottle from Empire Estate is perfect for easing into dry expressions of the grape. It's produced in New York’s Finger Lakes region and has flavors of pithy citrus, green apple skin, white blossoms, lime leaf, and wet rocks. The wine’s taut acidity and mineral-driven finish make it ideal for enjoying alongside a variety of foods, from fresh seafood to crisp salads.
Best Red: Bacchus 'Ginger’s Cuvée' Pinot Noir
Finding California pinot noir for under $15 isn’t difficult, though seeking out quality bottles can be a challenge. This sustainably-produced wine by Bacchus, however, ticks both boxes. Founded by David Gordon, wine director at Tribeca Grill in New York, Bacchus creates excellent, reasonably-priced bottles from vineyard sites across California. Notes of candied red fruit, cedar spice and potting soil dominate this wine’s zesty and refreshing palate. Sip with roast poultry, grilled fish or portobello mushroom burgers.
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Best Rosé: Domaine de Triennes Rosé
Known for its sandy beaches, lavender laden fields and sun-drenched days, the French region of Provence is also renowned for its rosé wine production. Still, not all Provencal pinks are created equal. Finding a high-quality producer is always key when searching for affordable wine, and rosé is no exception. Triennes is a joint venture between Aubert de Villaine and Jeremy Seysses, two of Burgundy’s most talented vignerons, or winemakers. This bottle is produced from organically-farmed fruit and is loaded with flavors of tart strawberries, cream and citrus zest. Serve chilled with French-inspired snacks for an escape to sunny, southern Provence.
Best Merlot: Januik Merlot
Although California has long been regarded as merlot’s domestic home, Washington state is giving the North Coast a run for its money. Washington’s high altitudes and cooler climates allow merlot grapes to preserve their natural acidity and strike a delicious balance between ripeness and freshness. The Januik family has been working their Columbia Valley soils for decades, and this merlot is one of their top cuvées. Luscious notes of raspberries, black cherries and vanilla lead to a supple and lasting finish. Serve with roasted vegetables, spiced meats and all things grilled.
Good to Know:
“If I’m looking for a wine from a place like Washington, then I’m going straight to blends,” says Andrew Januik, winemaker at Novelty Hill. He recommends trying wines produced from a variety ('blend') of growing sites, citing larger AVAs and growing areas as key. “These wines also often have less oak on them and can drink better than their more expensive counterparts, especially early on,” he says.
Best Chardonnay: Sandhi Chardonnay
The choices are endless when it comes to affordable chardonnay. Still, in a sea of subpar options, finding a high-quality bottle that's been produced responsibly is vital. Sandhi was founded by Raj Parr and Sashi Moorman, two of Santa Barbara County’s most iconic pioneer winemakers. Their Old World-inspired chardonnay is made from organically-farmed fruit and local yeasts. Notes of yellow stone fruit, green apple skin, gunflint and sweet spice dominate the wine’s well-balanced palate. For a bona fide crowd-pleaser, this bottle is it.
Best Sweet: Dr. Loosen 'Dr. L' Riesling
This entry-level riesling is produced by Ernst and Thomas Loosen, the most well-known winemakers in the Mosel region of Germany. Fruit for this sustainably-farmed wine comes from south-facing slopes rooted in clay soils, leading to a bright, mineral-driven finish that'll satisfy your sweet tooth. Notes of tropical fruit, grapefruit juice, white blossoms and wet slate ooze from the wine’s unctuous yet balanced palate. At just 8.5 percent ABV, it's perfect for savoring at early happy hours and weekend brunches.
Best Italian: Felsina Chianti Classico
Looking to relive your first trip to Italy? Snag a bottle of this organic, fruit-driven Chianti from Felsina. The wine's ruby red hue and striking aromatics will appeal to most taste preferences. Expect notes of ripe black cherries, tomato leaf and red flower petals throughout the wine’s vibrant and energetic palate. Pair it with a variety of foods, including Margherita pizza and homemade pasta ragù. Enjoy this bottle slightly chilled and transport yourself under the Tuscan sun.
Best Moscato: Vietti Moscato d’Asti ‘Cascinetta’
When it comes to moscato, Vietti makes some of the best. The producer is one of Piedmont’s longest-standing and highly respected names, and the 'Cascinetta' offers great value and is made with organically-farmed fruit. The wine’s ample natural acidity balances out the residual sugar on the palate. Notes of canned peaches, white flowers, ginger and honeysuckle dominate the wine's fresh and fizzy flavor. This bottle is definitely fine to sip solo, though it works well with spicy appetizers or sweet brunch dishes.
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Best for Sangria: CVNE Crianza 'Cune'
When making Sangrias, your base wine should be fruit-driven, juicy, and above all, something you wouldn’t mind drinking on its own. We recommend trying a bold, savory wine from Rioja, Spain—like this bottle from CVNE. It's loaded with flavors of dark fruit, sappy plums and baking spice. Once it's meshed with diced fruit, sparkling water and a dash of brandy, this wine truly comes to life.
Best for Happy Hours: Loimer 'Lois' Gruner Veltliner
Refreshing, responsibly-produced and delicious? Count us in. For the perfect at-home happy hour wine, look no further than Loimer’s ‘Lois’ Gruner Veltliner. The high acid and solid structure in this biodynamic wine complement a variety of snacks, including fried appetizers, cheese boards, and even 'hard to pair' salads and veggies. The wine boasts flavors of green apple, citrus rind, radishes and sea salt.
Good to Know:
Thomas Pastuszak, beverage director at The NoMad and founder of Empire Estate, has some suggestions when seeking out excellent, affordable wines. “A good move is to head to your local wine shop and make some friends,” he says. “In smaller stores, space is limited, so the wine buyers have to be really selective when making their purchasing decisions."
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Vicki Denig is a wine and travel journalist based between New York and Paris. She is a Certified Specialist of Wine through the Society of Wine Educators. Her work regularly appears on Liquor.com, Wine-Searcher, VinePair and more.