Drinking great wine doesn’t mean you have to fork over your entire paycheck, 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'
Region: Beaujolais, France | ABV: 12.5% | Tasting Notes: Cherries, Red fruit, White pepper
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.
Best White: Domaine de la Pépière Muscadet-Sèvre et Maine Sur Lie
Region: Loire Valley, France | ABV: 12% | Tasting Notes: Grapefruit, Green apple, Crushed rocks
In addition to local legends Jo Landron and Domaine Luneau-Papin, Domaine de la Pépière is regarded as one of the highest-quality muscadet producers—and the price point makes the deal all of the sweeter. Although the region is extremely varied and complex, wines produced here are mostly made for immediate consumption, prices remain relatively low.
This tasty bottle is the result of direct-pressed fruit fermented with native yeasts and sur-lie aging for 4-8 months prior to bottling. The wine is racy, refreshing, and loaded with minerally goodness. Expect flavors of grapefruit, green apple, and crushed rocks. If oysters or raw bar favorites are on the menu, this wine is a no-brainer (though it will really pair well with anything salty and delicious).
Best Red: Bacchus 'Ginger’s Cuvée' Pinot Noir
Region: California, USA | ABV: 13% | Tasting Notes: Red fruit, Potting soil, Cedar
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.
Related: The Best Red Wines
“When ‘shelf-shopping,’ the lowest row is unworthy of your palate, while the top row is typically overpriced. As for Row 3, there are almost always gems!” —Seth Dunagan, Wine Director at Helen
Best Rosé: Domaine de Triennes Rosé
Region: Provence, France | ABV: 12.5% | Tasting Notes: Strawberry, Cream, Citrus zest
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.
Related: The Best Wines
Best Merlot: Januik Merlot
Region: Columbia Valley, Washington, USA | ABV: 14.3% | Tasting Notes: Raspberries, Black cherry, Vanilla
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.
Related: The Best Wines for Thanksgiving
Best Pinot Grigio: Elena Walch Pinot Grigio (Selezione)
Region: Alto Adige, Italy | ABV: 12.5% | Tasting Notes: Pear, White pepper, Citrus
Pinot grigio often gets a bad reputation, as much of it is mass produced, thin, and lacking in flavor—however, we can promise you that those stats immediately dissipate upon first sip of Elena Walch’s bottling. Now spearheaded by her daughters, Karoline and Julia, Elena Walch’s 60 hectares of Alto Adige-based vines are all sustainably farmed, with respect for the environment put first. The wine was entirely vinified in stainless steel tanks, though a short period of sur-lie aging adds a pleasant texture to the wine’s light-bodied mouthfeel. This bright and zesty Pinot Grigio shows flavors of salty pears, white pepper, citrus, and fresh cut herbs. Pair with a variety of fresh hors d’oeuvres or simply sip on its own and enjoy as a lovely aperitif wine.
Related: The Best Chardonnays
“If you’ve seen it in a commercial, avoid it, this is capitalism taking advantage of you,” explains Dunugan. “However, there are European producers making beautiful, organic wines but saving a fortune on glass. You can also recycle the packaging.”
Best Sweet: Fonseca Bin No. 27 Port
Region: Douro, Portugal | ABV: 20% | Tasting Notes: Plums, Milk chocolate, Sweet spice
Those who love Port have likely had a pour of Fonseca or two in their lifetime. Although the Bin No. 27 cuvée was created over 100 years ago (for family enjoyment), the wine was first released to the market for public purchase in 1972.
The wine is produced from a blend of reserve wines and spends four years aging in large wooden vats prior to bottling. On the palate ,the wine is rich, smooth, and loaded with flavors of ripe plums, milk chocolate, licorice, and a touch of sweet, toasty spice. Although the wine is delicious now, it will only get better with a few years of age. Serve with your favorite desserts or simply let a pour of this become your new favorite final course.
Related: The Best Sweet Wines
Best Italian: Felsina Chianti Classico
Region: Tuscany, Italy | ABV: 13.5% | Tasting Notes: Black cherry, Tomato leaf, Red flowers
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.
“There are two people you should always trust in life: your server and your bartender. We love wine as much as you, and we also live on a budget. Just ask us what glass we had last night!” — Seth Dunagan, Wine Director at Helen
Best Moscato: Vietti Moscato d’Asti ‘Cascinetta’
Region: Piedmont, Italy | ABV: 5.5% | Tasting Notes: Canned peach, Ginger, Honeysuckle
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.
Good to Know:
Dunagan reveals that most wine importers are listed on back labels—and can provide key insight into finding great wines at good prices. “These companies make a living on finding good wine and bringing it stateside, and often restaurants buy many of their wines from these importers. Know the importer and treat them as a stamp of approval,” he says. Chances are, if you’ve had an affordable wine from a specific importer, you’ll likely enjoy other picks from their book.
Best for Sangria: Santa Julia Organic Malbec
Region: Mendoza, Argentina | ABV: 13.5% | Tasting Notes: Dark fruit, Raisins, Violets
The Zuccardi family has been pioneering responsible farming and winemaking in Argentina for the past 70 years, and their new line of organic wines is a testament to their fervent hard work. Bodega Santa Julia was named after the third generation of the family, Julia Zuccardi, who continues to pioneer and pursue innovation and sustainable farming in Mendoza. This flavor-packed Malbec jumps with flavors of ripe dark fruits, black currant, raisins, and violets. The wine’s concentrated, fruit-driven flavors are perfect for mixing into tasty Sangria, though definitely don’t forget to splash yourself a solo pour on the side to taste the wine on its own.
“My big tip for affordable wine is to go for stuff you’ve never heard of. If you’ve never heard of it, it's probably not trendy and overpriced and stuffed with marketing dollars.” — Caroline Conner, founder of Wine, Dine, & Caroline
Best for Happy Hours: Loimer 'Lois' Gruner Veltliner
Region: Kamptal, Austria | ABV: 12% | Tasting Notes: Green apple, Radish, Sea salt
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."
Related: The Best Wines for Everyday Drinking
Not all great wine has to be expensive! However, when looking for lower-priced wine, we recommend sticking to bottles that are produced from responsibly-farmed fruit and at the hands of great producers. Find producers that you know and trust, as well as importers and distributors, then explore their lineups. As always, finding a trusty local wine shop is also key—and don’t forget that the internet is your friend. Simply find a producer or wine that you're interested in, Google their farming and vinification practices, and fall down the delightful rabbit hole of happy wine drinking.
What to Look For
We recommend seeking out great producers that farm responsibly and produce wines that fit your budget. Delicious wine can be found at any price point, sometimes it’s just a matter of doing a little bit of research. See the next point for further tips!
Are cheaper wines made differently than pricier wines?
In many cases, yes. Although not all cheap wines are mass produced, many big-brand makers of mass-produced wines use additives and chemicals to manipulate their wines, cut corners with winemaking, and churn bottles out quicker and in larger quantities. (Note: None of the above brands featured use harsh chemicals in their winemaking practices.)
What makes wine inexpensive?
Unfortunately, what makes very inexpensive wines cheap is usually poor farming practices, chemicals, and additives. Thankfully, there are solutions. Some producers are able to farm organically on a large scale due to larger teams, higher budgets, and farming in less “sought after” areas—that’s to say, rather than farming in harsh (albeit, ideal grape-growing) conditions that make all work necessary by hand, these growers seek out easier-to-farm areas where machinery can be used and large teams can be hired, and an, in turn, costs are cut down.
What’s the best way to drink cheap wine?
We recommend steering clear of mass-produced, big-brand anything, as drinking small and supporting responsible farmers is one way to be a diligent consumer. However, less expensive wines such as the picks above can be enjoyed in the same way that more expensive wines would be: with friends, amongst, family, solo, with or without food—the opportunities are endless.
When an abundance of harsh chemicals and additives are used, yes, there is a chance that you’ll feel worse the following day, though nothing is guaranteed. Think about it as if wine were food – would you feel worse if you ate an organic, healthy plate of vegetables or a container of greasy fast food for dinner? Once we think of wine the way that we do food (after all, wine is an agricultural product), the pieces start to make sense!
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Vicki Denig is a wine, spirits, and travel journalist who splits her time between New York and Paris. Her work regularly appears in major industry publications. She is the content creator and social media manager for a list of prestigious clients, including Sopexa, Paris Wine Company, Becky Wasserman, Volcanic Selections, Le Du’s Wines, Windmill Wine & Spirits and Corkbuzz. She is a Certified Specialist of Wine.