Think you need to spend upwards of $100 to score a good bottle of wine? Or at the very least $50? We’ll let you in on a sommelier-approved secret: The price tag on a bottle doesn’t directly correlate to how much you’ll love the wine. There are plenty of high-quality, dare we say, cheap wines at your local liquor store with some superb options coming in under the $25 mark (and, in some cases, well under that price point).
“A lot of people rely on highly scored, expensive wines to determine what’s ‘good,’ but it’s really about discovering what speaks to you and your palate,” says Nicki McTague, sommelier and president of The Infinite Monkey Theorem, an urban winery with locations in Austin, TX, and Denver, CO. “Some of my favorite bottles, in fact, would be considered budget buys.”
You don’t have to spend a lot to impress. You can find a nice yet inexpensive velvety pinot noir to enhance a perfectly cooked steak or an easy-sipping sauvignon blanc to sip while shucking oysters like a pro.
We asked sommeliers to share with us their top cheap wine recommendations. The only parameters we gave them was a $25 price point (note: prices may vary at your local store) and that these wines be widely available.
So go ahead, fill the empty spots in your wine fridge or rack with some of these expert budget picks.
Sommeliers Share Cheap Wines Under $25 That Taste Way More Expensive
1. Jean Reverdy’s Et Fils Sancerre ‘La Reine Blanche’ 2018
Sip this sauv blanc while slurping salty, briny oysters, suggests McTague. The nose on this wine is filled with fresh herbs and lemon zest, and you’ll pick up notes of green apple and grapefruit. The Loire Valley’s diverse soils lend impressive complexity to this sub-$25 bottle. As for the chalky-yet-clean finish? “It’ll have you appreciating the several-hundred years of winemaking this family has embarked on,” McTague says.
2. Lioco Pinot Noir Mendocino
Lioco wines do a great job at showing a sense of place, says Todd Phillips, sommelier and beverage director at Ariete in Miami. He means they don’t go over the top with oak and instead “let the grapes speak for themselves,” sourcing from California vineyards in Santa Cruz, Sonoma, and Mendocino. You can expect this pinot to be silky smooth, with notes of black cherry, fresh plums, and pomegranate, Phillips says. Plus, this bottle will convince you that a snappy pinot—not just white wines—can pair with light meats like pork or chicken. Bonus: Cheap wines don’t have to look chintzy; this bottle is beautiful enough to bring to a dinner party.
3. Cooper Mountain Pinot Noir
Oregon’s pinot noirs are among the best in the world. The Willamette Valley’s maritime weather, plus its position 45 degrees north of Earth’s equator, creates a growing climate similar to that of Burgundy, France, a highly regarded wine region. For a red that’ll stand up to a heavier salmon dish or a steak-and-potato dinner, Julie Masciangelo, sommelier and general manager at Il Posto in Denver, CO, recommends Cooper Mountain Pinot Noir. The winemaker takes an organic and biodynamic approach, and this particular pinot is a great budget bottle because of its pairing versatility. “It tastes of cherry and raspberry, with some earthy notes,” Masciangelo says. Try it with beef, salmon, duck, lamb, or chicken.
4. Petalos Descendientes de Jose Palacios
Think beer and burgers are beyond reproach? The next time you grill a juicy burger, try syncing it with this wine from the Bierzo region of Spain. Petalos Descendientes de Jose Palacios is made primarily from the Mencia grape, along with a “kitchen sink” of old local varieties of red and white grapes, says Scott Carney, master sommelier and dean of Wine Studies at the Institute of Culinary Education. The result? You get notes of red berry fruit, an herbal tinge, some peppery spice, and flowery fragrance, Carney says. You could also serve this with charcuterie.
5. Jarana Fino from Lustau
As a category, sherry wines are cream of the crop when it comes to cheap wines, but they’re often overlooked. That’s probably because they’re misunderstood: Contrary to popular belief, the majority of sherry wines are quite dry. For a proper introduction to dry-style sherries, sommelier Emily Nevin-Giannini, beverage director at Barcelona Wine Bar in Denver, CO, recommends Jarana Fino from Lustau. “This wine transports you to the coast of Southern Spain; you can almost taste the salty air and orange trees of Andalusia,” Nevin-Giannini says. It’s light and crisp with intense aromas of citrus, green apple, roasted marcona almonds—and it has a savory, salty minerality. It makes a perfect aperitif with serrano ham, nutty cheeses, and olives. “I also love to drink fino with Asian take-out,” Nevin-Giannini says. “It’s awesome with sushi.”
6. Vina Alberdi from La Rioja Alta
This is one of the world’s best values for red wine and it’s versatile enough to please every style of wine drinker. Bold claims, yes, but Nevin-Giannini stands firmly by them. This traditional style Reserva is 100 percent Tempranillo and from one of Spain’s most venerated producers. “At this price point it’s hard to find a wine that checks all the boxes, but what I love about Riojas is they’re intensely fruity, have elegant tannins, perfectly balanced acid, and savory complexity from extended aging,” she says. “Alberdi over-delivers.” Pair this with raised dishes or mushroom pastas, she suggests. It has notes of ripe strawberry and red plum, plus subtle leather and smoke for a sweet-spicy finish.
7. Primitivo di Manduria “Lirica”, Produttori di Manduria
If you’re looking for a perfect wine to pair with pizza, turn your attention to this jammy, velvety, medium-bodied red, recommends advanced sommelier Hristo Zisovski, beverage director at Altamarea Group (popular restaurants include Marea, Osteria Morini, and Ai Fiori). Think zesty red sauce, from meat or veggie pizzas to spaghetti pomodoro, when pairing this plush red, Zisovski says. “This Italian Primitivo wine is exploding with flavors of blueberry pie, dried figs, and musk,” he says.
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