Which Cheap Wines Are Actually Good? Here’s How to Tell

This story is a part of Home Tips, CNET’s assortment of sensible recommendation for getting probably the most out of your property, inside and outside.

To be clear, there are low cost wines, and there are worth wines. Cheap wines might solely set you again a couple of dollars, however their high quality is, effectively, questionable. Value wines, alternatively, can have a variety of costs, from genuinely cheap to kinda dear, however they over-deliver at no matter worth they’re. Cara Patricia is a sommelier and co-owner of San Francisco’s DecantSF and shared some worth wine-buying suggestions over electronic mail not too long ago. “If (the price) seems too good to be true, it is,” she stated. “Wine can be cheap, but it has a cost.”

Figuring out these wines that signify glorious worth might be difficult, even for educated wine shoppers, which is why individuals like Patricia have jobs they love. (Pro tip: Corks over screw caps do not essentially imply a greater wine.) Wine is a large class that folks similar to sommeliers and different wine professionals dedicate their life to. 

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As informal vino shoppers, we’re not anticipated to know every thing and even something, and but generally we nonetheless really feel intimidated asking for assist. Somewhere within the final couple of many years, it feels just like the prevailing angle grew to become that wine information was a requirement for urbane adults. But what’s an urbane grownup to do when generally it appears like the one phrase now we have to explain our wine desire is “dry,” and the one monetary technique now we have when shopping for wine is to decide on the second least costly choice? (Hint: This doesn’t typically signify probably the most bang on your buck.)

Patricia’s wine motto is “drink for yourself,” and DecantSF is thought for its relaxed strategy to connecting individuals with wines they’re going to love, with out even a soupçon of pretension. As a woman- and queer-owned enterprise, the highest order of enterprise at DecantSF is inclusivity, together with on issues of finances. Using Patricia’s wine experience and consumer-friendly angle, listed below are seven methods on how to buy the very best worth wines. 

(We’ve additionally acquired the inside track on how a lot it can save you buying at Trader Joe’s and at Costco, and if it is cheaper to purchase bathroom paper and family necessities on Amazon or on the grocery retailer.)

Shop native

“You’re not going to get a wine expert at a big box store,” Patricia stated. “Shop at boutique stores where the experts are,” and you will have entry to a wealth of information honed over a few years of finding out, evaluating, and most significantly, consuming wine. Wine professionals are sometimes on a finances, too. “Go to a shop and ask for staff picks in your budget,” Patricia suggested. “If you’re looking for wines under $25, ask for the staff’s favorite wines, as that’s what they are probably drinking most often at home.”

“At DecantSF, we blind taste everything before we bring it into the shop, and the hardest section to blind taste for is our least expensive wines,” Patricia stated. “We really want these wines to over-deliver on value and deliciousness, so we’re super picky with what we bring in. We stock our own homes with those wines, so they have to be good!”

wine tasting in shopwine tasting in shop

An excellent native wine retailer will supply experience. Many additionally run weekly or month-to-month curated tastings to allow you to strive before you purchase.

Ariel Skelley/Getty Images

But native is not at all times an possibility. If your space does not sport a good wine retailer, you would possibly peruse our listing of greatest on-line wine golf equipment and greatest alcohol supply companies for 2022

Know your worth

You have each proper to your finances and will by no means really feel self-conscious about what you are trying to spend. Wine professionals deal on daily basis with individuals whose budgets are within the tens of {dollars}, in addition to individuals whose budgets are within the tens of hundreds of {dollars}. Either method, they’re ready to play matchmaker and take an excessive amount of skilled delight in connecting individuals to the precise bottles alongside any finances issues.

bottles of wine under $25 on tablebottles of wine under $25 on table

Some native wine shops like DecantSF supply offers and reductions on wines in case you be a part of a membership program.


“If I’ve learned one thing from being a restaurant sommelier and shop owner, it is: cut to the chase and be honest with what you’re looking for,” Patricia stated. “Be upfront with what you want,” particularly in case you’re working with a good finances. For instance, she suggests opening with one thing like: “I’m looking for a red wine under $30. I’ve previously enjoyed wines like X, Y, and Z and would like something similar. Do you have any suggestions?” You usually tend to have a optimistic wine buying expertise in case you open with honesty.

Wine apps and web sites are an effective way to cost examine and make sure you’re not overpaying. Try certainly one of these three free wine apps to be sure to’re not getting gouged. 

Avoid stylish wines

“Be wary of fads, Instagram darlings or egregious marketing,” Patricia stated. A disproportionate quantity of promoting {dollars} are spent on only a fraction of the world’s wines. (Looking at you, Whispering Angel.) Most top-quality wine producers want to maintain their {dollars} within the vineyards and vineyard, making glorious wines. They depend on their very own tasting rooms, plus sommeliers and wine retailer workers to do the advertising for them, based mostly on real enjoyment of the wines, fairly than costly adverts and sponsorships with influencers. “There is often a premium upcharge on the coolest or hottest wines,” Patricia stated, “and you can tell when a lot of the money is going into the marketing instead of the product.”


Orange or amber wines, nevertheless, are wine developments price wanting into for some glorious worth alternatives.

glass of orange wine next to bottle on tableglass of orange wine next to bottle on table

Trendy wine might value you extra, particularly whereas within the throes of its trendiness. But that does not imply it’s important to keep away from them altogether. 

Wines of Georgia

Get out the map

Becoming a sommelier has an incredible quantity to do with geography, which is one other good cause to place them to give you the results you want in the case of discovering good worth wines. You needn’t know each minor wine-producing area, and even each main one, however you are able to do your self a service by attending to know a few essential areas for the types or grapes you most like after which attending to know their neighbors.

“Look for regions that are just outside the famous regions,” Patricia stated. “Maybe Sancerre is getting a little too expensive, but there are plenty of lovely sauvignon blancs from Touraine to try. Napa Valley prices are insane! Let’s try something from the El Dorado foothills, instead.”

bottles of wine in bottling machinebottles of wine in bottling machine

Madroña is only one of many nice wine producers you may discover within the El Dorado foothills.

Madroña Vinyards

It may also be useful to be taught what New World or different rising areas are producing related type wines to a number of the heavy hitters, as these are sometimes locations that over-deliver for his or her worth level. If you’re keen on large cabernet sauvignons from Bordeaux or Napa Valley, search for large reds from Chile or Washington state to economize with out sacrificing high quality. Opulent chardonnays aren’t restricted to France and California both, with beautiful, wallet-friendly expressions coming from Australia and South Africa.

Seek out entry-level wines

The world’s most well-known wine producers grew to become so for making a number of the world’s most legendary wines, which command high greenback. But these are very hardly ever the one wines they make, and most supply bottles that come from broader, inexpensive wine areas than their high cuvées.

“Love dry Grosses Gewächs riesling but can’t shell out $100? Try a dry Trocken riesling from the same estate at a quarter of the cost,” Patricia stated. “Wish you could splurge on Puligny-Montrachet? Try your favorite producer’s Bourgogne Blanc, which can often be a blend of declassified fruit from younger vines.”

trocken riesling bottlestrocken riesling bottles

Trocken riesling is much like dry Grosses Gewächs riesling, however at a fraction of the fee.

Heroes of Riesling

Further to wanting extra broadly on the wine map, it may also be a savvy monetary technique to strive much less well-known grapes from very well-known producers. “Try different grape varieties from storied producers,” Patricia stated. “Love a particular Barolo? Try their Barbera d’Asti and get the same great winemaking with a different grape that costs way less to make.”

Consider membership

Some wine shops supply membership offers which are price wanting into. “There are usually discounts for members and you get a lot more variety each period than you would be as a member of a winery’s club,” Patricia stated. “For example, members of DecantSF’s bottle clubs get 10% off any reorders of wines featured in clubs, waived corkage fees for drinking bottles in the store, complimentary wine flights, discounts on classes, presales and other perks.” 

As for on-line wine memberships or subscriptions, she suggested making use of wholesome skepticism. “Stay away from online-only wine clubs that want you to be an ‘investor,’ or use an algorithm quiz instead of a sommelier to match your preferences, or guarantee a case of wine for way too cheap,” Patricia stated. “These are often the lowest quality wines using mass-produced fruit and exploited labor that’s blended and bottled under fantasy names. You may as well buy from the bottom shelf at Walmart.”

five bottles of rose wine on doorstepfive bottles of rose wine on doorstep

Nothing beats an ideal native wine retailer, but when your space is missing, a classy on-line wine membership will suffice.

Wine Insiders

However, in case your space does not sport a good wine retailer, we have vetted some on-line wine golf equipment for you with CNET’s greatest wine membership for 2022. Some on-line wine retailers, similar to Wine.com, additionally supply introductory offers for first-time consumers, and Last Bottle periodically presents marathon shopping for weekends, all of which generally is a good strategy to replenish.

Buy in bulk

Buying in bulk is a time-honored, money-saving technique, and it absolutely does not cease with wine. “Buy more, save more,” Patricia stated. “For example, DecantSF gives a 5% discount on six bottles, or a 10% discount on 12-plus bottles.” You can even save on transport or supply by stocking up on wine a number of instances all year long, fairly than coming out for a bottle for each particular person event that necessitates one. Larger format bottles as effectively, similar to magnums, and even boxed wine — sure, I stated it — from respected producers can prevent some cash.

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