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Oct 27, 2007 06:24 PM

Are there any decent wines under $7?

I just came back from TJ's and spent about 30 min looking at all the wines to come home with none. I noticed there are quite a few bottles for $5.99 and even $4.99. I recently put myself on a budget and was wondering if anyone has had any great luck with those "cheap" wines aside from chuck shaws.

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  1. I don't know what your wine store keeps in stock but here are a few very drinkable cheapies that I know of (all Spanish except the last which is Italian) ->

    - Bodegas Castano Monastrell
    - Bodegas Luzon "Luzon"
    - Bodegas Olivares Jumilla
    - Bodegas Borsao Campo de Borja
    - Juan Gil "Wrongo Dongo" Jumilla
    - Falesco Vitiano

    All should be well under $10 and can be found on winesearcher in $7-8 range.

    1. The original comment has been removed
      1. Under $10, yes. Under $7, very difficult.

        I generally don't find very interesting wines at TJ's, but YMMV.

        16 Replies
        1. re: zin1953

          isn't it difficult? i'm tempted to buy a bottle at TJ's one day and probably will. really, it won't be a huge loss since i'd only be spending $6 or so. there's quite a few out there. my wine shop really doesn't carry anything under $7. since i'm unemployed right now i'm trying to be super budget conscious.

          1. re: trolley

            Try the Casillero del Diablo Carmenere. 2005 was great with grilled meats, 2006 may be good too; it is the same price but I have no idea whether anything changes year-to-year in those great big tanks at Concho y Toro. They make a Cabernet which is also allegedly serviceable; I haven't tried that one.

            The Muscadet, Cotes du Rhone (Les Moirets), and the weird Hungarian "Woodsman's White" made from Cserzegi Fuszeres (sp?) are all less than $7 at TJs and none of them ended up circling the drain in my house. Nothing earth shattering (although the Hungarian white probably will surprise you), but certainly better than their prices would suggest when I tried them. If they still have any of the Nero D'avola you might want to try that too. I think it was also sub-$7 and probably the only decent Italian wine I have had from TJ's.

            The Latour 'Duet' Viognier/Chard was nice for $6 or whatever it cost, but beware, it is off-dry. Not bad, but certainly not a bone-dry white. We dumped about half a bottle into some mussels on Friday and drank the rest -- I liked it better than a Mersault which a dinner companion purchased recently, at probably 10x the price of this curious blend. But then, I've never come across an unadulterated Chardonnay which I actually enjoyed. YMMV.

            Trader Joe's is a crapshoot, but let's put this in perspective -- most wines are. Just not to the extent of the stuff they stock at TJs :-). For $7 you can buy a wide variety of vinous lottery tickets from that vendor, some of which are dandy.

            1. re: ttriche

              I think one would be hard-pressed to find Casillero del Diablo Carmenere under $7

              1. re: FrankJBN

                Just bought a bottle today at TJ's - $6.99 plus tax... ;-)

                1. re: FrankJBN

                  My wife and I split a bottle (actually just a few glasses) with some lamb chops and red wine reduction on Monday. $6.99 at TJ's, Hastings Ranch, Pasadena, CA. The 2006 (which we had this time) was better than the 2005 (it's sturdier and more complex).

                  I was at the Silverlake Trader Joe's today and the price was the same ($6.99).

                  If you're paying more than $7 for this, you're getting a raw deal. Although it is still a good value since it tastes as complex as many far more expensive reds.

                2. re: ttriche

                  ttriche: if you're talking about the archeo nero d'avola, i'll second that suggestion. surprisingly solid.

                  1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                    re. the Archeo / Ruggero di Tasso Nero d'Avola -- that's the one.

                    Found another bottle on Friday in Eagle Rock, after visiting the Oinkster (which has gone downhill IMHO) -- now it's $3.99. At that price I bought two.

                    It's not as satisfying as the Carmenere, but it is, as you said, surprisingly solid. (Is it as good as a Cerasuolo di Vittoria? Oh hell no. But considering the price, I'll let that slide... it's great for Italian Movie Night at Bulgarini, for example, and for $4, I would have to say it's twice as good as 2BC, too.)

                3. re: trolley

                  Traditionally, from the days when TJ's first started through the early 1990s, people used to run to TJ's when they first received the latest issue of the "Fearless Flyer" with a corkscrew and a couple of wine glasses . . . they'd buy a bottle each of all the $1.99-3.99 wines that sounded interesting, and go back to the parkling lot. They'd open them up, taste them, and then go back inside and buy a case of the two or three bottles they really liked. So what if they didn't like ten out of the 12 -- they were only $2 each!

                  Today, that approach isn't as practical, but some still do it. I prefer to seek out wines from serious wine merchants, not mass merchandisers, but that's me -- and as I said above, YMMV.

                  1. re: trolley

                    Keep in mind -- above all -- that what is "decent" (or even "excellent") to one individual may be different to another. We all have our own individual tastes. Obviously there are many people who think Charles Shaw (aka 2BC) is really good . . . why else would the same people go back to buy case after case after case? But to my palate . . . yuck! Same wine; two very different opinions.

                    1. re: zin1953

                      And I will say of that . . . chaos!

                      1. re: zin1953

                        very true. that is why i specified "no chuck shaw" in hopes that I could set some kind of meter for my taste and what's acceptable as "decent", which you mentioned can be vast in definition.

                        When I have money I try to buy wines from smaller stores. in my area i have a place called du vin in w.hollywood and a place called hertiage in pasadena, ca where i live. there's people there who know wines and can suggest good ones but they never carry anything priced as low as TJ's. i don't know much about wines. i drink it and know what i enjoy but that's about my extend. i also know i'm not a huge two buck chuck fan.

                        all of these suggestions are great and i look forward to spending my meager unemployment check on some of them if i can find them in my area.

                        1. re: trolley

                          Money isn't an issue -- or at least, it shouldn't be. You can find great wines at Du Vin or Heritage (or Mission Wines, or Wine House, or even BevMo!) in the $10 range as well as the $100 range . . . I know this was the case when I shopped there, and still is in the places I shop in now . . . .

                          1. re: zin1953

                            If you're going shopping on a tight budget in Los Angeles, there's really only one place to go: the Chronicle Wine Cellar ( in Pasadena. Nothing else comes close (in every sense of the word, I'm afraid...


                            I like to go shopping at K&L when I am having people over for a nice dinner because Greg St. Clair, their Italian buyer, seems almost clairvoyant in terms of suggesting interesting (novel) matches that delight people. And he has forgotten more about Italian wines than I am ever likely to learn, which means I usually learn something when I go to K&L. But for raw value it is very hard to beat the old Chronicle operation. (I assume you are familiar with their very strange little ''store'' if you have lived down here)

                            In spite of the motel-room ambiance, they carry interesting wines at extremely competitive prices. Plus they are the anti-BevMo in every respect that matters.

                            1. re: ttriche

                              i live right near this place and i walked by it the other day. i will be taking a walk there today. thanks for the tip. there's seems to be some good stuff there. i like anything anti bevmo.

                              1. re: ttriche

                                I loved Chronicle when I lived in Glendale. It is also a great place to get gifts. They have lots of wines in older vintages, so not much trouble to come up with a 1977 for a 30th birthday. Even if it is only of mediocre quality, it sure is a hoot. And if you go, don't forget to stop at Pie and Burger (if it's still there). Last I knew, they'd let you open a bottle with your burger.

                              2. re: zin1953

                                i like mission wines and heritage. i find great wines there in the 10-15 but rarely 4.99-5.99 range.

                      2. Gato Negro, a Chilean brand, sells in the New York market for around $5 for 1.5 liter bottle. The Sauvignon Blanc is downright tasty, and the Cabernet Sauvignon is not bad, either. Have the Chardonnay on deck for a fundraiser today. Haven't had that one yet, but the qpr is undeniable! and it's SO much better than yellowtail that there's no comparison!

                        Does everyone know that sugar is added to Yellowtail for the US market????? might as well drink white zin!

                        11 Replies
                        1. re: ChefJune

                          Hardly an issue, June. KJ has been deliberately leaving rs in their Chardonnay (and using Muscat) for years. Heck, DeLoach started leaving rs in their Chardonnay in 1981!

                          1. re: ChefJune

                            Does everyone know that sugar is added to Yellowtail for the US market????? might as well drink white zin!
                            What makes you think sugar is added for the US market?

                            1. re: Winer

                              Is sugar added or is the fermentation stopped at about 2% RS?

                              1. re: maria lorraine

                                Chaptilization is against the law in Australia as far as I know

                                1. re: Winer

                                  My understanding is that chaptalization is sugar added to wine *before* fermentation to increase the percentage of alcohol. The sugar adds alcohol, not sweetness.

                                  Sugar added after the ferm is complete would sweeten the wine. This would be in addition to any RS sweetness, or in lieu of stopping the ferm early. (And one way to stop a ferm is to add a lot of sugar.) Which is it for Yellowtail and other
                                  slight RS wine brands?

                                  1. re: maria lorraine

                                    Chaptilization can add both alcohol and sweetness depending on when you stall fermentation. Never the less [yellowtail] is not in the business of sweetening up wine. The initial post was off base infering that [yellowtail] added sugar for the American market as the entire brand was designed for the American market and only recently has been sold outside the US

                                    1. re: Winer

                                      Just to be clear, are you saying that the sweetness of Yellowtail is not the result of added sugar, that it is RS sweetness? Thanks........

                                      1. re: maria lorraine

                                        To the best of my knowledge it is not utilized, and the argument commonly put forth that they do is the fact that "enrichment" in some forms is legal in Australia, this is only BEFORE secondary fermentation and only used for sparkling wines, this is essentially grape concentrate as sugar is illegal to add in Australia.

                                        1. re: Winer

                                          The process yellow tail and other critter wines often use is "Suss Reserve" or "Sweet Reserve" They save the sweet unfermented grape must and add it back into the fermented wine prior to bottling.

                                          In Europe, it is used to add sweetness to acidic wines and also to lower the alcohol content - good examples would be Riesling, Moscato d'Asti.

                                          In Australia, IMHO, it is used to cover up the harsh flavour of the wine that is made from the cheapest available grapes, usually from the Riverina region. Most of those grapes did not survive the horrible drought and frost of '07 so one wonders what Yellow Tail and others will do.

                                          I can't stand Yellow Tail. I am not a wine snob, I have wines cheaper than Yellow Tail in my cellar. To say that Yellow Tail must be among the best wines because of their sales volume, is to say McDonald's and Subway are among the great restaurants of the world, the Ford Focus is one of the best cars in the world, and the Holiday Inn is one of the world's finest hotels!

                                          1. re: newJJD

                                            In the US, the is called "back-blending" or "adding muté." It is he opposite of adding "Jesus Units."

                                            1. re: newJJD

                                              The process yellow tail and other critter wines often use is "Suss Reserve" or "Sweet Reserve" They save the sweet unfermented grape must and add it back into the fermented wine prior to bottling- newJJD
                                              I am curious how you know that Yellow Tail uses this process, regardless of your personal feelings on the wine.

                            2. That's about my weekly budget too, and I find that TJ's is the only place with a selection in that range. Trouble is, they never seem to have the same wine twice if you find a good one. However, recently I enjoyed a Ruggero di Tasso Nero d'Avola for $4.99, and I won't drink chuck shaw either (ok for a party); none of them have been undrinkable. I have one of those nifty wine saver corks. Let us know if you find something good!