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Cheap Wine that Doesn't Suck

Hey guys! I'm new to the forum, and also relatively new to this whole wine thing.

When I shop for wine, my choices are dictated mainly by cost: as a college student, I'm on a limited budget, so I consider $15 a serious splurge, and try to shoot for under $10 if I can. The problem is that often it's a crapshoot as to the quality of the wine at that price. I found a blog a while ago called Cheap Wine that Doesn't Suck and thought, "This is exactly what I need!" Unfortunately they stopped their weekly updates in July, leaving me clamoring for more.

So, would anyone be willing to share their cheap wine that doesn't suck experiences? Keep in mind that I live in Pennsylvania, whose draconian liquor laws prohibit any alcohol purchased outside the state. So ordering online isn't an option for me.

Cheap wines that don't suck...GO!

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  1. The Wine and Cheese Cask on the Somerville Cambridge line (Cross of Beacon/Washington Streets) features cheapo wines every month that they sell off until done. We usually pick up a bottle of it, and more if we like it. It's always around $7-9 in price and can be quite tasty at times.
    But don't complain if you don't like it...for a few dollars more, the choice is phenomenal in there. Simply ask any employee for your preference....price, paring, color, country etc.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Waidesworld

      Sounds like a phenomenal place...if I lived anywhere near there! (Did I post in a location-specific forum by accident?)

      I found their website, though, and I checked out their wines of the week...looks like our overlords at the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board are offering some of them to us! Thanks for the recommendation.

    2. My "go to" line of inexpensive wines are Montpellier from California. Also good inexpensive lines are Gnarly Head, Leese-Fitch, Castle Rock (many different labellings, take note) & Angeline. They're all Cal based. Calatrassi is good Italian plonk. Particularly the primitivo. Gran Sasso is good Sangiovese. There's a lot of good inexpensive juice out there from South America (Argentina & Chile) as well as Spanish & Portuguese wines too. Enjoy.

      3 Replies
      1. re: Iowaboy3

        Funny, Montpellier is only available by special order in Pennsylvania...same deal with Angeline. But I'll check out some of the others...thanks a lot!

        1. re: Iowaboy3

          I'm a big fan of the less expensive Spanish and Portuguese wines for everyday drinking. Were it not for them, wine would be a weekend-only thing.

          I stock up at Bayway Wines & Liquors in Elizabeth, New Jersey; their selection is abetted by a local Portuguese population. Some Portuguese wines there are as low as $4/bottle, most $6-7. They often have sales on selected basic French and Italian bottles too.

          1. re: comestible

            Oh, if only I could venture out of state to buy wine in New Jersey or Delaware (no sales tax, I'm told) and abscond with it across state lines! Unfortunately I'm currently situated literally at the geographical center of the state, so that's not exactly feasible. :-(

        2. There are many good to great wines from 8 to 12 bucks, do you like red/white the first that comes to mind is Los Vascos cab from Chile. 8-9 bucks and very good. Give me more specifics and I can send you a list.

          Ciao-

          1 Reply
          1. re: bklynsausage

            I like both red and white, depends on my mood. Most of my experience with reds has been Cabernet, so I'm eager go in other directions. Grenache does hold a special place in my heart, since I lived briefly in the South of France...but it's awfully hard to come by here. As for whites, I prefer fruity wines to the oaky stuff, in general. Sauvignon Blanc is a personal favorite, and I'd like to get my hands on some good Viognier. I'll drink a wine from anywhere so long as it's good, but I particularly enjoy a good French wine...take a wild guess why. :-)

          2. Here are a couple that I had recently that are really good and you should probably be able to find in the $9-12 range depending on where you live:

            2007 Lavradores de Feitoria, Douro Portugal. A bit of a quick finish, but some nice dark fruit and sour cherry on the nose. Not bad for the price.

            2006 LAN Crianza, Rioja - Lots of deep earthy flavors with some spice and cigar box. This is a great bargain.

            1. We recently drank a bottle of Murari Soave 2009 from Italy. Even here in Tokyo, it only cost about $6 U.S. -- Quite nice. Dry yet smooth, and a good match with a broad variety of food.

              1 Reply
              1. re: Tripeler

                Just tried it. It was lovely and cheap, cheap, cheap! Funny enough, I also had it in Japan - they must export most of it here.

              2. Estancia and Echelon each make a Pinot that's drinkable for under $10, Hayman Hill should also be around that price point. Tres Picos garnacha should be under $15. Castle Rock as mentioned has a couple of Pinots from AVAs that aren't bad, e.g. Russian River.

                ETA: Rabbit Ridge does a syrah called Allure de Robles that's quite good.

                3 Replies
                1. re: PolarBear

                  2nd that Tres Picos garnacha. should not be hard to find.

                  Generally(not always, mind you), i find that if you want to pay under $15, you need to stay away from California wines. Chilean or New Z. SB, Spanish Monestrell or Garnacha, etc. Lesser known places can't price their wines as high.

                  1. re: PolarBear

                    The Estancia Pinot is better than drinkable, but I have not found it for less than $13.

                  2. There are so many German Reislings that are inexpensive and absolutly amazing.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: Sharoneonta

                      Do you have anything in particular that you'd recommend?

                    2. I enjoy Ravenswood Vintners Blend Zinfandel. BJs sells it for $7.50. It's entirely quaffable.

                      1. Do you have access to Trader Joes? They carry some wines that are cheap but better than I would expect.

                        Even as I learn more about wine (and it's something I'm starting to work on), I'm embarrassed by how much I still enjoy Little Penguin Shiraz. Don't tell anyone, OK?

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: Pylon

                          Nope, as j8715 said, nothing like that in PA. Wine is available only at state-owned Wines and Spirits stores. Beer, meanwhile, is sold in separate distributors also owned by the state. What a strange place I live in...

                          1. re: Pylon

                            Everything I've tasted that's been "Trader Joe's" wine has been absolute processed, manipulated dreck. Avoid their wines at any and all costs.

                            1. re: Iowaboy3

                              just went to a party that served a pretty big assortment of Trader Joe's brand wines.
                              couldn't find one that i thought was worth the calories.
                              thankfully i brought a couple of drinkable bottles to the party myself. . . . .

                          2. as someone who has lived in PA, this Trader Joes and BJ's talk is entirely cruel haha. the "wines and spirits" stores are the only places to buy wines and spirits.

                            Mark West Pinot Noir isn't bad and is available widely in PA....

                            Almost any Cotes du Rhone should be cheap and they are all pretty much the same,of the same decent quality and have plenty of grenache.

                            1. Look at Spanish reds, specifically:
                              -Las Rocas de San Alejandro Garnacha
                              -Borsao Red
                              -2008 Bodegas Luzon "Luzon" Jumilla

                              All are available in PA for less than $10.

                              For whites, try Dr. L Riesling and Berger Gruner Vetliner.

                              3 Replies
                              1. re: jaba

                                Another solid Spanish red for about 10 bucks is the Torres Sangre de Toro.

                                1. re: jaba

                                  I "second" the Las Rocas de San Alejandro Garnacha! Easy to find, too (even in Missouri!, where I live).

                                  Love Rioja, too.

                                  1. re: jaba

                                    3rd Las Rocas. We actually served that as a light red at our wedding. It's good slightly chilled too.
                                    JeremyEG
                                    HomeCookLocavore.com

                                  2. Certain wines at the PLCB stores seem to go on sale once / month. I always watch for Coppola's basic red blend "Rosso" to go on sale for 9.99 and load the cellar - it's our "house red" for pizza and pasta. Walk the store and look for other sale tags.

                                    The PLCB web site lists "chairman's selections" that can be very good deals .

                                    Of course you can browse larger stores in border states but don't bring anything back. That would be wrong.

                                    3 Replies
                                    1. re: Dave_in_PA

                                      You know that the PLCB has 3,958 SKUs for wines under $10, right?

                                      From the PLCB -- ALL under $10, ALL are 750ml, and no minimum order required:

                                      REDS:
                                      Alamos Malbec #3027
                                      Bodega Norton Malbec #28895
                                      Bodegas Castano Monastrell Yecla #14982
                                      Borsao Campo de Borja #18061
                                      Campo Viejo Crianza Rioja #3206
                                      Campo Viejo Reserva Rioja #9327
                                      d'Arenberg Stump Jump Grenache Shiraz Mourvedre #14273
                                      Gabbiano Chianti DOCG #6439
                                      Hedges CMS Columbia Valley #18262
                                      J Portugal Ramos Loios Red Alentejo #17745
                                      JM Fonseca Periquita #10509
                                      La Vielle Ferme Cotes de Ventoux #6618

                                      WHITES:
                                      Alamos Torrontes #9713
                                      Allan Scott Sauvignon Blanc #27853
                                      Chateau Ste. Michelle Indian Wells Riesling #17982
                                      d'Arenberg Stump Jump Riesling Sauvignon Blanc Marsanne #22508
                                      Hogue Riesling #4422
                                      J Portugal Ramos Loios White Alentejo #17746
                                      Mud House Sauvignon Blanc #18385
                                      Omaka Springs Sauvignon Blanc #30858

                                        1. re: zin1953

                                          Just took a look at their web site: plenty of Rhone wines under $10 too.

                                      1. I find the Avalon 2007 Cabernet S. Napa Valley for $10-12 a real bargin.

                                        1. Side Job Cab is pretty damn good. Recently saw it at Trader Joes for $9.99
                                          14 Hands Cab out of Washington State is another good one. Also around $10.

                                          4 Replies
                                          1. re: skjax

                                            But are they available in Pennsylvania, where the OP resides?

                                            1. re: zin1953

                                              Answer: no and not really. Side Job is not available at all. 14 Hands is available by special order for $13.50.

                                              1. re: conway314

                                                Yeah, well -- that's why I provided all the PLCB code numbers for you . . .

                                                1. re: zin1953

                                                  ...and I never got to say how much I appreciated that! Thanks zin1953, it was really helpful :-)

                                          2. I really like Marietta Cellars Old Vine Red. We call it one of our house reds. I can find it in California for under $10; on the PLCB site, prices for different lots range from $11.49-12.99 (#12696, #13914, #14820). I still think it's a good value at that price.

                                            Here is the link to the winery's tasting notes for the various lots:
                                            http://www.mariettacellars.com/tastin...

                                            1. Hogue, Bogle and Big House are my go to "cheap wines". Having said this I feel nothing is better than learning about wine. I think learning about, regions, vintages and varietals really helps in narrowing choices in the price point you are looking for.

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. re: free sample addict aka Tracy L

                                                Yeah, I've heard good things about Hogue's Riesling. A friend and I were going to get it once, but we ultimately decided on something else I think...

                                                And you are so right about discovering wine...every day I seem to learn some new wine fact!

                                              2. El Coto Rioja was good (I've had the 08 vintage...) I'd gotten it from PA Gov't Alcohol Commissaries for about 12. I've also been able to generally find something on sale/clearance and had some hits and some misses. The $4 Malbec from Aldi is also decent, I cook and drink it.

                                                You may or may not like the Little Penguin Shiraz, also available at PA Gov't Commissaries for cheap consistently. Sometimes on sale for dirt cheap. Generally though I'd do what I do when in those stores and just find stuff on sale/clearance and take a shot. If I went in and saw an Argentinian malbec on deep discount I'd generally try it or something else that could be a hit. If you are really paranoid you could even whip out a smartphone and get some reviews. I used to go to one of these stores regularly so I remember how certain bottles would go on sale/clearance. Best of luck. Also they seem to have some signature stores, make sure to try regular and the higher end stores.

                                                1. Do you have Costco near you? A couple of my faves there for under $10 are:

                                                  2009 Kirkland Signature Malbec $7.99 at Costco. I much prefer this to the Alamos Malbec, but it is selling fast so it will gone soon.

                                                  2008 Château Labrande Cahors Malbec $9.98 at Costco. Fruity malbec/merlot blend

                                                  www.ReverseWineSnob.com

                                                  1 Reply
                                                  1. re: Mud Dog

                                                    Oh trust me, I know Costco all too well. To quote Modern Family: "I'm sort of like Costco. I'm big, I'm not fancy and I dare you to not like me!"

                                                    Unfortunately, in Pennsylvania they're not allowed to sell wine. It still kind of weirds me out when I travel outside of PA and see wine in a supermarket, just because I've had to deal with the PA system all my life.

                                                  2. Do you have a whole Foods near you? They have very nice drinkable wines for $4.95 a bottle. They are always on display when you first enter the store. They are bottles of excess good wine that has been relabeled. Actually, I just got some for $2.95 a bottle, a few weeks ago, and they were quite nice.

                                                    2 Replies
                                                    1. re: Mother of four

                                                      Again, we have Whole Foods, but they're not allowed to sell wine. Wine is only sold in the state-owned stores.

                                                      1. re: conway314

                                                        Sorry, forgot about that. I was born and raised in Pittsburgh. Too bad Pa. hasn't jumped into the 21st century!

                                                    2. Yellowtail (Australian, utlra-cheap wines) recently came out with an unoaked Chardonnay, which they call "Tree-Free'. It was really quite good. I paid $6.99, but have seen it cheaper.

                                                      1 Reply
                                                      1. re: Joltingjoey

                                                        Looks of good, cheap Australian wines available - Jacob'c Creek, Lindemans, Rosemount and even some of the cheaper Penfolds (Hyland, etc.) are all good choices.

                                                        1. Try the 2006 Peter Lehmann Semillon (Barossa, Australia)...great nose, good acid, decent structure for about $12.

                                                          1. There are Wegmans Supermarkets in Pennsylvania. I think they sell wine. Here in Virginia their wine departments dwarf most individual wine shops.

                                                            They have knowledgeable people to help you, doesn't matter if you want an expensive or inexpensive bottle. The staff put their pictures on their personally recommended bottles.

                                                            An example, we do our own home taste testings from a $20 bottle compared to a $8-$10 bottle, or against a comparable bottle, etc. It is not always that they are similar or "as good as," but there are many times.

                                                            3 Replies
                                                            1. re: Rella

                                                              Wegmans are subject to state law. In NYS, the home of Wegmans, they do not sell wine as, per state law, supermarkets are barred from selling wine. In PA no shops, other than the grim state shops, may sell wine. Wine in supermarkets must be allowed in VA.

                                                              1. re: jmoryl

                                                                As a matter of fact, the Wegmans near where I live somehow circumvented the alcohol restrictions and got a license to sell beer. It was a really big deal when they opened their beer section a few years ago. Wine at Wegmans would be wonderful—I love that place—but for now it's just a pipe dream...

                                                                1. re: conway314

                                                                  For a short time the Wegmans neat Carlisle /Harrisburg had wine but I think they put an end To that. Still have the beer though.

                                                            2. Here are couple more that should be available widely:

                                                              Altovinum Evodia: a fantastic Spanish Garnacha from 100+ year old vines that can be found as low as $6.99

                                                              Concannon Conservancy Petite Sirah: an excellent nicely balanced full bodied wine for around $10.

                                                              www.ReverseWineSnob.com

                                                               
                                                               
                                                              3 Replies
                                                              1. re: Mud Dog

                                                                Second the Concannon, its a great wine for the price. Here in S.F it is usually on sale for about $7.00

                                                                1. re: ROCKLES

                                                                  Where have you seen it in SF area?

                                                                  1. re: Scott M

                                                                    Trader Joe's carries the Monterey County bottling that's delicious: $6.99

                                                              2. Posters here seem to have trouble grasping that you can only buy in state stores in PA. Try anything from Lindemann. Not sure what they cost in PA but in Delaware they're about $5 per 750ml. (That may mean they come in at $15 in PA).

                                                                1. Our go-to cheap summer white is Aveleda Casal Garcia Vinho Verde. You can usually find it (almost anywhere, at least in New England) for $4.99-6.99. I could drink it all day long.

                                                                  http://www.aveleda.pt/php/vinhos.php?...

                                                                  1. I think I've recently seen A-Mano Primitivo (screw cap) for $9-$11. Every bottle I've opened has been delicious. About 10 years ago, Louis Latour Beaujolais was $6.99 and Taurino Salice Salentino was $6.99, but that was before the Euro went to $1.40. Saladrini Rosso Piceno was $5.99. Nowadays we're looking at $11 to get a good cheap bottle of wine from Europe.

                                                                    From the USA, Bogle's my favorite low-price wine. I like the Petite Sirah.

                                                                    1. Some good wines at my local Trader Joe's right now: Espiral Vinho Verde $4, Cecilia Beretta "Brognolino" Soave $7, Sauvignon Republic New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc $8, Pasqua Valpollicella Ripasso $9. I never used to like any of their Italian wines, they're buying better stuff.