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Sub $5.00 wines, 750ml


A couple of years ago I did a "sub $5.00 white wine "Shootout". I was looking for an inexpensive white that I could both cook with & drink. I only tasted 750ml bottles because I don't like to have an opened 1.5 ltr hanging around. I bought several bottles and this one, Conte Priola Pinot Grigio, won. The key to drinking this wine is don't serve it refrigerator cold. It tastes much better around 45-50 degrees. What's your favorite inexpensive wine for cooking and drinking?

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  1. Rex Goliath and most of the Australian chardonnays like yellowtail and lindemans fill the bill, reliable and often refreshing quaff

    1. My sub $5 favorite is BlockBox. I never thought I would be saying that, but it is not bad, lasts a long time in the bladder,and costs less than $4/750.

      2 Replies
        1. re: zackly

          I generally buy the Cab. I'm not too familiar with the others.

      1. Used to be you could find quite interesting $5 cabs from Chile before they became popular. Used to be some good $5 rieslings from california...

        .... I can't think of anything in the $5 range these days that's of any quality.

        If someone on the board knows of one, they are probably keeping it to themselves...

        I start to find drinkable wines at $10 and above, more at 15, more at 20, sort of exponential from 25-30 on...

        But $5 for a bottle of wine of any quality? .... You'd be alot better off looking for great microbrew beers at that price range... why drink a lousy wine when you can drink a superb beer?

        1 Reply
        1. re: TombstoneShadow

          I agree. I would rather have a good beer than a bad wine.

        2. Espiral Vinho Verde, at Trader Joe's for about $4.49. Tall (Riesling style) green bottle. Low alcohol, light, slightly effervescent. Terrific value.

          3 Replies
          1. re: Midlife

            That's the only under-$5 wine I've had in the last few years that I liked enough to drink.

            1. re: Midlife

              We like that quite well also and try to keep it on hand.

              1. re: Midlife

                That's the only regular wine I buy at TJ's. Good for parties and spicy food.

              2. Locally I can get quite decent Portuguese and Spanish wines at $4 to $7. These are dry, European profile, balanced, but not the stuff memories are made of. Various labels. They accompany food and do that very well.

                We might have something a bit fancier on the weekends.

                1. We found a 3L (box) Villa Pillo Sangiovese at Costco for about $17. It cooks well and adequately fuels the cooks.

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: BoneAppetite

                    I wish my local Costco sold liquor. Only two Costco's in the state have liquor licenses. CT is one of the most restrictive states for liquor sales. Supermarkets are not allowed to sell wine or liquor, only beer. Trader Joe's also can't. Until recently there were no liquor sales on Sunday and the state has minimum prices that alcohol can be sold, to protect the mom & pop stores. Archaic!!!

                    1. re: zackly

                      If it helps -- our regular winemonger who reliably offers tasty selections also carries the Villa Pillo box. Three dollars more,

                      1. re: zackly

                        try coming to Colorado. Only ONE chain store can sell liquor/wine in the whole state, and it's a big state too. So my Whole Foods is the only one in the entire state that has a liquor store attached to it. At least CT is a relatively small state and although not ideal, you can drive to MA, NY, RI etc if you had to.

                    2. Bota Box old vines Zinfandel (California grapes) works out to about $5/bottle and certainly works for me. Of course, it's red.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: kagemusha49

                        That is a great wine, the Malbec isn't bad either.

                      2. I've been getting under-$5, 750-ml California whites for years, mostly from the Forest Ville label (a "marketing" label I imagine, though it makes at least some of its own wines). Distributed in my region at the CVS (formerly Long's) chain pharmacies, which have extensive inexpensive-wine offerings and often put them on sale.

                        FV's Sauvignon Blanc is my mainstay for cooking, I go through at least 20 bottles yearly just for that. A perfectly drinkable, mercifully not-very-oaky SB, the sort of wine also that in warm weather you might make into a Spritzer or some other light drink. Currently retails for about $3.50 at same source, on sale and in quantities 6+.

                        Lately, Forestville has also offered a remarkable 2012 California Riesling, same price. 11% alcohol, more classic Riesling character than it has any right to be, from California at that price (or even a few dollars more).

                        For pinots noirs, I try a lot of moderately-priced ones, and a few years ago Mark West could be had for under $5 but word now seems to be out, and it's crept up. Less complex and with higher-toasted oak, Smoking Loon now commands what I consider the low-price end of enjoyable, available, varietally-true PNs and can be found just under $5 at large California retailers if you watch for it. (And it's impressive, given that interesting, well-finished, varietal-faithful PNs are hard enough to find even under $15, let alone $5!)

                        5 Replies
                        1. re: eatzalot

                          ForestVille = Bronco, same giant company that makes Charles Shaw.

                          1. re: eatzalot

                            I think it was more than a few years ago that Mark West was $5. wine-searcher's history goes back four years and it was $8.50 and up then.

                            1. re: Robert Lauriston

                              Rephrase for Lauriston's benefit: A few years ago (about 2009), *I* was getting Mark West at around $5 retail. Regularly. I have the receipts, and may still have some of the wine.

                              As usual in such situations, my comment reflected personal experience (not something looked up in an online search).

                              1. re: eatzalot

                                In 2009, other people on this board reported paying $8-13, with $9 at Total Wine, which is usually lowball.


                              2. re: Robert Lauriston

                                "In 2009, other people on this board reported paying [for Mark West PN] $8-13, with $9 at Total Wine, which is usually lowball."

                                THIS year, 2014, I've bought Mark West PN at $9 repeatedly -- twice in January, once in February. Actually $8.10, after 10% discount each time for 6-plus bottle ass'd purchases. At large chain retailers as mentioned earlier. I have the recent purchase records on hand. In the past two years, the Smoking Loon that I also cited has run as low as $4.95. I don't have the records at hand for 5 years ago, but will check later; I recall paying much less then for the Mark West, hence I bought a lot of it.

                                I'm not saying these are the prevailing prices everywhere. But I watch specifically for good value in Pinots, and buy them when the prices are good.

                                Sorry I missed that 2009 under-$20 Pinots thread; I'd have had plenty to add. MOST decent US-made pinots I've bought, then and now, were under $20; some have been downright impressive. Most PNs I open aren't CA pinots at all, but good-value red Burgundies scored in past years. The CA PNs supplement them. And often end up in braises or sauces; but frankly, some of what Pennywise, Sonoma Oaks, and others have put out lately in the $10-20 range have been so damn good, I don't want to cook them! That role then often falls to Smoking Loon lately. A few years back, Mark West was the "cheap" PN, and I often cooked with it.

                            2. I think the best under 5 buck wines I've been buying the last few years come from a local liquor store that has a stock of close outs etc. The best I've had recently: Mendelson 2006 Sleepy Hollow Vineyard pinot noir; Lambert Bridge 2003 Merlot; a couple different Mendocino Fire Station Reds from 2007 - one a redblend, the other a cabernet Sauv; Windmill Lodi Sirah 2006; and a Shardana Sardinian Red 2005. The guy also carries some real clunkers, but all of these listed are well worth double what I pay. Browsing the back of stores or going to smaller discount outfits can sometimes lead to goood deals.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: Ed Dibble

                                Ed - I ran into a situation like that years ago with a package store down the street. They acquired some other store and had a warehouse full of French and American wines, most of which they didn't have time to figure out how to price. They would put a couple dozen out at a time, so I'd have to drop by twice daily for six months. You know your in trouble when they know your first name at the liquor store. 15 years later, the guy still knows my name when I see him riding around on his motorcycle.

                                Another time, I was stuck in Galena Alaska on a 30 day hitch doing environmental work at a former Air Force Base. The shop there had wine, and a bottle of Gallo and a typically $50 Cotes du Rhone were the same price.

                                Anyhow, to answer the OP, there's a 3 for $10 wine here called Cul du Sac. While the flavor is not earth shattering, there are no off-putting flavors in the wine. It tastes like wine.....I'd love to include it in a blind tasting against under $15 wine. I use the chardonnay. I don't taste any oak at all.

                              2. Has anyone tried the Double Dog Dare wines? They go for $3.99 to $4.50 in my area. The white zin is even cheaper.

                                1. The Mediteranee white is very drinkable at $5. It is a blend of grapes that ended up not being used in a Spanish cava produced by the winery.

                                  5 Replies
                                  1. re: Chulacat

                                    Could you tell us more? Winery name, importer, where you bought it? Google is coming up with a French wine, not Spanish. Thanks.

                                    1. re: Midlife

                                      Sorry, I was going from memory. it is Rene Barbier Mediteranean white. Made by the Freixenent conglomerate. It is not a real serious wine but simple and well balanced. I personally believe it beats the other inexpensive wines by a long shot. I buy it at Trader Joes but you can get it anywhere.

                                      1. re: Chulacat

                                        Not that it is bad, but do you still notice sedimentation at the bottom of that one? Almost like crystallization of some sort.

                                        1. re: rudeboy

                                          Do not remember ever having it with the Mediterranean White. I always thought the crystals in a white wine were a good thing. Don't know why though.

                                          1. re: Chulacat

                                            It's tartrates, tartaric acid, indicating ripe grapes and slow fermentation.

                                  2. Our go-to cooking wine (and, blush, secret in-front-of-the-stove sip) is WalMart's Oak Leaf Sauvignon Blanc. It is the only one we recommend, but it is really not a bad wine. At $1.97, it is a rather astounding value.


                                    19 Replies
                                    1. re: mangeur

                                      Your link contains the following statement:

                                      "Think you can’t find a good bottle of wine for $3 a bottle? You obviously never met Chuck. California wine maker Fred Franzia teamed up several years ago with the supermarket chain Trader Joe’s to sell a wine under the label Charles Shaw.......".

                                      I conclude from this that the writer considers Charles Shaw to be "good wine". I'm not saying that millions of people don't find it 'adequate', but that's not the same as 'good'. The statement puts the writer's veracity in question. JMHO. Your mileage obviously varies.

                                      1. re: Midlife

                                        I don't like any of the 2 buck chuck wines. The Oak Leaf SB reminds me of the little refreshing Ardeche whites that we enjoy in the south of France.

                                        1. re: mangeur

                                          My wife always buys a box of Oak Leaf Cab, so she can make a batch of Calimotcho when we go camping.

                                          A Calimotcho is 1 part cheap dry red wine to 1 part Coca-Cola, served in a large mug over ice.

                                          1. re: deet13

                                            That sounds vile, but I absolutely have to try it! Wife+camping+ Calimotcho = Lucky Man......

                                            1. re: rudeboy

                                              I really, really try not to yuck someone's yum but "vile" barely describes my reaction. Shudder.

                                              1. re: c oliver

                                                For quite a while I've been aware that there are places where mixing wine with Coca Cola is an everyday thing. Spain, I think. Hate to do that to a decent wine, but I have some 'testers' I may have to try it with. Will report back if I live. Actually it could just be a mock Sangria.

                                                1. re: Midlife

                                                  Okay, here's a link to the nasty libation :)


                                                  I make sangria with white wine only so this just sounds nasty. But, if you live, do report back :)

                                                  1. re: c oliver

                                                    OK. Did it ....... and lived. As I thought, it's kindof like an inexpensive bottled Sangria. I used some Charles Shaw Merlot that somehow found it's way to me and squeezed in some fresh lime. Not bad.

                                                    I wouldn't confuse it with 'real wine'. It's a wine spritzer. I suppose it would better if it used a better wine, but something simple and lighter seems most appropriate.

                                                    Whatever. Not bad for a warm afternoon.

                                                  2. re: Midlife

                                                    A libation in West Philadelphia bars in the 70's was 50-50 cheap red wine and draft beer, called a spode. Nasty, but college kids drink anything.

                                                    1. re: Veggo

                                                      Veggo - you from W Philly? My wife is from Landsdale. I'll have to ask her about the spode. Chances are she won't give up any info from those days!

                                                      1. re: rudeboy

                                                        I went to Penn and became acquainted with some really sleazy bars on Chestnut St. in W Philly.

                                                    2. re: Midlife

                                                      You are correct, you can get Calimotchos in Spain. Fairly inexpensive and not bad on a hot night.

                                                      1. re: Midlife

                                                        in France as well. they mix milk with pepsi or coke. at least they did when I was there in the 80's.

                                                    3. re: rudeboy

                                                      You know, this is exactly what I thought the first time my wife (girlfriend at the time) made it.

                                                      It's one of those things, either you like it or not.

                                                    4. re: deet13

                                                      It's all in the palate of the beholder. Whatever works...

                                                      1. re: deet13

                                                        Coke and red wine is also a popular mix combo in Serbia and other parts of the former Yugoslavia.

                                                      2. re: mangeur

                                                        Could be like beer and bloody mary mix. Sounds weird but quite tasty.

                                                        1. re: Chulacat

                                                          The sell them in cans here. I was just at the market, and someone was in line with them right behind me. I tried it once, and poured the rest out on the ground. Something I'm no known to do with booze!

                                                  3. Life is too short to drink sub $5.00 wines.

                                                    20 Replies
                                                    1. re: porky pine

                                                      Sounds like you haven't tried some of the $5 wines I have.

                                                      For 25 years I've run into people occasionally who boasted about how _much_ they spent on wines. It always seemed to me the real payoff was to spend as little as you can for a given quality. That is one reason to learn about wines.

                                                      God knows there are more than enough dull $50 wines on the market, and even $500 fad wines that a certain type of buyer (or investor) rushes to, because others of similar ilk are rushing to them (or because told to by some wine critic whom they all obey like sheep). The payoff to me is, rather, the exceptional, hearbreakingly beautiful wine found for $20, even $10.

                                                      (Once I brought a few fine Burgundies to a high-end restaurant. Chef came out and joined us -- "I could smell those wines from the kitchen!" -- this chef is something of a wine geek. After dinner, the somm. quipped at how much valuable wine we were leaving in the decanters for the restaurant employees to sample. Later I looked up the Current Market Value of those particular wines -- shockingly high, I hesitate even to repeat the number here. However, they had "gone up" a good 20x in price since I'd bought them -- still not cheap -- years earlier. Bought on merit, not price or fad value or "point scores." Luckily, most good wines don't shoot up as much in price, so you can get more later.)

                                                      1. re: eatzalot

                                                        Totally agree, eatzalot. Life is too short to spend too much...

                                                        1. re: eatzalot

                                                          >>> Sounds like you haven't tried some of the $5 wines I have. <<<

                                                          I'm not sure whether to applaud or cringe at the remark. I think it's rather "time sensitive." Lord knows I've purchased literally hundreds of sub-$5 bottles in my life as a wine drinker . . . but I can't think of a single one that I've bought in the 10-15 years -- maybe longer -- that I'd happily drink, let alone buy again.

                                                          I completely agree with you that: a) "I've run into people occasionally who boasted about how much they spent on wines"; b) "there are more than enough dull $50 wines on the market, and even $500 fad wines . . . "; and, most importantly, c) "The payoff to me is, rather, the exceptional, hearbreakingly beautiful wine found for $20, even $10."

                                                          But, alas, gone are the days when *my* palate is pleased with what is available in the $5-and-under range. I can list 2-3 dozen wines off the top of my head that were once in that category . . . perhaps 30-40 years ago, but certainly no longer. Here are a few, just as examples, along with the EITHER the average pricing (according to wine-searcher.com) for the current vintage, in the case of imports, or the winery suggested retail price, in the case of California:

                                                          Guigal Côtes-du-Rhône rouge -- was $3.99; $15.
                                                          Tieffenbrunner Pinot Grigio, Alto Adige -- was $3.99; $13.
                                                          Louis Jadot Mâcon-Villages -- was $3.99; $13.
                                                          Louis M. Martini Cabernet Sauvignon -- was $3.50; $20.
                                                          Beaulieu Vineyards "Burgundy" -- $2.95; discontinued.
                                                          Louis M. Martini Barbera -- $2.95; discontinued.

                                                          1. re: zin1953

                                                            Well, it's worse than that. The shop I work in just brought in the Tieffenbrunner and the retail is $24. I didn't see the invoice, but the owner rarely marks up more than 35%. Where can I find it for $13...... seriously. .

                                                            1. re: Midlife

                                                              I have no idea; I just took what wine-searcher.com showed as the average price . . . but it's certainly a far cry from the days when I imported it and the wholesale was $36/case frontline.

                                                              1. re: Midlife

                                                                Where are you that Tieffenbrunner Pinot Grigio is $24? The highest price I find on wine-searcher is $17 in Kentucky.

                                                                1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                                  SoCal. I'll check to see if what we have is exactly the same, but I don't recall anything special on the label. Occasionally a wine here will be priced based on perceived value, but $24 for what looks to be a <$10 wholesale? Our pricing is usually very fair. Hmmmmmm.

                                                              2. re: zin1953

                                                                zin1953 - what a great response to this conundrum. I think that we get ripped off my $15 wines, so $5 wines are just fine if we are everyday drinkers. But a $60 Graves is something else.

                                                                1. re: rudeboy

                                                                  >>> I think that we get ripped off my $15 wines, so $5 wines are just fine if we are everyday drinkers. <<<

                                                                  I'm glad that works for YOU. For ME, on the other hand, I find great value in the $15-20 range, and find $5 wines generally boring, flaccid, and industrial plonk -- not worth the money at all.

                                                                  The difference is not in the wine itself, but in the palate of the beholder. I envy you (and your wallet), and often wish I could find the proverbial great $5 bottle . . .

                                                                  1. re: zin1953

                                                                    Again, I cited concrete examples earlier in the thread -- context for my later remarks that you responded to, zin. Mark West PN (under $5 not long ago, now over); 2012 "ForestVille" CA Riesling at 3.50 (and I find most CA rieslings at any price coarse, compared to German counterparts); etc.

                                                                    Of course I try an awful (that's the word) lot of other wines to find a few that seem to show good value for those prices.

                                                                    We could all cite countless examples from past eras, not my intent. 10-12 years ago I used to post on various wine forums about many amazing-value _Burgundies_ (regional appellations or Côte Chalonnaise) I'd found for $10-20 in good years, like 96 & 99 and when the $ was strong. That was done partly to shock people: most US wine geeks were, and are, inexperienced with Burgundies, entertaining simplistic prejudices about both their range and value. And again, those great values didn't appear constantly, or on some publication's or critic's recommendation (which would of course have wrecked the value or the availability); they were the fruit of vigilance, patience, regular tasting.

                                                                    I have no trouble with someone who's tried the specific cheap wines I recommended but didn't like them. But dismissing the possibility, broad-brush, is like denying that I found good 1996 Burgundies for $15.

                                                                    1. re: eatzalot

                                                                      I'm not sure I understand the response . . . certainly I've *not* "dismiss[ed] the possibility, broad-brush." As I've said above, "[I] find $5 wines generally boring, flaccid, and industrial plonk -- not worth the money at all."

                                                                      Now, admittedly, I have NOT tried the 2012 ForestVille Riesling. I have tried the 2011 and the 2010 Rieslings under the ForestVille label and found them wanting. Perhaps Fred Franzia actually hit the mark with the 2012 vintage, but for me, it's a matter of "twice bitten, thrice shy." Besides, as you point out, compared to their German counterparts, California Rielsings are coarse; for me, paying the extra for "refinement" is well worth the modest expense.

                                                                      >>> Of course I try an awful (that's the word) lot of other wines to find a few that seem to show good value for those prices. <<<

                                                                      Thank god I don't have to do that anymore! When I was one of the buyers for the predecessor to BevMo, I had to plow through 200-250 wines a week, many (most?) of which were in the <$5 range, and it was all too frequently a rather painful exercise.

                                                                      But that aside, it does seem to me we are in violent agreement . . .

                                                                      1. re: zin1953

                                                                        'certainly I've *not* "dismiss[ed] the possibility, broad-brush."'

                                                                        Indeed. Allusion to "life is too short to drink sub-$5 wines." I agree of _many_ sub-$5 bottles, but not all.

                                                                        Not as bad IMO as "life is too short to drink wines rated under 90 points," with all the unexamined, unconscious assumptions implicit about the meaning of "90 points."

                                                                        Out of curiosity, when you mention pre-BevMo (and I gather this was in the Bay Area), was it LB, or perhaps earlier, Asgard? Those were ancestors, in sequence, of some BevMo stores of my acquaintance. Thus, I might have been among your customers.

                                                                        Though, I still recall asking for Ridge Vineyards (Ridge! As in, two famous French blind tastings a few years prior!) at an Asgard in 1981, but the wine guy not knowing the label, referring me to a couple of others, with "ridge" in their names. That Asgard was in the lower Peninsula. Below the Montbello Ridge. Visible from Ridge Vineyards.

                                                                        1. re: eatzalot

                                                                          Short version of roots:

                                                                          I started working retail in the late-1960s for Stan's Wines & Spirits -- which morphed into King's Cellars -- in Hermosa & Manhattan Beach, and on the Sunset Strip in West Hollywood. By 18, I was one of the buyers for the six-store chain, and took regular buying trips to wineries in Napa, Sonoma, and the Santa Cruz Mountains (Ridge¹, Martin Ray, and David Bruce). In the mid-1970s, I went to work for Dennis Overstreet at The Wine Merchant in Beverly Hills as a salesman and California wine buyer².

                                                                          After working for a Napa winery doing marketing and PR, and then for an importer-wholesaler (territory: from San Mateo to Santa Barbara), and being the wine buyer/bar manager for a restaurant in Santa Cruz, I joined Liquor Barn in the 1980s and stayed for a dozen years or so -- I was the Director of Wine Education (for both staff and customers) for the entire time; then, the Southern California wine buyer (44 stores); and then, as one of the corporate-level buyers and doing in-house marketing for the entire chain (104 stores).

                                                                          Then, back to work for a Santa Cruz Mtn. winery (marketing and production), National Sales manager for an importer-wholesaler based in the SF Bay Area . . .

                                                                          Somewhere along the way, I wrote dozens of wine articles/columns for magazines and newspapers, had a radio show about wine, and taught wine classes up and down the state and for UCSC Extension.

                                                                          ¹ I first visited Ridge in 1971, not too long after Paul Draper first joined the winery.
                                                                          ² The person who joined The Wine Merchant shortly after me, as a salesman and the German wine buyer, was some guy names Randall Grahm. Wonder whatever happened to him . . . ;^)

                                                                          1. re: zin1953

                                                                            1. Then I may indeed have been a customer, at least at some Liquor Barns (before they became BevMos).

                                                                            2. Was Randall Grahm's humor already as excruciatingly labored in the 1970s as it became once he was a Noted Wine Personality writing his winery newsletter? (I was obliged to drop off his Santa Cruz Mtns winery's mailing list, on account of all the hackneyed, affectatious-looking puns.)

                                                                            1. re: eatzalot

                                                                              Let's just say he hasn't changed all that much . . .

                                                                              1. re: zin1953

                                                                                The Aussies beat Bonny Doon to the punch in sparking syrah/shiraz department, no?

                                                                                1. re: BoneAppetite

                                                                                  I never thought that was up for debate.

                                                                    2. re: zin1953

                                                                      Zin - have you tried the Bota Box Old Vines Zin (California grapes)? I really don't find it flaccid and boring. Are there better wines out there? Yes, of course. But it is hard to think of many at $5/bottle.

                                                                      1. re: kagemusha49

                                                                        Bota Box Old Vines Zin is -- to my palate -- a rare exception in a sea of plonk. Indeed, there are others, and often they are found in boxes these days, as the elimination of glass, cork and the subsequent savings on freight make a net price of less than $5 per 750ml possible.

                                                                  2. re: zin1953

                                                                    the Guigal CdR was at Costco this weekend for $9.99

                                                              3. Grifone Primitivo Zinfandel. Italian, can be found at Trader Joe's for $4. Great for cooking an italian tomato sauce and sipping.