How to Pick a Good Inexpensive Wine

I am often asked by friends how to pick a good wine. Generally speaking, you get what you pay for and so you can use price as a basic guide to determine which wines to pick. Usually wines can be divided into price point categories. Under $8, $8-15, $15-20, $20-$30, $30-$50 and $50 and above.

The more you spend typically the better a wine is but sometimes small production wines are more expensive as a result of higher costs and they are not necessarily better wines.

For me, the fun part of being a wine connoisseur is finding a wine that I think is delicious that is also a good value.

Trader Joe’s revolutionized the concept of cheap wine selling bottles of Charles Shaw at $1.99 in CA and $2.99 outside of CA. The wine has come to be known as two buck chuck and is a huge seller. Sure the wine is drinkable and it’s cheap but everyone knows it’s $1.99 so how do you pick a wine that is good but not look like a cheapskate?

First of all, if you go to lesser known places you can get good wine at lower prices. Pinot Noir in CA from the Russian River is tasty but to get anything halfway decent you need to spend at least $25 a bottle. If you buy Oregon Pinot Noir though you can find some great wines in the $15-$20 range. Wines from Australia and New Zealand and South America are a good value because they are considered new comers or New World Wines.

Another way to find a good value is to pick or try a lesser known varietal. Carmenere from Chile, Nero D’avola from Sicily, Malbec from Argentina.

White wines are generally less expensive than red wines and the price range varies for each varietal. Cabernet is usually more expensive than Merlot. Chardonnay more expensive than Pinot Gris.

Often you can find wines from a well known region but a smaller or lesser know winery so they will be less expensive or you can buy wines from a wineries second label. These off label wines are usually made with grapes considered not good enough for a winery’s premium label but they are often great wines especially if what you are after is value. Another option for inexpensive but good wine is wine made from sourced grapes. In years when there is a surplus of grapes many winemakers will buy grapes and make their own wines. They have no wineries and so their costs are lower and you can often get some great wines at great values

The other thing to keep in mind is that at the lower end of the price range a few dollars can make a lot of difference in the kind of wine you get. If you pay more than $8 versus less than $8 you will most likely end up with a much much better wine. That’s not to say you can’t find good wines under $8 but as a general rule if you are just starting out drinking wine try to stick with the $8-$15 range.

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