For many, wine can seem like one of the most unapproachable types of alcohol, and for recent college graduates looking for a new bottle to try, the process can seem daunting at best. When your other beverage options include macro beers or bottom shelf spirits, the extent of your wine knowledge often consists of knowing the cheapest bottles on the shelf. This can leave a lot of people feeling lost among the sea of options lining the shelves of their favorite liquor store or wine shop, not knowing where to begin and thus reaching for the familiar labels of Barefoot and Franzia from their college days.
While there is something to be said for the nostalgia factor and hyper-attractive price points these bottles (and boxes) offer, many wines popular among college students lack the quality of many other alternatives that won’t break the bank. The next time you’re exploring new wine options or looking to try something new that compares to one you already know you like, consider these nine widely-available alternatives to the wine you drank in college.
If you drank Barefoot Moscato… try Luca Bosio Moscato D’Asti DOCG 2017
Barefoot is one of the most popular supermarket wine brands in the world, and with a $6.99 price tag and a sweet, easy-drinking profile, Barefoot Moscato is a favorite among college students. Bringing forward light notes of honeysuckle and orange blossom with a crisp melon finish, the Luca Bosio Moscato D’Asti DOCG 2017 is a great Moscato to try in place of Barefoot. Further, priced at just $14 and carrying an additional guarantee of quality from the Italian government, the Luca Bosio Moscato is certain to impress without breaking the bank. Average price: $14
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If you drank Yellow Tail Sauvignon Blanc… try Hanna Sauvignon Blanc 2019
At just $7.99, Yellow Tail Savvy B is another popular supermarket wine with an attractive price point for college students. This bottling from California’s Russian River Valley is a smooth transition into slightly more elevated Sauvignon Blancs, adding a slightly minty essence to the classic citrus fruit flavor of the wine variety. At just $19, the budget-friendly price tag of Hanna Sauvignon Blanc does nothing to detract from its flavor and quality — the bottle has been rated 94 points by VinePair’s tasting director, Keith Beavers. Average Price: $19
If you drank Franzia Refreshing White… try Sokol Blosser Evolution White Blend NV
In terms of volume, Franzia is the largest wine brand in the United States, and it’s almost impossible to envision a college party at which a bag of the wine isn’t being passed around from person to person. Unfortunately, the days of slapping the bag at some point must be left in the past, but the Sokol Blosser Evolution White Blend NV is a great wine to drink in substitution. Carrying notes of peach and lemon for a clean, dry finish, this white blend sits at just $15 and has been rated a whopping 97 points by our tasting panel — it was even featured on VinePair’s Top 50 Wines of 2019. Average Price: $15
If you drank Barefoot Pink Moscato… try Wölffer Estate Summer in a Bottle Long Island Rose 2021
Cousin of Barefoot Moscato, Barefoot Pink Moscato is beloved by college students nationwide for its uber-sweet flavor that makes it an easy wine introduction for students. But while Pink Moscato may taste delicious going down, it’s likely to leave you feeling a bit worse for wear the next morning if you indulge in more than a glass or two. A great wine to try in its place is the Wölffer Estate Summer in a Bottle Long Island Rosé 2021. With a fresh nose and fruity palate, this dry rosé makes for a quaffable summer tipple and is budget-friendly. Average Price: $26
If you drank Woodbridge Rosé… try Chateau Ste. Michelle Columbia Valley Rosé 2021
Woodbridge Rosé is another popular wine among college-aged drinkers, likely assisted by the fact that it’s available in three different sizes — the standard 750 milliliter bottle, a double bottle available in 1 ½ liters, and individually packaged 500 milliliter boxes — all under $15. A great alternative to Woodbridge Rosé is the Chateau Ste. Michelle Columbia Valley Rosé. While both wines feature fruit essences, the sweetness of the latter is tampered down for a leaner sip in Chateau Ste. Michelle’s wine. With notes of peaches, strawberries, and pepper with slight menthol on the nose, this rosé is a balanced sip with a cost-friendly price tag. Average Price: $15
If you drank Sutter Home White Zinfandel… try Breaking Bread Winery Rosé of Zinfandel 2021
White Zinfandel exploded in popularity in the early 1980s and for the remainder of the century, it was the most popular wine varietal in the United States. Famous for its hot pink hue and super sweet flavor that hardly tastes like alcohol, White Zinfandel was invented by Sutter Home Family Vineyards. And while it may not be the most popular wine in the U.S. as a whole, it is certainly (in)famous among college students. A great substitute is the Rosé of Zinfandel 2021 from Breaking Bread Winery, a natural-leaning pink Zin with a pop of fruit and refreshing yet jammy finish. Average Price: $22
If you liked Yellow Tail Merlot… try Iconic Wines Sidekick Merlot 2017
Merlot is known for its ripe, bold flavors with a soft finish, making it the wine varietal that is often recommended to first-time red wine drinkers. Among college students, Yellow Tail’s Merlot is popular in some parts for its juicy red berry and cherry flavors, but likely more so for its inexpensive price point. A wonderful alternative is Iconic Wines Sidekick Merlot. This wine is soft and delicious, bringing forward notes of smoke and cedar that blend beautifully with the bright flavors of blackberry and cherry. Cost-friendly at just $18, Iconic Wines Sidekick has been rated 94 points and was featured on VinePair’s Top 50 Wines of 2020. Average Price: $18
If you liked Barefoot Pinot Noir… try Patient Cottat Le Grand Caillou Pinot Noir 2019
Pinot Noir is Barefoot’s top-selling wine varietal, and at no more than $8, it makes an attractive choice for college students looking to start drinking red wine. If you’re ready to level up, try Patient Cottat Le Grand Caillou Pinot Noir from 2019. Priced just slightly higher than Barefoot at $15, this Pinot Noir is easy-drinking, with a blend of cherry, cinnamon, and vanilla notes on the nose and a spiced, savory palate. Average Price: $15
If you liked Josh Cabernet Sauvignon… try Tribute Wines Cabernet Sauvignon 2018
Cabernet Sauvignon is the most popular red wine grape in the world and remains the top-selling wine varietal in the United States. Among college-aged wine drinkers, the Josh Cabernet Sauvignon is a popular choice for its wide availability and budget-friendly price point. A great alternative is Tribute Wines Cabernet Sauvignon. Described by tasting director Keith Beavers as tasting “like a fifty-dollar wine,” this $14 Cabernet carries an earthy nose with ripe fruit flavors and a grippiness on the palate. Average Price: $14