Here’s to the case buy and the grab and go. We see you, BYOB stans and quick and easy weeknight recipe lovers. Gather ‘round, grill masters and casserole makers. Hark! Pizza night, burger night, taco Tuesday, and Netflix and chill. These are your wines!
There is a sea of affordable wines out there with pearls hidden among the masses — many touting adorable labels attempting to lure you in like a siren’s song. And by all means, give in. Let the colors draw you like a moth to a flame. It’s fun to explore. But if you need some guidance, we did some leg work to help you out.
When tasting wine at VinePair, I always pay close attention to the value wines that pique my interest. To me, they are some of the biggest successes in the wine market: cheap, awesome, and often simple bottles that are soundly made and blend in with every occasion.
As I stated in the pizza roundup, simple wines aren’t always easy to make, but they’re always easy to drink. These wines are not as much about complexity — although some can have nice layers — as they are about ease and balance.
So polish off that trusty Pyrex casserole dish, start revisiting that BBQ sauce recipe, and get your playlist in order. Better times are ahead, and you’ll soon be ready for poppin’ bottles for all gatherings — spontaneous or otherwise. Start here.
Best Cheap Red Wines
Real talk, this is the first bottle I bought when I decided to dive into wine and start my own wine blog (when we were still getting used to the word “blog”). It’s as solid now as it was then. It’s deep and dark, with a smooth palate that is sweetened by high alcohol. But that heat is blended well so you can enjoy the smells of spicy vanilla. BBQ, please.
Another classic, this bottle is like an old friend; it will never let you down. It has crowd-pleasing soft fruit with good moderate acidity, making it the perfect communal food wine. It’s the bottle to buy a case of knowing that it will settle in easily, no matter the occasion.
Nothing like an island red from Italy to match a weekend cookout. Cannonau, on the island of Sardinia, is often enjoyed with spit-roasted suckling pig and seafood pasta. It’s a mouthful of fruit and earth, with bright acidity announcing the smell of plums and dark cherries. With a slight chill and paired with a juicy pork chop, this wine is a chef’s kiss.
Welcome to Rioja, a place that releases aged wines that are subtle, balanced, and extremely affordable. It’s one of the only wine regions from which you can get an older wine, between five and 10 years, for around $20. This is a 2017 vintage at 15 bucks, and it’s awesomely smooth with active acidity that promotes earthy cherries up to the brain. It’s great for a cheese-and-cured-meat-plate kind of evening.
The label looks like a hipster hotel mural or a full-sleeve tattoo. It’s very attractive and will lure you in. Let it. Just go with it, man. This wine is great. It has just the right amount of oak and good acidity. It’s somewhat soft, but with a bold core of fruit. We need more balanced, affordable, Cabs like this in our lives. So thanks, Intrinsic peeps.
I know I have listed this bottle before, but there is no denying that it is one of the most solid, well-priced American Pinot Noirs. It’s chewy and broad with a good balance of fruit and acidity. It’s a snapshot of the style Americans are diggin’ on right now and will slay with a messy burger.
Decoy Merlot $19
This wine is so enjoyable. It’s a bottle that pairs better with casual conversation than a meal. Soft, supple, and deep with good oak and medium acidity, it’s wine to just sit with after work. It smells like blackberries and blueberries with a whiff of vanilla and is ready to straight-up chill.
So much cheap Malbec! It’s crazy, right? If you’ve been in search of the right one to grab to have a nice weeknight or bring to the chill gathering, here ya go. This is one of the best bets on the budget shelf. It’s soft and smooth, pleasing many palates. The acidity keeps things juicy and balanced. It’s the Monday Malbec to get your friends into.