Updated date:

10 of the Best Cheap Wines That Still Taste Good

I drink cheap wine out of fancy glasses whilst tearing it up in the kitchen and concurrently spouting off at the mouth about politics.

Trust Me, I Know Cheap Wine

If you've meandered through the booze section of your local supermarket or stumbled through the wine aisle of the liquor store down the street (you walked there, of course, because you don't drink and drive), you may have noticed that selecting a good wine can be a daunting task. Maybe you even picked up a few bottles to read the back label, but then thought to yourself, "Pairs well with chicken, but does it taste good?"

Unfortunately, I don't think vintners will be labeling their wine with, "This red is absolutely awful and will give you a killer wine headache in the morning," but hopefully by the end of this article you will feel a little more confident about selecting a yummy tasting wine. The best part of it is that you won't have to fork over a day's pay to get a good wine.

I know wine connoisseurs will tell you that there is a lot that goes into a good wine. Well, I don't really know much about the specifics of wine tasting, but I happen to have a very discerning palate. Furthermore, as a single mom, a "starving" college kid, and a wine lover, I know good, cheap wine! The one rule I stick by is don't be afraid to try cheap wine. I've been happier with a $3 bottle of wine than a $30 bottle.

Here is a list, not necessarily in order of preference, of 10 of my favorite cheap wines:

1. Lambrusco

This is a cold, somewhat sweet wine with carbonation in it. Remember when you were a kid and somebody would make punch with lemon-lime soda and fruit punch? This wine goes down just as easy and is absolutely delicious. I have never met anyone who hasn't liked it, and, in fact, most of my friends become Lambrusco addicts after I introduce them to it. I'm still working on a 12-step treatment program for that, but they're not complaining! You can pick up a big bottle of this for around $7.

2. Winking Owl Cabernet Sauvignon

The Winking Owl wines can be found exclusively at Aldi. I'm in no way affiliated with Winking Owl or Aldi, but I might consider an endorsement if they offered me a lifetime supply of this tasty wine. If you like the slightly dry, sweet flavor of cabernet sauvignon, you must try this brand. It is the smoothest cab I've ever had, and, at $2.99 a bottle, you cannot beat the price.

3. Winking Owl Chardonnay

If you're a chardonnay fan or you just want to mix it up every once in a while and try a cold white like I do sometime, this is a great chardonnay. It's not too sweet, not too dry and wonderfully flavorful. Best of all, it has never given me a headache the next morning. This wine is also available at Aldi for the low, low price of $2.99. I mean, c'mon, you could probably find that by flipping the couch cushions. Go try this one!

4. Gluhwein

Say it with me, "Glue-Vine." This is a winter wine that is served hot and is wildly popular in Germany. Germans love their outdoor winter fests, and how better to keep warm than a nice warm cup of mulled wine flavored with cinnamon, sugar, and cloves? Aldi imports a great gluhwein that, like the Winking Owl line, is very inexpensive. It's usually only available during winter, but, if you find yourself in love with gluhwein and unable to find it in stores, you can make your own by heating a cheap red (cabernet sauvignon and merlot are my faves) in a saucepan over medium heat. Add cinnamon, cloves, and sugar to taste.

5. Franzia Cabernet Sauvignon

Oh, sweet boxed wine. This is a very decent cab. If you're afraid of or have turned up your nose at boxed wine, then you're missing out. Some make the argument that boxed wine is the way to go because the inner bag keeps the air out, which is said to taint wine, and, because most of the packaging is recyclable, it's environmentally friendly. Woohoo, let's drink to the planet!

You'll have to open yourself up to trying new things if you want to find the best, cheap wines.

You'll have to open yourself up to trying new things if you want to find the best, cheap wines.

6. Vendange Cabernet Sauvignon

By this point, you may have guessed that I am partial to cab. You would be correct; it is my favorite. If it had a phone number, it would be in my top five. Vendange cab is tasty and cheap. The large bottle, which boasts eight glasses of wine (six if you pour a glass of wine the way I do), can nearly always be found on special at those nifty grocery stores that offer preferred shoppers cards. I have never paid more than $6.99 for it. When I need a decent wine, and Aldi is closed, this is the wine I go for. I will say, though, if you're opting for Vendange, stick with the cab, for the love of all that is not hungover in the morning.

7. Charles Shaw Cabernet Sauvignon

Oh, another cab? Why, yes, you sure did guess correctly! This great wine can be found at your local Trader Joe's. I get warm fuzzies when I walk in that store because I really feel like I'm doing even more of my part to make the world a better place. Then, I grab the Two Buck Chuck, as we winos more affectionately refer to it, and revel in its $2.99 price tag. This one has a very similar taste to the Aldi cab, so if you live closer to Trader Joes, go for this one. Hey, you gotta reduce your carbon footprint even when making booze runs!

8. Charles Shaw Chardonnay

Like the previous Chuck, this one also tastes similar to its Aldi counterpart. Go ahead and pick up a few bottles if your pocketbook can handle it, so you won't have to run back out thus wasting more precious non-renewable energy sources.

9. Franzia Chillable Red

Like all Franzia boxed wines, this one is really inexpensive. The chillable red can be yours for the amazing price of about $10 to $12. With my preferred shoppers cards, I usually get it for less than $10 which equates to less than $2 a bottle. Best of all, this wine is tasty and appeals to most wine drinkers.

10. Carlo Rossi Burgundy

If you've not heard of Mr. Carlo Rossi and his ginormous jugs-o-wine, look down at the bottom of the shelf the next time you're wine-shopping. I know a screw cap on a gallon of wine can look trashy, but sometimes you just have to embrace it. Put it in the nice crystal wine glasses you inherited from your grandma or just unscrew that cap and heave that behemoth of a wine jug up. It's tasty either way, and after the first glass you just may be doing the latter anyway.

Remember the cardinal rule: Don't be afraid to try cheap wine. You just may be pleasantly surprised by the taste and still have two nickels to rub together when all is said and done.


Tom Mullan on March 20, 2018:

Are very low priced wines even wine? And what are the ingrediants added to make them taste like wine?

Patricia on June 20, 2015:

I tried Vendange Sweet Red tonight and I am disgusted. Has anyone ever read the label? It's not even friggin' WINE. It says red wine, WATER, high fructose corn syrup... Need I even say more. WTF? I am disgusted. Waste of money.

Marie on January 09, 2015:

I drank a liter of Vendange Cab last night. No excuses, no apologies. It gave me a nice, mellow buzz and I went through today feeling great. Not even a trace of a hangover.

Whippy on August 22, 2014:

I've read somewhere that the Winking Owl wines are produced by Gallo, but I don't know. I like them fine. If you haven't tried the Winking Owl Pinot Grigio, you are missing out. It's easily their best white, IMO. For the reds, I prefer their Merlot while I did not like the Shiraz. Hail cheap wine!

Mountain-Gem on April 12, 2014:

I think the Franzia must have changed over the years. I bought a box of White Zin after reading some good reviews and it was almost undrinkable. The worst thing was the next day headache and runs... I remember those from decades ago drinking Red Mountain Vin Rose'. Or maybe its just the Zin because I don't think anyone else specifically mentioned that one.

After that I tried the Vella WZ and its much, much better. Thanks for the great article.

kenny on November 29, 2013:

I was surprised to hear you mention "Gluhwein". Wondering if you are German? Not many people know about this wine since it is mainly a German tradition. My mom is German and has told me about this wine, though I have never tried it. Now I think I am going to. Could you tell me exactly what the brand name is of the gluhwein you mention above?

kenny on November 25, 2013:

Jackie, how could you back out on the Franzia wines ??? I think they are delicious, especially the chillable red. I have tried the 4 major boxed brands, Franzia, Peter Vella, Almaden and Carl Rossi (yes he makes boxed wine now also, along with the jug wine.) I found the Franzia to be the best tasting, followed by Peter Vella. The other 2 I didn't like so much. Also Franzia has a limited edition white wine which is amazing, it is only available part of the year and is called "Orange blossom white" -very tasty. Also were you aware Frazia does sell their wines in bottles too? They come in 1.5 liter sizes. Just in case some people are "afraid" of the box. :)

KimmyKatt from Freedom, Wisconsin on November 18, 2013:

Can you help me find a very inexpensive boxed wine for the holiday season? And if 8 of their glasses = 6 of your wine glasses, then it'd only be 4 glasses the way I pour them..

Mikey on October 08, 2013:

CHeap wine can taste even better if properly aerated. Try using a decanter for a few hours or a wine aerator. www.eWineAerator.com

Roxanne on October 07, 2013:

There is a great place by my house in New Jersey that has inexpensive wines! They are called Shoppers Vineyard. They have a selection of best selling wines under $10! http://www.shoppersvineyard.com/store/pc/Best-Sell...

cuteasabotton on February 19, 2013:

thank you for the list on cheap wine.I have made up my mind on red wine,your list was full of information. On my way to Aldi ..................

rhoded0gg on February 15, 2013:

I'd imagine that the 3 Buck chuck and Winking Owl are the same thing as Trader Joe's and Aldi are the same company. Both wines taste the same and both are great.

TycoonSam from Washington, MI on August 24, 2012:

From one wine lover to another. I've had Winking owl cab, $2 buck(I think now it's $3 buck chuck), and Vendange Cab. In fact my first Vendange was over 22 years ago and it was a Reserve Cab. Not knowing the price back then because A friend brought it over I would have guessed it to be a $30 bottle.

I agree with your recommendations. Cheers!

Stan on May 20, 2012:

Hi i recently had a few drinks of a great red wine... but all i can remember the name was that it had Irish somewhere in the name. Would anyone have any guesses as to what it could be? id really like to find some again.

KatMannel from Midwest, US on April 20, 2012:

Great list! We're in southern Illinois and tend to drink the local wines we can find for reasonable prices. If you're ever in the Carbondale area, Blue Sky Vineyards makes a great blush called Mysterioso that will set you back a whopping $12. We're also veterens of the Aldi German wine section, so I was happy to see someone else enjoying it too. I'm definitely going to keep an eye out for Winking Owl. Thanks again!

Pearle on April 11, 2012:

Not afraid to try a cheap wine, I picked up a bottle of Winking Owl White Zen (white zen is one of my favorites for sitting outside on a warm evening). I was disappointed and ended up pouring the entire bottle out, something I don't believe I've ever done. It tasted soapy to me. But after reading these reviews I might give another Winking Owl wine a try.

D & B Strong on April 09, 2012:

We love Winking Owl Merlot and the Chardonnay. It's the only wines we buy now.

Harry on April 04, 2012:

Jackie: Great articles, sourcing for wine similar in taste and price of the Winking Owl.. can you recommend ???

Jim Higgins from Eugene, Oregon on March 30, 2012:

Many of the wines carried by Trader Joe for a dollar or two more than Charles Shaw are great too. L'Authntiqe for $4.99, and the Old Moon or Old ------------(several labels start with Old) are all pretty good too. Many of the $5.99 are excellent too.

Cassandra on March 09, 2012:

Winking Owl Cab is a delicious value. so glad to see many others also enjoy this Aldi's brand too!

Cameo Meooo on March 07, 2012:


Austen Casias on March 05, 2012:

Bird's and Bees Sweet Red or Sweet White = Pure heaven ;)

Steve on February 10, 2012:

I love Franzia Chillable Red! I drink a couple glasses every night. It is perfect because you can drink quite a bit and not get drunk and I never tire of the taste. I'll save my snobbery for coffee (Caribou).

Lace on February 09, 2012:

When it comes to cheap wine, or Good wine for that matter, you can't get much better than winking owl. Their Cabernet is wonderful. A couple of years ago, a friend of mine and I went into Sherry Lehman in Manhattan and bought the cheapest bottle of wine they had for our little girls night, it was around $30. The wine was good but not really $30 good, when you have a brand-name or a fancy store to push your wine you can charge a lot more. I would suspect if that wine had been on a grocery store shelf it would've cost around seven or eight dollars. Price can be a very deceptive thing when it comes to wine, there are so many factors which are used to determine the price. Another good wine to try if ever you are in Indiana, is Oliver. They have some fantastic Camelot Mead, I have a 2009 Cabernet sitting on the wine rack now waiting for my little parasite to be born so that I can drink it again!

Lisabelle30 on February 02, 2012:

The wine snobs made me LOL: ya think maybe they're a little out of touch with the us commoners? I repeat: LOL.

I love Winking Owl...and Aldi, and am dying to find some Lambusco (is that right?)....OK back to my glass of Winking Owl for this evening...thanks for the wine list; you gave me some inspiration to try more varieties!

Meow on November 13, 2011:

i just got the winking owl wine and looked for some reviews before trying it. now i can't wait to pop it open!

Sandra Q on November 09, 2011:

Our wine rack is stocked strictly with Winking Owl. We go to a lot of wine tastings & drink a lot of wine and nothing compares to Winking Owl. Give me my cheap wine anyday!

Sally on September 25, 2011:

I love the Shiraz and the Merlot from Winking Owl, which I pick up at Aldi's. Loved the article; want to try the Gluhweibl, seems like it would be great on Christmas morning! Loved the article:)

MarkAse from San Diego, CA on September 22, 2011:

Jackie-Any chance for a follow up since we're a couple of years in? There's a huge market at these price points. Are you still drinking a lot of $3 wine?

Most of my personal favorites in that range come from Trader Joe's if you have one in your area.

Luke Nieuwsma on September 19, 2011:


Yes, Franzia Cabernet Sauv. is quite good. Pretty well balanced, not too sweet, definite fruity bursts of dark cherry. One thing which does seem to show a quality difference between boxed and well-crafted bottled wine is that the finish is not really long or developed. That's been the case with the boxed wines I've tried, and that's the case with this Franzia - pleasant, very enjoyable, but a shorter-lived finish.

Get Wines Direct on June 06, 2011:

You can get some remarkably cheap wines in Australia that taste extremely good. I wonder if they'd made it out to the States yet.

phaedra on May 05, 2011:

I found an amazing german Riesling for 7.25 at my local bottle shoppe. Don't be shy... you can even get good cheap imports!

Emma from Houston TX on March 19, 2011:

Awesome article.Am sure you have tasted a series of wine to have knowned the best 10 cheap ones.

Luther on March 18, 2011:

Enjoyed reading your article, and just wanted to point out that for just a little more, yes, $15 sounds like a lot sometimes, you can try the Revolution in a Bottle, and experience the interesting Dry Creek Valley, Russian River Valley, California zinfandel varieties from the Wine Guerrilla. These are moderately priced, not "cheap" per se, certainly not two-buck-chuck cheap, but they really are worth every penny. I'd never called myself a fan of Zin until I tried these! Very unconventional, and wonderful wines.

http://www.wineguerrilla.com is the web address and I believe you can order some right there online.

funky23 from Deutschland on February 24, 2011:

thats what i was hunting for

Kristianna on January 17, 2011:

Thank you for this. The Winking Owl $2.99 merlot is my new favorite. I just summoned up the courage to try it and... its good! Letting it breathe helps, a wine aerator helps more but wine snobs take note: there is no shame in trying a $3 wine! I grew up with wine (dad used to make his own and also works at a major wine retailer) and have always appreciated the $10 and under selections... but this Winking Owl (I think its produced by Gallo, no?) is not to be ignored. I still need to try some 2-buck-chuck!

Jackie Sharp (author) from Dekalb, IL on November 08, 2010:

@affg, try the Lambrusco. It's light, fizzy and sweet. I think you will like it!

@Betty Reid, I agree with you, Franzia Chillable wines are not good. I wrote this a couple years back. I've stopped buying Franzia, and I buy Peter Vella now instead. It's so much better. I have not tried Concha y Toro, but I will give it a shot!

Thanks :)

Betty Reid from Texas on June 27, 2010:

Franzia Chillable Wines is one of the worst wines I've ever tasted! I totally agree with you on Charles Shaw, however, and wish it was easier to find. Vendange is good too. Have you tried Concha y Toro?

MarkAse from San Diego, CA on June 25, 2010:

Trader Joe's typically has some nice selections in the $5 range. There is a California blend named Gypsy that is a local favorite as well as the Allure de Robles (if you can find it).

affg on June 04, 2010:

best wine I've ever had; 1990 Cook's zinfandel $2.99. Drove all over the place trying to every Vons I could to try and buy em all.

Tasted like clean grapes with a sparkly alcohol tinge, no buttery, oakey, etc.,etc.,etc. flavors to puzzle out as if I'm doing some kind of puzzle here... I just want something that tastes good to go with my food, why are you making this more complicated than necessary I wonder... heh

Scott L. on March 21, 2010:

Just tried a Winking Owl Cabernet, and was quite pleased. I also like Walmart's Oak Leaf Cabernet and Chardonnay. Based on your recommendation, I'll try to Winking Owl Chardonnay, too. Thanks! --Scott

sam Orez on February 19, 2010:

Who would know more about wine and making it than E&J Gallo,vintners of the Rossi brand. Anyone remember "Rossi Red Mountain" that took the surf beaches by storm in the early sixties?

Jackie Sharp (author) from Dekalb, IL on December 07, 2009:

There was a story on NPR recently about a blind wine-tasting that was conducted. Overwhelmingly the bottles under $5 won. Of course when the labels were revealed people insisted the wines had been mixed up, and they went back to drinking the Dom Perignon despite the fact that it rated horribly! Wine snobs annoy me.

OregonWino on December 07, 2009:

Great article!! I am always looking for nice wines to try and I actually wrote a couple of hubs about my favorite Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs!



Thank you!

Justin on December 06, 2009:

Well said, palermodude! Those making comments knocking on a wine they've never tried based solely on its price have about the same amount of merit as a rich high schooler making fun of those who don't wear name brand clothes. The truth is, Winking Owl is a GREAT wine that could easily fetch upwards of $12-$15 a bottle if it had a different brand's name on it. I sure hope Aldi continues to do their thing!

palermodude on October 21, 2009:

well, i lived in france for many years, and have been well educated there in terms of wine, as well as palate development...

i assure you that winking owl is as good as any 10-15 dollar bottle... for those who know aldi, you understand why it's that inexpensive... that kind of quality in a normal store would cost triple or quadruple the price... it's more about what aldi is and what they stand for (a german-owned discount rather cool grocery store) than what price they decide to give to winking owl

honestly i could care less what people think about it (that it's too cheap), i'll put my knowledge of wine up against any american any day - and that confidence i have is what allows me to drink winking owl and to know that it's good!

Jillian on June 02, 2009:

Now, just one minute there, "iconoclastic egalitarianism"??? Something tells me those good old boys, in the above post, are related to those "tough" bikers that all seceretly have law or medical degrees.

SO - Where do I go to meet them?!!! I'll even bring the jug of Carlo Rossi. I couldn't care less if the front of my tee gets all purple. ;-) A girl only lives once! Here's to LIVING!

Jillian on June 02, 2009:

Whoa! Wino mountainmen on horseback? (Barefoot Pony Woozer, and his buds) Well - at least they're not DWI. Sure hope those ponies aren't inbibing, though.

You know (possibly because I AM a "real woman". No puffed up lips, or other artifical parts on me. :-) ), that sounds sort of fun, on second thought - so long as you don't fall off the mountain.

I love your wine list, Jackie. Particularly the Charles Shaw Chardonnay. It is one of my favorites.

But - What "interesting" men you do attract, girl!!! ;-)

Jackie on May 08, 2009:

Don't knock a wine, regardless of price, until you've tried it. Just like not all $30 bottles of wine are alike, so too are all $3 bottles of wine not alike. In the current economy, I could not afford to drink a $17 or a $10 bottle of wine and drink it as often as I like to.

Espy on May 07, 2009:

I doubt you'll get a very good bottle of wine for under $3. But, you can find some decnet wines for under $10, then buy them by the case for 20% off at many liquor stores (usually on Mondays or Tuesdays - check your local newspaper).

QuoteFan on May 07, 2009:

$2.99 a bottle sounds a bit *too* cheap for me. I'd prefer to keep it under $20, but still get what I consider a nice wine. I'd recommend A to Z Wineworks Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, 2007, $17.99. Check out some more nicer, but inexpensive, wine recommendations at https://hubpages.com/hub/Tasty-Affordable-Wines.

Barefoot Pony Woozer on January 30, 2009:

Three post, and no acknowlegments any a' them got acepted?

Or - maybe 'ol Woozer should jus' put that jug down fur a spell!!! ;-D :-D

*picken' him self up offin the grown - climen' back on that there barefoot pony a his - an slumpin' on back ta where the women all look like women, all the horses don't get their God-given winter coats shaved off, and all the booz only cost what it oughta!*

I swear, three a us 'ol boys with a jug an a long weakend, have more fun on horse back than a hole arena full a them fancy hoddy- toddy horsey set do in a year. An with dang near half the wrecks! Not joshin' ya here, neither.

Barefoot Pony Woozer on January 29, 2009:

Carlo Rossi, the outlander's answer ta Two Buck Chuck! What would us neo mountain men do without that handy lit'l jug handle, to hook our thumb inta? Best stuff ever hoisted up on a elbo - 'cepten for genuwine 'shine. ;-)

Here's to a growing wave of iconoclastic egalitarianism, anti-snob horsemanship, and good cheep wine.

Barefoot Pony Woozer on January 29, 2009:

Carlo Rossi, the outlander's answer ta Two Buck Chuck! What would us neo mountain men do without that handy lit'l jug handle, to hook our thumb inta? Best stuff ever hoisted up on a elbo - 'cepten for genuwine 'shine. ;-)

Here's to a growing wave of iconoclastic egalitarianism, anti-snob horsemanship, and good cheep wine.

Barefoot Pony Woozer on January 29, 2009:

Carlo Rossi, the outlander's answer ta Two Buck Chuck! What would us neo mountain men do without that handy lit'l jug handle, to hook our thumb inta? Best stuff ever hoisted up on a elbo - 'cepten for genuwine 'shine. ;-)

Here's to a growing wave of iconoclastic egalitarianism, anti-snob horsemanship, and good cheep wine.

DMartelonline on September 17, 2008:

Hey! Thanks for writing up the Franzia Chillable Red - it's one of my favorites for having around. If someone likes merlots and such they are likely not to like it though. Couple of other suggestions: Yellow Tail Shiraz is very good as is Bogle Merlot.

Ryan Hupfer from San Francisco, CA on September 16, 2008:

Awesome answer to my request! Also, there's definitely nothing wrong with a little boxed wine now and then. :) I hope to see more Hubs from you soon!

Research Analyst on September 16, 2008:

Jackie you will probably be interested in the company Crushpadout of San Francisco, the urban winery that is democratizing winemaking,

Designed for busy professionals who want to pursue the new American dream of owning their own winery, Crushpad Commerce provides a completely integrated set of services covering winemaking, logistics, regulatory and sales/marketing support.

For the first time in history, the barriers to entering the wine industry have been torn down as Crushpad Commerce supports production levels as small as 50 cases but scales to many thousands.

Jackie Sharp (author) from Dekalb, IL on September 15, 2008:

I will definitely have to look that up. I've never heard of it, but I'm all about trying "the best 9 dollar bottle" of wine ever!

Mitch on September 15, 2008:

You have to locate a bottle of "Big House Red" Bonny Doone Wineries. the best 9 dollar bottle you have ever tasted or quaffed or chugged...you know.

Related Articles