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12 Tricks to Finding the Best Cheap Wine

Written by Madeline Puckette

Ever stare blankly down the wine aisle? source

If you are normally looking for wine in the sub-$20 wine realm (and maybe closer to $10) what wines are good in that price range? It used to be that you could pick up a bottle of Chateau Lynch-Bages (a 4th growth Bordeaux) or Ridge Zinfandel for well under $20, but those days are gone. No need to cry though, there are some new kids on the block offering mid-week wine buys. Want to get familiar with where all the great wine values are hiding?


12 Tricks to Finding the Best Cheap Wine

Here is some inspiration to keep in mind the next time you find yourself staring blankly at the wine aisle. Get better at finding the best cheap wines.

Tips for Getting Better Cheap Red Wine


  1. Great Cheap Pinot Noir

    You can find great under $20 Pinot Noir from the Languedoc-Roussillon region in France, the Patagonia region in Argentina and from Chile. Occasionally a great sub-$20 Pinot Noir will pop up from Central Otago, New Zealand.

  2. Midweek ‘Champagne’

    Cava and French Cremant can be found from $10-17. They’re both produced using the exact same technique as Champagne.

  3. Love Cabernet?

    Argentina, Chile, South Africa and Portugal offer super values. Try a Cabernet Sauvignon from these regions or, in the case of Portugal, a dry Douro red wine (with some Touriga Nacional and Touriga Franca grapes). You can also seek out great Cab from the ‘Under the Radar’ regions in tip #5

  4. Tuscany on a Budget?

    Italian wine values can be found in southern Italy and Sicily. Explore southern Italian wine regions including Umbria, Sicily and Puglia.

  5. Under the Radar Bold Reds

    Check out the lessor known sub-regions of California that are great for values on bold red wines. As a starting point keep your eyes peeled for Lodi, Lake, Amador and Santa Barbara.

  6. Secret to Rioja

    (a.k.a. Spanish Tempranillo) Just so you know, a Reserva Rioja under $20 is a crazy good deal. On the other hand, a $20 Crianza Rioja is not so good a deal. In order to know what to look for, learn more about the Rioja Classification system. If you can’t find a great Reserva, pick up a bottle of Ribera del Duero (also Spanish Tempranillo)

  7. Backdoor to Bordeaux

    Bordeaux has a lot of inflated prices due to the Growth Classification system, so look for top producers’ side projects. There’s Clarendelle a sub-label of Château Haut-Brion, Christian Moueix produces great valued right-bank Bordeaux wines under his name and Jean-Michel Cazes of Château Lynch-Bages has a great valued property called Villa Bel-Air.

Tips for Getting Better Cheap White Wine


  1. Find the Chardonnay values

    Look to the coastal regions in California such as Central Coast, North Coast, Sonoma Coast, Monterey and Eda Valley. Try a Chardonnay from Chile. Also, explore the Languedoc-Roussillon region in the south of France as well as the Macconais region in Burgundy. Most of these regions have a wealth of excellent Chardonnay under $20.

  2. Try a dry Riesling

    Riesling is undervalued these days and many are made in a dry style. Dry Rieslings are outstanding and refreshing in a way similar to Pinot Grigio. Washington State, New York State and Alsace produce some outstanding examples from $7-15.

  3. Sweet wines are hot

    Try Chenin Blanc and Moscato. Chenin Blanc is a light floral white wine with a hint of sweetness. Many US Chenin Blanc are under $10 and if you prefer a dry version, try one from South Africa.

  4. More Moscato please

    Rumor has it that there is a surplus of Moscato about to hit the market from California which will more than likely bring prices down from other great Muscat wine regions including Portugal’s Moscatel and Italy’s Moscato d’Asti. Bring on the confetti cake party!

  5. A tip to zesty white wines

    There are many amazing zesty white wines around $10 from Greece, Romania, Macedonia, Georgia, Hungary and Austria. If you can’t get any information on the wine, it’s generally safe to assume that a low-shouldered bottle will be a richer style and a high-shouldered bottle will be a lighter, more zesty style (in the $10 range).

Written byMadeline Puckette

James Beard Award-winning author and Wine Communicator of the Year. I co-founded Wine Folly to help people learn about wine. @WineFolly

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