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9 Sophisticated Date Night Wines (Under $30)

Written by Madeline Puckette

You’re already thinking smart if you’re planning a wine date. Not only is it incredibly stylish and sophisticated to enjoy a bottle of wine in, it’s usually cheaper than running up a bar tab.

And let’s be honest, there’s nothing sexier than sharing a bottle of wine together.

Regardless of your date’s level of wine smarts, there’s something indescribably sexy about these following nine wines. They appeal to *nearly* all wine lovers.

best wines for a date include sparkling rose, extra brut, zinfandel, grenache, and carmenere for the adventurous
Take this list to your local wine shop!

Since exact bottles might not be available in your area, this list is organized by wine style and variety.

Illustration of sparkling rosé wine in a glass by Wine Folly
Sparkling rosé is a great way to kick off a date night. Look for Crémant, Cava, and Cap Classique for sub-$20 values.

Sparkling Rosé

Flavors: strawberry, white cherry, citrus, cream, and honeysuckle

Why? If you thought sparkling wine was a good idea, you’d be right! We all get nervous during a date, and that feeling can turn your mouth into the Sahara. The cool thing about carbonation is that it stimulates the salivary glands without causing you to literally drool over your date.

Oh, and that rosy color isn’t just a pretty shade of red: studies have shown that the color red actually increases arousal in men. While we’re at it, maybe those red shoes are a good idea too!

But when you get down to brass tacks, rosé is a nearly universal crowd pleaser. It’s refreshing, easy to drink, and engaging without distracting you from your date.

What to seek out: Crémant d’Alsace, Rosé of Cava, Lambrusco di Sorbara, etc.

Illustration of a Champagne coupe glass with extra brut sparkling wine by Wine Folly
Extra-Brut classified bubbles have some of the lowest sugar levels of all sparkling wines.

Extra-Brut Sparkling

Flavors: citrus, yellow apple, almond, cream, and toast

Why? An evening of dancing and Champagne has been considered the ideal way to spend a date since the time of powdered wigs and tri-corner hats. And those fops might have been up to something: beyond the carbonation’s effect of keeping you stimulated, extra brut sparkling wine is required to have less than 6 grams per liter of residual sugar.

That means less than 1 carb per glass, which will keep you from getting annihilated by a sugar crash when midnight hits.

And frankly, if you open up a bottle of Champagne or Cava in any country in the world, the message will always be the same: we’re about to celebrate. It’s refreshing, it’s classy, and what date isn’t impressed by the pop of a sparkler’s cork? Make sure you know how to open your bottle properly first, of course…

What to seek out: Champagne, Cava Reserva, Franciacorta, Cap Classique, etc.

An illustration of Viognier - a full-bodied white wine - in a wine glass by Wine Folly
Viognier can be both floral and full-bodied. Look to America and Australia for delicious options.


Flavors: tangerine, peach, mango, honeysuckle, and rose

Why? The connection of love and roses has been a cultural touchstone for a long time, so why not bring a wine that reflects that? Along with its rich fruit flavors, Viognier’s sensual perfumed style also features a distinct aroma of flowers.

Not only do roses stand out as a token of affection, but studies show that this unique scent can produce a calming effect, which is perfect for relaxing and trying to get to know each other.

What to seek out: Look to the richer, oak-aged styles of the New World, particularly California’s Central Coast, Argentina, or even Chile.

Illustration of French Rose wine including cotes de provence and tavel in a glass by Wine Folly
France isn’t all pale, onion-skin colored rosé. Look to Tavel for rich, ruby-colored rosé!

French Rosé

Côtes de Provence or Tavel Rosé

Flavors: strawberry, cherry, rhubarb (Tavel); strawberry, watermelon, rose, sea salt (Provence)

Why? More of that classic rosé style: it really does provide something that almost everyone can enjoy. Provence makes super pale rosés, with a light, delicate quality to match. If you’re looking for something a little more bold, Tavel is known for a deep pink color, along with a savory and rich flavor.

Like the in the sparkling rosés we’ve already mentioned, the color is key. The color red stirs up something in our brains, causing a heightened state of arousal.

While both of them pair incredibly well with a wide variety of date night foods, Tavel might be the secret to a date night success due to its deep color and unique flavors. But either one of them is delicious and seriously easy to drink.

Grenache in a aroma collector wine glass by Wine Folly
Rich berry fruit and softer tannins make Grenache enjoyable to all imbibers.


Flavors: strawberry, plum, leather, herbs, and blood orange

Why? There’s something so compelling about a glass of Grenache. It starts with that ruby red color (and we all know what that means). Every sip is bursting with red berry flavors that will make your mouth water. It’s complex enough to keep you interested, but unintimidating and really easy to drink at the same time.

And if that wasn’t enough, the subtle sage and lavender aromas in these reds are also known as sexual olfactory stimuli in men. (It turns out there are a fair amount of those, in Grenache!)

What to seek out: Look to Roussillon (Sud de France), Côtes du Rhône, California, and Washington for the best.

Red Zinfandel in a glass illustration by Wine Folly
Zinfandel at its best is a high alcohol wine. Save it for when you want to lean in.


Flavors: blackberry, strawberry, peach preserves, cinnamon, and sweet tobacco

Why? Want something red and complex, but don’t want your date to see your tannin face? Zinfandel combines zingy berry flavors and smoky, baking spice characteristics with softer tannins that make it easy to enjoy.

If that isn’t enough, Zinfandels have some of the highest alcohol levels you can get without resorting to something fortified. And if you’re just having a glass or two, a little extra alcohol can mellow you out and lower your inhibitions. Just don’t overdo it: drunkenly waving your shirt over your head is really more of a 3rd date kind of activity.

What to seek out: Look for wines with bottles with 14.5% ABV or more. Check out Primitivo di Manduria from Puglia, classic California Zinfandel from Paso Robles, Lodi, or North Coast (including Napa and Sonoma).

Carmenere in a glass - illustration by Wine Folly
Stimulate the conversation with those exotic flavors of mint and black cherry in a glass of Carménère.


Flavors: raspberry, bell pepper, black plum, vanilla, and mint

Why? With its sophisticated peppery-minty notes, there’s a lot more to Carménère than the usual fruit bomb of other reds. This is a great way of signalling to your date that you enjoy the more complex things in life.

Every date runs the risk of grinding to a screeching halt when you’ve got nothing left to talk about (or can’t find something to even start with)! Carménère’s rich, vegetal aromas and flavors make for a terrific conversation starter.

What to seek out: This is one of those wines with vintage variability. Seek out Chilean Carménère with 2014, 2017, and 2018 vintages. (This is also a fun way to impress your date with your wine smarts).

A glass of Super Tuscan Blend wine by Wine Folly
“Super Tuscan” is an Italian red blend that includes French varieties like Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc.

Super Tuscan

Flavors: cherry, plum, tobacco, tomato, and herbs

Why? Italy is consistently singled out as one of the most romantic places in the world, and if that’s true, then this list would be incomplete without one of their luscious reds. Because they often include more familiar grapes like Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, Super Tuscans have mass appeal that even wine amateurs can appreciate, with the added benefit of complex, Italian characteristics.

With their deep red color, romance is built into the heart of Super Tuscan wines, and the combination of French and Italian grapes can lead to meaningful conversations about travel (and perhaps even lead to future plans). Some of these blends have distinct notes of lavender and baking spices: those all-too-familiar arousal aromas.

What to seek out: If you’re looking for something with a little more widespread appeal, look for Super Tuscans that are heavy on Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Petit Verdot. For a real world tour, however, try the blends that are a little more liberal with their use of Sangiovese.

Moscato d'Asti and Brachetto d'Acqui are both sweet sparkling wines from Italy - Wine Folly
End the night on a light and sweet note with one of Italy’s top sweet “frizzante” wines.

Sweet Frizzante

Moscato d’Asti or the red bubbly, Brachetto d’Acqui

Flavors: lemon, orange, pear, orange blossom, and honeysuckle (Moscato); strawberry, orange zest, black currant, apricot, and cream (Brachetto)

Why? So dinner’s over, and you and your date are toying with the idea of dessert. Ditch the heavy cakes and puddings and go for a Moscato d’Asti or Brachetto d’Acqui. Their super perfumed aromatics can keep you occupied for hours, while the light “frizzante” bubbles will keep you stimulated and engaged even as the night draws to a close.

These sparklers are both delightfully sweet, as any dessert ought to be. Plus, there’s the added benefit of their low alcohol content, so you’ve got a much smaller risk of getting a little too tipsy while you’re trying to impress your date.

Go Forth and Be Merry!

So that’s the list! Try it out with your next date, and be sure to let us know how it went.

If anyone else has suggestions for their favorite super-sexy wine – tell us in the comments below!


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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