You can find great value and high quality in less popular wine varieties which taste very similar to wine you already love! Below are alternatives to 5 of the most popular wine varieties and a couple of recommended wines to get you started. Enjoy!
5 Cheap Wine Varieties
Cabernet Sauvignon Chilean Carménère
Cabernet Sauvignon is known for its bold, peppery, strong berry characteristics. Oak pitches in a little vanilla and in hotter years can even get pretty jammy. If you’re a California Cabernet lover and are looking for value alternatives, check out Chilean Carménère. Carménère wine is typically dense, packed with red fruits, black pepper and berries. The tannins are often softer than Cabernet Sauvignon as Carménère is a little lighter-bodied. Premium Carménère can offer more subtle flavors such as smoke, tobacco, chocolate and leather. Here are two Carménères that won’t break the bank.
“Varietal spice, olive, herb and black fruit aromas. It’s layered, tight and tannic on the palate, with spicy berry, herb and olive flavors. Gets fuller, chunkier and riper with airing.” 90 Points, Wine Enthusiast
$19.99 – Primus Carménère 2010
“Balsam wood, wild berries, brier, and herbal notes inform the nose of a dense, plush, savory wine. Mouth-filling, ripe, and pleasure-bent, it is an excellent value…” 90 Points, Robert Parker, The Wine Advocate
Syrah Spanish Monastrell
Syrah in the new world is known for being medium to high tannin, bright, full of dark berry fruit and chocolate. A great alternative to Syrah is Spanish Monastrell (Mourvèdre). It’s very similar to Syrah’s high tannins and acidity, but with more of a dark red berry fruit. France also uses Mourvèdre in rhone-style wines, however they are typically more earthy and gamey. Here are two examples of Spanish Mourvèdre that stout impressive accolades at a great value.
“Purple-colored, it offers up a fragrant nose of underbrush, mineral, spice box, and blueberry. Layered, mouth-filling, and succulent…” 90 Points, Jay Miller, The Wine Advocate
“The nose sports racy blueberry and blackberry aromas with a hint of cedar. On the palate it is succulent, rich, and bordering on opulent, remarkable for a wine at this price point. Its finish is smooth, lengthy, and filled with tasty black fruits.” 90 Points, Robert Parker, The Wine Advocate
Zinfandel is a high sugar grape capable of producing fruit bombs packed with blackberries, anise and pepper. A mouthwatering, juicy, easy to drink wine; Zinfandel is perfect for parties, BBQ’s and unwinding after work. What you might not know is that Primitivo from Southern Italy is very similar to Zinfandel. In fact, at one point Italy actually started to relabel imported wine into America as Zinfandel. Ready to try a Primitivo and judge for yourself?
“Flavors of blackberries, blueberries, raspberries and plums are all carried by a subtle, sweet, toasted oak flavor. The finish is soft and long with very graceful tannins and a beautiful body.” Winemaker
“Soft, plush and bold, this is a modern and elegant wine. It opens with bright notes of cherry and blackberry, but also offers loads of toasted almond and dark chocolate on the close.” 91 Points, Wine Enthusiast
Champagne Spanish Cava
Champagne gets a lot of credit as the dominant sparkling wine thanks to a history of fantastic marketing. Remember: It’s not Champagne unless it’s from Champagne! With its bright thirst quenching bubbles, Champagne is the ideal companion when celebrating, pairing with food, or just sipping at home. What you might not know is that Spanish Cava is an amazing alternative to Champagne while still delivering nearly the same quality of refreshing bubbly satisfaction. Since Cava is made from less common varietals and isn’t inflated by marketing hype, it can often be found for a fraction of the price of Champagne. Here are a few examples of great value Spanish Cavas.
“An elegant Cava, this feels rich and composed. Its simple pearlike fruit integrates with the bubbles and the dosage, providing a clean, complete and satisfying length of flavor.” 90 Points, Wine & Spirits
$15.29 – Mercat Brut Nature Cava
“A wonderful peachy bouquet that blossoms in the glass with hints of dried apricot and honeysuckle. The palate is very well-balanced with crisp acidity and a fine thread of bitter lemon that lends tension and poise, leading to a very champagnois finish. Excellent!” 91 Points, The Wine Advocate
Pinot Noir Grenache
Pinot Noir is an ancient varietal with a monstrous range of textures, flavors, and aromas. Commonly light to medium bodied and rich with cherry, raspberry, and other small red fruit notes, Pinot Noir has particular qualities that make it unique. While not a perfect substitution, Grenache can still deliver fantastic red fruit flavors in a light body, low tannin wine. This makes Grenache a fantastic substitution for Pinot Noir as a value driven daily drinker. (Read: Grenache is a lot cheaper than Pinot Noir.)
“It is a forward, savory, ripe, succulent offering that should prove to be a crowd-pleaser. It is an outstanding value that will deliver enjoyment over the next 5 years.” 90 Points, The Wine Advocate
“Nutty underlying richness and a sounding board of wet stone compliment and set-off ripe dark berry fruit that really envelops the palate. This irresistible essence of Grenache ought to merit service for at least 3-4 years.” 90 Points, The Wine AdvocateIf you’re feeling adventurous.. Here is a link to the list of all the wine varieties above. Let me know if you try them! Edit: Ack! They are selling out fast!