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Frugal Wine Shopper: Five Everyday Best Values for the Budget Conscious that are not too expensive

Updated on September 19, 2012

Wine advice for the cash strapped consumer

In today’s economy, where people are looking for quality but constrained by tight budgets , a stroll through the wine aisle can be a perplexing experience. Time and money are at a premium—you don’t have a lot to spend—and you don’t have all day to cull through the abundant choices available to you in today’s typical supermarket. Choice is good, except when you're tired, overwhelmed with work and responsibilities, and have little extra cash to spend. To make your life simpler, here are a few perennial performers that are as easy on the wallet as they are on the palate. Whether you're entertaining friends and family, or just needing an affordable everyday choice, these wines are sure to satisfy.

Cavit Pinot Grigio- A light Italian white wine. Well balance, smooth, and refreshing. Not too sweet. Not too dry. This is my wife’s “Go-To” favorite after a long day at work. Available at Costco in the large 1.5 liter bottles. Price at our local Costco: $8.99. Other grocery stores often carry it in this size for about a dollar more per bottle.

Yellowtail Shiraz – This Australian Shiraz is an easy to love everyday red that goes down smooth and easy. Balanced fruit and finish. Consistently drinkable year in and year out. This is the Golden Retriever of inexpensive reds. Faithful, friendly, and loveable. Also available in the 1.5 liter bottles. A regular Costco item priced at: $8.49. This wine is typically available at most grocery stores in the 750ml size also in the $4.00-$6.00 dollar range.

Columbia Crest “Two Vines” Chardonnay - A relative newcomer to this category, this Washington State Chardonnay has made a big splash winning numerous “Best Buy” and “Best Value” awards. Let's be clear on one thing—it's difficult to find quality Chardonnay in this price range period. However, this wine is quite drinkable (not too sweet, not too dry) and is easy to like. Price: $9-10.00 for the 1.5 liter bottle.

Old Moon Zinfandel – Old Moon Zinfandel from Trader Joes is always a solid value and frequently on our shopping list when we head out to TJs. My wife and I have served this to many guests and invariably the response is always positive. Sure, there are better Zins out there, but for $5.99 per bottle, the difference between Old Moon and, say, Ravenswood Zin, is marginal at best, and to my mind, definitely not worth the typical $2-3 price differential. If you’re looking for a relatively smooth, decently balanced red wine with medium fruit, this is the ticket.

Chariot Gypsy- Another Trader Joes wine that has achieved somewhat of a cult status over the past few years, Chariot Gypsy is a full bodied, red blend with plenty of fruit that lately, tends to run a bit on the sweeter side of the spectrum. The complexion and quality of this wine seems to vary from vintage to vintage, however, at a price point of $4.99 per bottle, the value is definitely there. This wine tastes more like a $8 to $10 red than a wine in the $5.00 range.

Clearly, one would definitely not describe these wines as "show stoppers" by any stretch of the imagination. They are, however, solid values for their price, and with the exception of Chariot Gypsy (which sometimes sells out quickly) typically readily available. Among our friends and family these wines consistently get a thumbs up.


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