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There is no shortage of cheap wine in this world, but if you want good cheap wine, there are a few tricks for making sure you always find it. In honor of National Drink Wine Day on Feb. 18 (or, you know, every day), here are five tips for picking the best cheap wine around.

In a world that boasts racks upon racks of cheap wine, it can be undeniably overwhelming and frankly a bit confusing when it comes to selecting a bottle that both fits your price range and actually tastes good. Wine, like good coffee and fine chocolate, is priced at a higher monetary point than other common goods. Buying these types of products on the super cheap will certainly leave you waking up with a hangover the next morning, or result in that mid-afternoon coffee headache. Luckily, with bigger conglomerate giants like Target and Trader Joe’s capitalizing on customers’ frugal tendencies, as well as national and foreign vineyards’ focus on mass production, there’s actually a wide variety of easy-to-drink and not overly sweet vintages out there, all for a bargain rate. Read on for tips and tricks on how to approach purchasing cheap wine that even wine snobs will love.

Related Reading: The Best Wine Clubs for 2020

Read Up on Value Regions

#goalsTry One New Wine Every Month in 2020Yes, it’s a fact that good wine is expensive. But plenty of wine-producing countries, like Portugal, Spain, South Africa, and Chile produce so much per year, that they end up with too much wine. Their overall yield is elevated, which ends up resulting in veritable deals on the customer’s end. Because of the surplus, vintages that might have been over your budget are now cheaper. Why? Most often, wine from these countries doesn’t have the same prestige or economic status as wine from places like France or Italy. So instead of always looking at the United States section of the wine store, take a journey to some lesser known countries and sample some of their cheaper labels.

Check for Wines with Multiple Appellations

First things first: What’s an appellation? Basically, an appellation tells you where an individual wine comes from. For example, Champagne is both a place in France, but also the only location in the world where Champagne can be produced. An appellation can also be a specific description of where a wine is grown, like a Napa Valley merlot. These geographic specificities are legally regulated and enforced to guarantee that what’s listed matches what’s in the bottle of wine. What’s most important, though, is that the more specific the appellation, the better the wine will be. When you’re searching the liquor store for a bottle of wine, make sure you take a peek at the wine’s appellation; if the label isn’t specific or lists a vague geographic description, you could end up purchasing a bottle that’s stuffed with cheap grape filler, and that’s not going to leave a good taste in your mouth.

Grasping the Grape: Demystifying Grape Varieties to Help You Discover the Wines You Love, $10.57 on Amazon

This handy, approachable guide will help you learn what you like, and how to find it.
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Go for Cheap White Instead of Cheap Red

Generally, if you’re looking for a satisfying cheap wine, your taste buds will be much happier if you spend $10 on a bottle of white than a $10 bottle of red. This is because red wine takes much more time—and a lot more money on the vineyard’s end—to ultimately get right, which means the cheaper a bottle of red is, the worse it’ll be. Unlike red wine, white wine isn’t meant to age for as long, and is generally consumed on the fruity side, when the grape is still young (with exceptions, of course, like muscadet and chardonnay, which are inherently dry whites). For spending purposes, though, you’ll get more bang for your buck on a white than a red.

Related Reading: A Sonoma Wine Pro’s 10 Favorite Bottles, Including a Great Pick Under $15

Avoid Popular Vintages

While chardonnay, cabernet sauvignon, and pinot grigio are the most popular—and ubiquitous—wines in the United States, retailers are more likely to sell them at a steeper rate. Instead of choosing something mainstream, select a new variety of grape—one that might not be as well known or even one that you may have never heard of before, like baga, sumoll, or greco nero.

Mateus Rosé, $6.15+ on Drizly

This is made with a high proportion of baga grapes.
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Don’t Be Super Cheap

While Trader Joe’s may promote its Charles Shaw line—known fondly as Two Buck Chuck—there’s very little chance you’re going to actually enjoy something that cheap. The problem with bargain wine is that it happens to have an inherently sweet flavor profile, and while there’s nothing wrong with that, the fact that it’s mass produced, coupled with vineyards’ tendency to utilize overripe grapes and added sugar, creates a wine that may taste fine, albeit overly sweet, but will probably leave you with a roaring headache the next day. Reserve those uber cheap bottles for wine cocktails or cooking, and instead splurge on drinking wines that are even a couple more dollars—it’s totally worth it.

Related Video: How to Decant Wine, According to a Sommelier


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Amy Schulman is an associate editor at Chowhound. She is decidedly pro-chocolate.
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