The Best Trader Joe's Wines Under $10

This story was originally published on June 4, 2016.

As a bona fide wine geek, I tend to pony up a bit more cash than the average consumer for even my Tuesday night wines — the $15 to $20 range is more my speed. On top of that, I’m probably one of only a handful of millennials who never really got on the Trader Joe’s train. I really only wander in for the frozen dumplings that sustain me on nights I don’t have the energy to cook. So when I was asked to suss out the top TJ's wines under $10, I was a little wary at first.

But after a thorough search, I found some great values and was pleasantly surprised at the variety and affordability of the wines on offer. For curious drinkers, TJ’s offers a great starting point for exploring bottles from all over the world and discovering your palate without making a huge financial investment. Overall, I would say that I took away a couple key lessons on how to navigate the Trader Joe’s wine section:

1. Look to Europe or South America for better deals.
I know it’s tempting to buy California wines because they’re familiar, and you can pronounce the names. But bottles from Europe often offer a much higher quality for the same price and South America has earned a reputation of affordability for a reason.

2. Don’t rely too much on packaging. Some of my favorite wines had the most boring, dated, or unappealing labels — especially the ones from abroad. I love a well-designed label as much as the next gal, but try to focus on what’s inside the bottle. (I know that can be tough, especially when you're not sure what you're looking for, but that's why I'm here to help!)

Ahead, find some of my new TJ's faves for under $10.

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Les Portes de Bordeaux Sauvignon Blanc 2014, $5.99
This lively and tangy white from famed Bordeaux is proof that you don’t need to spend serious cash to drink seriously. A blend of sauvignon blanc and a tiny bit of semillon, this wine has a zesty nose of grapefruit, a soft body, and refreshing acidity that makes it crisp and fruity on the finish.

It will be the star of your next picnic — especially paired with some goat cheese and crackers.
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La Promenade Provence Rosé 2015, $9.99
Provençal rosé is the gold standard of pink wine, and this is a great introduction. Light, airy, crisp, and refreshing, this rosé balances notes of strawberry and tangerine peel with clean minerality and a lip-smacking finish.

Another one that will go with just about everything and anything — try it with roasted chicken or grilled summer veggies.
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Freixenet Cordon Negro Brut Cava, Spain NV, $8.99
Cava is another totally underrated sparkler that’s made in Spain using the same method as Champagne, though, this time, with different grapes. If you’ve never had cava, Freixenet is a great place to start. The black bottle makes it look extra fancy and the wine itself is light, zippy, and refreshing. Its bright fruit flavors would make this one a good choice for mimosas but it's also great on its own.
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Blason de Bourgogne Cremant de Bourgogne Brut Reserve NV, $9.99
Cremants are sparkling wines from France that aren’t Champagne and generally offer a great value. This gem from Burgundy is no exception and is even made in the same method and (mostly!) with the same grapes as Champagne for a fraction of the price.

This bottle was surprisingly complex, with a honeyed-brioche character and notes of apples that were rounded out by a clean fresh finish. Don’t bother blending this one into mimosas — drink it unadorned for a true treat and serve with brunch dishes like eggs Benedict or waffles and fresh fruit.
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Panilonco Carmenere 2014, $3.99
Okay, for reals? I only tried this one because a very nice lady saw my cart with about two dozen bottles and asked me what I was celebrating. When I told her I was doing story research she miraculously believed me, grabbed this bottle, and offered it to me like a precious gift.

I had pretty low expectations but this wine did, in fact, totally blow my mind. Aromatic notes of currant and cherries and an earthy streak on the finish made this my new official grilling wine — especially if I’m serving steak!
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Cline Zinfandel 2013, $7.99
Cline is a great producer of easy, everyday California zinfandel, and this, its lower-end offering, is a steal. Zin is one of those has-something-for-everyone red wines that I love to have on hand with a big group. Bold, spicy, and richly fruited, this red’s also got a soft body and light tannins (a fancy way to describe the wine's complexity) to keep it on its toes.

Pair with pulled pork for the win.
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Cuvee Azan Picpoul de Pinet 2015, $7.99
This one’s a drinker, not a thinker. Did your mom ever send you to school with slices of green apple that were sprinkled with a little lemon juice to keep them from turning brown? This is that, in wine form. Refreshing and low in alcohol, this white is from France’s Languedoc region which is, by the way, a great place to look for delicious, simple, and affordable French wines (white or red!). You’ll want to drink it all day long, all summer long.

Try it with raw seafood, like oysters or ceviche.
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Albero Organic Monastrell, $5.99
Spanish wine generally has a lot to offer on the value front and this bright-fruited red is no exception. Monastrell is probably not a grape you’ve heard of (in other parts of the world it’s called mourvedre), but this bottle is a great example of how going off the beaten path can pay off, big time.

For six bucks, you get a glass that’s intensely flavored with blackberry and spice, juicy, medium-bodied, and not too heavy for a warm summer’s day. This would be great for any occasion or crowd as it’s easy to pair or drink on its own. Try it with burgers.
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Dr. Loosen Riesling 2014, $9.99
My boyfriend insisted that we try this bottle because he refers to it as his “gateway wine” — the one that really got him into wine in the first place about a million years ago.

I love riesling and find that it’s usually a fantastic deal, so it wasn’t a hard sell. This one has notes of juicy peaches and a little bit of sweetness on the finish but don’t let that scare you away — it’s also got a punch of acidity that gives it energy. That’s a fancy way of saying that this wine is absolutely gulpable. It comes from one of the world’s best regions for riesling, and one of the world’s most famous Riesling producers — all for less than $10.

The beauty of riesling is that you can pair it with just about everything but it would go especially well with a refreshing Vietnamese noodle salad.
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Underwood Pinot Noir 2014, $4.99
Pinot noir is generally not a grape that makes great budget-friendly wines. This is going to make me sound like a total snob but if you can’t pony up at least $20, I’d usually advise you to pass on the pinot. There are plenty of other grapes that are delicious and can give you the rich fruit, light body, and lean acidity that make a good pinot noir shine.

If you’re asking me if this is a great pinot noir, I might plead the fifth. If you’re asking me if this is a fun, easy, and tasty red? You bet. It’s light, fruity, and goes down easy. With a light chill, this would be a great wine to take to the beach (not to mention it's easy to transport) and would go as well with grilled fish as it would with grilled chicken.
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