Your Go-To Wine Varieties --- tight budget version

Which two wine varieties (top white and top red) are your go-to when you’re faced with only cheap and unknown options?

For me, the one is easy … whether it’s from France, the United States, Chile, Germany, New Zealand, etc. …, I almost always find Sauvignon Blanc at least palatable (and I usually I like it). Red wine’s a tougher one, for sure … I think I lean towards Syrah here. I’d go with Mourvedre, but I don’t think varietal bottlings are plentiful enough to qualify, so to speak.

White: Verdejo (Rueda DO, California, ???)

Red: I might be stumped. Syrah, although it is far from my favorite, does seem like a fairly safe choice (compared to Mourvedre, Carignan, Grenache, or even Zinfandel). I have enjoyed many Tempranillo-based wines, however… :neutral_face:

If stuck in a grocery store and needing a $10ish white, or buying off a restaurant list and needing a $30ish white, New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc is the safe choice. Consistently decent, works with food, and your civilian friends will like it well enough.

If you’re somewhere that has Loire Chenin, that’s usually a pretty good option too to overperform at a low price point. But that’s not very likely if you’re stuck in the supermarket or with the mediocre wine list.

I don’t know that there are comparable “safe harbors” for cheap unknown red wines. There are decent inexpensive reds, including ones you can find in suboptimal places like the supermarket or the chain restaurant, but you have to have a little knowledge to be able to sniff them out on a case by case basis.

I guess the closest thing I could probably come up with would be Spanish non-tempranillo reds. The market segment of Can Blau, Las Rocas, Solanera and so forth gives great value at $10-16 a bottle.

For white it is an easy choice for me - Riesling. It would be local Australian stuff, especially in a grocery store as your chances of finding anything from anywhere other than NZ Sauv Blanc would be slim (and I dont get a whole lot of enjoyment from Sauv blanc anyway). I think it provides the best QPR of any wine we have over here.

Red is more tricky, and it really depends on how tight the budget is. I’d probably take a blend over a straight variety at a low price point - probably a Cab/Merlot blend.

I think Riesling would be my go to white in that situation.

For reds, I’d opt for a G/S/M blend - a Cotes du Rhone or similar. If a blend isn’t an acceptable answer to the question, I’d pick Sangiovese. There are usually decent if simple chiantis available around $15.

I grab something from my cellar, and open it. No cash or credit card necessary. [wow.gif] Just a corkscrew and a glass. champagne.gif
A 1996 Laurel Glen Cabernet Sauvignon, and 2000 Chateau d’Armhailhac were recent items.

I really do not like to buy wine blind. Indeed it is another thing to order wine by the appellation (for example Côtes du Rhône) as then you at least know where it is coming from but if the only thing I see on the list is the grape variety then there is no way I am ordering wine. Some widely available beer like Pilsner Urquell is preferable each and every time.

Depends on where in the world you are since the inexpensive and unknown options you are likely to face vary accordingly. But from a Northern European perspective, I’d say Riesling for whites and Barbera for reds. On the white side, Sauvignon Blanc is often a viable option too.

One more vote for Riesling as the white wine choice. For the red, I’d probably select a US made Cab since I know at least 6 or 7 under $20 that are good and 1 or 2 are bound to be available.

Can you define tight budget?
I vote for Gamay for reds and Riesling for whites.

Interesting question and good post.

We don’t drink a ton of still white wine, but the options for cheap white wine in Italy are numerous. Gavi di Gavi, Soave, arneis, verdicchio . . . lots to choose from.

Reds are more challenging. You can buy really nice rioja cheap, but they need so much time I don’t really count on them for “cheap drinks” spur of the moment drinking. Probably sangio . . . Monsanto Chianti for example

Can u give some examples (my wallet would sure appreciate it)?

White: Muscadet

Red: Significantly harder…usually a Chianti Classico if that’s an option.

I am not sure I would go to Syrah if I needed something cheap. Cheap Syrah is usually horrible. You really need to get over $25 - $35 for a quality Syrah.

For a cheap red, I would buy a Malbec or Malbec Cab blend. Usually good values.

For a cheap white, how can you beat Vino Verde. Some good ones for under $10.

Below $20
Columbia Crest
Rutherford Ranch

Below $30
Conn Creek
Hagen’s Reserve

Some threads to read:

That oughtta keep you occupied for a while. [cheers.gif]

For whites I tend to go with Sauv Blanc – or as others mention a Spanish or Italian white.

Cheap reds are harder. I love syrah but have not had any ones worth drinking at that price point. If the question is varietal, I guess I would have to go with a Cab, or perhaps Tempranillo. At that price point I find blends are better, and then look more for producer than varietal.

Nice query to post.


The OP was “cheap and unknown options” which makes things tougher than just recommending known, good wines.

For me white wine is tougher in this area, since I hate Sauvignon Blanc, and most unknown Riesling (since I know pretty much all of it) is utter crap. I would then likely look for an Italian white of some kind.

For red, Argentinian Malbec is safe, though often not in my wheelhouse.

White: Sauvignon Blanc
Red: Malbec

White: Muscadet
Red: Gamay or Cab Franc