Life

The Best-Value Red Wines Under $25 On Grocery Store Shelves

Shopping for wine can be a particularly daunting task when you’re young or a new drinker. Picking out a good, quality bottle to try for the first time can be an overwhelming experience — especially if you don’t quite understand grape varieties, wine regions, or nuanced-yet-vital aspects of production, like the difference between an unoaked wine and an oaked one.

Trust me when I say I totally get how unwelcoming it feels to venture into a wine shop lined with bottles displaying names you’ve never heard of and can barely pronounce. You feel like an outsider and it dampens the fun. But there is one place shoppers can always count on to purchase bottles without all the anxiety: the grocery store.

“The grocery store makes wine accessible,” says Wine & Spirit Education Trust-certified journalist Chasity Cooper. “I shopped at Giant, and they had the one aisle of wine with the beer. I remember automatically looking at the bottom shelves because I couldn’t afford $30 bottles of wine at first. The availability of reds and whites and some sparkling wines weren’t as expansive as a Total Wine or a local curated wine shop, but there were still great varieties — Malbec from Argentina, pinot grigio from Italy, shiraz from Australia.”

Nowadays Cooper, who has bylines in a number of esteemed wine and spirits publications, isn’t reaching for the Yellowtail, Barefoot, or Sutterhome as often. Her palate has advanced. But she still appreciates the quality and value of red wines that fill the middle shelves. It’s there, she says, where consumers will get the most bang for their buck.

“If you’re looking for something under $25 that’s of good quality that will also be delicious, keep your eye on the second and third shelves,” she says. “You do not have to break your back or your bank account to drink good wine.”

This week, I asked Cooper to share her favorite grocery store finds with me. I’ve listed her picks below and shared my tasting notes for each. Most of these wines are available at most major grocery stores across the country — Walmart, Kroger family grocery stores, even Target. But because we live in the modern technological age, I’ve included links (on the prices) in case you want to shop online.

Oh, and did I mention nothing listed costs more than $25? Get to reading! Then to sipping!

La Crema Pinot Noir

Heb.com

ABV: 13.5%

Average Price: $25

The Wine:

I’ve waxed poetic about this Sonoma, California wine before, and it is just as complex of a pinot noir now as it was then — a total character. Unpredictable. Charismatic. It’s the Pinot you want to bring to the party. It’s the pinot you want to drink with the fabulous dinner you cooked at home.

Tasting Notes:

You can really smell the tobacco on this thing while scents of pomegranate play in the background. On the palate, it’s a berry splash full of red, black, and blueberries and juicy red plum. Notes of toasted oak provide the wine with some woodsy character while supple tannins — the naturally occurring polyphenol found in fruit skins, seeds, and leaves that influence wine’s astringency — clean everything up for a bright, slightly acidic finish.

Bottom Line:

It’s on the higher-priced side when it comes to value wines, but the unique character and vibrancy of this wine could go toe-to-toe with any fine pinot noir that’s retailing for double the price. Drink it when you’re feeling fancy and want to (reasonably) ball out on wine.

How Much I’d Pay For This Bottle: $45

Underwood Cellars Pinot Noir

lcbo.com

ABV: 13%
Average Price: $14

The Wine:

This Oregon-made wine is one of many labels under Union Wine Company, a winery that prides itself on producing delectable wines on Oregon soil that are approachable and inexpensive. A true no-fuss pinot noir, it’s made with grapes that come from all across the state.

Tasting Notes:

Although this wine is rather light in body, it’s dynamic in taste. Smells of cherry cola come to life on the palate along with notes of black and red currants. Hints of dried leaves give the wine a slightly earthy edge in the finish, which wraps up pretty quickly.

Bottom Line:

This is an easy, everyday-drinking type of wine. P.S.: You can also buy it in a can!

How Much I’d Pay For This Bottle: $16

H3 Merlot

Drizly

ABV: 14.5%

Average Price: $13

The Wine:

Located in the Heaven Hills AVA in Eastern Washington, H3 is the little sister label to the grand dame Columbia Crest Winery, which produces top-notch wines within the Columbia Valley region of Washington state. This merlot-predominate deep red wine (it’s blended with about 9 percent syrah) is one that H3 has produced since the label was launched in 2008.

Tasting Notes:

This wine smells of baking spices and clove, but the palate is luscious with flavors of black and red cherries, blackberry and a twinge of cocoa. The finish is rich with velvety tannins that feel almost a little hairy on the tongue.

Bottom Line:

This is the juice to wash down those lighter grilled meats like salmon or chicken. Making something with red sauce or balsamic vinaigrette? H3 Merlot will highlight the acidic qualities of that too.

How Much I’d Pay For This Bottle: $20

Murphy Goode Red Wine Blend

Shop Wine Direct

ABV: 13.5%

Average Price: $13

The Wine:

Aged in French and American oak, this wine may seem big because of its robust blend of zinfandel, merlot, petite syrah, petite verdot, syrah and cabernet sauvignon grapes — all of which are grown across California wine country. It is definitely a complex and layered beverage, but the sip surprisingly softer than a cloud.

Tasting Notes:

On the nose, this garnet red wine opens up with aromas of licorice, vanilla and blueberries. The sip is rich and sweet with jammy notes of Bing cherries and red fruit upfront while a subtle note of spice kicks around on the backend. The finish is long, lush, and soft, and it’s there where you’ll notice the hints of aged oak that seem to mellow everything out.

Bottom Line:

Pick up some ground beef or turkey from the grocery store and make a banging home-made burger to crush with this wine.

How Much I’d Pay For This Bottle: $18

Cline Cellars Cashmere Red Blend

Binny

ABV: 14.5%
Average Price: $13

The Wine:

Most of the grapes in this blend of grenache, mourvèdre and syrah come from vineyards across Contra Costa County in California. Dry-farmed sandy soils, thinned grape clusters and moderate Sonoma temperatures help winemakers produce a ruby red wine that is concentrated with syrupy red fruit flavors, a little spice, and the body to stand up to any big meal.

Tasting Notes:

Don’t be put off by the aromas of spicy cured meat on this wine — there’s no soppressata or salami involved, even though it smells like it. On the palate, the wine is a bath of cherries and blueberries, which get an interesting boost from a hint of chocolate and black pepper in the end. The finish is medium length and silky, expressing good acidity and nice, firm tannins.

Bottom Line:

Take your time with this wine. Serve it at a dinner party and let it breathe a bit while you converse with your guests. You’ll notice how it starts to evolve in the glass and display those fruity, spicy notes more vibrantly throughout the night.

How Much I’d Pay For This Bottle: $25

Joel Gott Zinfandel

Heb.com

ABV: 14.4%
Average Price: $15

The Wine:

Although some of the grapes used for this wine are soured from California regions like Sonoma, Amador, and Borden Ranch, the bulk of them comes from Lodi — the area where the zinfandel grape is the real supreme. This wine gets fermented in new American oak and two-year-old French oak to achieve an elegant and balanced taste.

Tasting Notes:

This wine smells like a pool of blackberries, and it tastes like one too. It’s not the jammy zins of yore, though. This is a full-body-leaning wine that gets a character lift from a hint of vanilla and crushed-suede tannins mid-palate. It all comes together with a dousing of white pepper, which gives the elongated finish a pleasantly spicy boost.

Bottom Line:

Yet another delectable dinner wine that will work just as well with your hearty winter roasts and duck confit as it will with summer ribs slathered in barbecue sauce.

How Much I’d Pay For This Bottle: $30

Josh Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon

Binny

ABV: 13.9%
Average Price: $16

The Wine:

Everyone loves Josh Cellars’ wines. They’re as approachable as they are accessible, and it’s been that way ever since Joseph Carr launched the wine label in 2002 with his very first premium cabernet sauvignon.

Tasting Notes:

Ripe and fresh, this wine smells like blackberries and black cherries nestled under a hot and flaky pie crust. You’ll get a mouthful of those berry notes on the palate, along with a splashing of black plum, black currant and spices like cinnamon and hazelnut. Overall a dry wine, there are some flavors of vanilla in the end that intertwine with big, velvety tannins for a grande finale of a finish.

Bottom Line:

This is your go-to, reliable, can always depend on cabernet sauvignon. It’s going to be worth every penny every time, and you’ll always be shocked at how little you paid for it.

How Much I’d Pay For This Bottle: $30

Smith & Hook Cabernet Sauvignon

Corner Shop

ABV: 14.8%

Average Price: $20

The Wine:

This wine is made completely with cabernet sauvignon grapes, however, the fruit is sourced from vineyards across California’s San Antonio Valley, Paso Robles, Hames Valley, Arroyo Seco and San Benito County. That results in one hell of an expressive cab sauv that showcases some of the best of what California has to offer.

Tasting Notes:

Now, this is a big, big wine. It’s full of body and character that you’ll sense as soon as you pop the cork and smell aromas of blackberry, charred oak, tobacco leaves, and toffee. The palate is dense with juicy flavors of blue, black, and boysenberries, black currant, and elderberry. But all that fruit simmers down from notes of mocha and baking spice. The finish is lush and hella long.

Bottom Line:

If you support diversity and inclusion in the wine industry then you’ll really love this wine. It’s produced by a woman winemaker, and she makes a pretty kickass Proprietary Red Blend too. You can read more about that HERE.

How Much I’d Pay For This Bottle: $45

Decoy Cabernet Sauvignon

Binny

ABV: 13.9%

Average Price: $20

The Wine:

You know that phrase, “Smoother than a baby’s bottom?” That’s the feeling you’ll get after a sip or seven of this incredibly lush cabernet sauvignon. Yes, it has that bold body and structure that cabernets tend to have, but with small amounts of merlot, zinfandel, petite sirah, syrah, and petit verdot, this wine is ultimately plusshhhh AF.

Tasting Notes:

This wine is perfumed with fragrances of the standard berry trio: Blackberry, blueberry, and black cherry. All that fruit is noticeable in the sip, but it all mingles with layers of dark chocolate, spice, and a sprinkle of spearmint that gives the wine an elegant freshness. Heavy tannins round out the wine for a long and completely smooth finish.

Bottom Line:

Show up to the party with a bottle of this, and watch the way everyone marvels over your excellent choice. Then smile to yourself because nobody knows you scooped it up at the grocery store just minutes before you arrived.

How Much I’d Pay For This Bottle: $50

DAOU Vineyards Paso Robles Cabernet Sauvignon

Wine.com

ABV: 14.5%

Average Price: $25

The Wine:

For sure this is a full-bodied wine as expected from most Californian cab sauvs. But this a pretty youthful wine. Grapes used for this are only aged 11 months, which allows the wine to exude a fresh, ripe mouthfeel that makes it a good bottle for those who are new to wines as sophisticated and complex as cab sauv.

Tasting Notes:

On the nose, this nearly purple red wine features aromas of black cherry, freshly chopped wood, and crushed rocks. Woodsy vibes are prevalent on the palate too, but more noticeable are the notes of blueberry, cherry, black plum, and fig. As the sip evolves, notes of fresh leather, baking spice, and firm tannins come into play before the wine evolves into its sweet cherry silky finish, which is incredibly long and memorable.

Bottom Line:

This is the wine to drink when you’re developing your palate and looking to venture into bigger, bolder wines.

How Much I’d Pay For This Bottle: $40

×