The Best Affordable Wines You Haven't Heard Of Yet
No one will know how cheap your wine is. Cheers to that!
A high-performance sports bra. A good haircut. Fresh seafood. Some things are worth splurging on-when paying a bit more makes a big difference.
Wine can be on that list, but when you realize 80 percent of the cost of a bottle of name brand vino can go straight to advertising (not the grapes), the hefty price tag can be tough to swallow.
Enter these lesser-known varietals that generally fall below $16, the national average price of a bottle. The common threads: Most are meant to be drunk young, so don't store these for years in your cellar. They also tend to be overshadowed by more prevalent, yet similar grapes or regions. Good news: No one at the holiday party will know you went for a more affordable option, and you'll look like a wine connoisseur when you drop some of these fun facts.
Also known as txakolina (and sometimes spelled as it's pronounced, chacoli), this white wine is a mainstay at tapas restaurants in Spain but is lesser known in the states. That obscurity means you can find a great bottle for less than $20.
Why try it: Just the tiniest bit effervescent, mineral-forward, and low in alcohol, Txakoli is refreshing and easy to drink. You might notice a slight funky, mushroomy element in some bottles, making it a nice partner to many savory appetizers. (Related: 10 Healthy Dinner Recipes for People Who Love to Cook with Wine and Booze)
Hop across the border from Spain to Portugal to find the Vinho Verde region and its ridiculously affordable wines (we're talking $10 a bottle). While locals enjoy red, rosé, and white Vinho Verde wines, you'll be most likely to find white or rosé at your wine store. Look for a tall, skinny bottle with a screw top.
Why try it: This varietal is crisp, citrusy, and a natural partner to seafood since it's grown near the sea. Plus, the fizz is fun for a party! (Think of Vinho Verde as the midpoint between a sparkling and a flat wine.) Since they generally fall between 9 and 11 percent alcohol, Vinho Verdes are lower in calories than alcohol bombs like zinfandel and cabernet sauvignon.
This white wine has a reputation. Even its name, meaning "musky tasting" in France where this wine is made, isn't very flattering. Luckily, the often-derided Melon de Bourgogne grapes featured in Muscadets are being treated with respect now (often being aged for a couple years with a yeast that makes them more complex). The best news: The upgrade in quality hasn't translated into an upgrade in price. A good bottle of Muscadet can be found for around $15.
Why try it: If buttery chardonnays are your worst wine enemy, you'll like underripe fruit-forward Muscadets. French law requires they have less than 12 percent alcohol, so they're light and won't leave you with a headache. A bottle of Muscadet is ideal for serving with scallops, oysters, french fries, and other French fare.
One of the three red grapes allowed to be grown in the up-and-coming French wine region of Jura, trousseau is fairly light in color and often features red fruit and slightly gamey flavors. It's known as bastardo in Portugal, where it's mixed with other grapes to make port, a fortified wine, and is now grown in California as well. Keep your eyes open for a bottle in the $15 range. (Related: The Definitive *Truth* About Wine and Its Health Benefits)
Why try it: Trousseaus live on the lighter end of the red spectrum, similar to pinot noir. This varietal is medium-high in acidity, so it pairs well with rich foods like grilled filet mignon. (Did someone say date night?)
Every year around harvest time, vineyards in the French region south of Burgundy scramble to bottle, ship and sell their Beaujolais Nouveau. More of a celebration of the harvest than an actually tasty wine, this tradition has caused many to associate Gamay-based Beaujolais with low-quality, too-young buys. But be patient and stock up on bottles of $20-ish Cru Beaujolais or $15 Beaujolais Superieur after the rush and you'll be rewarded with a great sip for how much you spend.
Why try it: Exhibiting tart fruits, banana, and a hint of smokiness, there's much more to Beaujolais than the Nouveau craze. It's generally 10 to 13 percent alcohol and is a delightful partner to nearly any protein: chicken, pork, and beef. Chill slightly before serving and enjoy any month of the year-not just in the fall. (Related: The Best Wines for Your Waistline)
Grenache, or garnacha as it's known in Spain, is one of the most commonly planted grapes in the world. Following the supply-and-demand curve, you can spot a nice bottle of this medium-bodied red in the ballpark of $12. Keep your eye out for this grape's cameo in several popular blends like GSM (grenache, syrah, mourvèdre) and Châteauneuf-du-Pape.
Why try it: Grenache, showcasing a nice mix of berry and peppery notes, is the one wine on this list that isn't for lightweights. With alcohol levels around 13 to 15 percent, these low-acid wines pack a punch. Serve a bottle of grenache with spicy cuisine like Indian takeout to mimic the pepper and heat in the meal.
A sparkling wine grown mainly around the coastline of France, crémant is surprisingly similar to Champagne. The only differences? Their origin (bottles labeled as "Champagne" with a capital "C" must be grown in that appellation, or geographic area, only), the minimum aging time with yeast (12 months for crémant compared to 15 months for Champagne), and the grapes allowed (crémants are more flexible than the three-grape-only Champagne). Oh yes, and the $10 to $15 price tag.
Why try it: When you're not sure what wine to pair with food, opt for a sparkling. Crémant, alongside Spanish cava, is one of the most affordable bubblies you can buy. High in quality, low in cost, and on the edge of being oh-so-trendy, crémant is worth hunting for.