Pandemic times call for pandemic measures — and this mostly means minimal visits to grocery stores with maximum stock-up on all the staples (wine included). In March, my wine budget was a lot more abundant, frequently splurging on favorites like Brunello, White Burgundy, Rioja and other favorites to help me feel like I was roaming through wine country in Italy, France, or Spain, with each sip. Fast forward: Work slowed down, as did my wine budget, but this hasn’t slowed down my appreciation for wine. And I've learned you can experience the taste of a place on a mega budget, too.
Each week, my quarantine friends—a party of three!—safely gather in the yard or on the porch (or sometimes with beach chairs in the living room, pending weather) to check out our collective grocery store wine hauls of the week. Sometimes we’ll stick to rosé, sometimes it’s a nice mix of everything, but it’s mostly a fun time to catch up and talk about wine in a non-fussy environment.
That said, we’re back at the best grocery store wines to buy, and this time, expect a slew of bottles that are under $10 from Trader Joe’s. Repeat under $10 (and many under the $5 mark too)—including a $7 bubbly that is super refreshing. We’re here to tell you to never judge a label by its price tag as there’s some excellent inexpensive stuff waiting in the wine aisles. Check out these very drinkable bottles below and be sure to stock up on your next grocery store visit.
A $7 Bubbly Staple
If you love French Champagne and Italian Prosecco, don’t overlook Spanish Cava. It’s from a bubbly region in Spain, called Penedes, just south of Barcelona. And for $7 a pop, it’s ideal to grab at least four bottles of the La Granja 360 Cava Brut, with a duck on the label for easy access, when perusing the wine aisles. (Remember, from our sparkling wine guide, that Brut means unsweet and dry). Expect a bright, crisp, lemon-y taste. Toss out a few salty snacks like nuts, smoked fish, cured meats and cheeses, and call it a day. FYI it’s refreshing on its own too, or makes for a stellar brunch mimosa.
VINTJS Monterey County Rosé is one of chef and sommelier Laura Pauli’s favorite buys for summer. “Well into our hottest month of the summer a bright, light rosé is the perfect wine to grab as you head outside—socially distanced of course— to the beach, the park or poolside,” says Pauli. Trader Joe's VINTJS Monterey County Rosé from the Central Coast is crisp and lively with notes of freshly picked juicy strawberries and rose petals,” she adds. Plus it’s a steal at $7 a bottle. Pauli pairs with everything from fruit salad to shellfish to chilled, poached dill salmon—or with a lounge chair and a good book.
A Porch Drinking Red
A few food and beverage industry friends raved about Terrain Vineyards California Red Blend, coming in at $4 a bottle (nope, you didn’t read that wrong!). Not going to lie, the price was a little worrisome as reds are more complex than whites, but during wine night a few weeks ago, a girlfriend proclaimed how nice and refreshing it was—and a nice break from the white wine we’ve been getting after. It’s a little jammy but not overkill and is overall a super-smooth drinking red to keep on hand. As I’ve mentioned in previous wine pieces, reds can be challenging to pair with foods but when you find a solid red blend such as this gem, buy it fast—before all of my friends wipe out the aisles. Truth be told I don’t need any food to go with this red. It’s a solid porch sipping wine or the perfect bottle for watching the Heart of Dixie with my roommate.
Like Strawberry Wine, But Way Better
This watermelon-hued Espiral Vinho Rosé ($5) turned into an instant favorite after having it over in a friend’s yard one evening. It legit makes me want to scream out the lyrics to Deana Carter’s “Strawberry Wine” and I'm here to say it’s way more palatable than whatever “strawberry wine” you were sipping on circa late 90s. Think hints of strawberries and lemongrass and peach with a fizzy factor that’s super pleasing—but not too bubbly. It sells out fast and it’s the best wine to take over when you have no idea what’s being served…it just goes with everything.
Summer BBQ Wine
Hailing from Spain, La Paca Sonriente Garnacha ($7) is a wine that I'd whip out alongside a summertime picnic or a backyard barbecue. It’s a little bolder with dark cherry and leathery notes but still super approachable (and drinkable) when it comes to a cheaply priced red. And because it’s a little more spicy (you’ll probably be able to pick up on some cinnamon vibes right away), serve it up with pulled pork, fried chicken, and really any kind of grilled meats, too.
A Charcuterie & Cheese Board Rosé
When it’s too hot to eat a large meal, may we suggest a sizeable charcuterie and cheese board and several bottles of Banfi Tuscany Centine Rosé. I’ve seen this in other grocery stores for around $14 but always find it for around $7 at TJ’s. While I never tire of rosé, I often feel too monogamous with French rosé. From Tuscany, Italy, expect a crisp, aromatic, berry-centric rosé that can stand alone as an aperitif—or as the star libation to help wash down all the meats and cheeses.
A Great Burger Night Wine
Christopher Southern, winemaker at Detroit Vineyards, the city's only winery and tasting room, raves about Corvelia Zinfandel from Paso Robles, California. It’s a solid $10 red and Southern notes that it’s a “great example of a California Zin with some restraint.” Expect a bit if jamminess with notes of plums and raisins, making it a solid supper wine that will not disappoint. “It’s absolutely perfect to pair with carnitas or burgers,” he notes, so keep in mind next time you dust off the grill or make tacos.