With grocery stores stocking so many brands of alcohol in their liquor sections, it was inevitable that the bigger chains would eventually provide their own booze options. So many outlets are getting in on the store-brand liquor game that it's tempting to grab these lesser-known bottles sitting next to the big dogs and try one to see how it stacks up. Many of these signature selections are provided through partnerships with serious purveyors of high-quality alcoholic beverages. So while the names may not strike you as familiar when you see them on the shelves, the creators behind them are often of a higher quality than you might imagine.
Not all private-label grocery store alcohol rises to the occasion, however. We did some investigative re-pour-ing to find out which grocery store alcohol brands you're better off avoiding and which bottles are your best bet for a good time. If some of these discoveries come as a surprise to you, you're not alone; we were stunned to find out that retailers like Walmart and Target had their own signature selections. Read on to see if these specialized sips are a smart pour or a hard pass.
Giant — Artisan Vintners Wine
Wine shoppers in the Mid-Atlantic states can take advantage of Giant Food's Artisan Vintner label. Produced and bottled by Sonoma-based Larson Family Winery, these award-winning wines offer a slim spectrum of varietals at value-friendly prices. Larson Family Winery operates several sustainable vineyards in Northern California, with a full suite of organically-grown varietals represented under its own label. Giant's partnership with Larson is a unique connection that ties the grocery chain to a boutique winery.
It would be logical to rank an award-worthy offering near the top of the charts ... if only we could learn more about it. Though a dedicated page on the site lists Artisan Vintners wines as a current offering, no wine of any sort appeared in our Giant Food shopping web search. Whether due to regional restrictions for online wine shopping or limited availability in select locations, though the notable quality of Artisan Vintners is intriguing enough to have caught our eye, being unable to dig further into what this label is all about keeps us from being able to move Giant Food's acclaimed wines higher on the list.
Albertsons — Signature Reserve
Albertsons stakes its claim in the house-label liquor world with Signature Reserve, a line of wines and spirits intended to elevate the quality of private-label bottles. The wine options include white, Cabernet Sauvignon, brut sparkling wine, and Pinot Noir — a pretty standard line-up, at prices comparable to name brands. The company has also packaged sampler-sized bottles as a wine Advent calendar, a clever attempt to get the word out about wine that might otherwise be overlooked as just another second-rate store brand booze. The calendar allowed Albertsons to compete with Aldi, which offers its own wine Advent calendar.
Albertsons isn't any more creative with its choices for hard liquor, bringing vodka, Tennessee whiskey, Canadian whisky, and dry gin to market and bypassing more intriguing possibilities. These premier versions replaced much cheaper versions sold simply as Albertson's brand liquors at botttom-of-the-barrel prices, hovering around the $3.00 mark for a 375-milliliter bottle. With bottles available in all stores under the Albertsons umbrella, including Safeway and Vons, these private label selections are widely available for consumers to try out. Prices are comparable to brands with higher visibility, which may be a dealbreaker for discerning drinkers. This, combined with the lack of interesting options, makes Signature Reserve rank low on our list.
Walmart – Winemakers Selection Cellar Reserve Wines
It's surprising that Walmart, the headquarters of super-discount shopping, goes to great lengths to provide high-quality house brand wines to customers with a careful eye and a desire for bargain booze. Walmart introduced its Winemakers Selection line in 2018 and added a Classic Series in 2021, expanding the list of varietals offered. There's also a Reserve Series that brings international wines with regional flavors to shelves, including a Pinot Grigio from Italy and a Malbec from Argentina. Even with its reputation as a low-price leader, Walmart appears to take its wine offerings seriously, keeping quality high and prices more than reasonable. Many bottles retail for around $5, a number sweet enough to inspire repeat purchases. Some of the more premium options sell for closer to $10.
Has so much consideration for providing in-house wine gone to waste? Listings on the Walmart website show no more than four reviews for any varietal, with some reporting less than 3-star averages. Though the tasteful graphics on the labels may present Walmart wine in its best light, underwhelming responses from consumers tell a different story. If you have limited funds and happen to be in Walmart, it might be worth a try. But even Wally World has better low-shelf options.
Trader Joe's — Two Buck Chuck Wine
If you've ever wondered where the name Chuck in Trader Joe's Two Buck Chuck comes from, the answer is on the label: These bottles are actually Charles Shaw wine. Charles Shaw, the "Chuck" in Two-Buck Chuck, is a real human who began a wine line that was ultimately sold to winemaker Franzia. In 2002, Trader Joe's picked up excess stock of wine bearing the Charles Shaw name when Franzia had to unload excess stock, kicking off the Two-Buck Chuck phenomenon. The wine is so popular that TJ's has sold more than a billion bottles in just over 20 years.
But can a wine so inexpensive really please the palate? That depends on who you ask. Consumer opinion on Two-Buck Chuck ranges from rapturous to resentful, with some true wine drinkers scorning fans of this well-known discount wine. Reddit users point out that the price has risen to $3.00 or more at times, which makes the name an outdated moniker for a super-affordable beverage. Regardless of the taste, it's hard to argue with such colossal sales. So while Two-Buck Chuck may not be the best house-label wine in the grocery world, it's clearly one of the most loved.
Kroger — Simple Truth Organic Wines
For canny Kroger shoppers who favor a more sustainable wine-drinking experience, the Simple Truth label offers a quintet of organic wines. These wines are made using organic grapes grown in wine-rich regions around the world, including Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon from California, Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand, prosecco from Italy, and rosé from France. Unlike some other house brand wine collections, Simple Truth includes a prosecco to spruce up brunch beverages and christen celebrations with bubbles.
Reviews are middling for the Cabernet Sauvignon, with a 3-star average among 148 total ratings, as well as the Sauvignon Blanc, with a 3.4-star average among 116 total ratings. Not all wines are available in all Kroger locations, so a bit of research may be needed in order to find these bottles. Online outlets like Beverage Warehouse and Wine Online Delivery carry some stock as well. As with many organic products, pricing for these bottles can be at a premium depending on where you shop. Current listings show the price hovering just below $20 a bottle at Kroger stores, with delivery from some online outlets priced considerably higher.
Southern shoppers can treat themselves to a bottle of store-brand premium wine at Publix. This popular chain is so forward-thinking about its liquor sales that it even allows customers to drink as they shop. So it's no surprise that a retailer with innovation in mind would partner with winemakers to present its own proprietary bottles. Crafting them in limited-edition quantities is another stroke of marketing magic that makes Publix wines feel like a special find. Priced between $17.99 and $19.99, these pours are far from a bargain. But sometimes buying wine means spending a little extra on something you like.
Publix shelves its premium wines in Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Cabernet Sauvignon, with all three produced in the growing regions of Northern California. Online ratings show the Chardonnay at a solid 3.9-star out of 5-star average with 82 ratings overall. An across-the-board rating on Vivino for all three wines shows a 3.7-star average among 284 total ratings. But with bottles only available in one-fifth of stores across the chain, finding a Publix Premium bottle could be like unearthing a hidden gem.
Aldi – Winking Owl Wine
With a feathered, flirtatious cartoon flyer on the label, Aldi gives its loyal customers a high-quality affordable wine to enjoy with its Winking Owl wine selection. Fans of reds and whites can glide through the wine aisle and find shelves loaded with bottles of Chardonnay, Merlot, white Zinfandel, and more. There's even a boxed white blend for the moments when presentation is less important than instant enjoyment. No need to pop another cork when the Winking Owl wine box valve is already pouring the good stuff. These wines have won awards in the Beverage Testing Institute World Wine Championships, affirming the idea that great-tasting wine doesn't have to break your budget.
The producer behind Winking Owl wine is E&J Gallo, the Modesto, California winemaker that brings a vast array of wines to market under its own name, sometimes listed as Ernest & Julio Gallo or Gallo Family. Having the pedigree of a nearly-hundred-year-old winery behind the sly wink means Aldi's house label is backed by premium craftsmanship, even at a comfortably reduced retail price. What this means for Aldi shoppers is a wine-drinking enjoyment that might taste familiar but comes at a fraction of the cost.
Costco — Kirkland Signature
Whether you're shopping for Kirkland Signature wines, beers, or spirits, you'll find private-label alcohol to satisfy your thirst. For its Kirkland wine line, Costco flexes its retail muscle by sourcing its wines from all around the world. The result are pours that rival dedicated wineries, providing top-tier wines shoppers associate with the high-quality Kirkland brand. Though online chatter calls out certain varietals over others as more enjoyable pours, no wines receive outright pans.
Similarly, Costco partners with, Gordon Biersch and F.X. Matt Brewing (doing a hopping business under the name Saranac), each of which produces Kirkland beers for varying regions of the U.S. under the clever name Hopfen Und Malz Brewing Co. Online buzz is largely kind, with a few complaints about weak flavor but praise for pricing, making this grocery booze worthy of a modest froth.
Connections with established distillers also let Costco flesh out its boozy catalog with high-caliber bottles in all categories. A prime example: Kirkland bourbon is produced by Barton 1792 Distillery, a company that produces small-batch craft beverages with a higher rye concentration. Forbes gives all three variants high marks for flavor and value, which is no small shakes.
Target — Casa Cantina
Big-box behemoth Target hits the bullseye with Casa Cantina, a line of house-brand alcoholic beverages made for celebrating. These drinks include pre-mixed margaritas made with sweet fruit essences, bottled in three popular flavors: Classic Lime Margarita, Strawberry Margarita, and Mango. There's also Piña Colada for tropical drink lovers and Grapefruit Paloma for connoisseurs of tangier cocktails. Target puts the party right in the bottle with ready-to-drink tropical sips you can enjoy without having to play mixologist. Just twist the lid and pour over ice for a juicy cocktail experience.
Including private-label pre-mixed margaritas in its liquor section is a clever move for Target, with Casa Cantina joining name-brand mixes in the chain's superstore grocery locations. These succulent swigs are also all the best things beverages should be: gluten-free, vegan, made without corn syrup, and free of artificial flavors and sweeteners. The secret is 100% agave wine, which mixes blanco tequila with fermented agave. For a value-priced grocery liquor available under $10 per 12-serving bottle, Casa Cantina is a thoughtful bargain booze that fans of mixed drinks would be foolish to pass up.
Southern California grocer Gelson's takes an admirable run at the grocery store liquor game with its private-label wines. The retailer goes beyond the usual suspects to include such rarities as Grenache, Syrah, and Sangiovese. Various wineries collaborate with Gelson's to produce market-ready wines bearing the Gelson's name in gold script. Prices on these bottles are as premium as the nectar inside, placing these near the bottom of the budget tally. But the price also speaks to the superior quality, as taste-tester Meredith May attests to in her review of four varietals. No bottle receives less than a 93 rating out of 100, which is good news for shoppers who don't mind dropping a pretty penny for a proper pour.
The limited availability of Gelson's wines makes it a difficult grocery store liquor to find. With only 28 locations, all centered in Southern California, Gelson's would find a small audience even at lower prices. Wine devotees in the region looking for something different to add to their glass may find a trip to Gelson's could be a deliciously unexpected answer to the question, "What should I drink with dinner tonight?"
Sam's Club - Member's Mark Liquors
Warehouse warrior Sam's Club shares its select Member's Mark liquor line with members looking for premium beverages at deep discounts. A more creative catalog of spirits helps the retailer rise above the competition. Sure, there's vodka and highly-rated spiced rum, as expected. But there are also two tequilas, Canadian whisky, scotch, French vodka, and silver rum. It's enough to make an amateur mixologist lose their shaker. Who wouldn't be tempted to stock a home liquor cabinet with these luscious libations, knowing some bottles are priced at less than half of what the name-brand competitors offer?
Not all Member's Mark liquors hit the bullseye, even if the price tags tend toward the dreamy side. As our Sam's Club liquor ranking points out, it wouldn't be unwise to skip the blended scotch, silver tequila reposado, golden margarita, and holiday eggnog. The other offerings stack up as buy-worthy bottles with good-to-excellent customer reviews that can add to your beverage life without doing substantial damage to your rainy-day fund. Having so many options on the menu helps Sam's Club shake the competition and land at the top of our ranking.
Read the original article on Mashed.