Last week New York Times wine columnist Eric Asimov published a list of “15 Wines under $15: Inexpensive Bottles for Stay-at-Home Drinking.” It’s always fun and interesting to go through Asimov’s price-constrained wine lists (he often features 20 under $20 wines) and this one got me thinking about wine and coronavirus recession drinking.
Fifteen dollars is a good limit to consider — some wine critics have suggested that $15-$20 is the current “sweet spot” for everyday wines. But, in the spirit of hard times, why not step down just a little more in price and see what we can find?
Good Wines at Good Prices
And so I am soliciting nominations (use the comments section below) for a list of 10 wines under $10. Do you have a favorite wine in this price range? If so, tell us what it is, how much it costs, where you bought it, and why you like it. Sue and I will use some of our shelter-in-place time to vet the list to be published in an upcoming column. Nominations (one per reader) close at the end of April, so you have a couple of weeks to work on this. Drink up!
There are only two rules. First, the wine must be generally available here in the US market, which means basically we are looking at supermarket wines or their equivalent. And, second, the regular price needs to be $9.99 or less. Close-out prices are sweet, but that’s a different story. Unfortunately, I think this rules out Grocery Outlet purchases from the final list, although I don’t object to hearing from you if you have a close-out favorite you’d like to share.
A Tuesday Night Wine
Just to get the ball rolling, I will nominate Red Blend Portugal by Casa Santos Lima, which we bought at Costco for $5.99 a bottle. It is a juicy red blend that’s dry with just enough tannin. We drank up a case of it lightly chilled with barbecue over the summer last year and we recently had it again during lock down with hearty ham and bean soup from the freezer. It is a simple wine meant to drink, not something to philosophize over or lay down for the future — an example of what Sue calls a Tuesday night wine.
There’s another reason to think seriously about less expensive wines right now. As recent Wine Economist columns have explained, the global economy has slipped into a recession that is likely to be more severe than the global financial crisis of a dozen years ago. Short term growth forecasts (see table) released last week by the Economist Intelligence Unit paint a dismal picture of global economic conditions through the middle of 2020.
Income and wealth have already fallen dramatically in many parts of the world and unemployment has surged. More than 17 million ex-workers have applied for unemployment benefits in the U.S. in the last three weeks alone. Trading down to good wine at a lower price is not a ridiculous thing to consider in these circumstances.
We will be interested to see your nominations and perhaps to compare them with Asimov’s slightly more upmarket list. There’s a big difference between $10 and $15 in today’s wine market. Sales of wines in the $12 – $15 price range have been growing strong over the last couple of years (and not just during the recent stock-up surge) while sales of bottled wines in every segment below $10 have been falling.
The Big Squeeze
Why are cheaper wines in a slump? There are lots of explanations, but some of my industry friends privately tell me they think that quality is a factor. Production costs keep increasing, they say, but consumers resist attempts to raise price. Something has to give in the cost-price squeeze and, in some cases corners are cut to preserve margins.
I don’t know how generally this is true, but the 10 under $10 challenge is an opportunity to see how much quality there is at this price point. And it will be kinda fun to see what wines people suggest.
Thanks in advance for nominating wines for the Wine Economist 10 under $10 challenge. Stay well. Be safe.
Red: 2017 Penfolds Koonunga Hill Shiraz-Cabernet, $8.99
White: 2018 Bellini Frascati, $8.99
Both purchased from Total Wine, The Woodlands, TX location
La Nervera Blanco $20 3L BIB
Trader Joe’s Pinot Grigio 3L BIB $12
Upper Left Cabernet
Wholefoods Shreveport, LA
Back when I worked at Total Wine, I always had a list of reliable under $10 wines for wedding customers who needed something good that fit a budget.
These were my Top 10 under $10 stars that should be available at TWs across the country.
Kia Ora Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc $9.99
Les Parcelles Marc Dupas Loire Sauvignon Blanc $9.99
Angeline California Chardonnay $9.99
Magic Box Red Blend Spain $7.99
Martin’s Pick Up Australia Cabernet Sauvignon $6.99 (Their Shiraz & Chard are good too)
For more adventurous customers:
Saladini Pilastri Pecorino from Offida DOC $9.99 (Good for SB & PG drinkers)
Caleo Salice Salentino $9.99
Domaine du Mistral Plan de Dieu Rhone Rouge $9.99
San Gregorio Single Vineyard Las Martas Garnacha $9.99
Chopo Jumilla Monastrell $9.99 (The Spanish aisle was always ripe with crazy good values)
The Portugal wine you illustrate changed for all time my previous belief that blends are not likely any good. So wrong. Then I realized my all time (since living in Australia) Best Buy is a blend, not of different grapes, but of grapes from many sites throughout eastern Australia. Lindeman’s is widely available for about $7.00, reds and whites and always a screw top.
My joys just barely under $10:
wht: Clean Slate Mosel Riesling 2018 Germany $9.99
wht: Cantine Colosi Biano Grillo Sicilia Italy 2018 $9.99
red: Vina Falernia Pedro Ximenez Elqui Valley, Chile $9.99
red: Mont Gravet Carignon Vieilles Vigne France 2018 $9.99
rose: Mont Gravet Cotes de Gascogne Rose France 2018 $8.99
sparkling: Jules Larose Blanc de Blancs Brut Sparkling Wine France nv $9.99
All absolutely yummy, and have large fan bases. However, I think a large segment of our buyers here in the Wash DC area won’t consider wines under $10, maybe because of FOMO (Fear of Missing Out), or FOLC (Fear of Looking Cheap), or IODEW (I Only Drink Expensive Wine), The many others who drink for the taste and not because of an acronym know they’re getting a good bottle. These customers seem to have bigger smiles.
This nominee may not make the “Top 10” list because it is available on close-out at (some) Grocery Outlet stores, but I recommend the 1999 York Creek red Meritage. Fully mature but not over-the-hill, it is a lovely “claret” selling for the princely sum of 8 bucks per half bottle.
York Creek winery on Spring Mountain was founded by Fritz Maytag, more famously known as the Stanford University grad who used his family inheritance (think washers and dryers sold in Sears stores) to rescue San Francisco’s historic Anchor Brewery from extinction.
Here is the link to York Creek’s website selling “library wines.”
The 1999 vintage red Meritage wine in 375 ML format is 8 bucks at Grocery Outlet.
The other vintage red Meritage wines in 750 ML format are 15 bucks at Grocery Outlet.
Ka – ching!
winecurmudgeon.com, Mike. Only for the past 15 years…
I agree … you are my guru for these wines!
At this range for delivered wine, the nominal bottle price is not at all useful. Shipping a case can cost between $0 and $5/bottle. Sales tax between $0 and $1/bottle. Promotional coupons can run between $0 and $3/bottle (e.g., $50 on $150 at wine.com). That’s $9 of variability on a $10 wine! Gotta look at net delivered cost including product, shipping, tax and promotions.
Hello Mike: Love the idea – but a no-brainer here. Trader Joe’s has carried the Sauvignon Republic Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand for several vintages. It’s still only $7.99 at least here in California – and a perennial favorite here. Second choice? Almost any other Trader Joe’s wine!!
It’s hard for me to tell you where to get this wine- I ordered it from the producer after meeting him at WineParis but know it’s distributed in the US. Weingut Höllerer “Hanzel” Grüner Veltliner, 7€ (about $10 depending on the exchange rate). Super fresh, bright and impeccably balanced Grüner yet it has a soft side that makes it great with a variety of food.
Hello Mike : my hot list
Trapiche Broquel Malbec 2017 at 9,99
Mascota Vineyards Rose at 8,97
Matua Sauvignon Blanc Marlboroug at 9,97.
All today prices at Total Wine & more.
Enjoy during quarantine and try more after that.
As an example of my previous comment. Luis found the Matua Sauvignon Blanc at $9.97 @ Total Wine. At wine.com, it’s $12.99. So it’s cheaper at Total Wine?
Well, imagine you buy a case of it (or a mixed case of whatever you want, doesn’t matter) = $155.88. Then you apply coupon FBR50 and get $50 off. You also apply the current Amex promotion of $30 off wine.com. Finally, you apply the Retailmenot 20% cashback promo at wine.com.
$155.88 – 50 – 30 – 31.18 = $44.70 / 12 = $3.73/bottle.
While this is at the lower-end of the market, it works up-range as well
Is this an example of what Tom Lehrer called “The New Math”?
Hi Mike, as the wine lackey at Trader Joe’s, I have quite the lot to pick from that are under $10. May I submit my list?
Of course, Brian. Especially if you identify your top three choices.
Howdy Mike, here are my current top three:
1. Tj’s reserve Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia valley Waluke slope 2016; $9.99
2. El Castilla Syrah 2018 Spain; $7.99
3. Vaga del Oragon gran reserva 2011; $6.99
I picked up the Hedges CMS (Cab-Merlot-Syrah) at Costco yesterday because Tom Hedges was a UPS Logger and a Beta, so I thought I would give his $8.95 wine a try. It is a nice ruby color and the first noticeable part of the bouquet is fruitiness of the syrah followed by rich scents of the merlot. The cab is pretty quiet on the bouquet. First taste is pleasing and the cab tannin leaves an impression, Laurie’s second comment on the wine. If I were to guess the cab was not their best but they did a good job of adding a nice balance of merlot and syrah to make this a very acceptable wine. And under $9, I would say this would work very well for your Tuesday wine. And if I think of the producer side of the business (remember I was associated with a WA winery for 9 years as a financier) I become amazed they can make a wine of this quality in WA and sell it for under $9 retail.
I agree, Karl. A great wine for the price.
The one percent rule of thumb is that if the grapes cost $1000/ton the wine has to sell for at least $1000 x one percent = 10 dollars. These days it is possible to buy good grapes for less than $1000/ton in Washington.
Monte Antico is a great Italian (Tuscan) red blend for $10. It’s a great go to wine to drink with pizza. It’s a screw cap so easy to drink a glass and save for later.
My go to wines for under $10 in most of the country are any of the varietals from Bogle Winery.
Thank, Steve. I was holding my breath waiting for someone to suggest Bogle. Great value! Thanks again.
Danzante Red Blend (Tuscany), $9.99
These are 2 of my favorites from Cliche Wine Co. in Lodi, CA
They sell by the case only but if you join their wine club you get 50% off on Cases (12 bottles) . This makes the wines price point between $6 -$10 per bottle.
Collier Creek 2018 Pinot Grigio $8.33 bottle price
Hybrid 2017 Cabernet Sauvignon $6.67 bottle price
Here is the website: Clichewineco.com
Some of the best wine $2-3 less than $10 is Oxford Landing from Australia. Lots of boutique winery techniques like quality single vineyard sourcing, native yeast fermentation and estate bottling but surprisingly well on a commercial level.
Right at the $10 limit, Yalumba’s Y Series is about as good as I’ve seen across all 8 varieties they produce. Their Y Series Viognier is the star though and the winery has a long history with this variety stretching back to 1980 when they became one of the first to plant it outside of France. 90pts from Wine Spectator on the 2019 for the 3rd consecutive vintage. It’s no wonder they’re the #1 imported Viognier in the U.S. by a long shot.
My favorite under $10 is Mula Velha Riserva 2017 from Quinta do Gradil in Portugal, made of Touriga Nacional, Syrah and Tinta Roriz. It’s medium bodied with some tannin and mineral and a dark fruit flavor (sour cherries, blueberries). Here in New York City you can’t buy wine in the supermarket but this is in the local liquor store for $8.