With summer now behind us (*weep*), you may be looking for more economical bottles of delicious red wine with firm tannins to go with those crispier days, heavier meals and crackling fires.
But you don’t need to spend a fortune on red wine. It can still taste plenty rich even when you buy it on the cheap. We researched popular wine retailers to find the best cheap red wine, and got some help from Nick Elliott, a winemaking expert based in San Diego.
We’ve got some great information about how to select red wine and why prices are what they are. However, if you just want to skip to our list of 13 great reds, we understand.
Before we take our first sip, let’s review some common questions that come up when talking about reds.
Why Are Some Red Wines So Pricey?
Answer: Lots of reasons. Here are some typical factors driving the price of red wines.
Red wine is aged, and the longer a bottle sits in storage the more it costs to bring it to market. One rule of thumb: expect to spend a dollar for every year of aging.
Compared to whites, red-wine grapes are often harvested in smaller quantities to encourage more flavor. Smaller quantities mean lower volume, hence high prices.
Smaller “boutique” vineyards often use more labor-intensive methods versus high-volume producers.
When a growing season for a particular vintage produces lower yields, the wine can be more flavorful but in shorter supply. That means higher demand and a higher price.
Varietals that are in fashion or have a storied reputation can command a higher price.
Labor costs vary widely across the globe. Taxes and tariffs, too.
Wines aged in oak cost more to produce and are often in greater demand.
Looking for cheap white wine? We’ve got you covered there, too. Check out our picks for the top cheap white wines.
Does Expensive Red Wine Always Taste Better?
Answer: Not necessarily, but the mind can play tricks on the taste buds. An interesting study found that price can influence our perception of taste. The study found that, in blind tastings, people who were told a wine was more expensive tended to rate it higher – even when it was actually cheap wine.
What Are Some Common Red Wine Myths?
Myth: Red wine should never be chilled. Well … not necessarily. Light- to medium-bodied red wines with low levels of tannins can handle a little cooling. And the recommended serving temperatures for red wines range from 13˚C-18˚C (55˚F-64˚F) – a little cooler than you might have guessed.
Myth: Never drink red wine in a box. Don’t be so sure! As long as the packaging protects it from light and air, it can often be perfectly acceptable — and packaged more sustainably.
Myth: Red blends are inferior to single-variety wines. Did you know that Champagne is a blended wine? Case closed.
13 of the Best Cheap Red Wines Under
Best bottle: Excelsior Cabernet Sauvignon 2019
The taste: This South African cabernet sauvignon is a medium- to full-bodied wine with hints of red bell pepper and dark chocolate.
The taste: Tannat isn’t well known yet — but it should be. This grape originally hails from the Basque country, between France and Spain, but has migrated to other parts of the globe. It’s the primary grape in this blend of all-organic grapes produced in Mendoza, Argentina. You’ll taste notes of herb, oak, and spice layered over blueberry, blackberry and elderberry notes.
Pair it with: Bolder dishes with earthy ingredients like eggplant and mushrooms, as well as cheese, beef and roasted lamb. A traditional cassoulet is a great choice
The taste: Like pinot noir, this bold bottle is fruit-forward and juicy, with strawberry flavors, peppercorns, tannins and acidity. It’s considered a great Thanksgiving red wine because it complements the traditional flavors of that feast.
Pair it with: French food such as a charcuterie board or soft cheeses. Or, for something different, pair it with a nutty, semi-sweet dessert such as pecan pie.
The taste: Often overshadowed, this is a fabulous alternative to its bolder cousin, the Zinfandel. Garnacha was originally from Spain, but today it’s often planted in southern France (you’ll also see it called grenache). This is a medium-full bodied wine that has medium acidity, medium tannins and high alcohol.
The Penny Hoarder contributor Danielle Braff is a Chicago writer who specializes in consumer goods and shopping on a budget. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, Washington Post, Real Simple and more. Contributor Diane Bacha contributed to this report.
This was originally published on The Penny Hoarder, which helps millions of readers worldwide earn and save money by sharing unique job opportunities, personal stories, freebies and more. The Inc. 5000 ranked The Penny Hoarder as the fastest-growing private media company in the U.S. in 2017.