Best cheap wine at Trader Joe's? Taste test by Average Joes

What’s the best cheap (under $10) wine at Trader Joe’s? The first half of this article lists my personal opinions formed over the past two years. The second half describes a blind taste test I held at home where my friends rated Trader Joe's wines.

My running list of best cheap wines

Under $3

Red: Block Red Shiraz ($9.99 for a 3L box... averages $2.50 per 750mL) -- Plum and fig with some smokiness, too. Fair wine with an amazing price. Full review here.

White: I haven't found one yet. If you know of one leave a comment and I'll check it out.

Under $4

Red: Griffone Sangiovese ($3.99) -- Sangiovese is the main grape of Chianti. This tastes better than bottles that cost several dollars more. Not amazing, but drinkable for under $4.

White: Green Fin White ($3.99) -- Not sweet, but very fruity. Nothing offensive about it, and the fruit is nice.

Under $5

Red: Trader Joe's Coastal Syrah ($4.99) -- I think good Syrah should blend fruit and dry savory flavors. This does that. Not beautifully, but it's not bad, either.

White: I haven't found one yet. If you know of one leave a comment and I'll check it out.

Under $6

Pink: Josefina Syrah Rosé ($5.99) -- Fruity but dry and just delicious. One of my all-time favorite cheap wines for a summer day.

Under $10

Red: Mouton Cadet Bordeaux ($9.99) -- Dark fruit with an earthy undertone.

White: Dr. L Riesling ($9.99) -- Slightly sweet with delicious fruit flavors and refreshing feel. Full review here.

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Results of blind taste test

I bought 12 bottles of wine from Trader Joe’s (6 white and 6 red), covered them in paper bags, invited friends over to taste them all, and they rated how much they liked each wine. The rating scale goes from 1 to 5, with 5 being the highest. Sample size of about 10 people.

Red Wines 

#1: Mouton Cadet Bordeaux 2009 (3.8 / 5.0). Full, earthy, dirty, with blackberry and currant flavors. Very well-liked.

#2: Penfolds Koonunga Hill Shiraz 2010 (3.7 / 5.0). Strong and fruity, this was a crowd-pleaser. Well-made and very enjoyable.

#3: Famille Perrin Côtes du Rhône Réserve 2010 (3.7 / 5.0). Good, peppery, and with light fruit… lighter than your average Rhône.

#4: Apothic Red 2011 (3.3 / 5.0). The crowd was split love/hate on this one. Slightly sweet with vanilla, spice, and lots of fruit. If you like a slightly sweet red, you will love it. If sweet reds taste funny to you, so will this.

#5: Il Tarocco Chianti Classico 2009 (3.1 / 5.0). Cherry, dark berries, and tobacco. Liked by most people.

#6: Beaulieu Vineyard (BV) Coastal Estates Pinot Noir 2011 (3.1 / 5.0). Also a love/hate split. Light and fruity cherry nose, but the flavors included both ripe cherry and sour cherry, which some people found unexpected. I was a fan, personally. It's hard to find a good Pinot Noir under $20 (and really difficult under $10), and I thought this one did a great job for the price. 

White Wines 

#1: Dr. Loosen “Dr. L” Riesling 2011 (3.7 / 5.0). Aromas of pear and flowers. Slightly sweet but subtle. Too sweet for some. Read my full review here.

#2: Chateau Ste Michelle Gewürztraminer 2010 (3.4 / 5.0). Well-liked by most. Apple and spice flavors with a nearly unnoticeable touch of sweetness.

#3: Espiral Vinho Verde (2.6 / 5.0). Middle of the road. It smells like pleasant fruit, but tastes different from what you expect – dry and a bit tart.

#4: Picton Bay New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc 2012 (2.2 / 5.0). I learned a lesson here: Sauvignon Blanc can be a bit vegetal or herbal tasting, so I should have placed this wine first so people weren't tasting it after tasting a few very fruity wines. Intense aromas and flavors of honeydew and vegetal jalapeño (pretty standard for NZ Sauv Blanc). The guy from New Zealand really liked it, but it was too herbaceous for several people. 

#5 Villa Borghetti Pinot Grigio 2011 (2.0 / 5.0). Very light, perhaps the softest white wine of the night.

#6 Earth and Vine Chardonnay 2010 (1.9 / 5.0). Lots of oak, butter, and alcohol, but not much that people liked. It didn't help that it came after the lightest wine of the night (again, I learned something about planning a wine tasting party).


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