For the tastiest ultra-affordable bottles, look to unlikely shapes, grapes, and places.

By Chris Malloy
July 27, 2020
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The tastes of the wine world change, but a good bottle at a great price will always be in style. Trader Joe’s is a prime destination for just that. The store's selection is reasonably large, with a heavy focus on Europe and the United States. Rosé options have expanded in recent years. These days, you see more cans. To land the best bottles below $10, though, it helps to look not only to but beyond these trends—to underrated countries that bring value and to lesser-known grapes.

Next time you’re in TJ’s looking for a bottle that punches above its price, consider one of these five finds. 

A grape popular in Austria and parts of Eastern Europe, Grüner Veltliner presents value-buying opportunities. This particular bottle, from Hungary, has a clean charm that will appeal to both casual and more studied wine drinkers. The wine pours a pale straw-gold. It's very dry, tart, and refreshing; filled with bright, crisp flavors of lemon and green apple and a little bit of minerality. This Grüner also has faint carbonation. It’s a keeper and a crowd pleaser for sure. 

The lower-priced rosés at Trader Joe’s tend to be pretty similar. How to find one that stands out? Go sparkling. And not just sparkling, but to a vintner in Italy’s Veneto region that also bottles local standouts like Amarone, Valpolicella, and DOC Prosecco.

This sparkling rosé is lush and balanced, with notes of raspberry and light-but-rich red fruit shining through. Sips almost have a touch of creamy mouthfeel. This wine veers on unputdownable, a charming sparkler made for both summer heat and sidekicking small bites before a meal. When bottles are iced and you’re with a crowd, expect to go through a few. 

Sometimes, Trader Joe’s will offer a niche product that leaves you wondering, how? This wine is a prime example. Its uncommon bottle shape—stouter than your normal wine vessel, with a dark, cathedral-like dome—holds a red made from susumaniello, an uncommon grape from Italy’s southern Puglia region.

Right after uncorking, this wine seems harsh and tannic. After a few minutes, it mellows out into another wine entirely. It is simply giant, blaring flavors of dark stone fruit, but with softer fruits like strawberry. It also has a touch of smoke and some fennel spice on the end. If you like a red with a big, distinct personality, give this one a try.

Fans of the Portuguese favorite vinho verde know the bang-for-your-buck the wine can bring. At TJ's, this wisdom holds true and then some. This bottle costs less than $5.

Poured out of a long-necked bottle, Espiral Vinho Verde will fizz a bit. Though not a carbonated wine like Champagne or Prosecco, it has a low-and-steady current of bubbles. Flavors are simple: an edge of citrus, some green or under-ripe apple, crisp, a little tart, made for outdoor drinking. It is also low in alcohol at just 9% ABV.

This Zinfandel comes from Paso Robles, the large wine region on California’s Central Coast. The first thing you’ll notice, after its deep purple color, is its even deeper smell—an intense perfume of plums and dark stone fruit.

That aroma carries over to flavor. The fruitiness is deep, smooth, and rounded, with a little bit of a peppery tingle. There isn’t much to distract from the plummy goodness. The wine is pretty one-dimensional, but that one dimension is long and very nicely expressed. If you like Zinfandel, this is a good one for the price.