The Best Cheap White Wine and What to Pair it With
First, let’s tackle a few questions that have been bugging us about cheap white wine.
Why is the Best Cheap White Wine Generally Less Expensive than Red Wine?
Answer: White wines spend less or no time aging in a barrel, so they are quicker to produce than red wine. Plus, winemakers don’t have to shell out for the cost of the barrel, explains Nick Elliott, a former winemaker from San Diego, California.
An oak wine barrel can cost up to $1,500, Elliott says. One barrel holds 60 gallons of wine, which is 25 cases with 12 bottles in a case. The cost of that barrel is then split over that 300 bottles of wine, depending on how many times that barrel is used over the years. Most wineries will not use a barrel more than three or four times.
Next: Do Wines with Screw Tops Indicate That the Wine is Crummy?
Answer: The short answer is “no,” but it can be perceived that way, Elliott explains. Winemakers choose cork over screwtops for wines that require aging. So you will usually find corks on red wines, but sometimes white and often in the case of Chardonnay.
“Natural corks allow the wine to breathe, allowing oxygen and other gasses in and oxygen and other gasses out,” he says. “You will generally not find a screw top on a bottle that needs to sit for a while before enjoying.
Also, cork is a naturally occurring product and it can develop a chemical that “taints” the wine. That’s where the phrase “corked wine” comes from and it means that the wine has an unpleasant taste. Screwtops, long thought to be the symbol of rot-gut wine, can even be manufactured to “breathe” much like cork.
Finally: Many People Believe that White Wine is Just a Summer Drink. Is This True?
Answer: A refreshing glass of crisp white wine in the summer is wonderful and does have that thirst-quenching quality, Elliott says. “But, for me, all wine is meant to be paired with food,” he says. “Therefore, if the dish calls for it, white wine it is, even in the coldest winter.”
If a recipe calls for a dry white, you can’t go wrong with sauvignon blanc. Stay away from cooking with oaked chardonnay because it will bring that woody flavor to your food.
The Best Cheap Bottles of White Wine Under $10
These are 13 year-round sippers which pair well with food and are also good enough to drink by themselves. Put these cheap white wines on your shopping list. While we list online sources, you may be able to find these white wines on the shelves of your favorite store.
Best bottle: Bogle Chardonnay
The taste: Vanilla, nutmeg and guava are just some of the flavors you’ll taste when you sip this crisp wine. Bogle, which has been making wine for 50 years in Northern California, was named the American winery of the year in 2019 by Wine Enthusiast magazine.
Pair it with: White fish such as pecan-crusted grouper or shellfish on its own or in a creamy sauce over pasta.
Price: $7.97 at Total Wine
If You Like Chardonnay …
Best bottle: Yalumba “Y” Viognier
The taste: Stemming from southern France, viognier (pronounced vee-oh-NYAH) has a bold taste, similar to chardonnay. But viognier tends to be less acidic and lighter. It has fruity flavors (think tangerine, mango and honeysuckle) plus vanilla and clove.
Pair it with: Like chardonnay, you can pair Viognier with seafood dishes. It also goes well with chicken. Crack open a bottle to go with your Chinese takeout.
Price: $9.99 at Total Wine
Best bottle: Raimat Albarino
The taste: This is another bold white wine made from grapes grown in northwest Spain and northwest Portugal. It’s a dry, light-bodied wine, with primary flavors of Meyer lemon, honeydew, nectarine and grapefruit. The hints of lemon will remind you of chardonnay, as they’re both very refreshing and crisp.
Pair it with: Seafood dishes and chicken, of course. Pour a glass with any Greek dish laden with feta cheese, including the baked feta dish that’s all over TikTok.
Price: $10 at Total Wine
Best bottle: Riff Pinot Grigio 2020
The taste: The grapes in Riff’s pinot grigio were harvested from the northeastern Italian alps, and the results is a glass of lime, honeysuckle, ripe melon and pear with a faint note of honey.
Pair it with: Light, fresh foods such as salads, seafood or chicken. It’s a fantastic happy hour wine to accompany a bundle of creamy burrata cheese and crunchy crostini.
Price: $9.99 at Binny’s
If You Like Pinot Grigio …
Best bottle: Oysterman Muscadet 2019
The taste: From the Loire Valley of France, Muscadet is light bodied and very dry. It has hints of green apple, and has more acidity than pinot grigio. This version is a collaboration between two French winemakers and a wine importer in Charleston, South Carolina.The 2019 vintage is the first year of Oysterman Muscadet.
Pair it with: Oysters any way you can get them or even with a big bowl of mussels in (more) white wine sauce. Also good with goat cheese and basil pesto.
Price: $10.99 at Binnys (okay, 99 cents over)
Best bottle: Hogue Riesling 2018
The taste: Bright, sweet apricot, citrus, tangerine. Hogue has been making wines in Washington State’s Columbia Valley since 1982. The Hogue family had been farming in the fertile region for many years before planting their first wine grapes: Six acres of riesling.
Pair it with: Cheese, poached bears, desserts, nuts. Since the grape originated in Germany’s Rhine region, consider serving it with pork schnitzel or other regional meat dishes.
Price: $9.99 at Wine.com
If You Like Riesling …
Best bottle: Releaf Sustainable Chenin Blanc
The taste: Grown from organic grapes in Western Cape, South Africa, this chenin blanc smacks of bright tropical fruit. Proceeds from sales go to support a nursery there. This same grape is often bottled as the wine called vouvray.
Pair it with: Reach for this bottle of wine to serve with vegetarian dishes such as roasted cauliflower. It is also a popular wine for the Thanksgiving table, cutting through the heaviness of the meal.
Price: $9.99 at Total Wine
Best bottle: Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc
The taste: This wine originated in the Bordeaux region of France but is now produced all over the world, including New Zealand, the home of the vast Kim Crawford wine empire. Sauvignon blanc often makes lists of the most popular wines in the world and that’s owing to its immensely compatible taste, both fruity and herbal, even spicy.
Pair it with: Fish, salads or dishes from across the Asian continent, including Shrimp Pad Thai. Make it at home or get takeout.
Price: $8.99 at ABC Fine Wine & Spirits
If You Like Sauvignon Blanc …
Best bottle: Marques de Riscal Blanco Rueda 2019
The taste: The light Spanish white wine has flavors of lemon, grapefruit, fennel and lime. It gets better as it ages, and it has more volume and weight than sauvignon blanc.
Pair it with: Anything that includes citrus, such as tacos with lime or pork. Better yet, tacos al pastor made sweet with grilled pineapple.
Price: $8 at Wines.com
Best bottle: Floriana Gruner Veltliner
The taste: Gruner Veltliner is an Austrian wine but this version is produced in Hungary. It is a dry white with notes of apples and citrus, and while it’s friendly with food, it is also a good sipper.
Pair it with: Almost anything but especially dishes with lemon such as roasted asparagus topped with lemon zest, and lemon bars. Try it with Chinese Lemon Chicken that includes other strong flavors including honey and soy sauce.
Price: $9.99 at Bottles and Cases
Best bottle: Chateau Ste. Michelle Gewurztraminer
The taste: Produced in the Alsace region of France for centuries, gewurztraminer is high in natural sugar, and tastes of lychees, passion fruit and flowers. It is largely associated with Germany which occupied Alsace until the end of World War I. This version is made in Washington State.
Pair it with: The grapes don’t much care about geographic history and, indeed, Gewurztraminer doesn’t play favorites with cuisines. It goes well with French and German specialties, especially anything with Munster cheese, but is also delicious with Chinese and Indian food, including Chicken Biryani.
Price: $8.99 at Binnys
If You Like Gewurztraminer …
Best bottle: Barefoot Moscato
The taste: The sweet Italian wine has a low alcohol content and a lovely fizz. It’s less lychee, more honeysuckle than Gewurztraminer but both are on the sweeter side. Barefoot is a California winemaker that produces some of the most economical wines on the market. They win awards, too.
Pair it with: Moscato stands up to pork, chicken, duck or shrimp. But we think of it as a celebratory Christmas wine because it goes with spices such as ginger, basil, clove and cinnamon. Maybe for Christmas Eve with a piece of Old Fashioned Gingerbread.
Price: $5.99 at Target
Best bottle: Chandon California Rose´
The taste: Similar to a light red, but brighter and crisper. It tends to include flavors of strawberries, raspberries and cherries. Chandon is one of the most prolific winemakers in Napa Valley.
Pair it with: While rose goes well with gingerbread, it’s also a good accompaniment to any salmon dish, including Roasted Salmon and Toasted Almond Parsley Salad. It also plays nice with a charcuterie board laden with salty meats and cheeses.
Price: $6.99 at Binnys
Codetic 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.