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Best Cheap White Wines
If you think cheap white wine is only for grandma's spritzer, think again. Like its rouge counterparts, inexpensive white wines have earned a reputation as a reputable drink on their own. They complement lighter foods, brighten up a lazy summer afternoon, and make an excellent substitute for that pre-dinner cocktail. White wines typically present fruity and/or floral flavors and aromas, sometimes offer a bit of spice, and range in sugar content from bone dry to dessert-level sweetness. There's a cheap white wine -- a bottle costing no more than $10 -- to satisfy almost anyone's palate.
Cheap White Wine Buying Guide
We spoke with experts and wine vendors, read reviews, and held tastings to assemble a small but representative sample of budget wines produced in the major wine-producing regions of the world. From among that group we made a few choice selections under $10, which are weighted toward the dry corner of the shelf.
At the very top of our list we've placed two California wines: J Lohr Estates Riverstone Chardonnay 2012 (starting at $8), for a buttery, oaky taste that surpasses most cheap Chardonnays, and Bogle Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc 2012 (starting at $8), a simple, value-oriented wine with a crisp tartness.
The prices listed in this article do not include taxes and vary based on where you buy. This year we found the $10 cap a bit more constrictive than in the past. Although plenty of cheap whites receive high ratings from outlets such as Wine Enthusiast, many are not widely distributed, and even some wines stocked and recommended by multiple wine merchants were declared awful by our tasting panel. Two budget white wines in particular fall into the cast-off basket. Tisdale Chardonnay (starting at $3.50) is light-bodied with a lingering acidity and sour undertaste, and Barefoot Riesling (starting at $5) bowls over drinkers with its sweetness.
Because wine inventories vary from vendor to vendor, we've fleshed out our top picks with more than a dozen other appealing and low-priced white wines. This should increase the chance that you'll find at least one of the featured bottles at a local wine shop (consult Wine-Searcher) or online, although shipping can double the total price. These wines are good values and should be enjoyed while relatively young; low-cost white wines don't benefit from aging. While large producers strive for consistency, the quality of a given wine can vary from year to year, so be sure to note the vintage (the year of production). The wines are discussed in alphabetical order by grape variety on the following pages.
The most common white wine grapes include Chardonnay, Gewurztraminer, Pinot gris (a.k.a. Pinot grigio), Riesling, and Sauvignon blanc. White wine grapes grow in the United States, Europe, Australia, New Zealand, South America, South Africa, and several eastern Mediterranean countries. Wines produced in the U.S. bear labels that note the specific grape or blend of grapes used in making them. Wines from Italy and France, by contrast, have labels that place the growing region front and center rather than the grape. White Bordeaux, for example, may contain a mix of Sauvignon blanc, Semillon, and Muscadelle grapes while Pouilly-Fuisse is made with Chardonnay grapes. A wine made entirely (or nearly so) with one grape variety is referred to as a "varietal."
White wine is generally lighter and less complex than red, and generally considered a good option for newbie wine drinkers. Veterans also find plenty to enjoy in the best inexpensive whites. The tannins are relatively muted, making for a drink that's unlikely to cause the drying or puckering in the mouth that's sometimes experienced with red wines. White wines are less likely to leave you with a headache and the dry ones, in particular, have slightly fewer calories per glass than red. A glass of white wine is also quite refreshing -- it's almost always served chilled. Indeed, you might even discover that you really prefer the budget bottles.Back to top »
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