12 Cheap White Wines That Taste Expensive, According to Sommeliers – The product recommendations in this post are recommendations by the writer and/or expert(s) interviewed and do not contain affiliate links. Meaning: If you use these links to buy something, we will not earn a commission.
Red wine might be America’s favorite, according to Forbes. But, those looking for a lower priced bottle would be wise to look at whites. A flavorful white wine pairs well with chicken, fish, and spicier foods, too. If you’re sitting down to a fiery Thai meal, for instance, a crisp riesling will ease the burn quite nicely.
White wine comes in several different varietals. A few commonly known and popular ones include chardonnay, pinot grigio, and the aforementioned riesling, though there are dozens that you might not have heard of before, but should definitely try.
If you are looking to dip your toe into white wine, without spending a lot of money, there are values to be found in almost all varietals, including popular labels and more unusual bottles, too. We asked some of the top sommeliers around the country to share their favorites. Read on to find out their picks for the best bang for your buck when drinking white wine.
Dylan Melvin, sommelier and beverage director at Foxtrot Market in Chicago, is a fan of this oaky chardonnay, which he recommends for the character and price. “Camp Chardonnay is made by our friend Kenny Likitprakong. Kenny sources his Chardonnay grapes from a handful of vineyards in Sonoma and Mendocino,” Melvin explains. “Kenny specifically selects cool climate vineyards that are farmed sustainably so he can make balanced wines with great character. In the winery and cellar, the wine is treated with a delicate touch (especially compared to most California Chardonnay). The wine is fermented in stainless steel and aged in neutral french oak to preserve the character of the fruit. It is moderate in alcohol and has a pleasing acidity that makes it a great companion for food or just an event drink.” You can find this bottle for $20.
While most of the chardonnay you might see at your wine shop comes from California, you can also find some good values from France. Ooh la la! Take this well-priced bottle from producer Olivier Merlin. “I’m a big fan of Olivier Merlin, whose 2020 Mâcon-La Roche Vineuse is a terrific example of chardonnay from the Mâconnais,” says master sommelier Scott Carney, dean of wine studies at the Institute of Culinary Education. “A balanced, understated, and terroir-inflected, wine that defines the French term: ‘prix-qualité rapport.’” You can find this bottle for $19.
If you like a chardonnay with mineral flavors, Oregon wine growers offer some well-priced bottles. “This Chablis-style Chardonnay is pure, bright, and mineral-driven, sourced from the best sites in the Willamette Valley,” says award-winning sommelier Bertil Jean-Chronberg of Bonde Fine Wine Shop in Cambridge, Mass. “Unoaked, it will be the most versatile I can offer.” This bottle is priced at $34.
Jean-Chronberg recommends this sauvignon blanc to pair with simply prepared whitefish, like a nice poached cod. “This Washington Sauvignon Blanc reminds us of a New Zealand style—it’s clean and refreshing with notes of passionfruit, lime, juicy acidity and minerality,” he says. It can be found for $27.
Fox Trot Wines
With a name that evokes warm summer breezes, this wine is perfect with grilled fish, according to Melvin. “Grass Stains is made by a winery in southern France, only 10 kilometers from the Golfe du Lion,” he says. “A combination of the cool ocean breeze and ancient volcanic soils give these wines a great sense of terroir. The wine shares French sensibilities (minerality, salinity and no residual sugar) with the tropical aromas that you usually find in New Zealand Sauvignon blanc (grapefruit or passion fruit aromas). This wine would rock with some fresh white fish off the grill garnished with some lime, basil etc.” You can order this wine for $21.99.
Carney shares a great tip about how to pair wine with your meal, and recommends this New Zealand wine as well. “Using the ‘grows together- goes together’ logic of pairing wine and food, I highly recommend the 2022 Jules Taylor Sauvignon Blanc from Marlborough, New Zealand,” says Carney. “The wine is not merely ‘squeezing lime’ atop the seafood, it is truly complementary, bringing its own savor and breadth to the pairing.” You can find it for $17.99.
Acid-forward rieslings are often underrated, and Melvin raves about this delicate bottle. “Brand Riesling is such a banger,” he says. “Imported by the incredible Vom Boden, this wine punches way higher than its price point and is bone dry. It has electric acidity, notes of key lime, green apple, and a delicate aroma of white flowers. One of the coolest aspects of this wine is that it is in a one-liter bottle, so it has six glasses per bottle, as opposed to the standard five. This wine is perfect before a meal or with a light, refreshing dinner.” For just $18, you’ll enjoy that extra glass!
Charles Smith Wines
Melissa L. Smith, founder of Enotrias Elite Sommelier Services, is a fan of this bright wine. “Just this side of off-dry, this is a fantastic wine from Washington state bursting with acidity and minerality, the perfect wine to pair with spicy Thai and Vietnamese dishes that are heavy on the fresh herbs and vegetables,” Smith says. You can scoop this wine up for $12.99.
Carney recommends this Italian wine, which he describes as having notes of pear. “In my classes at the Institute of Culinary Education, I feature the 2022 Pinot Grigio Selezione from the incomparable Elena Walch in Alto Adige, Italy,” Carney explains. “There is plenty of ‘well-priced’ pinot grigio out there but what are you really getting? With Walch, there is substance and balance with a brown pear fruit, wisps of herb and mineral and a remarkable texture to the liquid that should not go unnoticed.” You can find this bottle for $19.99.
A wine that can be easily dismissed for being boring, pinot grigio should be an easy drinker that is also well balanced, says Melvin. “There are lots of innocuous wines made with pinot grigio out there. Most of it tastes like nothing. I think this is a category where you need to be especially careful,” he notes. “My go to is Vigneti La Monde Pinot Grigio. This is the real deal Italian pinot grigio. Made in Friuli with sustainably farmed grapes, this wine is a prototypical pinot grigio that balances refreshing notes of peach and melon with delicately almond-y finish.” You can find this bottle for just under $18.
Carney is a big fan of vinho verde from Portugal, which can be found for fantastic prices. “My wine of the summer has been the 2022 Soalheiro Vinho Verde Alvarinho from the Minho in Portugal,” he says. “Once upon a time, vinho verde was sized up as being light, sour and crisp, weighing in at 10% ABV. But I like to think they looked north and saw how popular Spain’s Albarino had become and they said ‘We can do that!’ Well, here you have it. Same grape, with some flesh on the bone but taut, sinewy and muscular.” All this can be yours for $14.99.
For something deliciously different, Jean-Chronberg points to this Massachusetts winery’s German-style wine. “Geisenheim is a German hybrid grape derived from riesling and chancellor that is being grown in Massachusetts,” he says. “Its aromatics bring white flowers, peach, and pineapple. On the palate it’s bright and ripe.” You can find it online for $25.99.
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