Cheapism: The best wines under $10

Dec. 21, 2011 at 1:07 PM ET

Chateau Ste. Michelle Columbia Valley Cabernet Sauvignon pairs well with meat.

By Kara Reinhardt,

A premium wine, made from hand-picked grapes grown on tried-and-true terrain and watchfully aged to perfection, makes a generous gift for a loved one with a discerning palate. But if you’re looking for a hostess gift or just something to make a holiday get-together a little more festive, a crowd-pleasing wine can be had for $10 or less. Just don’t tell anyone how much it cost — studies have shown that the price of a wine influences tasters’ perceptions of how good it is. In blind tastings, however, people enjoy expensive wines slightly less than cheaper wines.

Below are Cheapism’s top budget bottles, beginning with the reds.

  • Chateau Ste. Michelle Columbia Valley Cabernet Sauvignon (starting at $10). We haven’t listed a particular vintage of this plummy, full-bodied Washington wine because many are well-reviewed. Most low-cost red wines are best consumed within a couple of years of bottling.
  • Melini Chianti Borghi d'Elsa 2010 (starting at $6). An intensely fruity Italian red that goes as well with pizza as it does with pork.
  • Dancing Bull Zinfandel (starting at $10). A rich, full, berry-flavored wine from a California producer known for its zinfandel.
  • Mirassou Pinot Noir 2010 (starting at $6). Another California red that’s easy to drink -- not overly alcoholic or bitter, like some budget pinot noirs.

And now for the whites:

  • Dr. Loosen Red Slate (starting at $9). A German Riesling with a refreshing balance of acidity and fruit flavors such as mango, apricot, lime, and pear.
  • Jacob’s Creek Chardonnay (starting at $7). A dry Australian wine that harbors peach and melon flavors. Chardonnay is the best-selling varietal in the U.S. and capable of complexity even at low prices.
  • Chateau Ste. Michelle Columbia Valley Sauvignon Blanc (starting at $9). Another winner from a producer that consistently delivers high-quality budget wines. Pair this light, crisp wine with white meat or seafood.

Finally, with New Year’s Eve approaching, here’s a look at some of the top champagne under $20. Technically, these are sparkling wines, not Champagne with a capital C, which comes from the eponymous French region and adheres to a specific method of production and standards of quality.

  • Roederer Estate Brut NV (starting at $20) comes from California and has a surprisingly full body, according to reviews, which mention caramel, cherry, and cinnamon notes — just right for the holidays.
  • Gloria Ferrer Sonoma Brut NV (starting at $15) is a lively, fruity California sparkler that has won numerous awards.
  • The sweeter Freixenet Cordon Negro Extra Dry (starting at $10) is made in the traditional French méthode Champenoise but is actually a Spanish cava, a sparkling wine that offers excellent value and has been dubbed a “Champagne killer.”

More from Cheapism:

Cheap Red Wine

Cheap White Wine

Cheap Champagne

Post-Christmas Sales