Budget Dinner Party? 12 Bottles of Good Wine That Are Cheap

buying wine

Source: iStock

As you’re scrambling to get ready for a dinner party and you make a last-minute stop at the wine & spirits store to make a gametime decision, you might be wishing you’d actually paid attention in your college’s wine and beer lectures, or that you listened a little more to your uncle talk about tannins at the last family dinner. You might also be hoping you can get lucky and randomly pick a selection that will be flavorful, impressive, and not hurt your wallet too much.

Whether you’re in charge of a special dinner for your significant other, you’re meeting her parents, or you scored a dinner invitation from your boss, selecting a great wine can set the right tone for the evening. For one, a bottle of wine still makes a great gift for any host, and it’s bound to make a good impression when you don’t show up for dinner empty-handed. On top of that, there’s a huge selection of wines now that will deliver on quality, but won’t bankrupt you for a simple dinner. If you’re on a tight budget but still want to be the consummate guest, there’s plenty of options for you — no matter your preferences.

“The sweet spot for wine pricing these days seems to be $15 to $20. If you’re willing to jump up from the $10 or less category and spend a few extra bucks, the quality and selection improve vastly,” writes Katie Kelly Bell, a wine expert and Forbes contributor. Of course, wine selection will vary based on geography and the size of your local distributors, but keep an eye out for these labels and use them for inspiration the next time you’re searching for the perfect bottle.

1. Nik Weis “Urban” Riesling, $12

Rieslings get a bad rap for being sticky sweet, but this one is bottled in the German Kabinett, or “dry” style. The acidity that comes from the notes of lemon peel and green apple gives it a fresh taste, however. Plus, as Men’s Fitness reports, the wine can stand up to buttery or spicy dishes, so you won’t have to worry about what’s on the menu for a good pairing.

2. 2011 Thomas Goss Cabernet Sauvignon, $17

This cabernet hails from Australia, and Bell describes it in her Forbes column as “a great value crowd-pleaser.” The wine has rich black cherry and spice notes that work together to create a fresh, structured wine that is full-bodied and rich, Bell writes.

white wine

Source: iStock

3. Pine Ridge Chenin Blanc and Voignier Blend, $14

If you’d rather stick with a white wine — and Forbes’ Bell suggests that for less money, you can often get a more complex wine when it’s white — try this bottle from California. Pine Ridge has a selection at a variety of price points, but this fruity wine with notes of white nectarine, candied pineapple, green fig, and grapefruit is one that “is balanced and crisp that any white drinker can enjoy with a taste that will impress,” Men’s Fitness suggests.

4. 2013 Shinn Estate North Fork of Long Island Sauvignon Blanc ‘First Fruit’, $18

If you’re looking for a selection from another region in the United States, try this light and tangy option. Eric Asimov, The New York Times’ wine critic, says Shinn Estate is one of his favorite producers from the Long Island area. “Its wines always seem alive in the glass, energetic and full of pleasure, and this sauvignon blanc is no different,” he writes.

5. 2012 Terras Gauda Abadia de San Campio, Albarino, Rias Biaxas, $20

This bottle will be at the top of your price point if you’re trying to stick to $20 or less, but Bell recommends the wine for its balance of richness and acidity. This wine from Spain has notes of tropical fruits with a “lemony, zippy finish.” If you’re in charge of cooking the meal as well, this bottle pairs extremely well with spicy Asian cuisine — Bell says that Thai curry is a great choice.

Source: iStock

Source: iStock

6. Bedrock California Shebang Eighth Cuvée, $15

Wine can be great with any meal, so long as you choose the right variety. If you know the dinner is leaning toward burgers, sausages, or pizza but still want to bring a bottle of vino, Asimov of The New York Times suggests picking up this bottle. The blend is made from multiple vineyards and vintages, and is spicy and savory. It’s not incredibly complex, he admits, but also isn’t your standard sweet, oaky California wine that’s typical for inexpensive bottles.

7. Villa Antinori, $17

If you want to stick with old-world classics but don’t want to spend big bucks for them, try this bottle that will give the impression you know a lot about Italian wines. “It’s akin to bringing a 1st growth Bordeaux’s second label – Antinori is a legend among wine makers in Italy,” Michael Heckler, a beverage manager at Richard Sandoval’s Pampano in New York, told Men’s Fitness. The wine is considered a “super-Tuscan,” aptly appropriate since it comes from the Tuscan region of Italy.

8. 2011 La Quercia Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, $12

If you’re looking for another Italian wine, Bell suggests this bottle made with Montepulciano grapes. This is a great option if you’ve got naturalists you’re trying to please, as the wine is 100% organic. There’s no barrel aging involved, and the result is a smooth wine that’s full of “bright cherry fruits.” Plus, at $12, it’s hard to beat the price.

Source: iStock

Source: iStock

9. Gutiérrez Colosía Fino El Puerto de Santa María NV, $18

Fino sherries are pale, dry wines, and this one is a less-known but worthy choice, Asimov writes. “This excellent fino, from El Puerto, is intensely saline, with sharp, well-chiseled, nutlike flavors,” he describes.

10. 2012 Domaine Wachau, Riesling Federspiel Terrassen, $18

This Austrian wine is another good riesling if you’re not looking for a super-sweet option. “The zippy acidity and mineral quality give it great structure; it’s just a delight to sip before dinner,” Bell writes. This aromatic vino is a mouth-watering combination of melon, juicy peach, and apple notes, but won’t overrun your palate with sugar.

11. 2013 Geil Rheinhessen Muskateller Trocken, $17

If you’re looking for something a little unique, try this German-made wine. It’s made from muscat grapes, “one of the oldest, most aromatic and least appreciated varieties,” Asimov says. The wine is lively and floral in nature, well balanced and refreshing. It’s a “perfect little touch of springtime in a glass,” according to Asimov.

12. Château de Peyrassol “Commanderie” Côtes de Provence Rosé, $17

Want to give the impression you spend your weekends on a yacht? Bring this wine to dinner. “This Commanderie rosé wine is what Europe’s wealthy are drinking on their 100-footers anchored off the coast of Cannes,” Brandon Barton, former Beverage Director at Danny Meyer’s Tabla in New York City, told Men’s Fitness. “Plus, bringing a rosé wine of this caliber shows class — just make sure its chilled before you show up.” This dry wine has flavors of red fruit and watermelon, and will be a great addition to a classy dinner.

Follow Nikelle on Twitter @Nikelle_CS

More from Money & Career Cheat Sheet: