A guide to Trader Joe’s cheap wine

Wine is a big part of my life. Whether I’m waiting tables and explaining to them which red Bordeaux they should pair with their steak frites or deciding which white wine will go best with my take out and big night in, I’ve got a glass of wine in my hand most nights of the week. One of my favorite places to pick up affordable wines is my local Trader Joe’s, but the enormity of the aisle and abundance of bottles can make the process intimidating, to say the least. Here’s a start in breaking those down. All of these wines were found at the Lincoln Park Trader Joe’s on Diversey between Clark and Halsted, which is easily accessible from DePaul’s Lincoln Park and Loop campuses via the Brown line. So go ahead and grab your favorite and watch the full season of “Glow” or recap all of “The Office” (U.S.) with your feet up on the couch and finish off the bottle of these tasty great valued wines. No judgement.

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(Victoria Williamson/The DePaulia)

What’s in it: chardonnay, sauvignon blanc, viognier and muscat canelli
Why I picked it: My go-to white is usually chardonnay, but I wanted something a little different. Plus, the label features a dozing apple/grape/pancake (up for debate) dreaming of better things while stomping through the city as a giant. So, relatable.
My notes: In short, I love it. This white blend does everything for me I usually want out of an oaky, buttery California chardonnay, minus the oak or butter. Its fuller bodied and coats your tongue with a honey-like quality that balances a sense of sweetness with rounding acidity.
Basically: It’s a wine you can drink with your mom who only drinks riesling or moscato. It’s almost old world without the oak and has a medium plus acidity that makes your mouth water a little bit. Plus, with a 13.5 percent ABV, it’s got a pretty high alcohol content for a white wine.
What to drink it with: Perfect to bring along to your favorite local Thai BYOB (the spice of the Thai will complement the acidity of the wine).[/accordion]

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(Victoria Williamson/The DePaulia)

Why I picked it: Knowing what pinots, cabs and other well known single varietals taste like, I wanted something a little different. Grenache/syrah blends are typical of the Rhone Valley in France, and with this being a Spanish blend, I didn’t know what to expect. But when you’re buying Trader Joe’s wine for $5.99, you REALLY don’t know what to expect. So, reaching into the shelf for something you’re unsure yet hopeful about really can be fun.
My notes: It initially tastes like ripe red cherries and a lot of red fruit, but balances out to include a little bit of black fruit like blackberries on the tail end. It’s dry and because it doesn’t have a long finish, it’s not too heavy like a cabernet sauvignon and makes for super easy couch drinking. If you’re big into Cote du Rhones you might miss out on the earthiness that is typical of some french versions of this red blend.
Basically: It’s easy and light enough to rival a pinot noir or gamay as the go-to glass of red for a warmer fall evening, but it doesn’t hit you in the face with too much of anything, flavor included. Think the adult version of Cherry Pepsi.
What to drink it with: Spanish tapas (Cafe Ba Ba Reeba, anyone?), grilled foods like burgers or to class up a fall picnic featuring a cheese plate at Oz park.[/accordion]

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(Victoria Williamson/The DePaulia)

What’s in it: Riesling! The popular German grape is known for being a sweeter white, and many bottles indicate just how sweet or dry it is with a key on the back. This one is labeled as medium sweet. Side note, rieslings from northeastern Alsace, France are usually dry.
Why I picked it: I’ve been into drier rieslings lately, but I wanted to match the apple-stuffed pork I was making for dinner, and the residual sugar in a sweeter white would work well with the sweetness from the baked apples. I’m not big on sweeter wines like moscato, but some rieslings offer a lighter sweetness balanced by acidity, which doesn’t leave it tasting syrupy. I grabbed this specific riesling off the shelf because of its medium sweet labeling, which was the least sweet out of the other two German rieslings available.
My notes: It’s not sweet enough to be in the same category as a Barefoot moscato, but equals the price. This medium sweet German white is light and citrusy, but it definitely has the touch of residual sugar to remind you it’s a riesling.
Basically: While easy to drink on its own, this riesling would be best with food. It’s definitely enjoyable, especially for the limited stock of rieslings carried by Trader Joe’s.
What to drink it with: If you’re going home for the weekend and your mom is making pork chops and applesauce, bring a bottle of this to barter for the pile of dirty laundry you undoubtedly brought along. [/accordion]