No Matter How Frugal You Are, There’s a Reason Not to Buy Wine Under $5 a Bottle

It’s after the holidays, but let me save you the trouble of wondering whether to buy really, really cheap wine next holiday season. 

Have you ever been curious about really cheap wines? There’s the infamously cheap Trader Joe’s wine, Two Buck Chuck, that I could barely keep down when I sampled it a few years ago, so why did I want to try more cheap wine? My frugal nature, I guess. So, when my husband and I went to stock up on wine for the holidays, I couldn’t resist two chardonnays under $3.00.

I learned my lesson; I’ll stick to wine that sells for over $5 a bottle.

Now, there is an okay-ish review for a $2.99 bottle of Down Under by Crane Lake on The blog doesn’t review bottles under $5.00, but that one came along for review. I’ve had regular Crane Lake from California before, and it’s somewhat tolerable, but it goes for $4.99 a bottle in my town.

The two bottles I bought at the new Total Wine Superstore in Norwalk, CT Norwalk (which I mentioned on the TFF Facebook page) were: Pacific Peak ($2.39) and Double Dog Dare ($2.99). I am definitely not a wine snob. I typically drink your basic chardonnay. But these two bottles were just…terrible! I could tell by the vinegary smell when we opened the bottles. My husband suggested we let it “air.” No amount of “airing” would ever help these two products!

I couldn’t even find ratings for these two wines on

This is where the difference between frugal and cheap come in. Frugal people make smart choices and don’t buy overpriced wine just to appear “in the know.” They buy affordable wine that’s enjoyable to sip and tastes pretty darn good. Cheap people make decisions that taste terrible and they may be happy as clams with the two wines above.

Well, I’m out $5 bucks, but I’ll never make that mistake again. We poured it down the drain; I wouldn’t even cook with those wines. I’ll stick to wines above $5 a bottle. But if you know of any great tasting wine for under $5 bucks a bottle, let us know in the comments below.

~Marilyn, TFF


6 thoughts on “No Matter How Frugal You Are, There’s a Reason Not to Buy Wine Under $5 a Bottle

  1. I would be curious to see what you might have felt about the “cheap” wines if you didn’t know the price. Clearly, the Two Buck Chucks are quite popular (Trader Joe’s often can’t keep them in the stores!) and have quite a huge following. We enjoy some of them better than others, but, that’s personal taste, as with most wines. We have friends who used to run a vineyard (now run by other family members). They had complete and utter disdain for Two Buck Chuck, the “wine snobs” that they were (I say that lovingly). Years after we first had the conversation, unbeknownst to them, we served them a glass of Two Buck Chuck merlot. They raved about it, and, when they asked us what we served, they were stunned to find out that it was Two Buck Chuck. They have changed their tune. For everyone else, I say, don’t knock it until you try it. The high cost of any product does not mean it is better.

    1. I think the “fragrance” of the two wines I tested gave it away ;–) I was soooooo hoping they’d be great, or at least good, because who wouldn’t want to find a great wine for under $3? I was hoping to give them as gifts, entertain with them, etc. But I am still on the quest for a decent inexpensive wine. As for Two Buck Chuck — I think I only tasted the chardonnay, not any red. I’m definitely willing to try Two Buck Chuck reds! But they don’t sell the wines in CT by law–I had to buy them in New Jersey when I was there last. ~Marilyn, TFF

  2. As an Italian, I can tell you hubby and I drink wine most every day. DH more than me. Italians don’t go out and buy $15 to $20 bottles of wine to be consumed on a daily basis. Nope! We buy our wines in large jugs. Here in America, for us, we love the Carlo Rossi selections of wine:
    We buy the 4 liter size for only $14, which comes out to $3.50 a liter. DH drinks the Paisano almost every single night (it’s fantastic with pizza, chili or lasagna!). I like the sangria in the summer with fruit. The burgundy is fabulous to cook with, especially Julia Child’s Beef Bourginon (or however you spell it….I’m in a hurry here). The Cabernet Sauvignon is, IMHO, superb. Especially for the bucks! For the white selection, I like the Rhine. It has a slightly sweet taste and can put any German wine to shame.
    Shop around. Prices fluctuate. I found some liquor stores charging $18. I buy this wine at a discount Liquorama-type store.

    Good luck. Happy drinking!

    1. Thank you!! I love white wine so I’m going to try the Rhine. Also, like the sangria idea for the summer. ~Marilyn

  3. So glad you didn’t cook with it
    Julia Child ( The French Chef ) and my guru when it comes to cooking, always said, never cook with a wine that you wouldn’t drink

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