In the past, you used to have to spend a lot of money to get good wine. Luckily, you can purchase a choice bottle of wine for less than $20 these days, as long as you know where to look. And thanks to the internet, it’s easier than ever to find high-quality wines for a low price.
In this article, we’ll look at what contributes to the cost of wine along with some top-rated wines — which means they’ve scored a 90 or more point on the 100-point scale — that are less than $20 so you can sip in style without breaking the bank. Keep reading to find great wines under $20 for every season and occasion.
What Defines the Top Wines Under $20?
When it comes to wine, a high price does not automatically mean high quality. Although many expensive wines may be superb, there are plenty of lower-priced wines that taste equally as delightful, if not more so. In fact, Consumer Reports found that some of the best-rated wines are under $20, while some far more expensive wines earn mediocre scores.
So what makes some wines more expensive than others? There are three main factors when it comes to pricing wine — oak, time and terroir.
Oak, especially new oak, has long been touted as the best way to age wines. Putting wine in an oak barrel both adds oak flavors to the wine and exposes the wine to oxygen, which makes the tannins less intense and the wine’s taste smoother. Because oak barrels are expensive and only a couple of barrels can be produced from a single tree, buyers can expect to pay more for a bottle of wine aged in previously unused oak.
Although many people assume an older wine is always better, this principle mainly applies to red wine. Time affects the taste of wine’s fruit flavors and reduces its acidity and tannins, which means a well-aged wine tends to taste smoother and rounder than a younger wine. Because holding wine for more time takes up space and costs the vintner money, consumers end up paying a bit more for every year the wine has aged.
Great wine starts with the grapes. Terroir refers to how a specific region’s soil, climate and terrain affect the taste of its wine. Ironically, the best grapes for producing wine are typically grown in less fertile areas where the vines struggle to produce grapes. Of course, yielding grapes in tougher conditions requires more labor and money to maintain, resulting in a more expensive bottle of wine.
While oak, time and terroir are the three main influences over a wine’s price, other traits could contribute to the final cost as well. Here are some additional factors that could have you paying more per bottle:
- Brand: Certain brands of wine are regarded as classier and more high-end than others. These famous brands are well-marketed and will cost more than comparable wines.
- Trends: Different types of wines can go in and out of fashion depending on pop culture and ratings. A wine that has been recently referenced in a hit movie or received an impressive review from a tough critic might shoot up in popularity, which will most likely increase its price, too.
- Production costs: The cost of the equipment, supplies and labor that goes into creating a bottle of wine can vary by vineyard and harvest style. There are many ways to grow grapes, such as handpicking or mechanical harvesting, and to ferment wine, such as in large steel tanks or small oak barrels, and each variable can affect the final price tag.
- Taxes and tariffs: Depending on where the wine is produced, there may be additional tax and tariff costs to cover. For example, wines from Europe face an extra tax when imported, which ultimately raises the price of each bottle.
Best White Wines Under $20
Among the wide selection of white wines on the market, there are many inexpensive options that still pack all the flavor and complexity of more costly bottles. In fact, white wines under $20 can still have the delicious flavors that come from being aged in an oak barrel. If you know what to look for, you can easily find white wines that taste like they fermented in new oak barrels for decades and don’t cost a fortune.
These are the oak flavors you can expect from a white wine:
- Vanilla, brown sugar, caramel, marzipan and creme brulee
- Dried fruit, candied fruits and raisin
Keep these flavor profiles in mind to help you easily identify good white wines under $20. To help you begin your search for a top-rated, inexpensive white wine, we’ve put together a short list of five popular white wine varieties and the brands that will cost you less:
Moscato is named for the small, round grape that it is made from. Because it is a sweet, light-bodied white wine, moscato is consistently one of the best summer wines under $20. Moscato pairs remarkably well with desserts and cheeses, making it the perfect bottle to bust out for a summer party or laid-back day around the pool.
When it comes to finding a good bottle of moscato under $20, look for a label that says Moscato d’Asti. Most bottles of Moscato d’Asti deliver a complex blend of sweet and savory flavors layered with crisp, fruity tastes and a floral fragrance. This dynamic flavor profile means many brands of Moscato d’Asti are rated well and pair nicely with most dishes.
If you’re hoping to get a good deal on Moscato d’Asti, keep an eye out for these brands:
- Villa Rosa
2. Sauvignon Blanc
This type of sophisticated white wine falls on the more tart and acidic side of the flavor spectrum. In general, sauvignon blanc is dry with herbal flavors and notes of citrus and tropical fruits like pineapple, banana, passion fruit, grapefruit and mango. Some of the best bottles of sauv blanc come out of New Zealand, which perfectly demonstrates how a “New World” country can produce top-rated wines under $20.
A good bottle of New Zealand sauvignon blanc has a floral profile with zesty undertones and an herbal finish. It will also be a bit heavier and waxier on the mouthfeel, which perfectly accents the fresh, flowery flavors lightly poured into every glass.
To find a top-rated sauvignon blanc under $20, browse these New Zealand brands:
- Dog Point
- Te Mata Hawke’s Bay
3. Pinot Grigio
A good pinot grigio is fairly simple, light-bodied and dry. A best-rated bottle of pinot grigio will have an intense yet balanced combination of citrus and tropical fruits with a crisp acidity. Sometimes, exceptionally good bottles will even feature hints of fruity candy flavors.
Pinot grigio bottles that achieve a high rating typically pin down that elusive balance between the wine’s natural tartness and acidity without turning astringent. A glass of good pinot grigio is refreshing and goes well with a lighter dish like fish, making it perfect for a sweltering summer evening.
Make finding a top-rated pinot grigio under $20 easy by shopping these brands:
If you tend to shy away from dry wines, riesling is the white wine for you. With their fruity aromas and varying degrees of sweetness, riesling bottles prove that a wine doesn’t need to be dry to be sophisticated. The best riesling will offer an equal mix of mineral and fruit characteristics, with a slightly sharp yet sweet aroma that carries through as you sip.
When served cold, a glass of riesling can be a delicious, clean crowd-pleaser. And the best news? Riesling tends to be a very affordable type of wine, so you can treat yourself while still staying on a budget.
Find your new favorite top-rated riesling under $20 by checking out these brands:
- Forge Cellars
- Empire Estate
Chardonnay is one of the most popular dry white wines for a reason. Because chardonnay grapes are grown in several settings around the world, bottles of chardonnay boast unique flavors for affordable prices. Fruity chardonnays will have pear, apple, tropical and citrus fruit flavors, while more woody chardonnays will feature butter or butterscotch flavors with vanilla undertones.
While chardonnay tends to have a sweeter sip, top-rated chardonnays prevent a sugar rush by rounding out the wine with rich undertones of flavors like grass clippings and char. These deeper layers ground the chardonnay by giving it a robust body and fuller taste.
Make these your go-to brands for a high-quality chardonnay under $20:
Best Red Wines Under $20
Like white wines, top-rated red wines under $20 can still be aged in oak and offer unique flavors. Oak flavors found in red wines commonly include:
- Vanilla, allspice, nutmeg and clove
- Coconut and almond
- Milk chocolate and mocha
- Eucalyptus and dill
- Smoke, cedar box, sweet tobacco and newly tanned leather
If you’re on the hunt for a good red wine under $20, check out this list of five flavorful, bold red wine varieties and the best brands for scoring a deal:
1. Cabernet Sauvignon
A bottle of cabernet sauvignon is evidence that you don’t need to pay a high price to get a great tasting wine. As a classic red wine, cab sauv is robust and full of flavor. A good cabernet sauvignon mixes herbal notes with dark berries and cassis — it may even have a chocolatey aroma. Flavors may include tastes of raspberry, plum, black cherry and raisin, along with mint and pepper.
Numerous vineyards around the globe produce cabernet sauvignon, which means you get endless flavorings to explore and a wide range of bottle prices to pick from. Depending on where it was made, the method used to age it and its level of acidity, a bottle of cabernet sauvignon could rank among the top red wines under $20.
To find a high-rated cabernet sauvignon under $20, look for these brand names:
- Josh Cellars
- Domaine Jean Bousquet
2. Pinot Noir
Typically, pinot noir is subtle, moderately complex and dry with a medium finish. Unlike its white, tart pinot grigio counterpart, pinot noir is less acidic and smoother in general. Common flavors for a glass of pinot noir include strawberry or raspberry, spicy notes and cedar shavings, giving it a lush and layered profile.
Because pinot noir was first made in the Burgundy region of France, you may also hear it referred to as red Burgundy wine. Although originally from the Burgundy region, incredible bottles of pinot noir can come from Chile, Australia, New Zealand, California and Oregon nowadays. When you buy a domestic pinot noir, you can easily score one of the top red wines under $20.
Get a top-rated pinot noir for less than $20 by browsing these domestic brands:
- The Pinot Project
- Talbott Kali Hart
Merlot is simply an essential red wine for any wine enthusiast’s personal collection. A smooth-tasting, well-bodied and rounded dry wine, merlot is easy to drink and enjoy. Merlots can offer a range of flavors, from fruity aromas to more herbaceous aromas to a mix of fruit and wood. Many merlots feature dark berry and spicy notes.
Because merlot is such a well-known and sophisticated type of wine, it can be difficult to find a high-quality merlot with an affordable price tag. While merlot is so delicious that it is often worth paying a little extra for, sometimes you simply aren’t in the mood to splurge. Luckily, there are a couple of rare brands that deliver top-notch merlot that won’t hurt your wallet.
To avoid sticker shock, shop these brands for top-rated merlot under $20:
- Noble Vines
- Folie A Deux Sonoma County
Despite being a relatively newer wine, malbec has taken the wine scene by storm, quickly gaining a large following of wine fans across the country. This deeply colored, robust red wine is medium-bodied, fruity and fairly complex. One sip of malbec will deliver juicy, vibrant dark berry notes to your taste buds with hints of more delicate flavors like violets and sage.
While malbec might not have the illustrious heritage of classic wines like cabernet sauvignon or chardonnay, it more than makes up for its lack of history in aroma and flavor. In fact, malbec tends to be less expensive because it has yet to become a household name. Thanks to its big flavors and small price tag, malbec has earned its title as one of the best red wines under $20.
Impress your dinner guests with a top-rated malbec under $20 by grabbing a bottle from one of these brands:
- Altos Las Hormigas
- Luigi Bosca
Red zinfandel boasts bold flavors and an impressive complexity. Red zin flavors usually include raspberries, dark fruit, jammy fruit, notes of oak, tobacco, leather or smoke, and subtle peppery or spicy hints. A good bottle of red zinfandel will be well-balanced, dry or slightly off-dry, medium- or full-bodied and highly complex with a medium-to-long finish.
One thing to keep in mind is zinfandel tends to be lower in alcohol by volume (ABV) than many other wines. Zinfandel is also normally lower in calories than most wine varieties. Lower in ABV, calories and price, red zinfandel is indisputably one of the best wines you can get for less than $20.
Because oak-aging red zin is a delicate process that requires an expert vintner, a good oak-aged zinfandel is a rare gem. When properly oak-aged, a red zinfandel’s sweet notes of jammy fruit will be beautifully grounded. But oak-aging zinfandel can quickly go wrong and result in a confused, musky red wine. Rest assured that a well-rated oak-aged red zinfandel has been perfectly fermented to create a lovely full-bodied wine.
Make shopping for top-rated red zinfandel under $20 a snap by sticking with these brands:
Top Sparkling Wines Under $20
We’re pretty sure popping open a bottle of sparkling wine is the only way to mark a special occasion properly. And with so many affordable types of sparkling wines available, celebrating in style doesn’t have to be expensive. Raise a glass to these top-rated sparkling wines under $20 that won’t burst your budget’s bubble:
1. Sparkling Riesling
Just like regular riesling, sparkling riesling is delightfully delicious and surprisingly affordable. Sparkling riesling manages to maintain all the fruity goodness of regular riesling while dancing across the tongue to a sugary symphony.
By marrying the sweet notes of riesling with the expressive bubbles, sparkling riesling serves as the perfect base for various cocktails while being vibrant enough to sip on its own. Even sparkling riesling under $20 are full of lively carbonation and sweet flavors — the cherry on top of a joyful celebration.
For those who don’t have much of a sweet tooth, brut is your new best friend. As the driest type of champagne, brut is more raw and unrefined with less sugar than most other sparkling wines. When planning a dinner party, it can be a smart hosting move to serve brut at the end of the meal to balance the sweetness of dessert. Complete your dinner party without breaking the bank by finding a high-quality bottle of brut for less than $20.
A list of sparkling wines would not be complete without mentioning a few outstanding options for prosecco under $20. A widely beloved white wine full of bubbles and mellow fruit flavors, prosecco has earned its reputation as a go-to celebratory wine. While many people enjoy a glass of straight prosecco, it can be a great addition to any cocktail to give it a fun, fizzy texture.
Good Rosé Wines Under $20
Made from red grapes, rosé comes in minimal contact with the grape’s skin, which gives it a much lighter color than traditional red wines. While rosé can be dry, it is typically sweeter than red wines, especially blush wines. Rosé can be bought as a still, semi-sparkling or sparkling wine and is always best served well-chilled.
If you’re looking for a lush, top-rated rosé under $20, check out these brands:
- Summer Water
- Chateau Routas
- Jean-Luc Colombo
Great Summer Wines Under $20
A good wine for a hot summer’s day tends to be light, lean and crisp. For the warmer days and balmier nights that come with summer, a summer wine needs to have easy drinkability. Depending on taste, you can choose a sugary sweet wine or a tongue-puckeringly dry bottle — both have their place in quenching a summer wine craving.
Of the highest rated wines under $20, these types tend to be the most popular during the summer:
- Rosé: Although rosé can be dry, its usual delicate, fruity sweetness makes it a light and refreshing summer wine.
- Sauvignon blanc: Typically subtle and light-bodied, sauvignon blanc brings bright and playfully acidic flavors that taste like sunshine.
- Pinot noir: When you get the urge to have red wine in the summer, a boldly fruity and slightly floral pinot noir is the perfect solution.
Best Winter Wines Under $20
During the wintertime, robust, medium- and full-bodied wines with strong flavor reign supreme. Oak-aged red and white wines are especially enjoyable throughout the colder months because their flavors are deeper, warmer and more complex than other bottles. And with affordable winter wine selections, your spending can cool off as the weather does.
Among the top-rated wines under $20 already discussed, reach for one of these to cap off a cold winter night:
- Merlot: A rich, full-bodied merlot can feel like wrapping up in a blanket of red fruit flavors and notes of smoky wood.
- Cabernet sauvignon: As a robust, low acidity red wine full of deep flavors, cabernet sauvignon was made for the winter months.
- Chardonnay: Don’t be afraid to break out a white wine during the colder seasons — a buttery, woody chardonnay could be just what you need to warm up.
Stock Up on Top-Rated Wines Without Overspending
At Marketview Liquor, we know how important it is to find a great bottle of wine at a price you can afford. Marketview Liquor offers a wide assortment of wines for less than $20 because we don’t believe you should have to sacrifice quality for affordability.
If you’re looking for an extensive collection of the best-rated wines under $20, check out the inexpensive, quality wines from Marketview Liquor. Browse our high-quality, low-cost wines, and you’ll be sure to find a delicious wine under $20!