Good Cheap Wine

Finding Value Alternatives to Famous French Wines


With the economy the way it is, everyone is watching every penny. While we may all hope for a return to the days when we only sweated the big stuff, like quarters, the move to finding the good cheap alternatives to our favorite wines is in full swing. Now by cheap I don't mean poorly made, just great values.

France is probably the region that most people think of when the discussion gets around to fine (ie, expensive) wine, but the truth is there is plenty of good cheap wine coming out of France, and many are giving some of that nation's greatest wines a run for their money!

Bordeaux is the big daddy of French wine and everyone’s favorite, right? OK, so not everyone -- but we’re all on the lookout for values, and what’s more valuable than a good, cheap bottle of Bordeaux wine?
To begin with, you should check out the Côtes de Bordeaux for good, cheap wine. Not all Bordeaux is expensive, and in fact there are tons of small producers struggling in the shadow of their pricier cousins producing bottle of good, cheap bordeaux wine. For the most part, the wines of the Côtes tend to be softer wines than their more famous Left Bank counterparts due to their reliance on Merlot as opposed to Cabernet Sauvignon.

If you're a fan of Merlot (and well-made Merlot is certainly fanworthy), check out the wines of Buzet. Coming from just a little to the east of Bordeaux, the wines of Buzet tend to be a bit richer and fruitier, which suits their dependence on lush, ripe Merlot. These post Sideways day good, cheap Merlot wine is not surprisingly somewhat easier to come by than it may have been in the past.

Another option for good, cheap wine is Cabernet Franc from the Loire Valley. I know, it’s not a blend like Bordeaux, which tends to be based on either Merlot or Cabernet Sauvignon with several other minor blending grapes allowed. But this varietal wine from one of the parent grapes of Cabernet Sauvignon makes this the big daddy’s daddy! Cabernet Franc is lighter in body than much Bordeaux with a lovely, fresh red fruit character. It has been a darling of the wine trade over the past few years and really can be the best good, cheap wine in the market

If Bordeaux is the big daddy of French wine, then red Burgundy must be the big momma. Almost always rare, expensive, and complex, Burgundy has some big shoes to fill, and while the truth is there is no good, cheap wine that can take the place of Burgundy, you can always try great Cru Beaujolais. While the flavor profile is different, the weight, balance, and texture of Cru Beaujolais does mirror many a fine Burgundy. Beaujolais makes an especially good replacement for Burgundy when pairing with food, so you should keep that in mind.

White Burgundy, on the other hand, has some pretty impressive alternatives, though most are white Burgundies! That’s right, there’s white Burgundy and then there’s good, cheap white Burgundy. The famous White Burgundies are much like red Burgundy in that they are rare and expensive, but there are regions of Burgundy -- the Côte Chalonnaise and the Macon -- where Chardonnay is more plentiful and still deeply delicious. A killer source for good, cheap wine.

These lesser-known regions won’t remain a secret forever, so get them while the getting is good. And while I’m at I might as well spill the beans on a few secret appellations in the Côte Chalonnaise for red Burgundy as well. Rully, Mercurey, Montagny and Givry are the source for good, cheap red wines in Burgundy, but don’t tell any one! Many of these wines can compete with Burgundies that are several times more expensive, especially in their youth. It's the place to start if you want to explore the magic of Pinot Noir!

Mentioned in this article


  • Snooth User: kathie799
    364581 1

    And there are even better values in the Languedoc, South West, and the non-rose wines of Provence!

    Sep 28, 2010 at 2:30 PM

  • Snooth User: Greg Roberts
    Hand of Snooth
    100798 227

    Also, a great less expensive alternative to Champagne is cremant d'Alsace.

    Sep 28, 2010 at 4:41 PM

  • Snooth User: duncan 906
    Hand of Snooth
    425274 2,240

    I agree with Kathie.If you go to the big supermarkets in Calais,as I do every year, you would be spoilt for choice.A good Vin de Pay D'Oc can be had for under two Euros and a good Cahors or Corbierres is not much more.A reasonable Bordeaux can cost between 5 and 10.The Auchan in Calais has a website which shows a selection of their wines

    Sep 28, 2010 at 4:59 PM

  • What about further afield? How about South African Bordeaux blends for great wines at prices well below their French equivalents? Look at The High Road Classique and Reserve as well as Meerlust Rubicon. Then consider Waiheke Island in New Zealand for something special - Passage Rock Sisters is a gem (as is their Syrah).

    Sep 28, 2010 at 5:13 PM

  • Hey,
    Wine Lovers!!!
    I have been living for Six Years in France,in the beautifull Minervois! and their Wines are really wonderfull,also the Wines from Corbieres and Languedoc,as well the nice Cote de Roussillon..and they are really at a very good for everyone to enjoy! I really advice You to try those pearls of Wines!! Enjoy it and have a Wonderfull Life! Best of regards to all of You! Guandalina-Grace,from Holland!

    Sep 28, 2010 at 8:39 PM

  • Try the wines of the Rhone - especially the Cotes de Rhone Villages, which are great value. A really good CdR Villages costs 4 to 5 euro in France. Best years recently are 2005, 2007, and 2009. Avoid the 2008.
    If you want to move up a notch, Gigondas and Vacqueyras are really good - again the same years are the ones to go for.

    Sep 29, 2010 at 6:10 AM

  • Snooth User: Burgundy1
    458357 1

    I just can not understand the hype around Burgundy wines. Even the more expensive ones are very often not worth the money they're paid for, and the most expensive like Romanée or Chambertin are beyond reality.

    Perhaps it is possible to find Burgundy red wines at a lower price in the Côte Chalonnaise, but I would not count on that. Often, it must be said they are thin (which of often euphemistically called "finesse") because the wine-growers go to the extent of 50 hl/year + 10%, with immature tanins having been harvested too early, and the soil and the exposition of the vineyards are not ideal. This would not have so much impact (because we can find similar conditions in the Alsace and in Germany) but it creates an imbalance in the wines if the wine-growers aim higher (in terms of tanin and alcohol) than the terroir allows.

    So, if one looks for wines that are worth their price - at any level - the amateur should not search in Burgundy which in fact is a mine field. Sometimes he might find something good, but anyway (far) too expensive. Most times he will only loose his money. What a pity!

    Sep 29, 2010 at 6:26 AM

  • Cru Beaujolais, cheap?! Maybe the worst example of it found, in Europe at least, in a discounter like Lidl. Strange how, when you talk about value in France on the site, you always seem to stick to those traditional regions mentioned (maybe because they're more established and available in the US?) and not so much e.g. Cotes du Rhone or Languedoc. From my experience of wine buying in French supermarkets, cheap Bordeaux is rarely worth buying as the cheaper examples are usually thin, unripe and just not nice. However, I do agree about some of the "Cotes" wines e.g. de Bourg, where you can find good wines with nice Bordeaux style for €5 to €10 in France. See my article if that strikes a chord:

    Sep 29, 2010 at 7:29 AM

  • If you're interested in cheap wine, you HAVE to read the Sediment blog at

    Sep 29, 2010 at 12:02 PM

  • Snooth User: dmcker
    Hand of Snooth
    125836 6,198

    OK, plugs for blogs are all good 'n all, but talk more to us here rather than just quickly re-directing....

    Sep 29, 2010 at 6:39 PM

  • Apologies, dmcker - it's just that, as we write ONLY about cheap wine, there's a lot we could say!

    However, two points worth considering. First, the piece early on equates "cheap" and "good value". These are clearly two different things. A bottle of Lafite 1982 at £100 is good value, but it is not cheap. "Cheap" is also a relative term. My "expensive" may not be yours. So perhaps in future it would be better to avoid the term "cheap" altogether, and stick to "value"?

    Second, specifics (chateaux, winery etc) are much more important here than generalities. I don't think you can really say that an area is producing "good cheap wine", because it will also produce BAD cheap wine. Trust us - we've drunk a lot of it...


    Oct 01, 2010 at 5:23 AM

  • Snooth User: wendy2011
    802295 6

    really good article!!

    Mar 20, 2011 at 4:56 PM

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