The problem: Wine sellers set their prices based on demands. Buy what everyone else is buying (like California Cabs), and you’re going to pay more than you really should.
But if you’re willing to branch out a bit—and spend a few more minutes in the liquor store—you can find amazing wines that are similar to the ones you like, for a lot less money.
Next time you make a booze run, pull up this list on your phone. These are the bottles, regions, and grapes you should be shopping for to get the most bang for your buck.
The best part: Every bottle is listed under $20—and you can even find some for less than $10.
Look for: Monastrell wines from Spain
Monastrell is a type of grape, and it’s a home run for guys who like big, full-bodied Cabernets like those from Napa, says Keith Wallace, President and Founder of the Wine School of Philadelphia.
“Monastrell is even bigger and chewier than Napa Cabs, and at a fraction of the price,” he adds. Look specifically for wines from Jumilla and Yecla—Spanish towns that produce quality Monastrell wines, Wallace says.
Two options: Familia Castaño Monastrell, JuanGil Honoro Vera Monastrell
Look for: Cabernet Sauvignon wines from Coonawarra, Australia
For another way to escape the high prices of domestic Cabernet, head Down Under.
“Australia was big for a while, and now it’s making a bit of a comeback,” says Kevin Zraly, Founder of the Windows on the World Wine School in Philadelphia.
He also recommends Cabs from Chile as excellent value buys.
Two options: Los Vascos Cabernet Sauvignon, Jacob’s Creek Coonawarra Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon.
Look for: Dolcetto wines from Italy
Dolcetto, a grape grown in the Piedmont region of Italy, is great choice for guys who enjoy fruit-forward, easy-drinking Merlot wines, Wallace says.
“A more famous alternative—the one that a lot of people already know about—is Malbec from the Mendoza region in Argentina,” he adds.
Two options: Sottimano Dolcetto d’Alba, Susana Balbo Malbec
Look for: Temperanillo wines from Rioja, Spain
Temperanillo is a medium-bodied red grape that’s similar to Merlot. Zraly recommends Temperanillo wines from the Rioja region.
Look for bottles labeled “Reserva,” which means the wine was aged for a minimum of 3 years. These tend to be higher quality than less-expensive “Crianza” wines from Rioja—though Zraly says you can still find plenty of great Crianzas.
Two options: Marqués de Cáceres Crianza, Campo Viejo Rioja Reserva
Look for: Barbera wines from Italy
Barbera is a type of grape grown almost exclusively in Italy. “It’s a little heavier than Pinot Noir, and the value is unbelievable,” Zraly says.
When you’re shopping, look for labels that include the words “d’Alba” or “d’Asti,” which refer to specific areas that produce quality Barbera, Zraly says.
Two options: Vietti Barbera d’Asti “Tre Vigne,” Michele Chiarlo Barbera d’Asti
Look for: Pinot Noir wines from the Casablanca Valley region of Chile
“These days, great Pinot Noir is coming from Casablanca,” Wallace says. “If you like Cali-style Pinots, that’s the place to go.”
Wallace also recommends checking out Zeigelt, a Pinot-ish grape grown in Austria. “It’s light, bright, and earthy, and it has some awesome savory elements that make it a perfect pairing for BBQ.”
Two Options: Veramonte “Ritual” Pinot Noir, Heike Heinrich Zweigelt
Look for: Gamay wines from the Beaujolais region of France
Another suggestion for Pinot fans: Gamay, a grape grown mostly in the Beaujolais region of France.
“Look for wines that say ‘Beaujolais-Villages’ on the label,” Zraly advises. The designation “villages” means the grapes used to produce the wine all came from a specific village or area, and these tend to be higher in quality than Gamay wines labeled simply “Beaujolais,” he says.
Even better: Gamay wines from the village of Morgon.
Two options: Louis Jadot Beaujolais-Villages, Georges Dubeouf Morgon
Look for: Rosé wines from Côtes du Rhône, France
Rosé has enjoyed a recent surge of popularity—especially as a refreshing warm-weather alternative to heavier red wines.
“If you like pink wines, then the place to find the great ones is the South of France”—specifically the Provence and Côtes du Rhône regions, Wallace says.
He also recommends Rosé from Southern Australia.
Two options: D’Esclans “Whispering Angel,” Turkey Flat Rosé
Look for: Viognier wines from Australia
If you dig heavier white wines like Chardonnay, check out Australian wines made from a grape called Viognier.
“Just make sure to read the label,” Wallace says. “If the description includes words like rich, smooth, or creamy, then go for it.”
The Fiano Di Avellino grape from Southern Italy is also worth checking out, he says.
Two options: d’Arenberg “The Hermit Crab” Viognier, Radici Fiano di Avellino
Look for: Pinot Blanc from Alsace, France
If you like lighter white wines, look for Alsace, France wines made from the Pinot Blanc grape, as well as Txakoli wine from Spain’s Basque Country. “Both are really fantastic,” Wallace says.
Two options: Lucien Albrecht Pinot Blanc, Txomin Etxaniz Txakoli