You are here
Best Sauvignon Blancs for Under $20: The Taste Test
Up until this year, I’ve never been much of a white wine drinker. It used to be a little too sweet for me, but now I’ve come to appreciate it as a classy accompaniment to a sunny afternoon, a light meal, or a pre- or post-dinner libation. In my quest to get schooled on this new wine world, I enlisted the help of my coworkers in picking out the best Sauvignon Blanc for $20 or less. (These are tough times, after all.) Based on the increasingly muddled and erratic scribbles in my notebook, I’d say there were some definite winners among the eight we sampled. (The underlined phrase “Stick a straw in it!” next to one brand’s name is particularly encouraging.) Buying cheaper wine is always a gamble, but luckily for you—and unfortunately for our heads the next morning—we took the guesswork out of it.
One whiff of this wine and we all knew it would be bad news. Not only did it smell like milk gone bad, but the taste itself was like alcohol mixed with soap. One coworker aptly deemed it the “hot dog of wine”—way too reminiscent of artificial chemicals.
Clova has a fruity, refreshing bouquet, but the smell doesn’t translate as much to the taste as you’d expect. It’s sweet and dry, more akin to Chardonnay than Sauvignon Blanc. However, it was the chosen favorite of at least one person.
Frei Brothers, $11
The group was divided on this one—some weren’t fans of the “nose” (that’s how the wine smells, for those not up on wine lingo), which was slightly grassy. And while about half of us thought the taste was light and clean, something you’d reach for on a warm day, the rest decided it was too acidic and not fruity enough for their liking.
This wine reminded one coworker of green apples and I concur. There’s not much of an aftertaste with this one; it starts strong and has a rather lackluster end. Overall, it’s enjoyable, but doesn’t stand out from the other favorites, either. This was one of the pricier wines we tried, which proves that a bigger cost doesn’t always mean a better product.
Bogle is the sweetest of the wines we tried, so it might be better suited as a dessert wine than a drink to go with one’s meal. For most of us, it was a little too sweet, but perhaps we’d enjoy it more if we were in the mood for a sugar rush in a glass.
Whenever a wine label has an acronym on it, it’s usually a bad sign. This one stands for Really Cool Trader Joe’s Wine Find, and let me assure you, it’s anything but. “Godawful!” and “This tastes like medicine!” were heard ’round the tasting table. You’re better off with two-buck chuck.
This is the wine that got the “Stick a straw in it!” seal of approval from me. The consensus was generally favorable among the group, with one person saying it was “easy to drink, like water” and another classifying it as a good “drink alone” wine. (Can you tell this one came toward the end of the tasting?) It’s sweet, smooth, and bland—a good choice for pairing with food or serving to those on the fence about white wine.
St. Supery, $18
I declared this my favorite of the bunch and a few others agreed. One of my coworkers said it reminded her of grapefruit, while another said she appreciated its strong citrus scent. It has just the right amount of subtle sweetness and bite.
Cost Isn't Everything
The most expensive wine might have been a few of our favorites, but it wasn’t so superior to Clova or Kenwood that I would automatically choose it over less pricey brands. Cost says something about the quality of wine, but it doesn’t say everything, which is good news for those of us watching our wallets, but still in need of a good wine buzz.