Democracy Dies in Darkness

Going Out Guide | Review

We tried 14 supermarket wines in a blind taste test. There is one you should buy — in an emergency.

By Sonia Rao

September 4, 2018 at 7:00 AM

(Greg Powers for The Washington Post)

Millennials, as the retail supervillains they are painted to be, are killing the beer industry. They almost murdered the wine cork. The actual wine, though? It's doing swell, thanks.

So swell, in fact, that this year's State of the Wine Industry report claims that millennials are set to “surpass Gen Xers to become the largest fine wine-consuming cohort” by 2026. The report also remarks that the younger generation has “demonstrated a propensity for frugal hedonism,” meaning the average millennial doesn't have big bucks to spend on the finer stuff but does recognize that they still deserve high quality.

And, so, we ask: What's the best affordable wine?

Washington Post staffers conducted a blind taste test of ubiquitous supermarket brands — Barefoot; Charles Shaw, a.k.a. Two-Buck Chuck; Cupcake; Sutter Home; and Yellow Tail — and tried each one's cabernet sauvignon, Pinot Grigio and rosé (save for one, but we'll get to that later). Every wine received a score on a scale of 1 to 10 and is listed with the pretax price. We also asked for thoughts on the labels' attractiveness after taste tests were complete.

None fared too well, but what the hey? Some of the bottles were below $3. In order from worst to best, categorized by varietal:

Related: [Are Ladurée’s macarons really worth almost $3 each?]

Cabernet sauvignon

Yellow Tail

Average score: 1.25

Price: $6.99

What our tasters said: “Oh, man, this is straight-up cough syrup. Did you buy this at CVS Pharmacy?” “This is not a normal red wine taste. Like, a cleaning supply vibe?” “Sharp, acidic flavors.” “What's the pH on this?”

Sutter Home

Average score: 2

Price: $5.99

What our tasters said: “Tastes like my old sorority house watching 'The Bachelor.' " “It has an oddly acidic finish that's just not great.” “Super harsh, maybe use a grape at one point?” “Way too sweet, medicinal.” “A migraine waiting to happen.”

Barefoot

Average score: 2

Price: $8.99

What our tasters said: “Blueberries and blackberries; tastes really oxidized.” “Tastes like when you fall outside and get dirt in, and earth in, your mouth.” “Bad communion wine.” “I don't even know anymore. In the quest for capitalism, we somehow got here.”

Two-Buck Chuck

Average score: 2.13

Price: $2.99

What our tasters said: “Nail polish and grapes.” “The astringent juice sits and sits and sits on my tongue.” “Robitussin-esque.” “Tastes like Capri Sun.” “Tiny bit of tang but not the good tang, like Tang the drink.”

Cupcake

Average score: 2.25

Price: $11.99

What our tasters said: “Mmm . . . college. Tastes like bored, sad grapes.” “Tastes like communion wine or grape juice that might have alcohol [in it]." “Mix of yeast and staleness. So stale bread, I guess.” “Is this water? I could run and put this in my water bottle and be fine.”

Related: [Should you order Pizza Hut, Domino’s or Papa John’s? Our blind taste test picks a winner.]

(Greg Powers for The Washington Post)

Pinot Grigio

Two-Buck Chuck

Average score: 1.94

Price: $2.99

What our tasters said: “It tastes like . . . a flower crown got accidentally bottled and fermented at Coachella.” “The fake, 'apple cider sitting out too long' flavor.” “Weird, bitter-tasting note; generally unpleasant.” “This wine is so cheap, they can't invest in graphic design.”

Cupcake

Average score: 2

Price: $11.99

What our tasters said: “Looks like something I would buy if I were still in a sorority.” “This tastes like butter gone horribly wrong.” “When someone talks about a wine smelling like paint thinner, they're probably talking about this.” “Funky smell, harsher taste.” “There is not really anything I like.”

Sutter Home

Average score: 2.14

Price: $5.99

What our tasters said: “Brightest and fizziest body of the bunch.” “Goes down smooth.” “Blandest thing I've had; I can't be offended because there's, like, not enough to like or dislike about this wine.” “My mouth is sad. Pairs with: despair.”

Barefoot

Average score: 3.29

Price: $8.99

What our tasters said: “It's fine. I'm not sad. Yet.” “Sweeter than them all; smoother and light.” “It doesn't taste terrible?” “A little bubbly!” “A little bright.”

Yellow Tail

Average score: 3.5

Price: $6.99

What our tasters said: “Pretty sweet; notes of apricot, apple, a hint of citrus.” “Initially kind of sweet in an icing way.” “If this was the last wine on earth, I would drink it. I would also drink it if it wasn't.” “As smooth as a corny pickup line. Not good, but they're trying.”

Related: [We taste tested six fast-food biscuits and were genuinely surprised by our favorite]

(Jennifer Chase for The Washington Post)

Rosé

Note: After scouring five Trader Joe's stores to no avail, we decided that the Charles Shaw brand's organic rosé, a mythical substance that goes for $3.99, had to be omitted from our analysis of easy-to-find wines.

Yellow Tail

Average score: 1.8

Price: $7.99

What our tasters said: “A little bubbly, very acidic; I don't like it and am sad.” “Sour . . . the arsenic is real.” “Perfect shade of millennial pink.” “Peach and, inexplicably, banana.” “Are you sure this is rosé??? I love rosé. I don't like this.”

Barefoot

Average score: 1.8

Price: $6.99

What our tasters said: “This is syrup! It's rosé concentrate that didn't get properly diluted.” “CAPRI SUN. Finally, straight juice.” “If kids could drink wine, this would be my wine of choice.” “This reminds me of my childhood. Wine should not remind me of my childhood.”

Cupcake

Average score: 1.85

Price: $9.99

What our tasters said: “This is a prank.” “Instantly made my tummy rumble.” “The color of this is the sepia Instagram filter.” “Strawberries, but if they were bad.” “Tastes like Glinda's sweat.”

Sutter Home

Average score: 2

Price: $4.99

What our tasters said: “Tastes like Victoria Secret body-spray smells.” “It's like someone tried to fix bad wine by Febreze-ing it.” “Cavity-inducing sweetness and no redeeming flavor; the metallic undertaste of mediocrity.” “Like sour peach gummies mixed with garbage.”

Conclusion

As we said, none of the wines did well with our tasters. But if you're late to a barbecue and absolutely must grab a bottle at the pharmacy or grocery store, go for the Yellow Tail Pinot Grigio — compared with the others, that 3.5 is practically a gold star.

Read more:

I tried the Big Mac, Whopper and Dave’s Single. They share the same major flaw.

Cheap cans of beer, ranked


Sonia Rao is a features writer specializing in pop culture. She attended Boston University and wrote for the Boston Globe before coming to The Post as an intern.

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Going Out Guide | Review

We tried 14 supermarket wines in a blind taste test. There is one you should buy — in an emergency.

By Sonia Rao

September 4, 2018 at 7:00 AM

(Greg Powers for The Washington Post)

Millennials, as the retail supervillains they are painted to be, are killing the beer industry. They almost murdered the wine cork. The actual wine, though? It's doing swell, thanks.

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