When Trader Joe’s began expanding to Texas in 2012, we all (I speak for the entire state) collectively lost our minds over the unique grocer. My seasoned TJ friends from California were quick to point out a few must-haves. Speculoos Cookie Butter and frozen appetizers were big deals back in the day, but the most alluring of all was “Two Buck Chuck.” Of course, now that I’m an in-the-know TJ’s shopper myself, I understand that to focus solely on the notoriously priced Charles Shaw collection is to miss some of the best wines at Trader Joe’s.
There are many stellar affordable options, but there are even more online articles attempting to parse them all out. In an effort to create one definitive ranking of the best wines at Trader Joe’s, I cross-referenced tons of online lists and narrowed down the 10 wines that were singled out most often. Then, I brought them to several gatherings with wine-loving friends for tastings. It may not be the most scientific way to research, but it’s deeply honest.
Ahead, you’ll find a collection of hot takes and authentic reviews, which we’ve compiled and considered to narrow down the very best of the best wines at Trader Joe’s.
Featured image by Joann Pai Photography.
How We Ranked The Trader Joe’s Wines
In addition to getting their raw feedback, we asked each taster to share a personal ranking on a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being the best.
5. I would buy this bottle in a heartbeat.
4. I would order a glass at a restaurant or bar.
3. I would happily drink it for free.
2. I would regift a bottle.
1. Not even for free would I drink this again.
The Best Reds at Trader Joe’s
After gathering everyone’s scores (and off-the-cuff thoughts), I tallied the rankings to parse the most recommended bottles at Trader Joe’s, from cabernets to pinot noirs and many a blend. Several bottles were close, but a singular red and white reigned supreme.
Best Overall: Conte Di Bregonzo Amarone della Valpolicella
Right away, a chorus of “this one’s good” echoed throughout the kitchen. Variations included “this one tastes expensive” and “very elegant.” A fight almost broke out over who would take home the bottle.
Technically a steal (it’s available for $18), the vintage was by far the most loved of all the sampled Trader Joe’s wines (red or white), with a zesty, full-bodied flavor that would pair beautifully with rich cheese or meats.
Note: the TJ’s employee recommended either letting this bottle air out for four hours or using a decanter.
Best Red Wine for Under $10: Ruggero di Bardo Susumaniello
This aromatic beauty was fruity and dry in all the right ways. It didn’t blow our socks off the way the Amarone did, but at just $9.99, we would have all been happy to “invest” in a bottle.
Best Trader Joe’s Brand: Meritage Paso Robles (Trader Joe’s Reserve)
A slightly bitter aftertaste didn’t damper our enthusiasm for this $9.99 beauty (part of the Trader Joe’s Reserve collection). The jammy, medium-bodied wine wasn’t a unanimous favorite, but for a small few, it may have been number one.
Best Boxed Wine: Porta 6
The lightest of all the red wines we tried, this fruity favorite tastes far more elevated than the $5.99 price tag would lead you to believe. It has a lovely sweetness to it without having a sugary taste. It’s a great wine to buy by the box and keep on hand for parties.
Hot tip: It’s also available in box form.
Best Cabernet: Corvelia Cabernet Sauvignon
This TJ’s exclusive is… a lot. The aroma is intense and it’s dry as a bone. (Almost salty?) It seems to have quite a few fans based on online reviews, but I couldn’t say we found an enthusiast in our group. We would still drink it for free, but we would regift it every time.
Best Pinot: Trader Joe’s Petit Reserve Pinot Noir
The earthy wine baffled us a bit. It was good, but we couldn’t quite pin it down. It was, at once, spicy, fruity, and cinnamon-y. “If this were the last bottle of wine at my house, I would drink it,” summed up the general feeling.
The Best Whites at Trader Joe’s
Full disclosure: my groups of tasters identified more as red wine drinkers, so several passed on the whites. I feel confident the rankings would not have changed though—the winner was aggressively clear, as was the least favorite.
The Perfect Trader Joe’s Wine for Summer: Honey Moon Viognier
This one killed at a pool party. (I don’t have an IRL solo shot of the bottle because it was poured so quickly.) The light, crisp, lemony Viognier (which is most similar to Sauvignon Blanc) was deemed both “perfect patio wine” and “perfect hot tub wine.” An instant summer classic.
Best Bubbly: Cecilia Beretta Prosecco Rosé
Part rosé, part prosecco, the light salmon stunner won everyone over. Never again will a charcuterie board be complete without this bright, bubbly confection.
Best Easy Drinking: Opaline Pinot Noir Brut Rosé
A pretty bottle and an even prettier tasting rosé, Opaline was dynamic and easy to sip. For a sparkling, however, it was a little lacking in the bubbly department.
Best Seafood Pairing: Lacheteau Muscadet Sèvre-et-Maine Sur Lie
Right away, the Chardonnay haters turned their noses up at the dry, light-bodied white. While we’re not sure about enjoying the French, melon-forward wine on its own, we imagine it would pair nicely with fish or oysters.