The 10 Best Trader Joe’s Wines, According to the Store’s Former Wine Buyer
I know I sound like one of those sassy decorative pillows that say “Me, Myself, and Wine” (or the entirety of this SNL sketch), but the wine section is a truly magical place to me. Scanning all the fun labels and new-to-me varietals gives me the feeling of running through a candy store as a kid (or any bookstore right now). But if one thing was clear in the two years I worked for Trader Joe’s, it’s that the wine section of any grocery store is often an intimidating space.
I totally get it. Whether you’re just trying to pick out a bottle for a dinner party, or gifting a bottle to the wine-loving friend in your life, the wine section can be a lot to handle. As a former bartender who also ordered the wine for my Trader Joe’s store, I’ve tasted hundreds of bottles to suss out the very best, no-fail wine picks that are great to have on hand no matter what’s for dinner, whose birthday it is, or who just surprised you with a visit.
Best of all, you’ll be glad to know you don’t need to have sommelier training (or spend more than $10) to get a solid bottle of wine at TJ’s, either — no Two Buck Chuck required.
1. Ruggero di Bardo Susumaniello, $9.99 for 750 mL
One of the most common requests in the wine section was for a good wine to give as a gift. Well, you’re looking at the best one here. With a bottle that looks this grand, the contents certainly match it. Grown in the “heel” of Italy (Puglia), Susumaniello is as fun to say with an Italian accent as it is to drink.
This particular bottle has a concentrated cherry flavor and light tobacco smokiness that immediately makes me want to drink a glass alongside some saucy BBQ, or simply fireside as a nightcap. If I had a nickel for every time a customer bought this as a gift from my suggestion, well I’d have enough coins to gift myself a bottle of this primo wine.
2. Porta 6 Tinto, $4.99 for 750 mL
Wine has inspired many an artist, and this Portuguese red blend actually captured the imagination of my coworker to the point where she got portions of this label tattooed on her. Once you take a sip of this affordable wonder, I think you’ll see why.
3. Epicuro Nero d’Avola, $4.99 for 750 mL
While working at Trader Joe’s, I created a shorthand of nicknames for particular bottles to remind myself of their “vibe” over specific flavor notes (which are so particular and impossible to remember). This bottle of Nero d’Avola? It’s at the top of my list of so-called “Pizza Wines.”
A jammy, bold red wine varietal from Sicily, Nero d’Avola is supremely happy with a meat-lovers’ pizza (and wouldn’t you be, too?) Epicuro, an Italian wine brand exclusive to Trader Joe’s, has two other varietals (Primitivo and Aglianico) that are also hard to beat at just $5 each as well.
4. Corvelia Cabernet Sauvignon, $9.99 for 750 mL
I typically opt for Trader Joe’s imported wines over domestic ones, but one bottle always has me coming back to the domestic side: Corvelia Cabernet Sauvignon. Don’t you love it when a pretty wine bottle is also delicious on the inside?
Rest assured, this is what I’d call a “Gateway Cabernet,” in that it’s not really going to hit you over the head with woodsy-ness, as you might have experienced with other Cabernet Sauvignons. With softer notes of cedar and a bit of jammy cherry, this wine is an amazing plus-one to bring along to a book club, pasta night, or cookout.
5. Kono Sauvignon Blanc, $8.99 for 750 mL
If there’s one wine shelf you can often find me near, it’s the one that houses all the New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs. They’re world famous for a reason, with bright, zippy, herby-mineral flavors that instantly make me feel like I’ve been teleported to the seaside. That’s absolutely the case for the Kono Sauvignon Blanc.
The refreshing white wine not only transports me to the ocean, but I’m also in my favorite sundress and eating a crisp peach. How’d that happen? It’s that magical, and it’s sure to make you want to hang out near the Sauvignon Blancs, too. Meet you there!
6. Honeymoon Viognier, $5.49 for 750 mL
One of my favorite things to do in the wine section was to introduce a customer to a wine that, while its label might look unsuspecting, is actually such a bang for its buck. The biggest shocker? This bottle of Honeymoon Viognier.
If you’ve yet to make the plunge into denser white wines like Chardonnay (but are getting a bit bored of those lighter-bodied Pinot Grigios and Sauvignon Blancs), this is the bottle for you. Peachy, floral, and with some creamy heft to it, the Honeymoon Viognier is my favorite to crack open when I’m digging into spicy, rich Indian fare.
7. Espiral Vinho Verde, $4.99 for 750 mL
If Nero d’Avola is my “Pizza Wine,” then this Portuguese white wine is my “Porch Wine.” By “Porch Wine,” I mean that it makes those late afternoons after work (where you’re hopefully enjoying a glass of wine on a porch or stoop with friends) feel like a party.
Slightly bubbly in a kombucha-adjacent sort of way, this crisp, dry white wine tastes like you’ve bitten into a cold green apple or a slice of chilled honeydew. Best enjoyed in those dog days of summer where it’s almost too hot to enjoy yourself outside. This wine is a bestie to al fresco drinkers everywhere.
8. J.L. Quinson Côtes de Provence Rosé, $8.99 for 750 mL
When it comes to picking out a solid bottle of wine, knowing a few key regions will help make that decision-making process a whole lot easier (and tastier). In regards to rosé, you can’t beat anything that comes out of Provence. Exhibit A: J.L. Quinson Côtes de Provence Rosé.
In the summertime, rosé-ing all day is just all the better when it’s with this medium-body rosé that’s got a punchy boldness that allows it to hold up to any manner of meals, but also is super refreshing (which is why we’re all drinking this rosé, right?).
9. La Granja Cava Brut, $6.99 for 750 mL
I think everyone should have a bottle of chilled bubbly on hand, because why not plan to celebrate really anything at a moment’s notice? That doesn’t mean a fancy bottle of Champagne, either. I’m talking about Cava, a Spanish sparkling wine that is ultra-affordable and even a cheap bottle is delicious. (Can you say the same of Champagne? Big nope.)
La Granja’s Cava Brut is also distinctly fruity yet still dry, with plenty of golden bubbles; it makes any day feel festive. I like to keep a bottle of La Granja’s Cava Brut in my fridge so I’m ready for anything: Making mimosas, ushering in the new year, heck, maybe even christening a boat?
10. Cecelia Beretta Prosecco Rosé, $10.99 for 750 mL
Much like the Epicuros above, bottles of anything Cecelia Beretta are a must-buy, especially the Prosecco rosé. Truth be told, I was very much not a rosé-drinker until this bubbly bottle popped into my life.
Crisp and refreshing, yet fruity-sweet, this pink little number is just plain fun to drink, but it still has plenty of depth and body to it. While I still have no idea how to pronounce it, I do know that Valdobbiadene is one of the most prestigious regions for making Prosecco, making this a top-tier pick for “a glass of something refreshing” just before dinner, when you’re lingering long into the magic hour of the day.
Did your favorite Trader Joe’s wines make the list? Tell us about it in the comments below.