Who among us hasn’t stocked our pantries with self-proclaimed “value packs” of flimsy, discounted toilet paper? Or bought expiring-soon-but-totally-on-sale bulk vitamins?

We Americans are always thirsty for a bargain. And according to analysts, affordable wine is our white whale.

“The holy grail for American wine drinkers is a cheap wine that tastes expensive,” Daniel Levine, the director of trends consultancy Avant Guide Institute, says. The popularity of dirt-cheap juice from discount supermarkets like Aldi and Trader Joe’s, and the persistence of wine clubs, speaks to our bargain-hunting natures.

“These days, more and more unknown brands are flooding the market through mass-market wine clubs,” Levine says. “You get wines that no one has ever heard of because they were just created for the wine club, and there’s no way to comparison shop because it’s just a one-off.”

Worse still, you might get a rando case of disparate wines from disparate parts of the world with notes of “horsey,” “musty,” and “moldy” flavors. (Those are actual tasting notes from a Consumer Reports review of three of the more popular clubs.)

Fortunately, there are smarter options for thrifty wine lovers. One is an O.G. model tailor-made for snobs whose wine knowledge outpaces their budgets. Another was born from the smoldering ashes of the 2008 recession and is perfect for oenophiles who care more about taste than labels. The third and final way to find good, cheap wine is to follow your conscience to organizations helping the disenfranchised, one cheap sip at a time.

Still thirsty? Here are three ways to master the market for low-cost, high-quality wine.


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