If I plunk down $8 for a bottle of wine, it's probably a special occasion. Thankfully, there is a place for people like me. This place is called Trader Joe's. WW's usual wine coverage comes from highly knowledgeable writers—people who drink pét-nat like I eat Cheetos.
It's not as important for pink wines to be fancy. At least, that's what Katherine Cole says. The former Oregonian wine critic and author makes the case in her brand new book Rosé All Day: The Essential Guide to Your New Favorite Wine.
"Rosé is really not that serious," she says. "Even the most serious rosé—it's all about pleasure and enjoying yourself."
On June 7, Tusk, recently named the best new restaurant in America by Food & Wine magazine, will be hosting a rosé soirée wine dinner ($60), which will be full of high-end pinks. If you're like me, that's outside your price range. So I headed to Trader Joe's for rosés that cost $10 or less, which my friends and I blind-tasted while camping near Timothy Lake.
VINTJS Monterey Pinot Noir Rosé $6.99
Comments: "Restful." "Tutti frutti." "Sharp, crispy, makes you go, 'AHH!'"
If you're heading to the river or an afternoon party, this is the wine to pick up. VINTJS is Trader Joe's house brand, which means who actually makes it is kept a secret—for all we know it could be Chateau Margaux.
If you're buying cheap wine, Cole says she looks for acidity, some spritz and a low ABV.
"When there's that prickle on your tongue like you're drinking sparkling water, there's a little C02 captured in the wine, she's says, which is a good thing. Tasters picked up on that spritz, describing the wine as "sharp" and "crispy." "Low alcohol is a plus when you're in that lower price range because it's something nice and light and balanced," Cole says.
Just make sure to follow Cole's cardinal rule of cheap rosé: "Dunk it in an ice bucket and get it as cold as you can."
2. J.L. Quinson Côtes de Provence Rosé $7.99
Comments: Most drinkable "Too tart for this guy." "Fancy juice." "MEH." "Buttery, country club vibes."
If you're showing up to a dinner party, this is the wine to bring. Scoring only one point lower than our winner, J.L. Quinson comes from the Beaujolais region of France, and in a sexy, very Instagrammable bottle that emits a sweet strawberry smell when uncorked.
It's dry, and goes down a little too easily. Plus, if you're attracted to that curvy bottle, that's a reason in itself to pick it up, Cole says.
"With rosé, more than any other style of wine, it is totally okay to choose it by its color like how the color strikes you and by the label," she says.
3. Mulderbosch Rosé $9.99
Comments: "Bad hangover in the morning," "Sweet. Cold. Skeptical about hangover level tomorrow." "Sweet aftertaste. Tastes like a patio in July." "Salty."
When your third pick is the equivalent of a D, you grade on a curve. Mulderbosch is from South Africa, and our tasters pretty much concluded that it would probably give you a terrible hangover. We did not drink enough to know if that's the case. Like everything that may give you a terrible hangover, it goes down easy, making it one of the best wines to sip on a patio as day turns to night.
Drinkability is a major quality to look for in cheap wines, Cole says: "If it tastes like Sprite, that's all you need at that cost."
4. Josefina Syrah Rosé $4.99
Comments: "Refreshing, but missing something important." "Sour. I like it but I wouldn't admit it." "Like a liquid Red Vine." "Took off my buzz."
This syrah rosé from Paso Robles was described by an LA Times food critic in 2012 as "metallic," before she threw out the whole bottle. Our writers found it to be missing something important. Sometimes, paying an extra buck makes all the difference. The syrah rosé was the darkest of the lot, which Cole says is perfect for a summer barbeque. Cole advises to select colors you're drawn to, and pair these with your food accordingly.
5. Landonnet Bordeaux Rosé $5.99
Comments: "Boring." "Could finish a bottle with a friend." "Not summer." "Could use more sparkle crisp."
From Bordeaux, Landonnet was our middle-of-the-road pick. It's a nice candy-color pink.
6. Grifone Rosé #8 $4.99
Comments: "Fishy." "FISH TASTE." "Dry, like retiring in Tucson." "Tastes like a pinot gris."
Cheap wines are more susceptible to tasting sulphury, says Cole. "That can be for different reasons, but you're looking for a clean aroma," she says. "Just keep it simple." We experienced this with this fishy Spongebob wine, which comes not from Bikini Bottom, but from a family-owned winery in Tuscany. Apparently, they do several cost-cutting operations on their own, such as creating their own labels, which is why TJs can sell it for five bucks. Still, some tasters enjoyed the wine, which they wrote had a nice sharpness and a pinot gris-like taste.
7. Carayon La Rosé $4.99
Comments: "Was I drinking WATER?" "Something you would drink if you had no friends." "Fizzy but not in a fun way." "Not summer."
Coming from the South of France, Carayona La Rosé looks killer on a table, especially as one of the most truly-pink colors, but it proved a little lackluster to our tasters. At 13% ABV, it's a little high for a cheap rosé, which could be the reason for the lack of balance.
8. Barnard Griffin Rosé $8.99
Comments: "Makes me bitter because a touch of a bitter aftertaste!!!!!" "It will get you drunk." "'Syrupy' notes of Robitussin." "Medicine? Kool-aid-like."
The only localish wine on the list, Barnard Griffin comes from Southeast Washington. When you buy the bottle from the site, it's $14, but somehow, Trader Joe's is selling it for TK. In 2015, this wine won an award from the San Francisco Chronicle, so it's a possibility we could've gotten a bad vintage.
9. Espiral Vinho Rosé $4.99
Comments: "Strawberry soda and so fucking good." "Chugged it and liked it." "Twizzlers…why?" "Freshman-year dorm party."
This Portuguese wine is described as fruity but not sweet. Our tasters disagreed. Several tasters noted it would be good for a party and to simply get drunk on, which Cole affirms is a good thing to do with cheap rosés. "Just choose a rosé that makes you smile, because that's what it should be there for," she says. "Pick a rosé you want to bring to your friends."
10. Albero Spanish Rosé $5.99
Comments: "Smells tasty AF (but wasn't)." "Forever 21 flavored." "Basically water with sour kombucha. Don't drink too much at once." "Otter pop water. Would not even drink to get fucked up."
When 24-year-olds say they wouldn't drink something to even get fucked up, you know it's bad.
Albero was the first Spanish winery to receive organic certification in the U.S., and somehow, TJs sells it exclusively. How do they do it? And why did it suck so much? Made with Spanish Bobal dark-skinned grapes, it's darker than other rosés, which could explain the heavy sweetness.
11. La Granja $4.50
Comments: "Sweet all the way down." "Fermented Twizzlers." "Like $1 flavored water."
The very worst rosé was La Granja, which costs $4.50 and has a flamingo on the front. Do not let the flamingo fool you into thinking this is anything but a children's drink, which it probably is., as it tastes like flavored water, but not in a La Croix way.
Tusk's Rosé Soirée is at 2448 E Burnside on Wednesday, June 7. 4-10 pm. $60, includes wine tastes and dinner buffet.