Guest author Jelista Legarreta is a food, wine and travel blogger from Chicago. Her passion for good food and fine wine is evident not only on her blog but also on her Instagram feed. To learn more about Jelista and her travels follow her @SipandSample on Instagram and don’t forget to check out for more tips on drinking well on a budget. 

Do you have caviar taste on a sardine budget? Do you see yourself reaching for the Barefoot wine more times than you’d like to admit?

In the overwhelming world of wine, it can be incredibly difficult to find a bargain without sacrificing quality. Many factors go into the price of wine, including how it’s made, how it’s aged, and of course, marketing. Worry no more. I’ve got your back.

I present The Poor Girl’s Guide to Drinking Well. These AMAZING alternatives are not only delicious but typically cost significantly less than the highly-marketed options! Bring these to a dinner party, repeat a few of these notes, and you’ll soon be the “go-to” for everything new and exciting.

Now, there really is no excuse not to drink the good stuff.

Instead of Champagne, drink Cava

Champagne is the queen of “sparkling wine” and her majestic presence is usually expected at all celebrations. She carries a big price tag for several reasons. Here are two: (a) True Champagne must come from Champagne, France. (If made anywhere other than Champagne, it is labeled as “sparkling wine”.) Ah, exclusivity. (b) The method used to make and ferment true Champagne is a long and meticulous process, which contributes to its quality and taste. It’s known as the Traditional Method and no other sparkling wine in the world is made in this way except… drumroll, please… CAVA!

Cava comes from Spain (typically Catalunya, Spain) and offers many of the complexities found in Champagne. Cava usually runs in the $10 range, and when compared to Champagne’s typical price tag of $40+, Cava is the ideal option for saving money without sacrificing quality!

Instead of French Burgundy, drink Oregon Pinot Noir

Pinot Noir grapes are the most high-maintenance of all wine grapes and require everything to be absolutely perfect while maturing on the vine. For all of my Mean Girls fans, consider Pinot Noir the Regina George of wine grapes.

Although winemaking techniques play a large role in the quality of Pinot Noir, the climate in the growing region makes a huge impact! If the climate is too cool or too hot, Pinot Noir grapes lose the characteristics and flavors that make it a quality wine.

For hundreds of years, the “perfect” Pinot Noir has been known to originate in Burgundy, France, and the best options are easily hundreds of dollars, although the lower end Burgundies average $50-60. However, if you head directly west (WAY west), you land in Oregon, WA, which shares the same climate as Burgundy, France. At an average of $10-15 per bottle, this is a huge win!

Instead of Cabernet, drink Douro

Quality Cabernets are big, bold, and… expensive. This hearty grape produces wines that are ideal for aging in oak barrels because of the way it contributes to and softens the flavor of the wine. However, oak barrels are expensive, and as an alternative, lower-quality Cabs will toss in oak chips. That is why some Cabs are $10, and others are $100.

However, enter Douro, Portugal’s best-kept secret.

Most of the wine made in Portugal stays in Portugal and have therefore not been heavily marketed. Obviously, this is a blessing in disguise for us bargain shoppers! Douro is a high-quality red wine usually aged in oak barrels with almost identical characteristics to Cab. The major difference is the price, as Douro typically costs under $10!

Follow these tips and your budget (and palate) will thank you. Cheers!

Image iStock