We asked a sommelier to rank budget wines from Costco, Target, Trader Joe's, BJ's, and Lidl. Here's which retailer did the best overall.

We asked a sommelier to rank budget wines from Costco, Target, Trader Joe's, BJ's, and Lidl. Here's which retailer did the best overall.


Hollis Johnson/Business Insider

We asked sommelier Sara Lehman to rank a selection of budget bottles of red, white, and rosé wine.

  • We asked a sommelier to taste-test a selection of budget wines from Costco, Target, Trader Joe's, BJ's, and Lidl.
  • These wines were all priced below $10, with one bottle costing as little as $3.99.
  • Here's how sommelier Sara Lehman ranked each brand overall.

Costco and Trader Joe's might not spring to mind when you're thinking about where to shop for good wines, but plenty of shoppers swear by these stores when it comes to finding a good-quality budget bottle.

Read more: We taste-tested 7 of Costco's Kirkland wines and were blown away by their price and quality. Here's how they ranked from worst to best.

We asked sommelier Sara Lehman to rank her favorite bottle of red, white, and rosé wines from a selection that we picked from Costco, Target, Trader Joe's, BJ's, and Lidl. We then asked her to pick her favorite brands overall.

We planned to compare a cabernet sauvignon, pinot grigio, and rosé from each brand, but in some cases these wines were not available.


Here's how the brands stacked up:

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5. BJ's

5. BJ's

We tested BJ's Wellsley Farms collection, which launched earlier this month. This five-bottle collection does not include a rosé, so we tested its cabernet sauvignon from California, which starts at $7.99, and its pinot grigio from Venezie, Italy, which starts at $6.99.

It ranked in last place of the five retailers.

"I was looking for a little more character and complexity," Lehman said.

She was initially impressed by the spicy flavor in the cabernet sauvignon but said this faded quickly.

"It's a nice wine, nothing too complex, a lot of fruit, and then it finishes flat," she said.

She recommended bringing this to a potluck where there is a lot of different food on offer and you don't need the wine to be paired with one particular dish.

The pinot grigio was "decent," she said, and a good example of what you would expect a typical pinot grigio to be.

She described BJ's bottles as being the most typical flavor for a low-cost wine.

"It tastes very commercial," she said.

4. Trader Joe's

4. Trader Joe's

Trader Joe's famous "two-buck Chuck" collection was the cheapest of all the wines we tasted, but it didn't quite cut the mustard when it came to taste.

We tried the cabernet sauvignon, pinot grigio, and rosé from its Charles Shaw organic collection; these wines all cost $3.99 each.

Lehman was least complimentary about the white wine, saying that it tasted a lot like apple juice.

"Stick a straw in it and I think it would be really good," she said.

The rosé and reds were better, she said, but they still didn't have much taste.

"I wouldn't put too many flavors with [the rosé] because you would lose the taste completely," she said in reference to food-pairing options.


3. Costco

3. Costco

Costco's low-cost Kirkland collection was the biggest surprise of all.

We tested its Kirkland cabernet sauvignon and its Kirkland pinot grigio. These giant, 1.5-liter bottles cost under $8.

"I am not going to lie, I had a little bit of a stigma coming in," Lehman said, pointing out the magnum-sized — but low-cost — bottles. "But I was really pleasantly surprised."

The Kirkland brand is known for being a popular choice of Costco members and it's become one of the store's biggest assets. According to a recent report from UBS, the Kirkland Signature label could be worth as much as $75 billion.

Read more: Costco's Kirkland brand has become a secret weapon worth as much as $75 billion

2. Lidl

2. Lidl

European grocery chain Lidl recently arrived in the US, and it's known for winning multiple awards for some of its wine. Its reputation held true in this tasting. Lehman was extremely impressed by Lidl's wines.

We tested its Untamed Vine cabernet sauvignon Alexander Valley, which costs $8.99, a Kauri Valley sauvignon blanc Marlborough, which costs $9.99, and a very reasonably priced pink moscato wine costing under $5.

"Oh wow. I feel like this wine has a lot of layers," she said of the cabernet sauvignon, pointing out its cranberry, currant, and cocoa flavors. "This is a very attractive wine."

We were unable to test a pinot grigio from Lidl, but Lehman was highly impressed with the sauvignon blanc.

She said the pink moscato was exactly how she would expect this sweeter wine to be, adding that it would be a great wine to pair with spicy food.


1. Target

1. Target

"The Collection" by Target was Lehman's top wine choice.

Target launched this five-bottle assortment at the beginning of March, with each bottle costing $9.99. We tested its cabernet sauvignon, pinot grigio, and rosé.

"I was pleasantly surprised by all three of these wines. They all struck me in very different and very positive ways," Lehman said.

She said that the wines lived up to her criteria for taste, aroma, complexity, and finish.

Red: "The red really was very approachable. It's great for those wine drinkers that love fruit but also like a bit of complexity and oak influence."

White: "A very nice pinot" that would be good for pairing with food.

Rosé: "This is a rosé that I would drink. If I was going to bring something that was less expensive to my friends, I would go to 'The Collection.'"