We asked a sommelier to rank budget wines from Costco, Target, Trader Joe's, BJ's, and Lidl to find out where you'll get the best bang for your buck

Cheap Wines 4Hollis Johnson/Business Insider

  • Costco, Target, Trader Joe's, BJ's, and Lidl all sell inexpensive wines.
  • We asked a sommelier to taste-test a selection of budget wines from each of these retailers.
  • The wines were all priced below $10, with one collection costing as little as $3.99.
  • Here's how they compared.

Spending under $4 on a bottle of wine might be unthinkable to some people, but if you're in the market for a budget wine, there are plenty of good options at major retailers.

With this in mind, we asked a sommelier to taste-test a selection of budget wines from Costco, Target, BJ's Warehouse Club, Lidl, and Trader Joe's. We compared a cabernet sauvignon, pinot grigio, and rosé at each of these stores. In some cases, not all bottles were available to test.

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.

Find out how she ranked the wines below:

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First, meet our sommelier, Sara Lehman, a wine expert and teacher who also specializes in pairing food with wine.

First, meet our sommelier, Sara Lehman, a wine expert and teacher who also specializes in pairing food with wine.

We first asked Lehman to test the red wines, of which there were five. We kicked off with Costco's Kirkland cabernet sauvignon, which costs $7.99.

We first asked Lehman to test the red wines, of which there were five. We kicked off with Costco's Kirkland cabernet sauvignon, which costs $7.99.

Lehman was immediately impressed and surprised. "I actually like this," she said, noting cocoa and spice flavors. "It has a lot more complexity than I was expecting it to have."

Wine drinkers should note that this wine is lighter and less fruit-forward than a typical Californian cabernet, however.

She recommended serving the wine with stuffed mushrooms or a carne asada with roasted potatoes.

"This is a great wine to take to a BBQ," she said.

Next up was Trader Joe's famous Charles Shaw cabernet sauvignon, made with organic grapes and costing $3.99.

Next up was Trader Joe's famous Charles Shaw cabernet sauvignon, made with organic grapes and costing $3.99.

The organic Charles Shaw wines launched last summer. This was the cheapest of all the reds we tasted.

"The nose is really light," she said, and it has "a lot of floral influence to it."

She recommended this for wine drinkers who prefer a lighter drop, such as a pinot noir, as it is not as powerful as a typical cabernet. It's easy to drink and smooth, she said.

While she'd be happy to drink this without food since it's so light, she said that the wine would benefit by being paired with something "tangy" or barbecued to bring out the flavor.

Then came Target's "The Collection" cabernet sauvignon, costing $9.99.

Then came Target's "The Collection" cabernet sauvignon, costing $9.99.

Target launched "The Collection," a five-bottle assortment of wine that costs $9.99 per bottle, at the beginning of March.

Lehman was instantly impressed.

"I am not going to lie, I didn't expect that from Target," she said.

She said she enjoyed the intensity of the flavor, which had a strong taste of blackberries, blackcurrants, and raspberries. This is a good option for a drinker who would like a fruit-forward typical cabernet wine.

Warehouse club BJ's launched its new Wellsley Farms collection earlier this month. This cabernet sauvignon from California starts at $7.99, though the price varies by state.

Warehouse club BJ's launched its new Wellsley Farms collection earlier this month. 
This cabernet sauvignon from California starts at $7.99, though the price varies by state.

Lehman was initially impressed by the spicy flavor but said it faded quickly.

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

She added: "Out of all the wines, this would be the one that I would think would be the typical BJ's brand. It tastes very commercial."

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

Last but not least was Lidl's Untamed Vine cabernet sauvignon Alexander Valley, which costs $8.99.

Last but not least was Lidl's Untamed Vine cabernet sauvignon Alexander Valley, which costs $8.99.

Lidl is a European grocery chain that recently arrived in the US and is known for winning multiple awards for some of its wines, including this bottle.

This was Lehman's first tasting of a Lidl wine, and she was extremely impressed.

"Oh wow," she said. "I feel like this wine has a lot of layers."

Cranberry, currant, and cocoa flavors popped out instantly, she said.

"This is a very attractive wine," she said, adding that it would work well served with grilled vegetables.

The verdict:

The verdict:

Ranking:

1. Lidl

2. Costco

3. Target

4. Trader Joe's

5. BJ's

On to the whites. We kicked off with Costco's Kirkland pinot grigio, costing $7.89 for a 1.5-liter bottle.

On to the whites. We kicked off with Costco's Kirkland pinot grigio, costing $7.89 for a 1.5-liter bottle.

After being pleasantly surprised by Kirkland's cabernet sauvignon, Lehman was optimistic about its next bottle.

It lived up to expectations: not too acidic and with a smooth finish, she said, adding that it's a good option if you are looking for a very typical pinot grigio.

She would pair this with a fruit salad or fish tacos.

Next up was Trader Joe's Charles Shaw pinot grigio, which is organic and costs $3.99.

Next up was Trader Joe's Charles Shaw pinot grigio, which is organic and costs $3.99.

"It's bringing me back to my childhood," Lehman said, and not in the most flattering sense. Her immediate impression is that this wine tastes a lot like apple juice.

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

While it does taste acidic at first, it fades to have a warmer, creamier flavor, she said.

Next is Target's "The Collection" pinot grigio, costing $9.99.

Next is Target's "The Collection" pinot grigio, costing $9.99.

Lehman was impressed by Target's second bottle of wine. She said she tasted a stronger flavor of citrus skins, such as lime peel and candied lemon. The wine was not too sweet, and the acidity was well-balanced, she said.

This would work well for a BBQ on a hot day, she said, or paired with melon and prosciutto.

"It needs some fattiness to wash away that acidity," she said. "If my friends brought this over, I would drink it."

And lastly, she tried BJ's Wellsley Farms pinot grigio from Venezie, Italy, which starts at $6.99.

And lastly, she tried BJ's Wellsley Farms pinot grigio from Venezie, Italy, which starts at $6.99.

Her first impression was what she described as a "barnyard" smell; she quickly followed up by saying that this is an aroma that can be attractive in wine and along the lines of fresh cut hay, rather than horse manure.

She described it as a "decent" wine and a good example of what you would expect a typical pinot grigio to be, while the other three wines had more distinct flavors.

The verdict:

The verdict:

Ranking:

1. Target

2. Costco

3. BJ's

4. Trader Joe's

The final tasting was rosé. The first we tasted was Trader Joe's Charles Shaw rosé, made with organic grapes and costing $3.99.

The final tasting was rosé. The first we tasted was Trader Joe's Charles Shaw rosé, made with organic grapes and costing $3.99.

Unfortunately, Costco's Kirkland rosé wasn't available for sale when we visited one of its warehouse clubs; it's expected to hit the shelves later this spring.

We started the tasting with Trader Joe's organic Charles Shaw. Lehman was impressed with the acidity and overall taste but felt the finish fell short.

Because of this, she recommended pairing it with light bites or appetizers.

"I wouldn't put too many flavors with this wine because you would lose the wine completely," she said.

Next was Target's "The Collection" rosé, costing $9.99.

Next was Target's "The Collection" rosé, costing $9.99.

Lehman felt this had a lot more flavor than Trader Joe's version. It is "bright, fruit forward, and fresh," she said, noting strawberry, cherry, and raspberry undertones.

"This wine could be taken places; it has everything I look for in a rosé," she said.

She recommended pairing this with food that has texture, like red meat or grilled fish.

And finally, Lidl's velada pink moscato, costing $4.99.

And finally, Lidl's velada pink moscato, costing $4.99.

Although not technically a rosé, Lidl recommends this pink moscato as a summer wine.

Lehman said that this sweet and fizzy wine was exactly how she would expect it to be. It was very sweet, with hints of strawberries and bubble gum. She described it as a "strawberry jam sensation."

It's a good wine to drink in summer and pair with spicy food, Lehman said.

The verdict:

The verdict:

Ranking:

1. Target

2. Trader Joe's

3. Lidl

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