We taste-tested nine different wines… this $0.33/glass boxed wine won

From Dr. David Eifrig Jr., MD, MBA, Editor, Retirement Millionaire:

The wine industry will tell you that the more money you pay for a bottle of wine, the better. People follow professional reviews and tasting notes, and pay buckets of money for overpriced wine.

But even sommeliers and wine specialists at high-end restaurants can’t always tell the difference between some wines.

We read one study in which 54 professional sommeliers tasted two wines – one red, one white. All of the sommeliers ranked the red wine with typical flavors and characteristics of red wines, flavors they didn’t cite in the white wine. The only problem… they tasted the exact same wine. The red wine was the white wine with some flavorless, odorless food coloring added.

So we decided to hold our own taste test for you.

Last month, I poured a bunch of cheap white wine for myself and 9 co-workers in our office… 

The 10 of us gave up a Wednesday evening to sample nine different white wines. To choose our wines, we picked eight brands from the top 20 best-selling wines in the U.S., based on the rankings from Wines & Vines, a wine-industry magazine and analytics service. The ninth sample was from Argentina and came from my personal stash (wait ’til you hear my review) since I wanted to include a more unusual, but still affordable, brand. Each wine cost less than $20.

We rated the wines on taste, aftertaste, and overall enjoyment. I also had everyone guess how much a typical bottle of each wine would cost.

The results surprised us, especially me…

Our taste testers ranked Franzia Crisp White as their No. 1 favorite wine. Although all of the testers marked that they drink wine at least once a month (many drink a glass daily), this pick was the lowest-cost wine we had in the lineup (and one of the two boxed wines we tested).

All but one tester thought the Franzia wine cost between $10 and $25 a bottle… Since the five-liter box holds about 6.5 bottles of wine, the equivalent price for one regular-sized bottle (750 milliliters) works out to about $1.64. At $0.33 per five-ounce glass, this is a crazy good deal. It proves my point that anyone can find an enjoyable wine for an extremely good price.

In second place was the Chateau Ste. Michelle’s Dry Riesling. In third was the Pinot Grigio from Barefoot, the top-selling brand in the U.S. Our most expensive bottle (and my least favorite), Robert Mondavi Chardonnay, came in fifth.

My mystery wine from Argentina, Casarena Sauvignon Blanc, ranked dead last. People either loved it or hated it. Two people ranked it in their top three. But seven people put it in their bottom three (me included).

Keep in mind that we tested popular wines from several types of grapes. We wanted a range of “varietals” and styles to offer our testers multiple flavors. So if Tester A really enjoys Chardonnays, he or she may have ranked our sample from the maker Cupcake much higher than Tester B, who prefers Rieslings.

The most important thing is that the value of wine-tasting lies with you, the individual taster. Spending hundreds of dollars on a “good” bottle of wine doesn’t mean you will enjoy it. As we saw in our taste test, reactions differed wildly on the same wine.

One great way to experience new wines is to stop by your local wine store for free tastings – often done several times a month. Just call the store or check its website to see when it offers an event. It’s a great way to drink wine for free.

One other thing I love doing is a tasting party; I provide the cheese and bread and ask folks to bring their own wine based on a theme – like sweet wines or Chardonnays or from a specific region… You can even try a tasting based on the wines we did and see how you like them.

Most important, always keep track of what you like. My research assistant, Amanda, uses a mobile-phone application called Vivino that lets her snap photos of wine-bottle labels. The program then pulls up reviews of the wine and allows her to track her own tasting notes. As for me, I keep a long Excel spreadsheet tracking every wine and my experience with it. Knowing if you prefer Sauvignon Blancs or Pinot Grigios will help you find a great white wine for your next picnic.

And as our taste testers will tell you, don’t shy away from the “discount” boxed wines – you might actually discover another secret of the true Retirement Millionaire.

Here’s to our health, wealth, and a great retirement,

Dr. David Eifrig Jr., MD, MBA

Crux note: Each month, Doc shares tips like this to help his readers save (and make) money in his Retirement Millionaire newsletter. His latest report details a handful of little-known loopholes you can use to maximize the amount you earn from Social Security each month. These loopholes could mean thousands of extra dollars of income per year. You can learn all about them (and how to get ALL of Doc’s top money-saving and money-making ideas) right here.

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