Let’s face it, Trader Joe’s is not my favorite place to buy wine. That being said, I’m not immune to the allure of an affordable and convenient wine section a few aisles away from my favorite snacks. And let’s face it, nothing makes a better night than a movie marathon fueled by snacks from TJ.
As a food and beverage professional, I researched, walked the aisles and tasted wine to find the best bottles for your money as well as some snack suggestions because we both know it’s is why you are really at Trader Joe’s in the first place.
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TJ’s still white selection is far more rewarding than any other. I’ve had better quality and generally better experiences with white grapes overall, however, you still have to be strategic to get the best bottle.
The key is to shop according to the wine regions of your preferred style. For example, if you love Sauvignon Blanc and recently had a great one from Marlborough, maybe try another area of ââNew Zealand like Hawke’s Bay or Central Otago. (While some wine experts say New Zealand sauv blanc is ‘too strong’, I’m often drawn to its vibrancy and identification with strong citrus and a dry mouth feel.)
Best choice: Belles Vignes sauvignon blanc ($ 5.99)
Citrus and a little grassy with a smooth, crushed stone minerality (one of my top five favorite wine characteristics), this sauv blanc is good enough to drink on its own. But why would you want to do this with so many snacks on hand?
Snack: Baked Cheese Bites ($ 2.49)
Les Belles Vignes pairs well with goat cheese and crackers, but a friendlier option to watch frenzy is the baked cheese bites. I like to pair a very sour wine with something fatty and slightly salty, so this crispy snack hits all the right notes.
Honorable mention: Grifone pinot grigio ($ 4.99)
This organic Italian white wine pairs well with TJ’s frozen cauliflower tempura, which has a nice, subtle touch of spice. Spicy foods are always a good bet with chilled, easy-to-drink white options like this one.
Honorable mention: Emma Reichart dry riesling ($ 5.99)
Although drier for Riesling, this wine has a touch of sweetness, like a well-balanced apricot jam. It goes very well with Everything But The Bagel kettle chips. In my opinion, salty and sweet always work well together, especially when the sweet isn’t too strong.
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Most of TJ’s rosÃ©s are pretty much in the middle, as many have residual sugar that makes them too sweet and a note. My advice is to be very careful where the wine is produced. With any grocer not specialized in wine, the safe bet is to buy a rosÃ© from a popular rosÃ©-producing region such as Piedmont, Provence, Languedoc, Loire Valley or Corsica.
Favorite: GÃ©rard Bertrand CÃ´te des Roses ($ 12.99)
You would think that a bottle with a rose carved into the glass would signal a whimsical option, made pretty to sell. In this case, it is actually a fairly well balanced wine. With an alcohol content of around 13% by volume, CÃ´te des Roses is a refreshing, acidic and dry rosÃ©.
Snack: Almonds with almond butter ($ 3.99)
A good rule of thumb when pairing food and wine is that acid and fat equals perfection. As this rosÃ© is neither heavy nor rich, you can pair it with snacks that are. In this case, it is an excellent accompaniment to almonds in almond butter for a little dessert moment.
Honorable mention: Chastelles Reserve ($ 8.99)
A TJ exclusivity from the RhÃ´ne region, this Tavel rosÃ© blend is robust and fruity with a deep salmon color. Tavel is the only appellation that specializes specifically in rosÃ©, so they are quite trustworthy. I would definitely pair this wine with food, like a coleslaw salad or popcorn in olive oil.
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Most of the red options at TJ can be watery or very alcoholic, and while there are several organic options, just because a wine is made from organic grapes doesn’t mean the end product will be of high quality. One particularly confusing bottle is Charles Shaw Organic Pinot Noir which has a heavily toasted oak flavor, which would likely make it unrecognizable to those who enjoy light pinots.
Your best bet is to stick with domestic bottles, especially those from California. If you like darker or more full-bodied style wines, choose something from warmer regions like Paso Robles, which will bring out those bold flavors of ripe fruit. For lighter styles, you’ll want to choose wines from cooler climates like the regions of southern Chile or northern France and Italy.
Best choice: Corvella cabernet sauvignon ($ 9.99)
This one will hit you with lots of dark, rich fruits like blackberries or black cherries. It is a sweet drinkable wine with a good amount of oak and smoky notes on the finish.
Snack: powerberries ($ 3.49) or plantain chips drizzled with dark chocolate ($ 2.99)
Eating something rich and decadent, like chocolate, can enhance the toasted vanilla and deep black fruit notes of this red. You can go with the safe bet and grab a handful of dark chocolate coated powerberries or you can try the more adventurous, sweet and savory combination of plantain chips drizzled with dark chocolate.