Short on time and grabbing a bottle of wine at the supermarket is your only option? Finding an interesting bottle can be tough, but there are some tucked in with the ordinary. Supermarkets deal in wines as beverage — predictable, mostly the entry level wines, produced in quantity, from well-known brands. Forget about stumbling across a hidden gem or a natural wine from a small upcoming producer.
The wine selection doesn't vary much from supermarket to supermarket. Most of the labels come from a few big companies that either own or distribute a large roster of wines. However, you can sometimes find deals.
Right now Albertsons is running a promotion — buy six wines and get 10% off. And they don't all have to be the same wine: You can mix and match. Most wine shops give a similar discount on full cases (12 bottles) of wine.
At the Albertsons in Culver City, the first thing you see in the wine section are long shelves stocked with 1.5 liter bottles. That's the same size as the double bottle or magnums winemakers often use for their best wines. That's because the large format bottles are wonderful for aging wines.
Don't get too excited, though. Here, the large bottle is just a container: no aging involved. You'll find Sutter Home White Zinfandel, for example, or Gallo Family Cabernet Sauvignon in this section with some big bottles going for as little as $6 or $7 — just a little more than Trader Joe's Two Buck Chuck. Keep moving.
There's an old-fashioned Chianti bottle wrapped in straw, and Riunite (remember that brand from the old television commercials?) Lambrusco, the fizzy red wine from Italy's Lombardy region — in jugs! The store also carries a big inventory of inexpensive and popular brands like Australia's Yellowtail, and California's Turning Leaf and Barefoot.
Move on to wines in normal 750-milliliter bottles. At first glance, it looks as if the selection is quite large, but the same labels pop up over and over again. Someone used to shopping in dedicated wine stores may find it hard to find anything that sticks out in terms of quality or value. But there are some wines that are good value — and that would be fine on the everyday dinner table.
If you want to take advantage of that 10% off for six bottles, here are our picks. Note that prices listed are before the 10% discount.
2013 Louis Jadot Beaujolais (France) $11.99
A basic Beaujolais from the wine region of the same name in southern Burgundy and a good buy at the price. Jadot's Beaujolais-Village, at about a dollar more, is an even better buy. Both are fruity, easygoing reds, perfect for the barbecue, with a burger or a roast chicken.
2012 Joel Gott Cabernet Sauvignon (California) $14.99
Napa Valley producer Joel Gott makes excellent high-end Cabernets in the $50-to-$60 range. Tasting of blackberries and herbs, his entry level Cabernet is serviceable, drinkable — and affordable.
NV LaMarca Prosecco (Veneto, Italy) $14.99
Start out an evening with a glass of this Prosecco. This fresh, clean sparkler from Italy's Veneto that has a touch of citrus and flowers. You can also add a splash of orange or peach juice to make a Bellini.
2011 Chalone Vineyard Chardonnay Monterey County (California) $13.99
Chalone has always made leaner Chardonnays in the Burgundian style. This one is crisp and balanced, with touches of citrus and oak. Break out a bottle for that salmon you just put on the grill.
2012 Ravenswood Old Vine Zinfandel Sonoma County (California) $13.99
From Sonoma's pioneering Zinfandel specialist, this gutsy red is packed with the flavors of blackberries and spice. It's actually a blend of 80% Zinfandel with smaller amounts of Petite Sirah, Syrah and Carignane. Just the bottle for a slab of barbecued ribs.
2010 Marqués de Cáceres Rioja Crianza (Spain) $12.99
This young Rioja from a historic estate is a good value for a red wine with some age on it. The Tempranillo grape rules in Rioja and this is a lovely, easy drinking example.