College Declassified: Cheap Wine Survival Guide Ch.1- Cabernet Savignons

I come from a family of wine drinkers. My dad enjoys a dry red after work, my mom likes her sweet bubblies, and my brother can be usually be found with a fancy French rosé. Me? If it goes in a wine glass, I’m a fan. However, as a college student I’m not willing to pay more than $10 for a night of yelling tipsily at Say Yes To The Dress. Thus, I decided to create a series of cheat sheets for those in a similar position; your College Declassified: Cheap Wine Survival Guide. To kick it off, let’s drink our way through some dirt cheap bottles of what I like to call the “classy old white lady” wine- the classic cabernet sauvignon.

  1. 1. Happy Camper- $7.99 at Specs

    At the top of our list is Happy Camper. This wine was everything you could hope for in this price range; a smooth, almost buttery mouth feel, a sweeter complexity with notes of berry and surprisingly Jack Daniels, and a full body. Our resident cab-hater really loathed this wine scoring it a 3.5 out of 10, but the rest of my friend group gave it a solid 7.5 out of 10. If you enjoy a good smooth cab, this wine will definitely make you a happy camper.

  2. 2. Cupcake- $7.99 at Total Wine

    Not as sweet as the name would have you believe, one of my friends described Cupcake as “the wine your parents give you to introduce you to drinking”. Cupcake introduced a sharp, simple flavor of sweet grape preserves, with a full body and a dry finish. This wine was also pretty divisive among our group, with the lowest score being a 4 out of 10, but the average came out to around 7 out of 10. With this cab, any wine lover can have their (cup)cake and eat it too.

  3. 3. Gnarly Head- $7.19 at Total Wine

    All naughty jokes aside, this offering from Gnarly Head held up pretty well in the line up, coming in at number three. Described as “the perfect wine to drink at a ren fest,” this wine screams “grape juice” at your taste buds with such intensity the bards will be singing about it for the next three years. A dry finish and a smoky aftertaste adds a layer of complexity to the otherwise sweet and simple wine. With a unanimous rating of 6.5 out of 10, this Gnarly Head is sure to satisfy everyone who asks for it.

  4. 4. Gallo Family Vineyards- $3.15 at Total Wine

    As we opened Gallo Family Vineyard’s bottle, the mindset around the table was “we’ll try the $3 wine so you don’t have to.” Imagine our surprise upon taking the first sip and finding that it was actually halfway decent. Yes, it was fairly sharp and acidic- a hallmark of any cheap wine- but it had a nutty note and a fuller body than Yellow Tail. Best yet, it was literally $3. The price difference alone is enough to boost its score, but the taste was quite good on its own. We all agreed that it had earned itself a rating 5 out of 10 and the title of “the cheap little wine that could.”

  5. 5. Yellow Tail- $5.47 at Walmart

    Yellow Tail was unanimously agreed upon as “the typical cheap wine you find on a college student’s kitchen counter.” It’s a dry, acidic wine with a thin body and about as much personality as a wet sponge. We noted a slightly higher complexity than Barefoot’s cab but considering that you have not yet seen Barefoot on this list, it’s safe to say that this is still not a ringing endorsement. With a dry, earthy finish, we would rate this wine at a steady 4.5 out of 10- not bad, but not great either.

  6. 6. Newman's Own- $8.29 at Total Wine

    You thought Newman’s Own only made salad dressings? Think again! Better yet, 100% of the proceeds from every bottle go to charity, giving you a warm fuzzy feeling before you even open the bottle. We only wish we could tell you the wine tasted as good as the feeling of giving. Unfortunately, this wine ended up near the bottom of our list; it had a “distinct note of hand sanitizer” with a syrupy bitterness that coated your tongue. This is one of the only cases where we would say a full body works against a wine, with a consistent rating of 4 out of 10. If you want to give to charity, just make a donation and steer clear of this cab.

  7. 7. Barefoot- $5.48 at Walmart

    Ah, Barefoot. We had such high hopes for you. Your iconic logo reminds us of beachy spring breaks, you’re the first wine many college girls will ever try- and you’re probably the reason a lot of people say they don’t like wine. This wine tasted “like the water at the bottom of the kitchen sink.” It was bitter and earthy, with distinct notes of vinegar and crabapple, with a thin consistency and a watery raisin aftertaste. One of us rated this wine as a 1 out of 10, with the rest of us giving it a 3 out 10. Please, we beg you, save your taste buds and pick up a bottle of literally anything else instead.

There you have it! Leave a comment below with your favorite cab under $10, and let me know what type of wine we should review next!