Big liquor stores are overwhelming, both online and IRL. With hundreds of bottles to choose from, it's temping to just stick with what you know (what up, Californian pinot) or to pick the cheapest one with the coolest label. But that's the opposite of what you should be doing according to Amanda Smeltz, head sommelier at Bar Boulud and Boulud Sud in NYC. When it comes to budget bottles, you'll get the best quality by sticking to smaller producers and lesser-known wine regions, and ignoring the fancy label.
"If it's got a really cool, jazzy-looking label you should probably avoid it," says Smeltz. Too much emphasis on marketing often points to a bland product; better to look for grapes and wine regions that sound unfamiliar. "Steer for the stuff that looks confusing and scary," she says. "Those wines tend to be less expensive but that doesn't mean lower quality, it just means that nobody knows about wines from that place." To get you started, here are nine great red wines you can buy on Amazon for under $15 (plus one just over), selected by a real-deal sommelier.