We Tried Every White Wine from Yellow Tail

Wine Under $20

Seeking the best value for the buck.


[Photograph: Robyn Lee]

Not everyone knows this about me, but I used to be a fat kid. A really fat kid. If Santa were brown, a girl and barely 4 feet tall, he might have had some competition. But as I progressed through my tweenage years and the underwhelming but very real growth spurt kicked in, my preferences changed considerably. Apples and carrots weren't just nature's tools to scavenge for loose baby teeth. Distance running could be fun and empowering. And Oreos actually tasted better if you ate them one at a time.

Growing up was looking good.

Over the last several years, I'm happy to say that my wine choices have grown up too. Many of my first wine experiences were at wineries in Napa, leading me to believe that if a wine wasn't $50+ or a big bold red, it probably wasn't good. Times have changed, and I'm always on the lookout for affordable gems—whether they're priced kindly because they're from lesser-known regions or less-common grapes.

But what about the big brands? Are there good bottles to be found in the supermarket aisle? Over the next several weeks we'll be tasting our way through the entire Yellow Tail collection to see if there are a few...err...cubic zirconias in the rough. Which are the best bottles of Yellow Tail wine? Which should be avoided? We have the answers right here.

Starting with the whites, we've tried a total of 7 bottles: Pinot Grigio (both regular and pricier reserve), Chardonnay (both regular and reserve), Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, and Moscato. Most of the regular bottles can be purchased for about $5 to $7, and the Reserve bottles are closer to the $10 mark. (Though we've seen both for quite a bit more—be careful where you buy!)

Light and Crisp Winner: Sauvignon Blanc

If you're looking for a light and refreshing bottle to complement a salad or a hot afternoon, Yellowtail's Sauvignon Blanc is the best option in the lineup. This wine was made from a blend of Australian and New Zealand grapes (86% and 14%, respectively). Despite the smoky aroma, this wine is lifted by sharp acidity and a bit of effervescence. Herbal flavors came through with hints of sage, complemented by citrusy lemon notes. Given the acidity on this one, I'd have some goat cheese handy to snack on.

If choosing between this and the Trader Moon Sauvignon Blanc from Trader Joes, we have to go with TJ's. The Bay Moon seemed a bit more balanced, whereas the Yellow Tail version has more of a tart punch.

Favorite Fuller-Bodied Bottle: Riesling

Say that five times fast! Of the Yellowtail whites with a bit more body and weight, the Yellowtail Riesling was the favorite. This wine starts with sweet scents of honey and pineapple. It wasn't as sweet as we expected, though, but was a little viscous and rich. As you would expect with Riesling, hints of pear came through to balance the chalky, minerally notes. There was a tiny tinge of alcohol on the back of the throat, and the acidity was less zingy than the Sauvignon Blanc. Serve it with a chicken dinner.

If You're into Sweet and Fizzy: Moscato

A quick note on the Moscato: While this wasn't my favorite, this is probably a good option to consider if you're into lighter, sweeter wines. Golden raisin flavors came through both on the nose and palate, joined by hints of apple. This bottle was light and refreshing with a mellow fizz (didn't last as long as say, Champagne bubbles, but as the bottles states, they're going for a "lil' fizzy"). And with the alcohol clocking in at a mere 7.5%, perhaps this would be a good choice as a session wine (I don't think there's as much of a concept around "session wine" as there is session beer, but maybe there should be, so I'm planting the seeds now).

If you like the Honey Moon wine from Trader Joe's, this wine's probably right up your alley—a little more acid and the addition of bubbles make this a decent alternative for summer sipping.

Winner of the Reserves: Chardonnay

And what about those more expensive bottles? Of the 2 white Reserve bottles we tasted, the Chardonnay edged out the Pinot Grigio. While the scent offered sweet vanilla and pear, the wine was drier than we expected. Ripe peach flavors and bright acidity gave way for a buttery, creamy finish. Especially when compared to the regular Chardonnay, which both smelled and tasted too chemical-like for us (the comment "tastes like latex" definitely got the conversation going), the Reserve Chardonnay was enough of an improvement to warrant an extra couple of bucks.

That about wraps things up for the whites, and we'll be working our way through the reds over the next couple of weeks. In the meantime, do you buy Yellow Tail wines? Which are your favorites? Any to avoid?

Disclosure: all wines were provided as samples for review.