Four wines that taste like a million bucks but cost less than $15

How come no one ever seems to talk about how expensive it is to be a wine drinker?

Think about it: Thanksgiving is a scant three weeks from now, and according to the near-endless refrain of shopping mall adverts, Christmas shows up in precisely 54 days. Heap on top of that myriad holiday cocktail parties and dinner gatherings -- never mind just annoying days at the office -- and the sides of your monthly wine kitty are near to bursting. Of course, certain occasions merit themselves worthy of spendier bottles, but for those that don't, look no further than our picks below for four "taste great, less expensive" wines to scoop up now.

Lunetta Prosecco NV ($10): There's nothing quite like a glass or four of bubbly to ward off pre-holiday season stress, is there? Inevitable mass sparkling wine consumption over the coming months demands we find a bottle that simultaneously suits our oxymoronically aligned budget (low) and tastebuds (high-falutin'). Enter the Lunetta prosecco, which presents you with a lively set of petite bubbles, then fairly bounds across your palate with peachy-citrusy flavors. Whether you prefer to top off this prosecco with a juice (we like pomegranate) or enjoy it au naturel, wine like this is pure fun to drink, and given its $10 price tag, deserves to be drunk early and often. Instant. Mood. Improver.

Elderton Unoaked Chardonnay 2009 ($14): Serious question: Do you know what chardonnay tastes like? We're guessing that you don't -- either because you've sworn off the stuff like the legions of people who've deemed it tragically unhip - or because the chards you typically sip are so egregiously oaky that any semblance of fruit are rendered wholly undetectable. Whatever the case, this is the perfect bottle with which to re-acquaint yourself with the delightful array of classic, refreshing fruit flavors indigenous to this varietal. A few of the taste sensations you can look forward to include fleshy pear, Pink Lady apple and lime zest, which make this wine a perfect foil for lighter fall and winter fare (think roast chicken, grilled swordfish, and the like). And if you're lucky enough to enjoy the luxury of a glass of wine with lunch? Here you go.

Bodegas Tarima Monastrell 2009 ($11): We are so in love with monastrell right now -- and it's high time you were, too. Here's a grape (which is also known as mourvedre, by the way) that in this incarnation, delivers tremendous bang for very few bucks with a generous mouthfeel and gloriously ripe blackberry fruit profile. To get a better sense of what it tastes like, just imagine syrah, but with higher acidity and more herbal qualities and you'd be on the right track. In fact, the Tarima is the perfect mash up of old and new world red wine sensibilities -- which is to say that it goes down just as easily with food as not. As more winter weather stylings set in (and with a price tag this appealing), this might become your favorite weeknight companion.

Chateau de Vaugelas Corbières Le Prieuré 2009 ($13): Okay, so maybe you can't pronounce the name of this wine. Don't worry -- all you really need to focus on is the price (low) and the taste (fantastic). See that fourth word "Corbières"? That's the one that matters, because as with the majority of old world wines, it's the name of the region that clues you in to what you're about to drink. In this case, wines made in Corbières (which is actually a sub-region located within the larger Languedoc-Roussillon wine growing region in southern France) typically are a blend of syrah, grenache, and carignan. All of which adds up to a hearty, comforting red that's practically bursting with jammy berry, spice and cocoa flavors. Who says wine has to be spendy to be superb?

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Kendra Anderson