You were young, once. Now, you live on your own and don the same awful white socks dad wore to all those family reunions and little league games—the ones that made you scoff and turn away in embarrassment. In youth, socks seemed so important. As an adult—meh.

Well, here’s a news flash: The socks you sport say a lot about your personality, so you may want to reconsider the importance and devise a new approach to pairing shoes, socks, and pants. The same can be said of your wine habits. Stop buying cheap wine to pair with your fancy frozen chicken Cordon Bleu. As an adult, your personality needs constant cultivation, and taking a bit of time to up the ante in the wine department will reflect well on your entire output as a human. You’ll also score points with your quick-to-judge wino friends, who totally don’t believe that it’s “the thought that counts” when you bring a bottle to the party.

It’s time to realize something people twice your age have figured out: Life is too short to keep drinking wines that cost less than $10 a bottle. Generally speaking, these are bulk-production, over-oaked, over-ripe, chemical-driven wines that don’t do justice to the grapes they’re made with. Spending just a little more on a good bottle—one that offers an honest, complex expression of the grape or style intended—will position you for success with friends and family, not to mention making your dining or casual wine-outings more enjoyable.

Once you begin spending $40 to $90 per bottle, you’re living the good life. But there’s no need to make such a drastic jump just yet. Because of major improvements in quality production around the globe, there are plenty of great value wines in the $15-$35 that can get you to the promised land without leaving you in penury.

Sticking to the most popular varietals, here are eight essential wine upgrades that will help you earn the respect and reverence of peers, co-workers, and in-laws—all while improving personal enjoyment factor and leaving your bank account intact.