4 tips for choosing a wine on a budget
You want to drink well, but don’t want to break the bank doing so. I’ve seen the situation over and over again. Everyone is looking for ways to save some hard-earned funds, and when it comes to wine shopping things are no different. Choosing a great bottle can be a daunting task for many, even before considering the budget factor. So how do you find the perfect pairing for your finances? Whether it’s $10 or $100, a good option should not be too far out of reach. Here are a few tips for choosing a wine on a budget that I’ve collected from a couple decades in the wine industry.
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Think Outside the Box
How many times have you been told to think outside the box? Your first thought might be how can I find a cheaper Chardonnay that is still palatable? But what if you found a grape varietal that was just as delicious but cheaper because it’s still fairly unknown to the masses. Push your boundaries past the usual and you can discover some inexpensive sips that will give the more well known grapes a run for their money. A few suggestions: instead of Pinot Noir, try Gamay or Blaufränkisch. Chardonnay fans may enjoy Godello or Falanghina. Cabernet drinkers should seek out Tempranillo or Touriga Nacional. With over 10,000 different grape varieties in the world, finding unique and inexpensive wine could easily become your journey and not your destination.
Think Inside the Box
Now I know I just told you to think outside the box, but what if you also looked inside the box? I’m talking about boxed wines, that is. There has been a recent resurgence in higher quality options from small batch artisan producers as well as higher end more recognizable names. The larger format and convenience of a pour spout could be enough to convince some. But this environmentally friendly packaging adds extra bonuses. Less waste here equals bigger savings compared to buying the same equivalent in glass bottles. But the biggest factor for me is longevity. Many brands tout the freshness of a couple weeks. Perhaps you just want one glass and don’t want to sacrifice an entire bottle, the box has your back.
Think of a Bigger Box
Now what if your box was bigger? Say a case of wine instead of just a bottle or two? Buying in bulk is a great way to save some cash in the long run. This idea alone has made stores like Costco a go to for the savvy shopper. While warehouse stores can certainly save you some dollars, I suggest skipping the middleman. We all have our go to brands and bottles, so why not stock up? You know you’re going to drink it eventually. So go directly to the source and communicate with the winery. Whether you choose a wine club membership or just buy a case at a time, both methods typically reward you with discounted wine. Insider tip, stop at your local wine tasting room and ask about their case discounts. At my shop, you can save 10% on purchases of 6+ bottles. But if a large single purchase is beyond your current means, a simple suggestion to friends or family members to pitch in on the purchase can go far.
Don’t Feel Boxed In
If the thought of choosing something is still a bit overwhelming, ask your local professional. I’m not suggesting this because I am one, but because the person who stocks your local wine shop, who runs your favorite tasting room, or who chooses the wine list at your nearby wine bar understands their products in a way most of us cannot. They devote their energy and resources to finding great tasting sips but also great values for you. If you confide with them your go-to styles and an idea of your price range, they will in turn offer an educated answer and help you cut out a lot of guessing and wrong directions out of your decision. Still feeling boxed in and looking for something a little more festive than just asking? Host a tasting party! Give your wine party attendees a budget and a theme. The combinations you come up with are limitless; under $15 and an animal in the name or label, $10-$20 but only South American wines, or up to $25 and local. You might just discover your next favorite libation and have a great time doing so.
Wine is meant to be enjoyed and the price of wine should not limit your experience. Hopefully now you can check off the budget box on your list of key wine factors. The only downside to finding the perfect value wine…you just might want to drink more. Drink well, drink responsibly!
Author: Jim Cunningham is the general manager at Merkin Vineyards Old Town Scottsdale. Merkin Vineyards & Caduceus Cellars make high elevation wines out of predominantly Italian and Spanish varieties from their 110 acres of estate vines in northern and southern Arizona. Owner and Winemaker, MJ Keenan, along with his wife, Jennifer, and Winemaker Tim White, are producing roughly 8000 cases a year in their tiny underground concrete facility known as The Bunker. For more information visit www. merkinvineyards.org/