We all want to find the best wine values we can, but often times we aren’t looking in the right places, or observing the right things. Are you looking at the label, the ratings, the price discount, or the sign that says “staff picks” next to the wine?
Those can be helpful as part of an overall assessment of the situation, but let’s take a look at a few tricks you can use when visiting a wine shop that might do a better job of helping you find some good value buys, not just what someone else wants to push on you.
Find people with tastes that are similar to yours. This is an easy one, and maybe one that you are doing naturally because it’s more fun to read about someone reviewing wines that you enjoy (and can afford) as opposed to someone writing about fancy wines outside your price range that you likely will never taste.
Nowadays, there are a ton of options with bloggers and people posting on social media all the time. Think about the last few wines you enjoyed, look them up on Instagram via hashtags, find others who are posting about them, and then look to see what other wines they posted about in the past.
I’m sure you’ll find some winners, or at the very least, find some good direction on where to go. And 95% of the time, these are pure, truthful and unbiased reviews.
Look at maps. This one is vital. Let’s say you have been enjoying some Red Burgundy and Rhone wines from France but the Burgundies are getting too expensive, and you want to try some wines beyond Rhone.
A quick Google search of some other nearby wine regions would turn you on to the fact that Beaujolais is located in between Burgundy and Rhone, and further exploration would reveal that the region produces many amazing and fairly priced, high quality wines using the Gamay grape, far beyond the cheap Thanksgiving bottles that crowd mass market grocery stores. Geography is everything. PS: seek out Beaujolais Villages and Superior for great value buys.
Buy your favorite varietals from new places in the wine world. Don’t buy Napa Cabernet all the time, but try South American Cabernet, or inexpensive Bordeaux, or Washington State Cab. Don’t buy all your Pinot from Burgundy, buy it from Australia and New Zealand, or Oregon.
You might be surprised how good your favorite grapes taste when they’re grown and proud somewhere else. If you follow the crowds, you have a tendency to pay more for wine that is often of similar quality. Plus you might find some of the wine trends the cool kids haven’t discovered yet.
Try new varietals that are less in favor at the moment. Right now Cabernet is in, Merlot is out. Buy Merlot. Few people can pronounce Gruner Veltliner (it’s “leener” at the end). Buy Gruner. Aussie wines and South African wines got quiet. Buy those. Look to new areas too, like Slovenia, Hungary, Georgia, Moldova and Croatia because who’s buying those? You should be.
For sparkling wines, look beyond Champagne. I love Champagne as much as the next person and I would really drink it everyday if I could. But that’s just not an economic reality right now, so I look elsewhere.
I think Spanish Cava is a great alternative. US producers including Gloria Ferrer and Domaine Chandon produce great wine. Italian prosecco is decent and can be scored for under $10 a bottle. And if you really want your French Champagne, Costco offers their Kirkland Signature Champagne which is a bargain at only $20.
Shop around and stock up when discounts are offered. Keep an eye on prices everywhere you go. Sometimes, it’s Costco, other times Whole Foods even, that might have the best price on the wines you’re looking for. Online is a great way to go too.
Regardless of where you shop, always be ready to pull the trigger on a bulk buy if things really get good. Sometimes, you’ll see 15% off all case buys. You need to be ready to buy a case when you see this. Or online, you may see free shipping deals. Load up when the getting is good, back off when it’s not.
Establish a relationship with your local wine shop. If there’s a wine shop that you frequent, be sure to establish a relationship with someone there, preferably the owner, or wine buyer. Start by showing them a bottle you’ve enjoyed before and ask their opinion of other wines that are similar. And see where it goes from there.
See if their recommendations match your tastes. Another good reason for this tactic is that if you get a bottle that isn’t to your liking, you may be able to get it refunded or replaced. Relationships are key.
Don’t’ pay too much attention to mark downs. Nobody marks down wine that is flying off the shelves. Sometimes, yes, you will score a great deal, but a lot of time prices are marked up only so they can be discounted later to create an incentive to buy them.
Supermarkets are the worst at this. They double the price of a wine, and then offer 40% off. That same wine is likely less expensive in its everyday price at your local wine shop.
Those are a few good tricks to use next time you’re out wine shopping. Cheers.