Do you think it’s possible to spend $15-$30 on a bottle of wine & still drink high quality wine? I usually get the raised eyebrow look when I ask people that question. For whatever reason, we’ve all been trained to think the higher the price point, the higher the quality. But it’s not always the case. How many times have you splurged on a bottle only to feel like you could’ve drank your favorite go-to everyday wine and still had the same experience?
The reality is there are so many different wines on the market from all over the world. Some are excellent high quality expressions that can either cost a lot or cost very little. Others are not as well made but don’t cost very much and offer exactly what’d you expect for the price point. (Translation: not all inexpensive wine is created equal either.) On the other hand, it’s also possible to find poorly made wines that are quite expensive. Due to slick branding and advertising campaigns, they can seem like high quality wines. The point is price and quality do not go hand in hand.
The key to finding a good deal is being open to trying something new. If you’re not stuck on a particular brand or type of wine and are willing to expand your horizons, there are some great deals to be had. Let me share three tricks of the trade used by wine professionals to drink better wine and spend less money.
#1 - Try a Different Grape
There are so many different types of grapes being used to make wine, it can be a little overwhelming. This is good news though since many of the lesser known varieties offer extremely high quality at very low prices. So if you know you like a particular style of wine, just look for that style in a different grape. More often than not, it will be significantly cheaper.
So let’s say you like big fruit forward red wines. A lot of people might go for some type of cabernet or syrah or zinfandel. As we all know, a lot of these can be quite pricey. But why not consider a Bonarda? Those are usually under $15 and are similarly fruity like the pricier cabs and syrah and zins. Or how about a Carignan? This grape is known for quality fruit forward wines typically available under $20.
Does this mean you need to study wine to find a good deal? No. Just know what you like and ask a wine professional who is familiar with the lesser known varieties to find you an alternative. Using the example above, you could just tell your wine person that you like fruit forward reds but you want something similar and less expensive. See what they suggest. This is also a good way to find out if your wine guy or gal is recommending wines to you based on what you like or what they are trying to sell. The way you know they know what they are doing is if the suggested wine at a lower price does indeed fit your palate.
#2 - Pull out your wine map. It’s made elsewhere.
So let’s say you tend to like wines from a particular region known for expensive wines. All you have to do is look for a region of the world that makes wines similar to the region you like. Since that region might not be as well known, you’ll find some amazing quality wines for a whole lot less.
For example, we all know Napa cabs can be pricey. But if you’re a Napa wine lover, have you checked out cabs from Chile? Or Pinot Noirs? Or Sauvignon Blancs? The climate there is so similar to California & the quality of wine making in some areas is just as a good. The one difference? The wines are a fraction of the price!
I know this is a hard statement to believe considering the large amount of uninteresting inexpensive Chilean wines available in the US. But when pulling out our wine map and looking for wines from different parts of the world, the secret is to look for wines being imported from small importers. They are masters at finding the gems from underrepresented areas of the wine map.
A good example I would recommend checking out is the 2018 Lafken Single Vineyard Artisan Cabernet Sauvignon from Chile. Not only is it a single vineyard wine, but it’s also organic, vegan and sourced from an area of Chile known for quality cabs. More importantly, this wine is under $25. Would you be able to find such a wine from Napa for that price?
#3 - Lookout for closeouts!
This is one of those not so secret secrets of the wine industry. Exactly what is a closeout? Well, most of the major distributors tend to periodically offer deep discounts on certain wines to get them out of inventory. Often they do this because the new vintage of that particular wine is coming in or they simply need a particular section of space in their warehouse. These decisions aren’t necessarily based on what the wine is but rather on the distributor’s need to get rid of product in general.
Sometimes, these wines are just what you’d expect - either they don’t taste very good or it’s like, who cares. But if you know what to look for – like wines from a good vintage & region or from a well-known producer, you can find amazing wine gems that have been deeply discounted.
Let’s use buttery California chardonnay as an example. Because these are in such high demand, a really good Cali chard can be pricey. Recently, a major distributor was closing out the 2018 J Wilkes Chardonnay from Santa Maria Valley, California. J Wilkes is a phenomenal producer and on closeout, this wine is under $20. For a person who likes quality buttery chardonnay, this is quite the deal!
In short, if you’re open to trying something different, there are amazing wine deals to be had without having to sacrifice quality. You don’t need to study a wine book, you just need to know a good wine professional. As they say, life is too short to drink bad wine. With these tips, you can drink the good stuff without spending a fortune!