By Greg Masinton
Wine Consultant and Club Carboy Manager
Remember that time when your friend brought over that $500 bottle of Chateau Margaux to share? Yeah, me neither. See, I only have two types of friends - the ones that drink moderately priced, good quality wines, and the imaginary ones.
In our circle of friends, sharing a bottle of wine is what makes life worth living, but money makes the world go around. And money doesn’t exactly grow on vines, if you know what I mean. We have to seek out the best wines for the best price so we can sip and share without stressing about making rent.
If drinking wine is key, but cutting your budget is critical, you simply have two choices - drink less, or spend less. Let’s be serious. Drinking less - especially during this political climate - is just not an option. So, you’re going to have to spend less.
Happily, we’re here to give you a few tips on how to save money on your wine without sacrificing quality. Here are few tips for scanning the wine menu at the local urban winery or perusing the racks at your favorite wine shop.
Let’s start with the basics. Some regions simply make great wine at reasonable prices. You’ll still have to deal with some trial and error, but once you find that great wine at a great price, you’ll be greatly rewarded.
If you’re a white wine lover:
New Zealand makes incredibly crisp, acidic, and fruity Sauvignon Blancs at low prices.
Vinho Verde from Portugal is light and refreshing, and at only around $7-$10, it is easy on the bank account.
For the reds:
Argentina produces powerful low and moderately priced Malbec that can fit any situation. I don’t think I’ve had a bad one.
Spain, one of the largest wine producers in the world, produces incredible, less expensive Riojas and wines from the Monastrell grape in the southern region of Jumilla which are fabulous and quite cost effective.
Let’s go national.
You love French wines, but can’t afford the big boys in Bordeaux or Burgundy. Head south to the Cotes du Rhone for lovely blends, seek out a Beaujolais Nouveau if you have the taste for trends and young wines, or explore the Languedoc Roussillon for full body Syrah and Grenache wines that are a fraction of the price.
In Italy, Nebbiolo from Piedmont and Sangiovese from Tuscany reign supreme, for quality as well as cost. But since we are discussing budget friendly options, nothing can beat a Primitivo from Puglia or a quality Nero d'Avola from Sicily. These rich wines go great with pizza and pasta, and won’t set you back financially like a $100 Barolo can.
How about our friends from California? Napa and Sonoma wines are world class, but can punch a hole in the budget. Time to seek other options.
Head to Paso Robles and other areas on the Central Coast of California for more affordable options. Better yet, check out what they are doing in Washington state or way down south in Chile. An award winning Cabernet from Chile can be had for less than half of those in California.
Being a budget conscious wine shopper can be a rough go. Just don’t go too inexpensive. Think real hard before you buy that cheaper, mass produced wine in the 1.5L bottle. The quality is usually quite low and, once opened, the wine only lasts a couple days before going bad. So, unless you plan on drinking it all in one sitting, keep moving down the aisle.
If saving money is more than critical, this might be a good time to try some of the up and coming box wine alternatives or local urban wineries that serve wine on tap. Most box-wine producers are larger vineyards and winery operations and, believe it or not, quality is improving and the sealed bags keep the wine fresh for a couple weeks after opening. Just be careful. It’s really easy to pop a box for a glass and find yourself, a couple hours later, having gone through the equivalent of a couple bottles. The best options out there are select wines from Bandit Wines, French Rabbit, Black Box, and Bota Box. Just remember, just like choosing wine from a bottle, pay attention to the grape, the region, and the vintage.
Enjoying wine doesn’t have to mean going broke. Remember, wine is a grocery, not a luxury. You can get great wines for great prices if you simply learn what to look for.