Choosing Good Wine on a Budget
Seven rules of thumb for finding good wine without wasting good money.
Save While You Sip
Our 401(k)s may have turned into 201(k)s, but plenty of people are still drinking wine, according to industry research. We're just looking for better value, and the good news is that great-tasting, inexpensive wine is overflowing store shelves. Here are seven ways to find those liquid gems.
Location, Location, Location
Look to value regions around the globe for wine that really delivers in price and flavor. Right now, some of the hottest (and cheapest) wines in the world are coming from:
- New Zealand (Sauvignon Blanc)
- South Africa (Chenin Blanc)
- Australia (Riesling and Shiraz)
- Argentina (Malbec)
- Chile (Cabernet Sauvignon)
- Spain (Cava)
Make a List and Check it Twice
Look for these widely-available brands from our favorite value regions:
- New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc: Brancott ($10) and Kim Crawford ($16)
- South African Chenin Blanc: Kanu ($6) and Ken Forrester ($15)
- Australian Riesling: Banrock Station ($6, sweeter) and Yalumba ($11, drier)
- Argentine Malbec: Bodega Septima ($12) and Tittarelli Reserva de Familia ($16)
- Australian Shiraz: Black Wing ($13) and Greg Norman ($14)
- Chilean Cabernet Sauvignon: Root: 1 ($12) and Los Vascos ($13)
- Spanish Cava: Segura Viudas ($9) and Freixenet ($10)
Ask the Pros
Wine critics who taste thousands of wines a year are a great source for value bottles. Wine magazines usually showcase inexpensive value wines; most of their online databases are only available by paid subscription, but Wine Enthusiast's Online Buying Guide is free. Search for "Best Buy." Also check out blogs like Good Wine Under $20 and Cheap Wine Ratings, which are dedicated solely to finding good budget wine.
Think Inside the Box
Box and alternatively-packaged wine can deliver great value for three reasons. One, the overall quality has gone up exponentially in recent years, and it's possible to find truly delicious wine in a box. Two, environmentally friendly packaging is lightweight and cheaper to transport, which means less overall cost for you. Three, once opened, box wine lasts up to a month rather than just a few days. Brands to try: Banrock Station Chardonnay, Yellow+Blue Malbec, and Black Box Merlot.
If you tend to buy one or two bottles at a time, try bulking up with an entire case. Many wine stores offer a discount of five or ten percent if you buy six or twelve bottles at a time, even if it's a mixed case (different brands rather than a case of the same wine). Some state laws don't allow wine discounts; ask your wine merchant.
It's Who You Know, Baby
Tap into the wisdom of the crowd with social media sites like snooth.com, which helps you find good wines and talk about them with other people. Ask your friends about their favorite brands, too–it's always fun to compare notes with people you know and love. Sign up for your wine store's newsletter to keep track of sales, and definitely get to know the employees, who can steer you right to the good juice.