Photo (cc) by Lehigh Valley, PA
As America’s thirst for wine has grown, so has the price we pay for a decent bottle.
According a study by UC Davis, the majority of wine sold in the United States in 1995 cost less than $3 per bottle. This seems hard to believe since many bottles of everyday wine are fetching $15 or more today. Drink three $15 bottles a week, and you’ll spend $2,340 a year on wine!
At least paying more means higher-quality, better-tasting wine, right? You might be surprised. Here are some quick tips to find good wine for less.
1. Focus on taste, not price
The most basic way to find cheap wine you enjoy: Drink what tastes good to you, not what your friends or experts tell you. Your taste buds, not the price tag, is what should ultimately decide which wines work best for you.
One study involving more than 6,000 blind tastings showed that non-experts actually preferred the flavor of cheaper wines to expensive ones. As it turns out, the average wine drinker might not enjoy the same wines experts do.
2. Read reviews for deals
Reviews aren’t just for expensive wines. Wine Spectator’s list of value wines combines price and rating. You can browse through more than 350 wines that have a rating of at least 87 (out of 100) and sell for less than $15, with many less than $10.
3. Ask the staff
Wine shop staff might be eager to sell you a $15 bottle of wine. But don’t be afraid to ask for something more affordable. A knowledgeable salesperson can point you to wines that can satisfy your tastes and your wallet.
4. Look for great vintage
Looking for highly-rated vintages can increase your chances of picking a bargain winner.
The easiest way to discover the vintage: Check a chart, like this one from Wine Enthusiast Magazine. The higher the number rating, the better that year was for that style of wine. For example, a 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa, Calif., is rated as a “classic” while 2010 was only “very good” to “outstanding.”
You can even download the chart on the Wine Spectator smartphone app to make in-store purchases easier.
5. Stick with trusted producers
In addition to the vintage, look at who makes the wine. Experts say to stick with wine producers with a proven track record.
Lists like this one rank the best wine producers by category. Of course, sticking with producers you already know and enjoy can lead you to the best wines too.
6. Buy by the case
A great way to save even more on wine, no matter the price, is buying in bulk. Some stores offer discounts for buying six or 12 bottles, with savings of 15 percent or more. If you’ve already found a variety you like, stock up to save cash and trips to the store.
7. Bring back the box
Boxed wine doesn’t always mean low-quality. Experts admit that boxed wine is better than it used to be and can be tasty, especially for the price. Prices are around $20 for a 3-liter box, equal to four 750 mL bottles at $5 apiece.
Boxed wine has a few other advantages too. It often lasts for four weeks after opening, much longer than the few days that bottled wine stays fresh. Boxed wine, as well as the similar tetra-packs, are claimed to be more environmentally friendly than bottled wine too.
If you’re worried guests are still skeptical of the quality of boxed or tetra-pack wine, use a decanter to serve it and they’ll never know the difference.
8. Buy online
Search and compare online wine deals too. You’ll have access to a wider selection, as well as to promotions and reviews from both experts and customers.
There are plenty of online wine retailers to choose from. TotalWine.com claims to offer more than 2,000 bottles of wine for under $10. Another is TastingRoom.com – slightly more expensive, but promo codes for up to 30 percent off a case can bring the price down to under $10 per bottle.
Wines for under $10
While research for this article produced far too many great cheap wines to list, here’s a sampling of wines for under $10 and their scores from Wine Spectator:
- Jacob’s Creek – Chardonnay South Eastern Australia 2011 Wine Spectator score: 87 (out of 100) Price: $8
- Folonari – Chianti 2010 Wine Spectator score: 90 Price: $9
- Bota Box – Savignon Blanc East Coast 2011 Wine Spectator score: 86 Price: $26/3L
- Deakin – Shiraz Victoria 2010 Wine Spectator score: 89 Price: $7
- Kirkland Signature – Côtes du Rhône-Villages 2010 Wine Spectator score: 89 Price: $7
- Rosemount – Traminer-Riesling Australia 2011 Wine Spectator score: 88 Price: $7
- Faustino Rivero Ulecia – Tempranillo Rioja White Label 2010 Wine Spectator score: 88 Price: $8
- Charles Shaw (aka “Two-Buck Chuck”) Wine Spectator score: N/A Price: $1.99 – $3.39, depending on location. Sold exclusively at Trader Joe’s.
Now let’s hear from some of you wine drinkers out there! Go to our Facebook page and tell us: Is there such a thing as good, cheap wine, or is more expensive wine worth the money?