This advice is priceless: Buy wine with sensibility, not with big bucks. If you take geography and marketing into consideration when buying wine, you’ll often find the $15 option to be as good as or better than the $30 bottle!
1. Consider The Zip Code
Certain parts of the world are inherently high-rent districts. When you consider a Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, the price tag reflects property value, region name recognition, and the limited amount of fruit that grows there. But Cabernet is grown worldwide, and if you look to some less-acknowledged areas of the planet, you can find Cabs with many Napa characteristics—cedar, eucalyptus, leather—for a fraction of the price. Look to Chile, Argentina, and South Africa for affordable Napa-esque Cabernets.
2. Tricks Of The Trade
Having just said that location matters, there are some ways to find value in elite neighborhoods. There are some Domaines in Burgundy and Bordeaux who produce well-known, expensive, and highly-desired bottlings, but also make a second bottling under a different label, perhaps with “declassified” grapes. These “second labels” can be exceptional, but because they are the runts of their litter, are usually underpriced. My attitude is that the worst of the best is still better than the rest! Consult your favorite retailer to discover these hidden gems.
3. Name Recognition Doesn’t Guarantee Quality
Wine is a realm wherein people are uncertain of themselves. And like asking for directions, some would prefer to just stick with a name they recognize from an advertisement than to trail blaze. But consider the costs of advertising. Every dollar spent on marketing is a dollar not being spent on product quality. When you step into the vino frontier (with the proper guidance from a wine professional, of course), every $15 you spend will translate to $30 when it comes to quality and distinctiveness.
4. Scores Don’t Tell The Whole Story
There are countless wine consumer publications, designed to rate and review wines, competing for your attention. So when considering the source, keep in mind that many of these mags are funded by advertisers. Be vigilant by noticing when a wine receiving 90+ points coincidently has a full page ad in the magazine at hand. Additionally, when you refer to such guides, remember that wine is subjective. If the reviewer is partial to flashy, extroverted wines, and you like the restraint of Chianti, for example, you should take her words with a grain of salt. A rave review and a high score for a particular wine do not guarantee that every palate will enjoy it.
Tell us in the comments: Recommendations, please! What are your favorite bargain wines?