Every state in the US now produces some type of wine. That’s crazy. Alaska wine? I’ve been to a winery at the southern tip of Florida. So many countries produce high quality wine that it’s hard to keep up with. The average quality of a bottle of wine is respectable.
All this influx of people and resources into the business has boosted production to historically high levels. The problem isn’t producing good wine anymore, the problem is selling it.This competition has crushed profit margins and put pressure on prices.
Yes, the famous wines will always demand a premium price, but that is only a small percentage of the market. The rest of the market has to fight it out for customers.
This is awesome for the cost conscious wine buyer.
You can buy good to very good wine for not very much money. Here’s how to do it.
1) Don’t spend more than $15-20 on a bottle.
You can get some great wine for cheap. You have to be open to new ideas. You have to learn new wine regions. You have to be patient. You can obtain wines that will excite and delight for no more than $20.
2) Costco is your friend
Costco is the number one retailer of wine in the US which is also the largest wine market in the world. They have massive influence on the industry. They negotiate the best prices because they buy in such large amounts. And they only markup the wines, at most 14-15% above their cost and often less. You can always get a good bottle for cheap at Costco.
3) Try new wines
You need to be open to new grape varieties and new wine regions and even new wine countries. In 2008 my go to wine was a $3 bottle of Carmenere from Chile, it was delicious. Like Napa Cab? Me too, but my wallet doesn’t. You can get a very good quality knockoff from Paso Robles for $15. What about different countries? Have you ever thought of England for sparkling wine? Spain will knock your socks off in the price to quality ratio for some of their sparklers.
4) Talk to your local wine merchant
The guy working in your local wine store is a good source for discovery of good cheap wine. If he is working in a wine store that means he doesn’t make much money. But he also likes to drink good wine, because OBVIOUS, he’s working in a wine store. So he’s a perfect resource. Ask him the best wine for no more than $15.
5) Private Labels
This is an area where you need to be cautious. Large companies like grocery stores like private labels because the profit margins are better. The wine is hit or miss. Some wines in a private label brand will be ok, some not, and sometimes the whole line up stinks.
Costco has done some good work with private labels. If there is a person working the wine section ask their opinion of private labels.
I’ve had both good and bad experiences with private labels, but I still feel it’s worth it to try a private label every now and then.
The Cameron Hughes line is similar to private labels. He buys finished wine from wineries. The wineries sell this wine instead of bottling it under their own label for a variety of reasons. I once had a Cameron Hughes Napa Valley Rutherford Cabernet Sauvignon that cost $12 that was easily as good as a cab from a name brand winery costing 3 to 4 times as much.
Private labels are worth the risk every now and then. If you can get some extra tips from someone familiar with the wine you’re looking at that will help.
6) Whites are easier than Reds
There more excellent quality white wines in the $15-20 dollar range than red. Many white wines are fermented and aged in large stainless steel tanks where reds require time in small oak barrels. And often the whites age for less time than reds. Less expense in producing the wine means less expense in selling the wine.
One of my all time favorite white wines is made by my former employer Pine Ridge Chenin Blanc-Viognier. The make 100,000 cases annually and the full retail price is $15 and it’s totally worth it.
The Cenin-Vio is just one of many examples of high quality white wines for cheap. You can also find good reds for cheap, it’s just easier for whites.
7) Special deals, discontinued wines, last of vintage, etc.
This is where you need patience. This is why you browse the wine shops and the wine aisles for no reason other than to look. The great deals will pop up but you never know when or where. Because there is such tremendous competition for sales inevitably some wineries/brands won’t be able to sell as much as they projected and they have to unload the wine at reduced prices.
Usually this is not because of the wine’s quality but the marketing behind the wine. This is the producer’s loss and your gain. You’ll know it when you stumble across these deals. At first you won’t believe the price is correct. After you recognize the situation, purchase immediately.
Once purchased, open this wine and taste immediately. If it’s as good a deal as you thought go back and by more bottles. Your future self will thank you.
8) Don’t hate the major labels
As a wine fiend it’s easy to hate the big brands. They’re all marketing. The wine’s watered down and thin. There’s no terrior. They’re definitely not cool.
Don’t fall for this trap.
These ideas maybe somewhat accurate but… you’ll be missing out. The major brands have the money and technical expertise to make high quality wine for cheap. Yes, some of the wines suck but most of them are pretty decent. And if you can find them on sale, which you often can, then your wine wallet will approve.
9) The Inside Source: Friends that work in the industry
This is will be the hardest deal for most people to get. If you don’t know anyone in the wine business don’t worry about it. Important: Don’t befriend someone just because they are in the wine business. That’s a silly reason to be friendly with someone. But… if you know someone that works in the wine producing, distributing, or selling side of the business… you can often talk them into buying some wine for you at their discounted employee price.
Proceed with caution. Don’t be annoying. But do let your friend know that you would like to purchase some wine at their employee price if they can make that happen.
10) Deal of the Day websites
The most popular deal of the day or flash-deal websites that I know of is Wines Till Soldout. These sites feature one discounted wine at a time. Be patient with these sites. During times of financial distress, like right after 2009, they can feature lots of amazing deals. When the economy is performing better, the amazing deals are in smaller supply.
This is just a rough guideline and I hope it helps.
Not every cheap bottle is good but many are.
The main idea is that you can drink high quality, tasty wines without spending a fortune. I personally won’t spend more than $15 on a bottle. The reason is simple. There is too much wine out there and the average quality is higher than ever.
If you have any questions or know of a great cheap wine I need to try, let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org