Wednesday, January 27, 2016

4 Tips for Scoring Great Wines On The Cheap

As with anything else, the price of a bottle of wine is subjective. In other words, "what the market will bear." That means that you can find an enjoyable bottle of wine without breaking the bank because higher prices do not guarantee a great wine. (They do guarantee a great advertising budget, though.)

Consider these tips next time you’re shopping for a nice bottle of wine on the cheap.

What’s In A Name
Many times wine drinkers identify themselves with a grape (I’m a Cab drinker; I love Chards; Pinot Grig is my “go to.”) But keep in mind that some of these grapes go by other names.

Muscat Grapes
Take the extremely popular Moscato. Regardless of what you call it,  Muscat (same grape) or Moscadelle (different grape, very similar flavor), that wine will provide those characteristics you love about Moscato, but at a cheaper price.

Other name changing examples include Rioja - Tempranillo. Rioja is actually the region where Spanish Tempranillo (the grape) is grown. But you’ll find wines labeled by either name. And we all know real Champagne only comes from France, but in Spain that bubbly beverage is called Cava, and it’s known as Cremant in France. In the U.S., we just ask for a sparkling wine.

Travel Off the Beaten Track
Lake Erie Wine Region
The holy trinity of wine-producing states in the U.S are California, with Sonoma and Napa Valley; Oregon, which has the Willamette Valley, and the New York Finger Lakes. But there are great wineries located in all 50 states. Explore some up-and comers in the Texas Hill Country; check out Lake Erie’s Wine Region, and don’t miss spending time in Loudon County, Virginia. Great wines, beautiful regions and lower prices.

Check Out The Neighbors
Wines crafted from grapes grown in highly revered wine regions (Think Italy’s Piedmont, or the Burgundy region of France.) come with a price. But you can enjoy these exquisite terroir-focused wines at a much cheaper price when you purchase from small, local wineries in that same region.

Private Labels
For some ridiculously cheap wines that are actually good, look for the private brand offered at your local chain grocery. Trader Joe’s made a name with their Charles Shaw brand almost 15 years ago, selling a bottle for $1.99. (Today the wine goes for an average of $2.49 a bottle.) The chain sells over 5 million cases of Two Buck Chuck per year; not bad for a wine that goes well with dinner.

Not to be outdone, Aldi, the global discount supermarket chain, offers their Winking Owl line, which always garners awards, at the tempting price of just under $3 a bottle. And Walmart sells a private label wine called Oak Leaf Vineyards for $2.97 a bottle.

Next time you’re wine shopping, take a chance on an inexpensive wine and see what develops!

~ Joy