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Wednesday, March 4, 2015

How to buy an inexpensive bottle of wine

Not everyone wants to spend twenty-five bucks or more for a bottle of wine. Maybe it doesn't make sense to spend that much if you're serving it with grilled burgers. If it's a gift maybe you don't like the person that much.

So if you want to shop in the ten-to-twenty dollar range how do you pick something?

The bottle

Avoid a fancy bottle. Any extra money put into the label or the silk screening is money not put into the wine. A screw cap bottle is fine. It doesn't need a cork. BTW, the cost of screw caps and corks is roughly the same for the producer.

The location of the winery

Generally, wines from places like Spain and Portugal in the Old World are less expensive to produce than wines from France or Italy, and they're usually pretty good. New World wines from South Africa, Chile, Argentina, New Zealand, and Australia have some bargains. But you have to wonder with a cheap wine from these places how much of the cost went into the transportation to your store. Any money put into transportation is money not put into the wine.

In the U.S. Washington state wines are usually less expensive than California wines. Buying a ten or twenty dollar wine that says Napa Valley on the label might be risky, if you can find one, as the cost of grapes from Napa is very high.

In California once you get away from the well-known coastal growing areas like Napa, Sonoma, Paso Robles, etc. you get better pricing. So look for those that say Lodi, Amador or El Dorado on the labels (these are mostly red wine grape growing areas) or ones that say California.

The variety

For U.S. wines Pinot Noir is expensive. Whites such as Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Gris are usually relative bargains partly because they don't require expensive oak barrel aging and partly because the grapes are cheaper to buy.

The producer

Negociant wines are a good deal. This is a French term for wine dealer. These folks are essentially wine brokers who buy bulk grapes or finished wine, usually at very low prices. They then make a wine under their own label. You can't always easily tell a negociant wine from its label and it doesn't really matter when you're shopping in the lower price ranges. This means it may be a one-time deal so if you really like it then get more before it's gone.

Sometime "real" wineries put out white and red blends in the ten dollar range. There are still a few wineries in Sonoma County selling many of their wines for under twenty dollars--bless their heart!

Just because it's cheap

Doesn't mean it bad. Not that there won't be a few bad ones out there. Shop a reputable store.