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5 Ways to Find a Great Value Wine

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Despite the recession, about 13,000 different wines are still on sale in the United States, and that's one thing people are not likely to give up on. "If you were a casual wine drinker before this and you think it's appropriate to leave wine out of your budget, you're going to do that, but my experience is if you're a regular wine drinker that's not an option," says Dan Berger, a syndicated wine columnist and author of the newsletter Vintage Experiences. So if we can't live without it, how can we find a good bottle for little money? We spoke with the experts to find out.
  1. Broaden your palette: If you go for a lesser-known wine, you can get good value and great taste for even $4 or $5. "Buy from an up-and-coming region rather than an established region," says Ray Isle, deputy editor at Food & Wine. Of course, you'll pay for a name such as Napa Valley, but you can also try a wine from the Mendocino area north of Napa instead. Isle also recommends trying a wine from Mendoza, Argentina, or the Yecla region on the Mediterranean coast of Spain. "These areas have a large vineyard area and affordable labor," he says.

  2. Take advantage of recession pricing: With the technology of clean wine-making vastly improved, it's a better time than ever to find an affordable wine, according to Isle. Berger says you can find a decent wine right now for $5 to $7 a bottle. He recommends the brands Sutter Home, Clos du Bois, Kendall-Jackson, and Fetzer Grapes. Wineries are looking to get rid of a stock of perishable bottles fast, so you'll be able to find some deals. "For people that once paid in the $20 range, there's going to be a lot of excellent wine that once sold for $20 and now for $12 or $13," Berger says. "The bottom line for most people is $10," he adds.

    According to Isle, one good deal in this range is the $13 2005 Sawbuck Cabernet Sauvignon. "I like that because it's hard to find really good cabernets for under $20," he says, adding that "it has a juicy, appealing, dark fruit character." For a white, Isle recommends the French 2007 Perrin Reserve Cotes du Rhone Blanc for $11. "It's a pretty substantial white, but it's still got a zesty acidity to it," Isle says. "If you like chardonnay but still want something adventurous, it's a terrific choice." If you're up for a red, go for the Australian 2006 Barossa Valley Estate E Minor Shiraz for $13. "It's an intense red wine for not a lot of money at all," Isle says.

  3. Join a club: Winery clubs such as those on Wine.com offer mailers of mixed cases, Berger says. If you join a winery, you can get two free cases per year. "Inside the mailer is a mixed case — two bottles of this, two bottles of that — that can be a very exciting proposition," Berger says.

  4. Check out the closeout bin: Closeout bins in supermarkets or wine shops are where you'll find wines of a vintage that has just ended. A vintage reflects the year the grapes are harvested, Berger explains. As the next year's vintage is released, the price drops on bottles from the previous year. However, the quality from the previous year is still top-notch, Berger says.

    Stocking up on your favorite wines can also save you money. Buying 12 bottles by the case can save you 10% to 15%, advises Isle. Some merchants will also discount mixed-bottle cases.

  5. If you can't drink it, cook with it: If a salesperson in the wine shop picked out a cheap model you didn't like, don't toss the rest of the bottle. "If you don't like it, cook with it," Berger suggests. "Put it in the beef stew or pasta sauce."

Brian T. Horowitz
Please note that, although prices sometimes fluctuate or expire unexpectedly, all products and deals mentioned in this feature were available at the lowest total price we could find at the time of publication (unless otherwise specified).
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