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How To Save Money Buying Wine

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Two weekends ago, my wife and I took advantage of the warmer temperatures and a break in the clouds to visit a local Maryland winery, Boordy Vineyards. They’re about a forty five minute drive away just north of the Baltimore Beltway and we were looking forward to their March weekend event, “Stew in your Juices,” which was a medley of music, stews, and wine sampling. Each year there’s a “Wine in the Woods” event about a mile down the road and each year we walk out with a case of their wines so we though we’d go to them for a change.

As we were drinking wine and chatting, our minds got onto the topic of how easily one could enjoy wine without spending a bundle. These were some of the ideas we came up with:

Try a variety to see what you like. My wife and I love Reislings, which until recently weren’t as popular in the United States. The relative unpopularity meant that we could get great bottles at great prices. As the popularity of the wine has increased we’ve seen prices increase. The lesson here is that you should try all sorts of wine to see what you enjoy because you can use as easily enjoy a Three-Buck Chucks as you would a Three Hundred Buck Chuck. Price is a poor determinant of what you’ll like.

Keep notes. When you try something, write down what you think of it. Worth the money? Not worth the money? It can be as simple as a tiny notebook you stick on the shelf near your wine rack. All it needs to do is remind you what you liked (so you can buy more) and what you didn’t (so you can avoid it). Buying a $20 wine that was “so-so” because you can’t remember if you liked it is just as tragic as buying a $4 wine you forgot you hated, it’s still money wasted on wine you don’t like!

Ask for case discounts at the store. Most liquor stores (or wine and beer stores, depending on your local laws) will give you a discount for buying an entire case. 10% is probably the standard discount but you might be able to get more depending on how generous the owner decides to be.

Visit the winery. If you’re a fan of a particular wine, consider visiting the winery and buying the wine there. Many wineries have events on the weekends and it’s a great opportunity to enjoy the outdoors, music, and perhaps some food in a fun setting. In addition to the fun afternoon, many wineries have “case clubs” where you can get discounts off entire cases. One word of warning, wineries may not necessarily sell their wine cheaper than in the store because of wholesale pricing, but you still get a fun afternoon!

One thing to keep in mind, many wineries list their wine prices including tax, whereas liquor stores do not. Be sure to remember to include that in your comparisons.

The benefit of case clubs, over case discounts at the store, is that they often increase the discount as you buy more cases. A local winery gives you 10% off the first case, 15% off the next two, and then 20% off thereafter with no expiration. While you could get 10% off any case at any liquor store, the 15% and the 20% off tiers are much rarer.

Go to wine festivals. Every year we go to Wine in the Woods, a local wine festival here in Howard County, Maryland. It’s a fun afternoon of sampling wines, music, and carnival-type food (funnel cakes, churros, etc.). Many wineries also sell their wine at these events, both for enjoying at the festival and to take home, and they are usually looking to sell their wine so they don’t have to haul it back home.

Try a “second label” wine. Many big brands in many industries produce a higher-quality “first label” product and then a lesser quality “second label” product, the wine industry included. If you’re curious about this “strategy,” check out this article by Katherine Cole about second label wines. Wine Country recently published an article on second label standouts.

Buy Wine Vacuum stoppers: A wine vacuum stopper set can help your wines last longer and taste better after you’ve opened a bottle. This Vacu Vin 3-pc Wine Saver is an example of one. It consists of several “stoppers” and a pump that sucks the air out of the bottle. If you have one of these systems, then your wine can last a couple days longer and you won’t feel compelled to finish the bottle (which saves you money!).

What are your favorite tips for saving money on vino?

(Photo: armykat1014)

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17 Responses to “How To Save Money Buying Wine”

  1. Great article. You can also try Traders Joes. They have great wines for a relatively cheap price.

  2. great article.. most of the points can be replicated for purchase of other items as well. The key is to shop around and land the best deal for you before you loosen your purse strings.. be frugal and that will get you rich..

  3. My Journey says:

    Jim,

    If you ever visit the vineyards on Long Island let me know…the Wife and I would be happy to show you around!

    We have about 30 of them on the east end.

  4. Stacey says:

    Sam’s Club has unbeatable prices on wine, and a decent selection.
    The little-known secret is that you do not need a membership to buy alcohol at a membership-based club. Apparently, it’s illegal to restrict alcohol sales, so as long as you’re only purchasing alcohol, anyone can enjoy the discounts at their local Sam’s Club. (Sometimes the sales associates don’t know this, but the managers will.)

  5. A lot of vineyards have subscription services, which, if you can get on their list, you get advance notice of their production. I’m not sure it’s any cheaper but sometimes you can get wines which sell out so quickly they are never available to the general public. If, like me, you live in a rural area where the selection is pretty tight, K&L Wines in California has a great selection, which you can order online. Their shipping is fairly reasonable and they also offer case discounts. If you live in a state where you can get wine shipped to you, check out wine.woot.com. They offer different wines every week, many fantastic and many very inexpensive.

  6. Lisa B says:

    Aldi actually has some decent cheap wines, believe it or not.

  7. Ed says:

    I go to the supermarket here in California and every so often the wine I like goes on sale and on top of that you get 10 % off if you buy 6 bottles or more. I get a case at this time and for about $4.00 get a great wine and enjoy until it comes on sale again:)

    • My Journey says:

      In New York Wine isn’t sold at supermarkets! Every couple years it comes in front of the legislatures and the liquor stores rally together to lobby against it.

  8. Stella says:

    I’ve found you can get some great deals with online wine vendors. If you add a coupon code from a site like Savings.com (which incidentally has coupons for wine.com, The Wine Enthusiast, My Wines Direct, Morrell Wine and The Wine Messenger), you can really score a good price.

  9. mapgirl says:

    Hey Jim a few thoughts from a self-described wino:

    1. Because states regulate alcohol sales, vendor accessibility varies, but the most important one is that ‘case clubs’ are restricted to where they can deliver. When I lived in MD, I had to get a case shipped to a girlfriend’s office in DC and gave her a bottle as commission for the favor. Before you sign up for a club, note if they can deliver to your state or make alternate arrangements.

    2. If you ship a case of wine in the summer, buy insurance. While I haven’t had a case ruined yet, it would be sad if the wine sat in a container in the hot sun and spoiled before it arrived at home.

    3. Some vendors sell wine at a discount even for a half case. (Safeway in DC does this.) It’s a great way to buy a few expensively priced wine with some cheap wines and average out your cost. For instance, I’ve bought 10 $12-15 wines and rounded out the case with 2 $30 wines I wouldn’t usually buy.

    4. Vacuum wine corks are useless. I’d either, drink it the next day, or fill it with a gas that prevents oxidation. I never have a drastic problem with taste changing within 24 hours of re-corking and putting in the fridge. Part of the fun is tasting evolving flavors! (And writing it down in a wine journal!)

    5. Three Buck Chuck is great, but crawl your local wine/food distributors for cheap $3-8 wines. There are a ton out there. I’ve been changing my boyfriend’s palate because we can try really cheap reds from all over the world for less. Buzz me and we can take a trip to my favorite DC spot. :-)

    • Jim says:

      1. Excellent point, we joined an in-state winery so we skirted by those issues.
      2. I’ve never shipped wine but this sounds like a good tip. The worse thing to do is buy whole case of wine only to get it ruined.
      3. They have their six-carrier deals where you get a discount off purchase if I remember correctly.
      4. Well, I think it helps a little… I wouldn’t keep it around for WEEKS but it should help.
      5. There are a ton of wines at the 5-8 range that are great, $3 can sometimes be a little too cheap… heck the bottle costs something right??? :)

  10. Great tips! I posted an article on getting great deals on wine last week as well. I love the idea of going to festivals as it is great entertainment for very little money.

  11. Lori Grove says:

    Hello, great article. tyvm!
    I have found over the years that I appriciate the tatste of a sweet Riesling to a dryer wine.
    Now I have a question.
    Can you give me a short list of wines to keep in stock that lean toward this tatse and flavor, including a few reds? My wine rack will hold up to 18 bottles at a time. I would like to keep it full, but I also know I will have to add a variety, to please my guests as well as my husband and myself.


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