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 )