How To Find Wonderful Wines Priced Within Your Budget

Unless you’re hosting an extremely important occasion, or you are a wine connoisseur with unlimited funds, high priced wines are typically not considered when most people are shopping for wine.

Many people have the notion that the higher the price, the better the wine. This is simply not the case. Prices may be higher for certain wines simply because of a history of success. For instance, a certain wine may have had an exceedingly good year or two, which makes that vintage very high priced, especially if the vineyard has suffered since with a bad growing season. Scarcity may force the price way up.

That doesn’t mean that there are not any good deals on perfectly fine wine. Here are some easy tips to find good wine for less money.

Look for critics scores

Many wine critics rate wine before it is bottled. While these score ratings are not the be-all and end-all of wine tasting, they do give a pretty good depiction of how the wine tastes. If you compare more expensive wines with the less expensive bottles, you may find some that are scored around an 88 or 89, a very good wine, while a lower priced wine may actually receive a score in the 92 to 93 range, which is an outstanding wine. So it seems one can’t really judge a wine by its price.

Do your research

While the scores are merely a suggestion from a wine critic, it always helps to do your own research before you go to the wine store. What kind of wine are you looking for? Is it a Merlot, a Pinot Grigio, or perhaps a Riesling? Learn the regions in which the grapes were grown. What kind of climate did the region have each year? Temperature and humidity have a great effect on the quality of wine from year to year.

Once you have a general idea what type of wine you wish to buy, the scores in that category would be another tool in your research. Now, we just mentioned that scores are only suggestions, but why not try some of the higher scores in the lower price range instead of blindly tasting wine by price alone? There are numerous websites that list the scores for wines, along with their average price. Pick out a few on the list and write the names of the wines down to take along with you to your local wine shop.

Try different vintners

You may have a favorite label, one you turn to time after time, but until you step out of your comfort zone and try other vintners, you will never know if your current favorite is truly the one you enjoy most. More often than not, the less known wine makers, which may be the up and coming stars in the industry, start off with low prices and work their way up each year. Trying smaller vineyards is a great way to save money while picking up the best wines before they become superstars.

What have we learned?

Keeping an open mind is a great way to experience new, fantastic wines while keeping the budget intact. Pay attention to critics scores, but only as a suggestion based on someone’s critique, perhaps one you won’t agree with. Do your research and delve into the growing conditions of a particular vintage. Try new vintners as well as different locations and years of the same wine. Always ask your wine shop agent to suggest something new within your price range. Normally, your local wine shop will have knowledgeable people trained to help you make a decision about your wine selection and will point you in the direction of exciting new wines to explore.

Start at the bottom shelves at your wine shop and work your way up. You’ll never know what treasures you’ll uncover until you start digging!


Time To Try A New Wine

When we fall in love with a particular wine, we often are hesitant to try anything else. This is a pity, as this attitude closes the door to all sorts of new tastes and experiences. If you’re buying the same bottle of wine every time you shop – stop – look around – and consider trying something new and exciting.

Start by shopping lesser known regions. Many wine regions are becoming better known and have very nice wines at reasonable prices. Spain, Australia, Argentina and Chile are just a few that come to mind. If you always buy Italian or French, take a stroll over to these other regions and indulge in what could be a very pleasant surprise. Don’t forget the lesser known American wine regions, as well. Many fine wines are being produced outside of California!

Expand your horizon by trying wine from areas just beyond a well known wine growing region. Instead of an expensive Pomerol in Bordeaux, try Lalande-de-Pomerol. This wine is actually made from the same grape (Merlot) but grown just outside the region and is typically available at a much lower price.

Look for the “second labels” of more established wineries. These are quality wines sold under a different label at a lower price, a practice quite common in Bordeaux and gaining popularity in California. This is similar to a major department store having their own brand of clothing. The same manufacturers produce them but display a store-brand label and sell at a lower price.

Sometimes palates change, and can do so quite dramatically. A person who normally loves the burly red wines, may start enjoying the lighter, crisper white wines. This would be a good time to reassess your tastes and try totally new wines of all varieties.

Red or White

This is the basic decision that most people make. Choosing red or white wine is pretty much the starting point when looking for new wines for your particular taste. While both wines can offer a “full bodied” taste, it is important to understand the basic differences between red and white wines. Red wines usually have more of a dark fruit taste. These are fruits such as strawberries, cherries, blueberries and even a cranberry flavor component.

White wines have a higher acidity level, rightly so as they usually embody the citrus flavors of lemon, lime and grapefruit. These wines are usually more tropical in their bouquet and have a much lighter persona to them. The white wines also come with a little more “oak” flavor, as they tend to pick up the flavor of the barrel they were aged in.

Dry or Sweet

Dry and sweet are two categories of “mouth feel.” The drier the wine, the more tannin it has in it, usually. These tannic blends are usually a bit bitter at first, but are cut by the acidity of the wine, or are mellowed by the alcohol. Wines with a higher tannin content are better when left to sit and age, as the tannins will begin to fade after a while, becoming incorporated into the wine.

Sweet wines, on the other hand, can have a bit more sugar aspect to them. These wines leave the palate wet and usually ready for food. Higher sugar content will give the “nose” of the wine a bit more of a bite, but typically balances out with the flavor of the fruits.

Hot or Cold – Alcohol

While it would seem these two designations are based on the temperature the wine is served, this is not the case for this discussion. Hot and cold wines refer to the alcohol content in the wine. Typically done by volumetric ratios, hot wines will have alcohol content above the 12.5% level. The cooler wines will be below this, even down into the 9% range.

If you are struggling trying to choose a new wine, start by making the basic decisions first about whether you want red or white, dry or sweet, and then hot or cold. Once you have those factors in mind, ask your local wine shop expert for suggestions. Take a chance on an unfamiliar wine and surprise your palate!


Judging A Wine Store – What To Look For Before Shopping

Wine stores can be extremely daunting places for those who are not trained in the art of choosing wine. Wine shops may be intimating at first glance, with their vast selection and unfamiliar labels, but you needn’t be worried.

Here are some tips and tricks of what to look for in a wine store, as well as how to leverage your wine shop so you get the most out of every shopping trip.

Easy to read signs

Wine stores can be very large buildings with thousands of different wines. For a person not familiar with wine stores, having easy to read signs is a must. These signs will notify you about what types of wines are located within the general vicinity and also if there are any sales going on. These signs should be clearly noticeable from the front door, so you know exactly which direction you need to head. This will help you keep from getting overwhelmed in those first few minutes you walk in the door.

Helpful staff

Consider the wine shop owner, manager, or worker your personal shopper with a wealth of information about wine. Most every wine shop worker I’ve run into will just about do cartwheels trying to get you to listen to their knowledge of wine. All you have to do is ask, and sit back and be dazzled!

Staffing a wine store is an important aspect of the business, and every shop owner knows that. A good wine store will have a helpful and caring staff of people who are knowledgeable about the products they sell. It is also extremely important to get to know the staff at a wine store as they are generally the ones with the insider knowledge about new wines hitting the market, as well as the deals going on in the store. The staff should be able to translate what you’re saying into the wine you are seeking, and then point you in the direction you need to go and step in to offer more help when needed.


Having a large number of bottles on the floor doesn’t always equate to a good selection. Some wine distributors focus on the labels, which move the biggest volume, or are sold to them at the lowest price. These wine stores are focused more on their bottom line than on the overall happiness of their customers. Do your research before you walk into a wine store and print out a list of wines you would like to look for. Take this list with you and see how many of them are stocked at the store.

You would be better off picking a wine store that has a few hundred wines, personally tasted by the knowledgeable staff, than a massive amount that were just drop shipped into the warehouse. The store should give you a sense of comfort with a wide variety of styles and prices. A good wine store should have a well-balanced mix of price ranges for their wines.


Wine should always be kept below 75 degrees Fahrenheit. Wines stored above this temperature begin to age quickly and can oxidize, turning them into undrinkable bottles of wine. Are you a bit chilly inside the store? That’s good. That means the the wine is most likely stored properly.

Events and email lists

One of the more fun aspects of finding a decent wine store is to look for a place that schedules events, such as tasting and seminars. These are meant to educate the customers and are generally a lot of fun to attend. You will find out more about wines at these events than you will ever learn from other research.

An email list is another way to figure out if a wine store is a good bet. Stores with email lists keep up with their customers, which also keeps them in tune with their stock as they’re emailing you on a regular basis about new product and specials.

By following these simple tips you will be on your way to picking out a great wine store in no time. After that, the fun begins – picking out a great wine!


Choosing Wine At A Restaurant

Imagine sitting at a fancy restaurant with important clients and your boss, and of all the people at the table, the waiter asks if you would like to choose a bottle of wine for dinner.

Panic sets in and your mind starts racing, trying to figure out how to pull off this task for which you were unwillingly volunteered. What do you know about choosing a wine? What if you choose the wrong wine? How do you keep from losing face in front of your boss?

So how exactly do you go about picking a wine at a restaurant? Let’s take a look at the proper steps.

Choosing the wine

Your first glance at a wine menu might just have you blanking out completely. Just relax and take this step by step. You’ll want to initially look at how the wine list is arranged. Some wine lists are separated into reds, whites, and dessert wines, while others are simply categorized by region, such as Italy and Napa Valley. Wine lists may include local wineries if available.

Once you have a feel for how the wine list is arranged, you want to decide what type of wine your guests might like. The easiest way is to ask who prefers red wines and who prefers white wines. If there is no general consensus, you can always summon the restaurant’s sommelier, or wine expert, to ask for a suggestion based on what each person might choose as an entree. Your food server may also be trained to offer suggestions as guests order about what wine pairs well with what food.

A good tip is to point to a general price range on the wine list when you ask the sommelier or server. That way, they are clued into the price point in which to recommend a wine. Most better restaurants are not going to serve a wine that’s less than satisfactory, so when in doubt, don’t be afraid to choose a ‘house’ Merlot, or ‘house’ Chardonnay when that seems like the safest move.

When the wine arrives

Once the server or sommelier returns to your table, they will present you with the bottle of wine. At this point, make sure the label matches what you have ordered and check for any signs of dirt or deterioration, even mold, on the label. Don’t be distracted at this point by conversation. There have been instances of wine being poured that wasn’t at all what was ordered just because the person did not take time to read the label when presented. If the wine is wrong or shows signs of not being kept properly, send it back for a different bottle. It’s better to error on the side of caution than to serve your guests a bad bottle of wine.

If you approve of the wine presented, give your waiter the okay to uncork the wine. Once uncorked, the waiter will set the cork in front of you. Please do not smell the cork. You will not ascertain anything about the wine from the smell of the cork. It is the look of the cork that you need to observe. You may want to lift up the cork and examine it to see if it feels moist, meaning the wine was stored properly. If the cork is dry or crumbling, be sure to point this out to the server and request a new bottle. However, after a quick look at the cork, if it appears moist, you don’t need to do anything with it other than just let it be.

The waiter will pour a small amount into your glass. At this point, you are not tasting the wine for flavor, but just to make sure it is still good. You will have to pay for the wine you ordered, as long as it has not turned bad. If the wine is good, give a nod and the server will pour wine for your guests, finishing with your glass.

Receiving a pat on the back

Congratulations, you have successfully ordered wine for a party using your keen senses and impeccable taste. Delight in the moment and rest assured that you have passed the test in choosing a wine for dinner. The next time you’re at a fancy restaurant, show off your skills and offer to choose the wine with your newfound confidence!


Are Boxed Wines Worth Trying?

Boxed wines and Tetra packs are becoming more and more popular. A few years ago, when these packaging techniques first hit the market, the wines contained inside were generally not very good. With few exceptions, these wines were extremely on the tannic side or contained copious amounts of alcohol which only served to dilute the flavor of the packaging that inevitably came through.

There are a large number of points to consider when talking about boxed wines, or in more general terms, alternatively packaged wines. We will go through some of the pros and cons of these wines and try to decide whether boxed wines are the wave of the future, or just a splash in the pond of the present.


Take a look at any box of wine you find in a store and one of the first things you will notice is the larger fluid volume in the container. While most wine bottle are 750 ml, a box of wine can hold the equivalent of four bottles of wine. This packaging typically forces down the price due to manufacturing cost savings.

The boxes, or rather the sealed bag within the box, help the wine retain its fresh taste for longer. The airtight bag within the box is never opened to air, and only deflates as the wine is poured. This method maintains the freshness of the wine up to four weeks as opposed to four days in an open bottle. By keeping the air out of the wine, the oxidation process is avoided and the wine maintains its delicate flavors.

Not having a cork in the wine is also a big selling point when it comes to freshness. No cork means no chance of letting in mold and musty tastes.

The big advantage of boxed wine is that the design of the packaging allows the wine to ship more efficiently and safely from anywhere in the world. Because the storage container is not glass, there is no breakage. Because more wine makes it safely from freight to table unbroken, there is less profit lost in damaged shipments, passing that savings on to the customer.


Of course, with any deviation from the norm, there are stigmas. Change usually is met with some hesitation. That doesn’t mean that there isn’t some truth to those original feelings about boxed wines. Five years ago, boxed wines were usually substandard and so the stigma was justified. Boxed wines were considered cheap, undrinkable wine and typically received a turned up nose from guests. Today’s boxed wines are much more palatable and can often stand toe-to-toe with a bottled counterpart.

Another detractor from boxed wines seems to be the lack of varieties. Since boxed wines are not fermented the same way as bottled wines, in oak barrels, very few wineries are set up to ferment the wine, thus cutting down on the available options for boxed wine.

Wine manufacturers are coming up with new ways to store and ship wine every year. While boxed wines take some getting used to, these alternative packaging methods are improving, often resulting in a good quality wine at a very reasonable price.