How to get bang for your buck when buying wine isn't hard with these tips.

How to get bang for your buck when buying wine isn't hard with these tips.
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Five tips for sniffing out great value wines

Are you a sucker for a discount sticker or do you panic under pressure and spend more than you’d planned? These tips will up your chances of drinking a great value glass of wine.

1. Don’t follow the crowd

Just look at the supermarket shelves groaning with Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, Rioja or Prosecco. It would be a brave restaurant wine list that dispensed with Chablis or Meursault. But these are all styles that trade on their familiarity, a comfort blanket that often comes with highly variable quality at the mass market end or, if you venture into fine wine territory, a hefty price tag.

Step just a little out of the mainstream to unearth a host of alternatives that must work harder to earn their place on a list. Rueda Verdejo is a crisp, lively Sauvignon Blanc stand-in, or try Pignoletto for budget-friendly Italian bubbles. Rioja’s Tempranillo and Garnacha thrive across Spain, with particularly exciting value in Castilla La Mancha. At the top end, Burgundy no longer has a monopoly on high quality Chardonnay: for the current price of Meursault premier cru you can enjoy the cream of Australia, South Africa or Oregon.

2. Seek out young talent

Whether you’re throwing money at concert tickets, art or wine, the same rule applies. A big, established star will command a justifiable premium over a newcomer. But those top names were once unknowns too. Invest time in research and you can reap the rewards of catching the next big thing before everyone else catches on.

Not everyone has the time, money or contacts to do this investigative work themselves. That’s where it pays to follow the advice of a good independent retailer, especially one who specialises in your favourite region and is regularly on the ground sniffing out hot talent. Study their catalogue, go to their tastings and, while everyone else is jostling for a drop of the famous stuff, make a bee-line for their latest discoveries.

3. Consider country

Some parts of the world are cheaper places to make wine than others. Whether that’s due to lower land prices, a favourable climate, cheaper labour costs, a friendly exchange rate, fashion or a helpful combination of all the above, it can pay to consider these factors just as much as grape variety.

While the strength of the US dollar and – for those in the UK – the euro, have seen prices nudge northwards for many popular wine regions, there is still hope. Thanks to the combination of a relatively weak rand and some seriously exciting quality, these days South Africa represents particularly rewarding territory across all price brackets. Don’t overlook Chile either, whose large producers are not only hotly competitive on supermarket shelves but are increasingly making higher quality wines of real originality and interest.

4. Plan ahead

Don’t expect to bag the best bargains by dashing into the cornershop for last minute supplies. Rushed decisions based on whatever’s on offer that week so often end in disappointment. Nor is there much satisfaction in spending more than you’d like on an unknown producer in the hope of success. And don’t pretend you can chat with friends or clients while picking out gems from a restaurant wine list.

Most supermarkets run regular wine deals so, if there’s a bottle you particularly like, wait until it’s on offer and then pounce. Don’t expect deep discounts at independent retailers, but keep an eye out for warehouse clear-outs to make way for a new vintage. Except for the very cheapest wines, many styles benefit – or even demand – a few years in bottle before showing at their best. Buy now and you’ll thank yourself when they either disappear or leap up in price. Is the restaurant’s wine list online? Browse in advance to avoid a rushed, distracted decision when you arrive.

5. Stock up on favourites

It may feel profligate to stagger out of the shop laden with ostentatiously clinking bottles, but ignore those judgemental looks from passers-by. Despite appearances, your actions are actually about saving money, while also reaping the benefits that come with that previous tip on planning ahead.

First of all, you’ve insured yourself against the frustration that comes when your favourite wine is out of stock. After all, unless your tastes are extremely niche or adventurous, it’s likely to be a hit in other households too. Secondly, there’s often a discount, whether advertised or not, for buying by the case. And crucially, especially as the festive season looms, you’ll always be prepared for that last minute party.

Stock up on favourites especially before the festive season.
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Stock up on favourites especially before the festive season.
Gabriel Stone
Gabriel Stone
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