With the pandemic coming to an end, there is no better time for dinner parties and gatherings with friends. Whether attending or hosting, you might find yourself in the liquor store wondering what wine to get. For most people, the endless aisles of wine can be confusing and intimidating. If you are anything like me, I used to pick wines based solely on the price tag and familiarity. However, a few easy tips can help you find selicious wines that you genuinely enjoy, for a great price.
Wine Buying Tips on a Budget, from the Professionals
I sat down with Brooke Sabel, head buyer for Gary’s Wine and Spirits, and Susanna Partida, a wine broker, and we discussed a few tips they give customers when heading to the wine shop.
1. “Take pictures of wine labels that you like.”
Like anything in life, we have to learn what we like and don’t like. There is a trial-and-error period when it comes to personal preference of wine. However, Brooke gave some excellent advice for anyone looking for wines similar to ones they have enjoyed. By taking pictures of bottles you’ve enjoyed, the wine specialist will be able to get a sense of your palette and recommend similar bottles for any price range.
2. “Be upfront and state your budget.”
One of Brooke’s biggest tips was to be open when talking to the wine specialist at a wine shop or liquor store. Make sure to state your budget and what the occasion is. If you are hosting a dinner party, some wines might go better with certain foods than others. If you are trying to impress someone, they can show you the best for your budget. If you are having a hard day and need something to unwind after work, they can offer you precisely what you need.
3. “Heading into the holidays, finding great bottles of wine that can suit big parties and still fit your budget, it is good to look for a classic producer from a classic region like Louis Jadot.”
Knowing the classics is always a good place to start. Just learning about a few classic producers can make any trip to the wine shop a lot less stressful. This is especially the case when looking to serve many people during the holidays and sticking to a budget. Brooke suggested a wine like Louis Jadot, which is a high-quality classic Burgundy from France.
4. “Everyone’s palette is different.”
Forget the online ratings. Everyone’s palette is different; somebody’s sweet could be another person’s dry and vise versa. This is why Brooke suggests getting a feel for what you like is important when deciding on what to buy next.
5. “What grows together goes together.”
Brooke gives a couple of key phrases to remember when you’re in the wine shop looking to purchase something to pair with a specific meal. “If you’re having a dinner party, an easy rule of thumb is ‘what grows together goes together.’ If you’re going to have spaghetti and meatballs, you might want to pair it with something Italian. If you’re going to have tacos, something to keep in mind is ‘sweet covers heat’.”
6. “Roll the dice and see.”
Susanna suggests that you can never go wrong with experimenting to see what you like. There are an incredible amount of fantastic wines for under $20. Exploring will only help you determine what you like and don’t like.
7. “Develop a relationship with your local wine shop.”
Most big grocery stores and liquor stores will have a wine specialist. Susanna suggests that if you find someone you connect with at your wine shop, share what you have found. They will most likely have great suggestions on what you should try next and be excited to show you knew things.
8. “Take advantage of local wine tastings in your area.”
Susanna told me a little about her own experience going to local wine tastings at retail stores within her area. Not only are they usually free, but they are an easy way to learn more about what you like.
A Few Suggestions of Good, Inexpensive Wines To Try
We want to help you find great wine for every taste and occasion! Click the links below to see which store or restaurant near you offers the wine.
- The Seeker is a global brand that sells top-quality wines from regions all over the world. With prices ranging from $11 and up, this is a good quality option for a reasonable price.
- As discussed before, Maison Louis Jadot is a classic producer from France with great quality bottles ranging anywhere from $16 and up.
- Villa Matilde Falanghina Campania IGP is a great white wine from southern Italy you can find for just over $21. It is a great bottle to pair with seafood dishes from Italy, such as spaghetti with clams.
- Bodega Norton tends to be an elegant and complex wine and is known for its attractive prices. The Reserva Chardonnay is a popular wine from Argentina for $24.97.
- Montes is a Chilean producer that has a fantastic Classic Cabernet Sauvignon. For $12.99, it is a delightful wine for everyday drinking, especially paired with meat dishes.
- Michele Chiarlo is a notable family-owned producer with exceptional wines from Italy. You can find this authentic brand starting from $11 and up.
At the end of the day, you can find many great wines for whatever your budget is. The key to navigating your way through any wine shop is to be open and honest and figure out what you genuinely like.