It seems like a clear-cut bargain. And stores love to advertise it: Buy a case of wine and get 10 percent off.
If you’re buying in bulk for a party or for gifts, wine deals like that do help. For instance, a 10-percent discount on a case of 12 bottles at $12 each will run you about $130 instead of $144. But don’t get locked into buying by the case for the discount. There’s a smarter way to shop for wine.
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First, recognize that the discount is possibly being given on prices that are already inflated. “It is standard behavior to offer discounts on everything,” said Jesse Warner-Levine, owner and founder of Convive, a wine shop in New York City’s East Village. Your $12 bottle may really be a $10 bottle with a $2 markup. And that wine — or a very similar one — may be sold for $10 at another store that you don’t go to because it doesn’t offer discounts or it’s located a little farther away.
Store Staff Can Help You Find the Best Wine Deals
The trick to thrifty wine shopping is to sharpen your priorities beyond discounts and location. Warner-Levine suggests that you patronize a store “that offers good wine and service as opposed to the one right outside your door. Take service over convenience.”
Stores with knowledgeable, friendly staff can direct you to wines that provide good value for their prices and help you discover wines from unexpected or yet-to-be-popular regions. They can also direct you to smaller producers that don’t have to contend with the marketing cost or overhead that some of the big producers have.
Some of the best wine deals may come from “places that have long history of making wine, but not a long history of marketing,” Warner-Levine says. These include regions in Hungary and the republic of Georgia, as well as other areas of Eastern Europe. The Saperavi grape of Georgia, he says, offers an old-world taste at new-world prices.
Of course, you can’t leave it all to the shop. Some of the work is on you, and that’s the fun part.
“You have to taste a lot of wine,” says Elizabeth Martin, general manager and co-owner of Martin Brothers Wine & Spirits on the Upper West Side in New York City.
“If you go to a store that has a bottle of wine open at all times, you are going to learn something.”
Martin’s approach is to build community by holding daily tastings, as well as larger events that include complimentary food and as many as 15 wines.
Lesser-Known Makers Often Have the Best Wine Deals
To find value, Martin recommends looking for producers or regions that are new to your market.
In addition, if you discover a love for, say, French Burgundy, but can’t afford the price, find producers that use similar grapes and techniques and are located outside the high-dollar region. An affinity for Burgundy-style wines may lead you to products from Oregon or Spain — and you’ll end up drinking far better wine than you thought you could afford.
Of course, if price is really your only concern, there’s nothing stopping you from picking up a bottle or two of “Two-Buck Chuck” at Trader Joe’s!