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Strategies To Finding The Best Wine Values

Strategies To Finding The Best Wine Values

Wine selection

Don’t know how to pick out a good value wine? Tim Elliott to the rescue with some great hands on advice and strategies.
By Tim Elliott – Photo by Brajeshwar via Flickr

Whether you are in a wine store, restaurant or even a supermarket there are hundreds of wine choices competing for your attention and finding the best values among them can be a challenge. Over the years I’ve developed some strategies to narrow down wine selections which tend to yield better values. What follows are some tips to get you started but there will be many more to come here in the future.

Wine Selection

Look for common themes and patterns in the selection

Take a look at the selection and see what there is more of and then look just in that subset of choices. This is easier on a restaurant wine list where you have fewer choices than most wine stores but spending a few minutes to get a lay of the land is time well spent. If you are in a fine wine shop, talk with the staff and ask what they specialize in to help narrow your focus. Finding out what the wine buyer or owner likes will usually surface many values among their selection.

Look for emerging or less well-known regions

While you might find some deals from Bordeaux, Burgundy, Italy or California – particularly on special – chances are the best values will be had from emerging regions or those not on the radar of the wine buying mainstream. South America is a good place to look with Argentina coming on strong with Malbec and native Torrontés. Chile also continues to over deliver for the money on many Bordeaux varieties. Even in more established wine regions if you look to the road slightly less traveled you are likely to find better value. For example if you like German Riesling, try those from Alsace or Austria. Like white Burgundy? Try Chablis.

Avoid Chardonnay, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon

Just like the tip above, if you look at less mainstream grape varieties you are more likely to find better value. This is especially true in restaurants where you will often see “the big 3” in ample supply across all price points. Look for varieties like Pinot Gris, Gamay Noir, Cabernet Franc, Grenache and Viognier instead.

Use your Smartphone

See Also

Both Wine Advocate and Wine Spectator has handy mobile friendly websites for their review databases that can be used to find out more about a wine before purchase. And there are plenty of wine apps for iPhone, Android and Blackberry. My favorites currently are Hello Vino (iPhone and Android), (iPhone) and Nat Decants (iPhone and Blackberry). Use this information to your advantage before making your selection no matter what expression the store staff or sommelier has on their face.

Trust your palate

Many wine stores and restaurants offer tastings before purchase. Nothing can replace experiencing the wine yourself so take advantage of these tastings when offered.

There are more strategies to finding the best wine values that I will cover in future posts but this should give you plenty to get started. Whatever approach you use, be open to the recommendations of friends, social media connections, wine store staff and sommeliers. Many times the best wine values are found just by asking for them.

View Comment (1)
  • Thanks, Tim. I’m all about those off-the-beaten-path varietals–at least, when buying wine to drink at home. However, if ordering a glass in a restaurant, I’m often wary of ordering that Torrontes or Malbec by the glass The turnover isn’t great–I’ve too often ended up with a past-its-prime glass

    A wise move is to tell the server, “If the Torrontes has been opened in the last day, I’ll have that. If not, bring me the ______ [name an even less-expensive wine on the menu].”

    More often that not, it works as motivation for the server (who would rather you didn’t order the low-end Chardonnay) to ask the bartender to open a fresh bottle. It’s worked for me (nearly) every time.

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