Budget Wine: 5 Tips to Save You Money on Wine

published Jan 5, 2012
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Happy New Year! The holidays are over. It is January, a month much associated with cutting back and shopping more wisely. Still love your wine? Read on for some great wine shopping tips to help you find the best deals, and save a few dollars.

(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

Tip #1 – Buy By the Case and Not By the Bottle
I have mentioned this a number of times in previous posts. While it might seem extravagant to order a case of wine, you generally get a discount of anything between 10% and 15% by doing so. Additionally, most retailers apply the case discount to mixed cases as well – so you do not have to buy 12 bottles of the same wine. Mix it up and have some fun.

Tip #2 – Seek Out Bin Ends Selections
Bin ends are odd bottles of wine that a retailer is trying to move. Wines end up as bin end selections for many reasons. A torn, scratched or damaged label is enough to do it or, the new vintage has arrived and the retailer wants to quickly sell any remaining previous vintage bottles, or maybe the wine for whatever reason, was a difficult sell. I have found so many great bargains in the bin end box. However, the bin end selection is often not very prominently displayed, so seek it out, or ask your retailer if he/she has one.

Tip #3 – Take Advantage of Regular Retailer Sales
Increasingly retailers designate a day per week or per month when some section of their wine inventory is on sale. For example in New York City, well-known retailer Astor Wines has a sale day every Tuesday, when it offers a 15% discount on every single wine from a selected region. One week it could be Bordeaux, the next Tuscany, then New Zealand or whatever. Another great way to savvy shop and save.

Tip #4 – Shop Around.
It is quite amazing the disparity in wine pricing for the same wine in different stores. Significant price differences between states is somewhat explained by different sales tax and excise duty regimes. However, even within the same state (or same city) you can find considerable price differences.

Today it is easy to shop around without leaving home by using Wine Searcher – a search engine website that enables you to search for any wine by state. It is a search engine of retailer price lists. You enter in the name of the wine, and up comes a list of retailers that stock the wine and the prices they charge. There are two levels of Wine Searcher: A free version that really works quite well, but prioritizes Wine Searcher sponsors. Then there is the Pro version, which searches a more complete list of retailers. It costs $39 per year. I use the Pro version a lot and find it very useful. Occasionally I find that the retailer listed no longer has the wine in stock – so it is useful to call ahead to verify that the wine is still in stock. I am also always amazed by the price differences! It really does pay to shop around.

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Tip #5 – Make Use of Daily Deal Websites
Over the past year the ‘Daily Deal’ website concept has taken off for almost everything you want to buy. From multi-product sites like Gilt that sell everyting from high fashion to gourmet foods, to specialist wine daily deal sites like Vitis, Lot 18, Cinderella Wine and WTSO. These specialist wine websites offer just one wine at a time but it is discounted anywhere from 30% to 70% off the suggested retail price. These sites are able to offer such discounted prices because of savvy purchasing strategies and availing of importer / distributor close out pricing offers.

In the interest of full disclosure, I have a relationship with one of these sites – Vitis, where I am part of their product tasting team. Along with fellow Master of Wine, Christy Canterbury, I taste and review wines for Vitis before they decide to purchase and sell them on the site.

Before I bought wine from any of these sites I found the concept a bit unusual, as I am more used to buying a selection of different wines at any one time. But once I gave it a first try I was hooked. I discovered that it really is a savvy way to buy great wine – especially older vintages and higher end wines. Most of these sites waive shipping charges once you purchase 3 or 4 bottles (depending on the price per bottle).

I hope that some of these tips are of use to some of you. Until next week savvy shopping and enjoy!

Mary Gorman-McAdams, MW (Master of Wine), is a New York based wine educator, freelance writer and consultant.

Related: Cheap Wines for Tough Times

(Images: Valentyn Volkov and Chiyacat via Shutterstock. Logos taken from featured retailer/company websites)