In order to retire early in Italy, Paolo and I started reducing our cost of living dramatically starting with our top five living expenses. Rent, healthcare, travel, food, and wine. It might be hard to believe but we managed to drastically reduce our wine expenses with the following 11 steps.
Save Money on Wine
1. Avoid Spending Extra at Wineries
While in Italy the cheapest place to buy good wine is at the winery, the exact opposite is sometimes true in America. I won’t name names but there are wineries where the wine is more expensive at the winery or through a club than it is in a wine store or supermarket. Before taking a winery tour, check prices at local supermarkets or wine stores. Without that knowledge beforehand, it’s all too easy to overspend or sign up for a winery club after a wine tasting at the vineyard.
2. Save Money Wine Tasting
Wine tasting is just that tasting. Most wine tasting rooms pour more than enough for a few tastes, so why not split a tasting? Think it’s not done. Think again. This tip comes directly from an interview I conducted with wine tour company owners about Wine Etiquette Tips.
“Sharing a tasting is always an option, especially if you want to go to between four and six places. So never hesitate to ask to share a tasting.” — Jack Cranley
“Wine tasting is not about offending anyone. You don’t need a full pour to taste the wine. You can either dump, spit or you can share a tasting.” — Helen Avery & Mark Treick
3. Get to Know Prosecco
Champagne might be the default when it comes to sparking wines, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it tastes better. It just means it’s from the Champagne region of France. Two recommendations here. One, get to know Prosecco from areas like the Valdobbiadene region of Italy. Two, spend a little time with the video below!
4. Skip Direct-to-Home Wine Clubs
For the winemaker, direct-to-home wine clubs are about guaranteed sales and moving inventory. For the wine drinker, they are a risk. Wine club shipments are a balance between a few good bottles and a few that won’t move without the help of mixed cases moved through clubs. So while you might spend less per bottle, there’s a good chance you’ll be less than delighted with more bottles than you would like.
5. Don’t Save the Best Bottle for Last
No matter where you are in the world, there is one thing you cannot avoid and that’s palate fatigue. While the wine tour hosts I interviewed for wine tasting tips noted not everyone fatigues at the same rate, they unanimously agreed when you hit palate fatigue the ability to detect distinctions between wines is lost. Palate fatigue is basically the point of no return. Opening the best, most expensive bottle at the end of the night means there is a greater chance you won’t be able to taste the difference from a cheaper bottle.
6. Learn How to Tell if Wine is Corked
While in Italy taking a corked bottle back is practically unheard of, the exact opposite is once again true in America. Knowing how to tell when a bottle is corked can save you from spending money on bad wine in restaurants, liquor stores, supermarkets, big box stores, and specialty wine stores across America. Learn how to tell if wine is corked and take or send bad bottles back.
7. Save Money on Wine While Traveling
Restaurants in America mark up wine two or three times. That makes an inexpensive $10 bottle more like $20 to $30. The real problem is then how to save money on wine while traveling when a vacation typically includes dinner out each night. Don’t skip that romantic toast, just google “where is the nearest wine store?” and pick up a bottle of delayed gratification for later that night in the hotel.
8. Boxed Wine
Don’t discount boxed wine for everyday drinking. In a previous post, I shared 5 reasons I secretly love boxed wine. Among them, boxed wine helps balance the budget and makes solo drinking or cooking with wine guilt-free.
9. Like Expensive Wines? Try Second Labels
Many wineries bottle lower-priced wines under a second label. A bottle of 2017 Duckhorn Vineyard Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon goes for $78. While a 2017 Decoy Sonoma County Cabernet Sauvignon goes for $25. Decanter recently published a list of the 30 Second Bordeaux Wines to Try for French wine fans which is definitely worth a read.
10. Drink Expensive Wines Without Opening the Bottle
Trying to get the most out of one bottle is something tasting room staff knows a little something about. Enter the Coravin a staple in high-end tasting rooms across America. The Coravin clamps on a wine bottle to push a needle through the cork. As wine pours out argon, a gas that doesn’t react with the wine gets pumped in. Since cork naturally reseals itself you can pour out a little bit of wine without taking the cork out of the bottle. PS: perfect gift for wine lovers.
11. Love White or Rosé Wine? Try a Wine Spritzer
Perfect in summer, the classic wine spritz is an easy way to make a bottle of wine last longer for backyard parties. Start with a three to one ratio of wine to cold club soda and take it from there.
12. Buy Wine by the Case
Not the shy type? Don’t be afraid to ask if case discounts or end-of vintage sales are available. Most big box stores and supermarkets across America offer case discounts of 10 – 15%. Thankfully in Italy, winery owners gift loyal customers discounts on cases of wine. Or in our case, trunk-fulls.
13. Try Malbecs
There’s a reason Malbecs comprise half of my favorite wines for under $10 a bottle in America’s list. Argentina wine producers have Malbec down to a science. While that won’t give you much in the way of a surprising new find, it will give you a reliably good red. Typically, you’re looking at a drinkable red that still claims character. Drier, fuller-bodied, great with steak.
Unpopular opinions? Maybe. Feel free to share your thoughts or tips to save on wine in the comments below.