How to buy a good inexpensive wine


Buying bargain wine doesn't have to mean cruising the sales bins hoping to find something drinkable. Food and Wine editor Ray Isle shows you how to impress your friends and dinner guests with a bottle that tastes expensive but really is a bargain wine.

How to buy a good inexpensive wine Price doesn’t always equal quality. Here are strategies to help you buy excellent inexpensive wine for under $20.
  • Remember, there are a lot of expensive wines that aren’t that great and a lot of terrific wines that are affordable. For instance, choose a wine like Cycles Gladiator Merlot from California. You can spend an extra $10 on a bottle from a more famous wine producer, but this one, which is less well known, is excellent and will chop $10 off the price.
  • Diversify your regions and your grapes. If you’re buying cabernet from Napa, you’re paying an up-charge for those recognizable terms.
  • Pricing is a matter of supply and demand. If you’re buying Malbec from Argentina, you’ll pay less because there’s less demand for it, like El Portillo Malbec. This is a nice, inexpensive wine priced around $10 or $12.
  • When buying champagne, you can’t touch an actual bottle of champagne from France for under $26 or $27. But there are great sparkling wines, like Prosecco from Italy or Cava from Spain, which are very affordable for parties.
  • Finally, find a good wine store, find a clerk there and tell him what you like, what you’ve enjoyed in the past, and ask what you can get for $20 or less. The person who can show you how to buy an inexpensive bottle of wine that you’ll enjoy is the person you’ll keep going back to.

Hi I'm Ray Isle, senior wine editor at Food and Wine magazine. One question I get asked a lot is do I really have to spend $50, $100 on a bottle of wine to get a great bottle of wine? The answer is, you don't. In fact there are a lot of great tips and strategies about how to buy great wine for an affordable price under twenty bucks.

First thing to think about in terms of wine is that price doesn't always equal quality. There are a lot of expensive wines out there that aren't that great, and there are a lot of affordable wines that are terrific. For instance, if you pick a bottle like this Cycles Gladiator merlot from California, you could pick a much more famous producer and pay an extra ten bucks for a bottle of wine. On the other hand you buy a less well known producer like this that's making a nice, terrific little merlot--a good ten bucks right off your price.

Another thing to think about is diversify your regions. And diversify your grapes. If you're buying Napa Valley, you're buying cabernet, again you're buying an upcharge for each of those little recognizable terms. On the other hand if you buy something great like Malbec from Argentina, an up and coming grape, spicy, red fruit, lot of flavor, you're going to naturally pay less than cabernet because there's less demand for it. It's a pure supply and demand equation. This El Portillo, nice little wine, begins you know ten, twelve bucks. That is exactly what I'm talking about in this case.

Similarly, champagne. I mean champagne is wonderful. Everybody loves champagne, but you can't actually touch a bottle of champagne from France for less that, let's say, $26, $27. What you can buy are things like cavas, persecos, sparkling wines from Spain which is cava, perseco from Italy. This collalbrio, wonderful sparkling wine, very affordable. Again is it champagne from France? No. But is it a great sparkling wine. To serve at parties it's terrific.

Finally find a good store, find a good clerk at the store. Tell them what you like. Tell them the kind of wine you like. Know of a bottle you had recently that you like and say what can I get that will make me happy and is not going to cost over twenty bucks? And the person who can do that for you every week when you need a bottle of wine, that's the person you go back to over and over again. That's one great way to find value in wine.

So go forth, buy some bottles, and just don't spend more than twenty bucks a bottle and have a great time. Thanks for watching.

meet theexpert
  • Ray Isle

    Ray Isle Senior Wine Editor, Food & Wine Ray Isle speaks regularly on wine and wine-related subjects at live events, and has been a guest on national media outlets. more about this expert »

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