Bargain hunting for wine

How to think different drink better and save money

We all love finding a great deal on a bottle of wine but aside from waiting for sales at your favourite shop there are a few things you can do to make sure you’re getting the biggest bang from your buck.

You need to learn to shop differently — forget the well-trodden paths it’s time to jump ship and find your own way.

Here are a few tips to get you started.

Love Cabernet? Who doesn’t? I remember the days when you could grab a great bottle of Napa Valley Cabernet for under $25 bucks but I’m old and those days are long gone. If you want to find some killer Cab for less than $25 you need to look elsewhere. It turns out Argentina can make more than just Malbec; they crank out some really great Cabernet and the prices are shockingly low. Rich dark and delicious wines — reminiscent of what you might get for $40 out of Napa — are there for the taking. But if you’re still stuck on California there are still a few places to explore. Look to Mendocino — cheaper dirt means cheaper wines and you can still find some great buys from this lesser known region. Lodi is another hot spot offering softer and rounder versions that capture the spirit of the grape but not the cost.

Tip : Next time you’re picking up your favorite Malbec check and see if they also make a Cab. If they do buy it instead.

Pulling your hair out trying to find a great buy in Pinot Noir? Join the club. The popularity of this grape has lead to skyrocketing prices but there remain a few pockets of value if you are patient and diligent. Believe it or not France is still your best bet but forget Gevrey-Chambertin or any other famed village of Burgundy; you need to find yourself some basic Bourgogne Rouge. Look for good producers and buy their cheapest wines — the quality is often remarkable in these entry-level offerings. But this is Pinot Noir so be ready to pay at least $20 to $30.

Tip : 2009 and 2010 are great back-to-back vintages in Burgundy — if you can find some basic Bourgogne Rouge from a good producer buy it.

Learn to love Grenache. Yes Grenache is the grape that might bring you the best value of all right now and there is plenty to go around. Spain is a virtual sea of old vine Grenache and you can pick up some terrific wines for less than $15. Ask your local wine merchant what he/she is swilling on a Tuesday night and odds are there will be some Grenache in the picture.

Tip : Look for old-vine Grenache from Spain and Cotes-du-Rhone in Southern France and remember these wines always taste better with a slight chill on them.

Pinot Grigio is still red-hot in our market and most of the wines are dirt-cheap. So why am I including it here? If you drink a lot of Pinot Grigio I am willing to bet you’re starting to find it all kind of tastes the same am I right? If you really want a good deal on Pinot Grigio you need to spend a little more — but not much. Look for an example from Northern Italy a region such as Alto Adige or Trentino which will only cost a couple of dollars more than their cheaper counterparts but the wine in your glass will be infinitely more exciting.

Tip : Don’t over chill your new purchase as the extra levels of flavor are lost if you leave it in the fridge too long. Think cool not cold.

Thanks to some great marketing and an influx of well-made wines New Zealand has made Sauvignon Blanc a staple on the table of many Albertans but I think it’s time for this grape to go back to its roots. The Loire Valley is home to an incredible array of wines crafted from this grape and many of them remain absolute bargains. Look to wines from Reuilly Cheverny or Quincy for some electric examples of Sauvignon that will have your mouth watering.

Tip : Grab a hunk of Chevre to taste with your wine it’s a classic pairing.

As for the world’s most planted grape well Chardonnay is still tricky to buy. The problem is the immense range of flavours it can offer. You may love examples from Chablis and hate them from Barossa — it really depends on how it’s made. For me the Macon probably offers the best side of this grape delivering fresh wines with generous flavours balanced with a fine mineral backbone. There are many examples in the $20 range so if you feel like you need to re-fall in love with this grape the Macon is a good place to start.

Tip : Ask your local wine guru for their favourite Chardonnay under $25.