Monday, October 3, 2016

Rant: Holiday Wines--Don't Be A Cheapskate

As October begins, you'll soon start seeing wine blogs, magazines, newspapers, and more to present their recommendations for holiday wines, from Thanksgiving selections to Christmas dinner choices to New Year's Eve bubbly. The majority of these articles tend to be repetitive, presenting similar choices to what they have recommended year after year. You could take one of their articles from five years prior, and you would see nearly identical recommendations. Originality is too often lacking in those articles yet they still garner plenty of attention from consumers, who are seeking advice and recommendations.

Rather than present some specific suggestions of the type of wines you should buy for the holidays, I am hoping to offer something different, to alter your thinking rather than provide specific wines to pair with your holiday celebrations. My advice can be summed up into one simple statement.

Stop being a cheapskate! 

In preparation for the holidays, people stock up on wine to serve their guests at the various parties and celebrations. Often, because they are buying bottles in bulk, their primary concern is price. They generally want to purchase wine that costs $10 per bottle or less and usually end up buying the large, commercial "value" wines, such as the Barefoot or Yellow Tail. It takes almost no thought to buy such wines. Though such wines might be drinkable, they aren't going to impress anyone. You've chosen to take the cheapest route possible, in both price and time.

If you're hosting a holiday party, don't you want to impress your guests? Or do you want to be known as the person who bought the cheapest wine available? Don't you want your guests to leave the party talking about the great time they had, telling others about the delicious wines they enjoyed? Or would you rather have them later complain that the wine was unappealing?

It only takes a little extra work, and maybe price, to elevate your wine selections. Or would you rather be known as a wine cheapskate by your guests, who know you bought cheap wine with no real thought?

I certainly understand the need to control your wine costs when you are providing for a number of guests. You don't have to buy $50 wines to impress your guests and you don't even have to spend $20 per bottle. I have purchased numerous $10 wines and brought them to parties where the other guests loved then, wanting to know where they could buy them. There are good and interesting wines at this price point, if you know where to seek them out. If you want your holiday celebration to be even more popular, then you need to serve those type of wines. The extra effort will elevate your party and please your family, friends, and other guests.

How do you find these inexpensive but interesting wines?

To start, the easiest path is to seek out one of the better discount wine stores. These places often carry a good selection of wines costing $10 or under, much more than you will find at a regular wine store. You'll find plenty of variety in these inexpensive wines, whites and reds, domestic and imported. You'll find wines comparable in price to those large commercial "value" wines but which offer much more character, taste and value.

My top three recommendations for discount wine stores include Bin Ends in Braintree and NeedhamWine Connextion in North Andover, and Rapid Liquors in Stoneham. Make the effort and drive to one of these discount spots and find better value wines. The investment of time will pay off, creating many happy guests at your next party.

For example, when I go to Bin Ends in Needham, I'll purchase a couple cases of wine, averaging $10 per bottle, and get a nice diversity of wines, reds, whites & rose. These wines will satisfy most people. They are excellent every-day wines, and work well as inexpensive wines for larger parties too. Rapid Liquors has recently expanded their store, offering a large selection and you can always find excellent values there. The Wine Connextion also offers excellent prices, even better than many you would find in New Hampshire.

If you some reason you can't make it to one of these discount wine shops, you still have options. At whatever wine shop you visit, it might be best to ask the wine store staff for recommendations of value wines. They should be able to direct you toward those inexpensive wines which will be more interesting and delicious than those cheap commercial wines. You should also remember that most wine stores offer a discount for bulk purchases, sometimes as few as 6 wines, which is another way to save money on your purchases.

But if for some reason you can't ask a store employee for some recommendations, then my best advice for selecting a good wine that is $10 or under, is to buy a Portuguese wine. At this time, I think some of the greatest value wines are coming out of Portugal, especially at this price point. Chances are that if you purchase a Portuguese wine costing $10 or less, you will find a delicious wine, much better than similarly priced wines from most other regions. And there are plenty of Portuguese wines available in that price range. There is probably no other wine region where you can find as many good wines at that price point.

You also should know that paying a few dollars more for your wine can make a big difference. When you start considering wines priced from $10-$15, your options increase drastically. You can find some interesting wines from all over the world in that price range, though they still offer value. And if you are buying in bulk where the wine store offers a discount for larger purchases, you can save enough money so that the wines end up priced closer to $10 per bottle.

So this holiday season, don't buy the same old cheap wines. It won't take much effort to select some better choices, and still very inexpensively. In the end, you'll impress your guests, make your holiday party more memorable, and drink better wines.


Sue said...

I could not agree more with you on this post :)
Seriously, when you talk about 'bang for the buck,' there is not much that beats Portuguese wines - outstanding values at there! To buy "Yellowtail" when you could be drinking something truly elegant and delicious and low-priced is unacceptable. There are so many great wines at modest prices from Portugal to Spain to Italy to France to Chile and South Africa. Shop more carefully, ask questions of sales personnel and learn before you go for the lowest price stuff that offers no value.

Richard Auffrey said...

Thanks Sue for your comments! Many consumers really can do better with their wine choices.