I am always on the lookout for inexpensive red wines that taste great.
Over the years I’ve had to kiss quite a few proverbial frogs before finding some winners, but after a lot of trial and error I’ve gotten pretty good at being able to tell if a wine is going to be pretty good or fairly horrible without knowing anything about it.
For example, I have a $7.99/bottle limit for my wine buying. If a bottle costs more than that, unless it’s a very special occasion, I’m not buying it.
But my experience has been if a wine costs less than $4.99/bottle, it’s probably going to be pretty bad. I’ve found only one or two exceptions since I first started buying wines 15 years ago, but they were more expensive wines that had been discounted for some reason.
If wine comes in a jug or a box, it’s probably not a good idea to drink it. These wines are usually made from the grapes that are left over after all the quality grapes have been bought by other winemakers. In many cases, they are then rushed through the production process in order to get them to market more quickly. The result is a bad tasting wine that will give you a headache.
Generally, if a wine has a silly drawing on the label or if it seems like its being marketed to children, it’s probably not too good. Similarly, if very little thought or design went into creating the label or if it has a name that sounds like mad-libs — such as “Turning Leaf”, “Harvest Ridge” or “Mountain Lake” — you probably aren’t going to enjoy drinking it.
Wines that are marked for clearance are, in most cases, there for a reason. Maybe the demand wasn’t what the store expected or maybe there was an opportunity buy that didn’t pan out the way is should have. In any case, if the store is practically giving the wine away, it’s probably no bargain.
It used to be that wines with screw tops rather than corks were generally not very good, but this is not a reliable indicator now. Many high quality wine producers are now bottling their wines in bottles with screw tops. Although I think it denies the wine drinker the joyful ritual of removing a cork from a bottle of wine, screw tops definitely make it easier to store and prolong the life of partially filled bottle.
In many wine stores, liquor marts and super markets, where the wine is physically located can be an indicator of how good or bad it is. It tends to follow this protocol:
Really great wines — Located either on an upper shelf or even locked up behind plexiglass. These are wines I’ve never bought.
Pretty good wines — Eye level shelves or bins.
Just okay wines — Lower or bottom shelves.
Truly terrible wines — Grouped together with the jug and box wines, even when they are in bottles.
Next time you visit the place you normally buy your wine, check this out and see if this isn’t true. I think you’ll be surprised how universal this placement is.
When you will only buy wines that cost $7.99 or less, like I do, you develop a sixth sense when it comes to finding decent wines. Maybe that’s why I get so excited when I actually find a really good wine at that price point.
Time to share: How do you choose wines? Is it by price point? Do you ask the store clerk? Do you wait for suggestions? Share your ideas in the comments section below. And thanks for looking at my blog!