Random thoughts on the world of wine, presented in no particular order.

Monday, June 29, 2009

How to taste wine for (almost) free

One of the things that people who aren't "big wine drinkers" often cite as a reason for not trying a lot of wines is the expense -- buying bottles to take home can add up, buying glasses in a restaurant is even more so.  But... how do you find wine you love without trying new wines?

Ahh, the eternal dilemma -- the safe, comfortable, known wines versus the new, unusual wine with a hard-to-pronounce grape name from an appellation that you didn't know even made wine!

So, barring winning the lottery, what's an aspiring wine geek to do?

Simple.  There's tons of opportunities for you to try wine for little to no money!

Get on the mailing list of wine stores and restaurants with good wine lists.  It's not unusual for them to have regular, scheduled, tastings, and special events when producers come into town.  For example, there's 4 major wine stores in my region that have such -- two have monthly tastings that cost $10 ($5 of which is returned in the form of a gift certificate), one has semi-regular tastings (some of which are free, some of which are up to $25), and one has regular weekly tastings for free.  Additionally, one has monthly themed, in-depth tastings ("Cabernet around the world," or "Celebrate with Champagne and Sparkling Wine" for themes) for $25.  In all these cases, it's not uncommon for there to be specials or coupons on the wines tasted -- so if you like something in the store, you can take it home for a little off retail.

As for restaurants, one in my area has "wine down Wednesday," where house pours are $2, and the rest of their by-the-glass list is half off.  Others will host tastings (generally costing $5-$10) on a semi-regular basis; keeping track of the emails can be a bit of work, but it's easier than paying full price!  You'll also hear about "big name" tastings at some -- one steakhouse near me, for example, is having a dinner with the makers of Nickel & Nickel... for $125 a seat.  Still, that's only marginally more money than a bottle of their wine and a steak would cost, and you get to try 5 wines (and a 4-course meal).

Additionally, when you eat out -- look for wine flights for tasting.  In my area, a number of places now serve a flight of 4 wines for roughly the same price as 1 by-the-glass.

Then, there's the option of hosting a wine tasting on your own -- get together with 5 or 6 friends, everyone buys a bottle in the same price point (generally, my rule here is "about $20, and something you've not had before"), and get together to try them and compare notes.  

One good resource for finding out about cheap/free wine events, pretty much nationwide, is localwineevents.com.  Yes, some of the information will be repeated (two of the wine stores in my region, for example, post their events here too), but better to hear about something twice than miss it!

And how do you keep track of what you taste?  In my case, a notebook for recording stuff "in the field," and then Cellartracker for keeping it all straight and organized -- the whats, whens, and how-I-liked-the-wines of tasting.

1 comment:

  1. Great post! I always love finding ways to drink for free! Thank you again for the great tip on last weekend's tasting at Total Wine... very cool!