How to buy cheap wine? The real answer is: go to a wine shop, grab a bottle off the shelve, head to the check out and hand the clerk some money. There are no secrets, no hidden tips, no mystic fonts of knowledge, you learn about wine, about finding the wines that appeal to you and fit your budget by tasting wine. There are no shortcuts.
There is nothing wrong with folks giving you tips and recommendations, but what they are telling you is what they like, which isn’t necessarily what you like. When I go to a large Trade Wine Tasting and ask 10 people what their favorite wine of the event was, it is not uncommon to get 10 different answers. And that is the reality of wine, there is such a broad range of wines available that there is no reason to limit ourselves to a small selection of so-called top choices.
Wines change, sometimes a tiny amount, sometimes greatly, with each vintage. It isn’t like craft beer, where once they get the recipe down they can replicate the formula. The wines that move you this year may not be the wines that rock you next year. Tasting as many wines as you can is the only way to find Your wines.
Inexpensive wines have never been better, California is coming off a couple of great grape harvests in a row, fine grapes are plentiful. Take a chance, buy a bottle because you like the label or think the name is cool, buy a bottle because it is on sale and the price is too good to pass up. If you don’t like it, well now you know, and you didn’t have to spend much to learn. Finding the wines that are right for you is like the joke about having to kiss a few frogs before you find your prince. Only drinking a so-so glass of wine beats kissing frogs.