1) When we started Cheapwinefinder.com, 3 years ago, our mission was to help non wine geeks (the 99%), navigate the cheap wine mine fields to find quality inexpensive wines. Finding good, cheap wine took some knowledge, you had to be a cheap wine Sherlock Holmes to find the gems. All that has changed, if you want to find a good wine all you have to do is walk up to the shelf holding what ever wine varietal you have a taste for, close your eyes and grab a bottle. It is harder to find a bad bottle than it is to find a solid bottle.
2) Right now, we are in the Golden Age of Wine. Wine has never been better in the history of the world, I say this with full knowledge that there are no ancient Greeks around to challenge me. (side note: I think the same thing can be said for beer and spirits)
3) The French are right. If you want a wine that gives you the most bang for the buck, do not worry about which grape is in the bottle. The most important factor in finding awesome wine is, who made the wine and where the grapes were grown. Great winemakers make great wine (and many of them make great wines that are very affordable, the days of, “of course it is a great wine, don’t you see how much it costs“, are gone, hopefully for good). And all great wines start in the vineyard, most vineyards are doing their absolute best at producing grapes, today great grapes come from a wide variety of places, not just the places with a good PR department. Do not be afraid of trying wines sourced from outside the “name brand” grape growing areas.
4) Do not be afraid to choose a wine you are not familiar with or grape that you think you might not like. The best thing about inexpensive wine is the wide variety that is at your finger tips. If you are drinking wine in the $30 and up category, every bottle you drink better be a religious experience. With cheap wine, there is no reason not to try it all. You learn more about wine (and your palate) from a bottle you don’t like, than from a bottle that knocks your socks off. With a bottle you are not crazy about, you know right away that it was too thin, too sour, too acidic, too tannic or a whole variety of other too’s (and many some not enoughs). With a wine that you love, you tend not to ask any questions.
5) Most wines on the store shelves are competently produced, the question is not is the wine good or bad, but does this wine match my palate. Some of us like a wide variety of wines, others have a more narrow palate. That is not good or bad, it is just the way it is. The thing about wine, that is different from beer or spirits, is that wine talks to each of us individually. If 5 friends are drinking and discussing a Wheat beer, all 5 would be able to describe the main flavor profile of the beer (they may differ on the secondary flavors), but all can agree on the main flavors. With wine, 5 people drinking the same wine may come up with 5 different flavor profiles, cherry, raspberry, blueberry, whatever. If you taste a flavor, then you taste that flavor, do not let the “experts” tell you are wrong. Nobody tells you how to taste pizza and nobody should tell you how to taste wine, it’s your experience, not theirs.
6)Do not pay too much attention to Top Ten Lists or even the Wine magazines Top 100 Best Buy lists (they can be good reads, but take the rankings with a grain of salt). Nobody, and I mean nobody samples all the available wines and then comes up with a numeric order for us. Most websites that feature Top Ten lists really mean, this is the Top Ten wines of the 3% (or less) of the vintage I sampled. If you knew upfront that they ignored 97% of all the available wines, you would not pay much attention to such lists, as it is if you purchased a wine that was 3 bottles to the left and 2 shelves up from the recommended wine, you will probably get the same or better wine experience. The wine magazines have a slightly better record they only exclude from, 50% to 80% of the available wine from their lists.
7) Wine fact: The best wines in the world are never the most expensive and the worst wines are never the cheapest.
8) The #1 category for top quality inexpensive wine is Sparkling wine. The PR machine from Champagne, France has decimated the competition to the point where the vast majority of wine drinkers will only pay top dollar for the Sparkling Wines from Champagne. We are ok with that, because that leaves an entire world of Sparkling wines that are reasonably priced.
9) Don’t believe the hype. Most of what we know about wines come from very well meaning and dedicated wine sales professionals. But, if you happened to come to the conclusion after talking to them that $30 wine is always twice as good as $15 wine, they are not going to correct you. Drink the wine, make your own decisions.