How to Stock a Wine Fridge on a Budget
National Drink Wine Day on February 18 is (in my humble opinion) one of the best holidays of the year. It’s a golden opportunity to look past the typical bottle of vino you normally drink and try a new varietal or vintage. Drink Wine Day is also a great time to buy lots of new wines, and while this is certainly an enjoyable activity, we all know how challenging stocking your wine fridge on a budget can be.
What wines you’ll have available to buy will vary from state to state and store to store, but we can help you find the kinds of wines that you’ll want to drink, based on your preferences. Buying wine on a budget is not necessarily about seeking out the very cheapest wines in the store, but rather about finding solid value.
1. Start With Food Pairings
Not sure what wines you might like best? A good way to choose is to start with wines that pair with your favorite foods. A good Chianti pairs nicely with many Italian dishes, a Sauvignon blanc (especially fruitier ones) drinks well with Mexican cuisine, a Lambrusco goes well with glazed ham, and so on. If you’re having dinner with the kids, or have a special holiday meal, here are some more wine suggestions.
2. Stick to a Budget
Decide how much you want to spend on wine and keep a different budget for different wine choices. A weeknight dinner wine you might limit to $10 to $20 per bottle, but for a special weekend wine for dinner, you might splurge and spend $30 or more. By thinking ahead about how much to spend, it will be easier for you to get specific suggestions from wine clerks, and a good clerk will not judge you harshly even if you are looking for a bottle under $10.
Even if you love to go out of your way to please your guests at a dinner party, most people are typically just as happy with an easy-drinking, high-quality table wine as with a very special and expensive bottle.
3. Keep a Wine Journal
No matter how much you enjoy wine, unless you have a photographic memory you will never be able to remember all the wines you’ve drunk in your life. The easy solution? Keep a wine journal. You can either stash a pad and pen near your wine fridge or you can use the many outstanding wine apps (Delectable and Vivino are two good ones) to help you keep track of what wines you’ve tried in restaurants and at home. While you may not be able to always find all those exact same wines again, your journal will help you select similar ones and find patterns, such as specific years that you enjoy certain varietals for. In each wine region, weather and rainfall can make a type of wine, say, from Sonoma taste dramatically different from year to year.
4. Host Your Own Wine Tasting
Invite friends over and ask everyone to bring a bottle of a particular type of wine within a certain price range. Taste wines side by side to learn about subtle differences between regions or wineries. Read each label to see how the wine is described, so you can understand and spot specific wine terms you can look for the next time you purchase.
5. Experience Wineries
If you’re buying wines that you’ll really like to drink, it helps to taste wines where they are produced. At vineyards, you can learn from experts in the industry surrounded by the main ingredient of wine – grapes – and the immersive experience of tasting wine at a winery is a special experience. Many wineries also offer memberships for purchasing wine directly from them at a discount, which helps when you’re stocking your wine fridge on a budget. This can be an especially good deal if you live close enough to the winery to pick up your shipment in person each month or quarter.
6. Choose Good Quality Wines with Value
While your local grocery store will likely have several inexpensive wines for less than $10 bottle, you should often prioritize value for money over sheer low price. If you’re looking to grow your wine knowledge, you should look for interesting wines that are still within your budget. One way to do that is to buy wines from less well-known regions. Within the United States, Napa is one of the best-known wine regions, producing exceptional but often expensive bottles. If instead you try a pinot noir from Oregon or riesling from Washington, you can find a great quality wine at a frequently lower price point.
7. Buy By a Mixed Case
A handy tip to save money on wine while stocking your wine fridge on a budget is to purchase by the case instead of by the bottle. This way you’ll likely be offered a discount. Many shops offer mixed cases of 12 bottles at a 10% discount, and this way you can stock your fridge with several different varietals instead of only one type of wine.
When buying bottles by the dozen, make sure to label the wines you buy in order to remember why you wanted to try them. Did you buy the wine for a party or to pair with a special dinner? A little note can help keep your wine fridge orderly and bottles cycling through in a systematic way.
We hope you enjoy National Drink Wine Day!
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