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Serving good wine and saving a dime while on a budget

Serving good wine and saving a dime while on a budget

This time of year I think many of us are looking for ways to save money on entertaining. Whether planning a large cocktail party or intimate gathering, these tips can help keep you on budget for holiday wine buying.

Remember the basics

Buy by the case, shop on the retailers’ discount “wine day,” check for in-store specials and always shop around for the best savings. These basic tips can sometimes save you up to 20 percent off on your wine buying.

Quality wines at value prices

For quick savings substitute vintage Champagne with blanc de blanc; cabernet sauvignon with malbec; pinot noir with merlot; and vintage port with late-bottled vintage port (LBV).

Don’t shy away from blends

Many wineries have a blend labeled simply “red wine.” This can be a great place for savings because many of these blends are created from other single varietal bottlings not used for the vintage. It offers the consumer a lower price point, but from a reputable winemaker and vineyard.

Buy big

For large parties 1.5 liter bottles or boxed wines can be a great value. Many quality boxed wines contain the equivalent of four standard bottles and are usually priced less than $20 a box. And if you don’t want your guests to see you’re serving boxed wine, simply pour it into decorative carafes.

Step our of your comfort zone

Consider wines from emerging regions with little or no recognition. Chile and Argentina continue to offer remarkable value, but also consider lesser-known regions in California and up-and-coming wine regions such as New York state.

Get to know your retailer

Make friends with your wine shop staff. With simple conversations your retailer will begin to understand your likes and dislikes, guiding you to the best wines available. Throughout the year you may have a certain wine as your everyday wine but this time of year your retailer may guide you to a similar style at a special price.

And always remember, the best way to find great deals is to ask.

  • 2012 Force of Nature Red Blend, California (about $13 retail)
  • 2014 Mark West Chardonnay, California (about $12 retail)
  • 2013 Norton Malbec, Argentina (about $10 retail)
  • 2014 Candoni Pinot Grigio, Italy (about $15 retail for 1.5 liters)
  • NV Treveri Blanc de Blanc sparkling wine, Washington (about $14 retail)
  • 2014 La Playa Merlot, Chile (about $9 retail)
  • 2014 Black Box Cabernet Sauvignon, California (about $24 retail for 3 liters)

Wedding time: Let’s find a wine

Wedding WineBrides are finalizing their spring and summer wedding plans — some with extreme relief and others with overwhelming stress. With a wealth of wedding planning advice, most have confidently confirmed the dress, flowers and cake, but the celebratory drink sometimes is a last-minute thought.

The most important first step in choosing the ideal wine is your budget. Knowing how much you want to spend for your wine and beverages is the starting point for your caterer, retailer or consultant.

Exactly how much wine to buy depends on the time of day, number of guests and overall format of your reception. A daytime toast with wedding cake will require considerably less wine than an evening of dinner and dancing. For evening receptions, most wedding planners figure on each guest drinking two glasses of wine every two hours. If you’re without a consultant to tally how much wine to order there are many websites with wedding wine calculators. RealSimple. com offers an easy calculation based on the number of guests, type of beverage and time of day for the big event.

With your style in mind, make your plans based on how many people you will be serving at the reception. If you plan for 300 guests, an expensive vintage wine most likely will not be necessary. However, if your wedding will be intimate, in a home or small setting, you may want to give more attention to detail and stay with my past advice: Buy the best wine you can afford.

Choosing the style of wine for a reception can be straightforward if you are only serving cake and sweets. A glass of Champagne or sparkling wine lends a celebratory touch and an easy resolution. If your menu is more complex, select food-friendly wines such as chardonnay, pinot grigio, merlot, pinot noir and cabernet sauvignon. And if you still want the bubbly toast, choose a sparkling wine from California or Australia, where many finds are under $10 a bottle.


  • NV Seaview Brut, Australia (about $10 retail)
  • 2011 Chateau Bonnet Bordeaux Blanc, France (about $14 retail)
  • 2011 Santa Rita 120 Merlot, Chile (about $11 retail)


  • 2007 Argyle Brut Sparkling, California (about $34 retail)
  • 2010 Cambria Katherine’s Vineyard Chardonnay, California (about $28 retail)
  • 2009 Clos Pegase Napa Valley Merlot, California (about $31 retail)