There’s no denying the craft beer and cocktail boom in America, but don’t underestimate the appeal of wine. Though specific data isn’t available, Forbes said multiple sources estimate the U.S. leads global consumption of the bottled booze. While wine is undeniably delicious, it comes at a cost. Your beer-drinking brethren usually pay $7 or less for a single beverage at the bar, but a glass of wine can easily cost over $13. Grabbing a few drinks with friends can suddenly grow more expensive than a high-end meal.
If you’re hoping to curtail costs by sticking with budget-friendly wines from California, you might want to rethink that strategy. Severe droughts in the state have already impacted food costs, and wine could be next. Fortune reported wine will likely become more expensive in the coming months, and cheaper labels could be hit the hardest. Even your go-tos could start to look like a lot less of a bargain.
You could always give up drinking, but it kind of limits your opportunities to socialize. Besides, at this point in your life, you’re probably drinking wine because you enjoy the taste more than the buzz. Luckily, we’ve sought out some of the best ways to help you enjoy your favorite beverage without breaking the bank. Follow these six tips, and you’ll be amazed at how affordable wine can be.
1. Explore new regions
Buying a bottle or glass of wine can be a little bit intimidating unless you have tons of experience, so many go for sips from known regions in France, Italy, and California. While there’s no arguing the high quality of wine coming out of these locales, you’d be surprised at how many countries have joined their ranks. Kiplinger reported many less-known areas are producing bottles of equal, or better, quality with a much lower price tag. The article recommended forgoing something from California in favor of wine from Oregon or Washington.
The same is true for other countries, too. Oyster.com suggested checking out selections from South Africa, Portugal, and the Czech Republic. These countries don’t have the recognition the big guys do, so they’re much easier on your wallet.
2. Buy a case instead of a single bottle
Running around the liquor store to compare prices is both embarrassing and exhausting. There’s a better way to get a good deal, but you’ll have to invest a little more upfront to enjoy the savings. Instead of buying one bottle at a time, opt for an entire case. The Kitchn revealed buying in bulk can save you between 10% and 15%. The article went on to reveal some retailers will even allow you to mix bottles so you don’t have to settle for just one wine. But if you have a favorite that you always buy, you may as well stock up.
3. Try house wine at restaurants
House wine has developed a pretty rotten reputation, and it’s undeserved. Winemaker Brian Hosmer told Thrillist you can get a great deal on some high-quality sips simply because the label has been changed to the restaurant’s name. Don’t be afraid to ask your server or sommelier about their offerings. And many restaurants are happy to give you a taste before you make a purchase.
While you would be wise to be a bit skeptical of the house choice at some cheap restaurants, many eateries realize they have a reputation to uphold when it comes to their beverage programs. Food & Wine said many quality restaurants spend a great deal of time finding wine they’re proud to offer, and they typically make choices based on what complements the food.
4. BYOB when allowed
While bringing your own beverage used to only apply to college parties, plenty of restaurants are allowing diners to use the money-saving method. Reader’s Digest said this strategy eliminates markups, which can increase prices by as much as 300%. Keep in mind, most places will charge a corkage fee. Always ask before popping your own bottle, because some restaurants charge significantly higher rates than others.
Picking a great bottle for a night out might seem intimidating, but there are plenty of good options that don’t cost a lot of money. Serious Eats suggested 24 of their favorites, and none of them are more than $20. Even if you’re looking at a corkage fee, you’ll still be spending significantly less than if you bought a bottle at the restaurant.
5. Go for boxed
Once considered a beverage for poor 20-somethings, boxed wine has come a long way. LearnVest said choices from Target and Black Box have gotten great reviews from experts. Each box contains the same amount of wine as four bottles. The bag is designed to collapse around the liquid to prevent oxidation, so you can enjoy the wine for weeks without any negative impact on flavor. The article also mentioned they typically retail for around $20, so you can’t beat the value.
6. Avoid glasses unless it’s happy hour
If you typically order wine by the glass, you’re likely paying way more than you should. The Wall Street Journal said many restaurants cover the cost of an entire bottle with a single pour, and a lot of those bottles have been sitting open for too long. If a whole bottle is too much, many places will let you bring them to go. Also, look for restaurants and bars that offer half-bottles or carafes.
The exception to this rule is happy hour. Many bars have deals on wine that are just as good as the ones they offer for beer and mixed drinks. If going right after work isn’t an option, U.S. News & World Report suggested looking around for late-night happy hours. The deals are often the same, and you’re less likely to go overboard purchasing drinks if it’s close to bed time.