Keys to Finding Great Bang for Buck Wines

By Ryan Snyder on December 19, 2009

Finding cheap wines is super easy, considering there is a sea of mass-produced wines that populate the shelves of any Costco or Trader Joes. But as many of us have found, when we pay $10, it feels like a good deal when we pay the cashier, but we're often disappointed when we finally taste the wine.

Now, I'm always looking for a good bottle of wine at a great price. And over the years, I've developed a few keys to finding awesome deals amongst the wine shelves:

1. Get to know your wine steward

Let's face it - there's a lot of wine out there, and every label contains a word or 3 that we don't understand. The wine steward at our local grocery store or wine shop is there to help us find wines that suit our palates, and they're always eager to let us know about the best deals in their store!

2. Buy wine by the case

Here in Portland, Oregon, you get a 20% discount if you buy a case of wine. That means that if you buy 12 bottles of wine at $10 per bottle, instead of paying $120 for 12 bottles, you'll only have to pay $96, meaning you'll save $24! Now that is one deal that does not suck.

3. Discover the lesser known appellations

Bordeaux, Napa Valley and Champagne cost so much because these regions have produced quality wines over the years, and the brands that have been built around their names drive the prices sky high. Look to lesser known wine regions, known as appellations, to find hidden gems at half the price. Here are some of my personal favorite bang-for-buck appellations, which offer wines at my $12 price point:

Wine Regions

Prosecco, Italy

Hailing from the Veneto region of northern Italy, Prosecco is a grape that is made into a wonderfully affordable sparkling wine that is great for whetting the appetite before your big feast. It is typically made to be a very dry wine, with notes of green apple, pear and white peach, with a nice frizzante. Prosecco also works perfectly for cocktail drinks such as mimosas and bellinis.

Featured Wine:
Riouolo Prosecco del Veneto

Food Pairing:
Charcuterie plate

Torrentes from Mendoza, Argentina

Torrontes is a white grape that originated from the Ribeiro region of Spain, and is thought to have been brought to Argentina by Basque settlers when they emigrated to the country. It has since found a home in the Mendoza region of Argentina, where it produces high quality white wines at a low price. Torrontes wines show intense floral characteristics on the nose, and typically display yellow apple and lychee on the palate.

Featured Wine:
Zolo Torrontes 2008

Food Pairing:

Gruner Veltliner from Austria

The Gruner Veltliner grape originated from Austria and thrives there because of the grape's hardiness. It creates crisp, refreshing wines that might remind you of a can of Sprite without the corn syrup. It often features lemon, lime and a minerality that glances off the cheek.

Featured Wine:
Weingut Huber Gruner Veltliner Niederosterreich 2008

Food Pairing:

Savoie, France

The Savoie is located just south of Geneva, Switzerland. The white wines produced there are under-appreciated, and can be made from a plethora of grapes, including Rousette and Chardonnay. The wines are typically refreshing, with a mid-weight body, and are best consumed young.

Featured Wine:
Domaine Eugene Carrel Vin de Savoie Jongieux 2007

Food Pairing:
Sole meuniere

Dão, Portugal

The Dão region of Portugal is often overshadowed by its neighboring region Douro (where Port wine is made), but is quickly becoming an important wine region in Portugal. The region produces wines with a smattering of grapes from its granite-based soil, yet the wines are typically elegant with a high acidity, and are often compared in stature to Burgundy.

Featured Wine:
Grilos Dão Vinho Tinto 2006

Food Pairing:
Pork shoulder braised in red wine

Langhe, Piedmont, Italy

Located in the Piedmont region of Italy, the Langhe appellation often becomes forgotten because of its neighboring regions Barolo and Barbaresco. Langhe is made primarily from Nebbiolo grapes, but can also feature grapes such as Dolcetto and Freisa, and typically shows red cherry and raspberry, with a balance between finesse and power on the palate.

Featured Wine:
Podere Ruggeri Corsini Langhe Rosso Matot 2008

Food Pairing:
Lamb shanks

Ribera del Duero, Spain

Deriving from the Castille y Leon region of northern Spain, Ribera del Duero is one of the many appellations that can be found along the Duero river. The red wines produced here are made primarily from the Tinto Finto grape, commonly known as Tempranillo. These are typically heftier wines that show tart berry fruits, with noticeable tannins and notes of leather and cigar box.

Featured Wine:
Fescenino Ribera del Duero 2007

Food Pairing:
Grilled pork chops

Languedoc-Roussillon, France

The Languedoc-Roussillon region of France is one of the most productive wine regions in the world. It runs along the Mediterranean sea, and features most of the popular French grapes, such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Chardonnay, as well as most Rhone varietals, such as Syrah and Grenache. So much wine is produced here, that they have no choice but to export it and sell it at low prices.

Featured Wine:
Daumas Gassac Moulin de Gassac Guilhelm Vin de pays de l'Herault 2008

Food Pairing:
Depends on the wine, but stewed meats are typically a safe choice