The new year will soon be upon us. Out with the old, and in with the new!
One old thing that will unfortunately be sticking around for a while is inflation. The costs of virtually everything, including wine, are higher. Those high prices do not mean we need to enjoy wine less, however; it means we simply need to drink smarter.
Drinking smarter does not mean giving up quality; it means finding quality at a good price point. My “drinking smarter” goal is to find a bottle of wine that has 80% of the quality of a $100-plus bottle, while costing only around 20% of that price.
While every wine retailer carries low-price wines, not all of those low-price wines are necessarily good. There is a big difference between inexpensive wine and cheap wine, and as we all know, life is too short to drink cheap wine. When I am looking locally for good-quality inexpensive wine that I don’t need a membership to buy, two names come to mind: Trader Joe’s and Grocery Outlet.
When most people think about wine at Trader Joe’s, the first thought is Two Buck Chuck. Three important facts about Two Buck Chuck. First, you cannot get these Charles Shaw wines for $2 anymore, although they’re still quite inexpensive. Second, if you do a blind tasting, you’ll discover that some of them are much better than you may think. Third, they are not the only value wines that Trader Joe’s has on its shelves.
Trader Joe’s opened in 1967, with the business model of creating a neighborhood grocery store with unique products, and buying direct from suppliers whenever possible to get the best possible prices. Charles Shaw wines showed up on their shelves in 2002. Trader Joe’s purchases these wines, along with some of their own private-label wines, from Bronco Wine Company. Bronco has more than 125 different wine brands under its corporate umbrella, with many different price points and quality levels. However, Bronco is not the only provider of wines to Trader Joe’s; the company purchases from many providers around the globe.
Each of us has our own price point for wines for usual consumption, and a price point for special wines for a date, party or other celebration. Here are a couple of my favorite wines from Trader Joe’s that fall into my daily budget—and each of these wines tastes like a wine you would expect to find at two to three times the price.
The Reserve Merlot Sonoma Valley 2020 at $9.99 tastes amazing; it’s everything you would expect a luscious merlot to be, offering a silky, mouth-coating red-fruit explosion. I also love the Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon Alexander Valley 2020, also at $9.99. If you search the internet for Cabernet Sauvignon from Alexander Valley and look at brands and prices, you might be shocked at the value this wine provides; for one example, Silver Oak Alexander Valley starts at $90 a bottle.
My No. 1 go-to store for quality wine at a value price, however, is Grocery Outlet. I cannot begin to tell you how many unique wine varieties I’ve been able to find and purchase at Grocery Outlet—at unbelievable values.
The company that would become Grocery Outlet was founded in 1946 and has grown to more than 400 stores. Grocery Outlet sells discounted, overstocked and closeout products, including wine. The Reno area is home to a few independently owned and operated Grocery Outlet stores, with each store selecting which wines to carry. The store at 3800 S. Kietzke Lane is owned by Brian and Tammy Vieira. I asked Brian how Grocery Outlet provides such values with its wines.
“The buyers at Grocery Outlet have relationships with wine-sellers all over the world, and we trust them and the high quality wine that they procures for our customers,” he said.
When asked about the wine purchased by his customers, Brian said his store has a diverse clientele, and he is able to purchase wines from the corporate wine list to match all of his customers’ needs.
“Most of our wines are in the $6 to $15 price range, but I’m not a price-point guy; I want to provide value,” he said.
If you are curious, chardonnay is the most-sold wine variety at Brian and Tammy’s store.
Over the past 10 years or so, I have developed a few “pro tips” for finding quality wines at Grocery Outlet. Pro tip No. 1: Look for wines that have a UPC code label separately added to the bottle. Wine bottles with labels that were not printed with a UPC code were not initially produced for retail sale. This means these bottles were only sold at the winery—and this is a good indication that the wine is a higher-quality bottle and should be sampled.
Pro tip No. 2: Let technology help you crowd-source good decisions. There is a phone app called Vivino that allows you to take a picture of a bottle’s label. The app will then tell you the average cost of the wine, and give a rating of the wine based on reports by other Vivino app users. As you use the app over time, it will get better at helping you identify wines that are like others you have enjoyed.
Whenever I buy a new wine from Grocery Outlet, I try to taste it as soon as possible so I can go back and buy more of the ones I love. While some wines are regularly available at Grocery Outlet, others have very limited quantities. In other words: What is on the shelf today may be gone for good tomorrow. Buy accordingly.
When looking for inflation-busting wines, remember to look for high value, not low prices.
Why you gotta tell everyone about the GOBM cheap rad wine secret?
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