How Do You Afford It?

Lots of people have asked me if my personal wine drinking and purchasing habits have changed due to the current economic downturn. 

These same people have also asked for any advice on how they can continue to fit wine into their lives without blowing their tight budgets.

Well, you’ve come to the right place, I do have some ideas.

For me personally, I own a large amount of wine (about 600 bottles).  Instead of going out and continually buying more (which is very hard for me not to do), I am drinking wine from my own cellar.  However, wine is often sent to me to taste and it is important for me to constantly “work on my palette”.  Getting and keeping your palette is a constant exercise with use it or lose it type consequences.  It’s not unusual to find ten open bottles at a time over here, as tastes, sips and comparisons are made.  For me it’s often business and all in the name of learning.  So if you have wine at home, consider drinking it first before purchasing the latest and greatest vintage.

When I do purchase wine, I almost always purchase bottles by the dozen or half-dozen, where 10 to 20% discounts are offered.  Of course you want to make sure you like the wine first, but purchasing in this volume can lead to significant savings over time.  This is especially true for those of you who have favorite producers and consistently buy the same brand.

I have also only stayed with wine clubs whose wine’s I really, really enjoy.  Make sure your wine club is sending you their best bottles and not the excess of what is not selling in the tasting room.  I’ve seen this happen before and I have no tolerance for it.  Your wine club members are your best and most loyal customers, they should receive top quality offerings.

This is also the best time to look into trying alternative varietals, often much cheaper than the old stand-bys.  Believe me, I love my Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon but the good stuff can be very pricey.  There has never been a better time to try wines like Albarino, Vermentino  and Vinho Verde.  Give them a try, you might be pleasantly surprised.  Heed the words of  Benjamin Franklin who said, “The discovery of a wine is of a greater moment than the discovery of a constellation.  The universe is too full of stars.”

Support your local wineries, they need you.  This puts money right back into your own community or state.  It’s a win-win situation.  Or continue to purchase wines from wineries that consistently offer good quality.

I have also stopped patronizing restaurants who gouge their customers with incredible wine markups.  There are several great restaurants in my area who charge fair prices for wine and have minimal corkage fees.  I really appreciate this and try to recommend these restaurants to as many people as I can.

Always remember, the highest priced wines are not always the best tasting.  A $75 dollar bottle is not always better than a $30 bottle.  The price is often just the dollar amount the winery needs to charge in order to cover high costs of land, equipment and salaries.  Other wineries are often in better positions to offer lower prices for many reasons (i.e. land was purchased at a low price, they have few employees etc.)

Overall, there are lots of enjoyable wines available, you just have to be willing to try something new.  You might be surprised at what you find.

Has anyone else changed their wine purchasing habits based on the current economy?  Just wondering.

Post a Comment


  1. Hi Cathy..m glad I could submit an entry. :)

    As for wines, knowing tht u were a wine club member, I would certainly need tips from you, as to which wine should go with cheese tasting :)

    m in love with

  2. I wonder if wine clubs vary throughout the country, or if maybe it the on-line ones you are speaking of? In our area the local liquor stores offer ‘wine clubs’ for say a $35 to $50 yearly fee. With that you get 15 to 20 percent discount on wine that is not already on sale and you get an invitation 4 to 5 times a year for a wine tasting event where you get to come in and taste between 8 and 12 bottles of wine from different vendors. I worked at the Municipal liquor store in the town closest to us and as employees we got the same discount. I usually wait until my favorite is on sale or purchase a case at 20% off. Our liquor store lets you mix and match so it isn’t 12 of the same brand. Our liquor store also does taste testing on Saturdays so you can sample 2 or 3 wines. That is nice so you aren’t plunking down $30 on a bottle that you find you hate. But they also repeat some of the wines and that ticks me off. I want to try a vinho verde-haven’t had one yet. got any recommendations for a good one?

  3. What a great post!!! I heart wine…all wine…wine, wine, wine.

    Love you,


  4. Love the Ben Franklin quote!! Hadn’t heard that particular one before. (J.D. over at Get Rich Slowly just celebrated Ben’s BD. Of course, J.D. was focused on sharing Ben’s finance sayings/efforts. link to

    Good tips on wine clubs, Cathy–thanks! We do have one terrific local wine bar and shop ( Their prices and candor are often pleasantly surprising.

    With our Valentine’s Day party coming up, I can look forward to a good dozen (or more) of bottles of wine as hostess gifts. It’s another part of the party I look forward to! ;-)


  5. We almost always keep our vintage wine rack full…not so much because we drink a lot of wine (I can’t because of my happy pills) but because we used to entertain quite a bit. We haven’t stopped because of the economy, but because I’m no longer comfortable around people. But occasionally we’ll pull out a bottle and open it, or the hubby will take a bottle as a gift to a friend/co-worker etc.

    I didn’t even really begin to truly discover and enjoy wine until I lived in Europe and began to travel the region trying different varietals. Italian and Argentinian wines tend to be my favourites with a few from the west coast rounding things out.

    I look forward to being able to enjoy wine again one of these days. And no, as long as we’re cognizant of what we’re spending, I can’t see our purchasing habits in this area, changing.

  6. Barbie with a T 6

    Since we drink wine only on special occasions, the economy makes no difference in our wine selections. I only have 12 bottles of wine on hand most of the time, because that is what my wine cabinet will hold! I am in the process of learning about wine, so I tend to drink the wine from my collection whenever it suits the occasion. I like to keep a variety, so whenever the occasion arises, I have what I need. I cannot resist buying different wines when I go to the spirit store, though and usually buy at last a couple of new ones. Our wine consumption is mostly at family gatherings and that is when we shop by the case. That is why I rely on you so much when it comes to wine selections! So keep us informed when special occasions arise as to what goes with what. I never throw wine away…if it is palatable I drink it, if not, I cook with it. I cannot wait to try the wine from you winery! I hope you have a website and will be shipping!

  7. Gin 7

    We are going to establishments that serve a nice glass of wine (filled to the top) for a fair price. If you feel that there is not a fair amount of wine in the glass for the price, tell the manager. Every single time that we have done this the “mistake” was corrected. Trust me, they want you to stay there and will accommodate your concerns.

  8. Well said! Some of our Connecticut and New York wines are great!

  9. Kate 9

    I love the quote from Mr. Franklin. Hadn’t heard that one before. I’ve cut down on purchases and not just wine. Pretty much everything. Things will get better, I know they will. But right now, times are a bit difficult.

  10. I am always floored by how much restaurants mark up bottles of wine. Once when we went out, we got a Mark Jacobs (I think that was the name) Pinot Noir that was just under $30 for the bottle. Not long after we found that same wine at Trader Joe’s for $8.99 a bottle. We were amazed. Of course, we loved the wine so we ended up buying several bottle of it because it was such a great price.

  11. I keep around 300 bottles on hand at all times, most of which are ready to drink at any time. But I haven’t really found my habits have changed much yet. I belong to 8 wine clubs (one of which is actually getting chopped asap as it is practicing some of the bad customer service things you mention, such as dumping wine it can’t sell regularly onto club members) so that keeps me well in the wine. I haven’t been buying as much wine from local shops lately but I attribute that to the holiday season and having been on the road for work.

  12. Now we just drink cheap beer. Ha! Just kidding! We are also drinking down what we have. We have serveral really nice bottles of port from a place that stopped making it and we are diving into that right now. A snort a night is a good thing!

  13. Those are all excellent tips!

    Darn it–I just realized I missed the deadline for the recipe contest–I’m way too distracted over here!

  14. Louise 14

    Australian wines are the only way I’m gonna experience that continent these days. Several wines from there are reasonably priced. We’re live near Livermore and Lodi, which have more and more small wineries selling at a reasonable price point. We love supporting our local vintners and taking advantage of any “specials” we happen upon.

  15. Tallie 15

    I scour the grocery store wine sections and BevMo for good deals. I have found lots of tasty wines for under $10. Plus I supplement my wine drinking with cocktails =)

  16. My former boss (the CEO), purchases a lot of wine out of california. Apparently he uses a buyer or a broker? He said he asked him to find good wines at lower prices. So he’s not decreasing the amount he’s buying but looking for wines that have the charactoristics he likes for less money. I’ve tried a couple of his “budget wines” and they’re nice.

  17. Great post! My husband is the wine expert in our family and he always knows how to pick a $30 bottle of wine that is really good.

  18. imom 18

    I’m a fairly new wine drinker, so I’ve made a habit of trying a new wine every week almost always purchased from Trader Joes. I find I like many of their exclusive wines most and they are the least expensive. I love the idea of buying a half case at a time. I will be inquiring about that next time I shop there.

  19. How about buying some Two Buck Chuck (from Trader Joe’s) to save some money! Its cheap enough to use it for cooking all the time as well.

    We served it at our wedding in 2004 and everyone commented how good it was. People were getting pretty well drunk it was so good. I had several people as me what brand/vintage our wine was and where they could get it! HAHA!

  20. Cath,
    The economy has curbed my wine buying.
    I went to the wine store yesterday and opted for 2 bottles only, a Nebbiollo and an Oregon Pinot Noir (in your honor!), and BOUGHT 2 BOTTLES OF GOOD VODKA!!! It’s a better buy!
    I will go to cocktails now because I love good wine and just don’t feel right spending the dough right now!!!

  21. erin 21

    We have a good (small) collection of wines we’ve purchased from wineries, received as gifts, etc, so when we (rarely) go out for a nice dinner, we like to choose somewhere with a reasonable corking fee and BYOW. It’s wine we like, that was either free or reasonably priced…no markups for us!
    Also, I hate to admit it, but I’ve gone back to 2-buck Chuck Sauv.Blanc…hey, it’s $2, and it’s wine that’s drinkable. Can’t argue with that, right? (hangs head in a bit of embarassment…)

  22. erin 22

    And by the way, the 2 buck chuck-never anything I’d serve to guests…just something for me in fridge when it’s been a long day!

  23. dawn 23

    I don’t buy as much cooking reds to cook with, but I won’t give up my prosecco. Nooo ma’am!

  24. dawn 24

    Cathy I just quit a wine club for the exact reasons you mentioned, they started sending us bottles of stuff from 2003 that they couldn’t sell…it was terrible. This was a winery that didn’t value their customers. Thanks for the great wine advice!

  25. Art 25

    I have limited what I will spend on a single bottle. It used to $75, now it’s $40…for the time being at least.

  26. What a great post. Thanks for all the wine tips. I totally agree that the high price of wine doesn’t always mean it’s good.

  27. I have changed just a little – I am not quite as adventurous these days – I am sticking with the favorites as I do not want to invest in a bottle that we are not going to Love!1

  28. KAYOLA 28

    I don’t drink but as far as my diet coke consumption….economy has made me watch the ads…I like when I can get four twelve packs for $12.00 and get a fifth one free…LOL…I know I know I probably had no business commenting on this post…I’m just one of those that feels guilty if I read and am a nosy neighbor and don’t say something…stupid or not!

  29. Lo! 29

    Nice tips. We’ve definitely gotten a bit more frugal with our wine selections. These days I’m always looking for the “best buy” wines — and buying in bulk.

  30. I am in my mid-twenties and love trying new wines, though I must admit I’m not too knowledgeable about the wine world. Right now my price range is under $20 wines, and I’m doing my best to develop my palette on this budget!

  31. ELRA 31

    Great tips as usual Cathy. I find your information always so useful.

  32. Biz 32

    I usually drink boxed wine! Although when I worked at a high end restaurant a few years back to supplement our income when my hubby was out of work, I was able to try some amazing wines – and usually whatever the price was on our menu, I could be at 50% of that cost!

  33. melissa 33

    We no longer by wine when we are out to dinner. Two Friday’s ago I was charged $7.50 for a shot of Bailey’s. I won’t buy that out anymore either.
    We have cut back on buying my wine and my husbands Stella.

  34. Pam 34

    Cathy, I love wine but don’t drink it much because I get terrible headaches (I think from the sulfites?). Do you reccomend any wine that would NOT give me headaches?

  35. I would like to have 6oo bottles of wine! ;P

  36. Cathy 36

    Yes, I do have a good Vinho Verde to try…

    link to

  37. Bob 37

    No, my wine purchasing habits haven’t changed… I still buy inexpensive wine, not as frequently as I would like. Heh. But I always enjoy it!

  38. Scott 38

    These are great things to point out. Restaurants especially need to watch their practices, it has gotten out of control. We need to stop rewarding them for it.

  39. tipper 39

    Everybody needs tips on being thrifty because of this economic mess!

  40. Rebel 40

    I love wine and we have some great local wineries, Stone Hill and St. James are just a couple of my favorites. Do you know the history of wine in this area of Missouri? It’s very interestin’ and surprisin’ to most people.

  41. Cheryl 41

    Okay. Honestly, since both adults in our house are currently unemployed, Charles Shaw Shiraz is now my nightly glass…well, 1/2-3/4 bottle. Like you, I am NOT ordering wine when out to dinner (or going out to dinner, for that matter!)

    We WILL resume our regular sampling when we return to the world of the gainfully employed. We DO have a local wineshop (walking distance!) that we like to support, so when we DO buy outside our cheap stand-by, I am not risking by purchasing varietals I have had mixed experiences with. Malbec is a reliable and reasonable choice.

    BUT, never would we cut wine altogether…ever.

  42. shonda 42

    Wow, 600 bottles on hand? I don’t know where I would put all that.
    As a rule, alcohol is always the last budget cut at our house.

  43. Since I work for a Napa Valley winery I have an unfair advantage! Between the gift cases, employee credit, employee discount, and trade discount at other wineries I never ever have to pay retail! My advice – get a winery job! : – )) But if you can’t do that, get on the e-mail list of your favorite wineries. They often have end-of-vintage or pre-release sales to preferred customers. Great way to save. Club memberships can be good, as long as you like the wine and don’t mind the shipping fees. Discounts to club members are usually substantial. Other than that, I recommend watching the flyers at grocery/chain stores and then stocking up when the price is right. Happy tasting everyone!

  44. Tammy in Germany 44

    I’ve been buying our wine by the case at the winery each month. With the recession in Germany and being a loyal customer we get a small discount. I also buy wine at the Shoppette which is basically our military exchange for alcohol and they sometimes have great sales on certain brands we enjoy. When we go out to dinner wine and beer are usually cheaper than soda…so that’s a plus. :)

  45. Holly 45

    Hi Cathy,
    Longtime reader (EVERY DAY!), first or second time posting. I just got this email today and thought of you. Then I read this post…perfect! Enjoy!
    As Ben Franklin said:
    In wine there is wisdom
    in beer there is freedom,
    in water there is bacteria.

    In a number of carefully controlled trials, scientists have demonstrated that if we drink 1 litre of water each day, at the end of the year we would have absorbed more than 1 kilo of Escherichia coli, (E. coli) – bacteria found in feces. In other words, we are consuming 1 kilo of poop.

    However, we do NOT run that risk when drinking wine & beer (or tequila, rum, whiskey or other liquor) because alcohol has to go through a purification process of boiling, filtering and/or fermenting.

    Water = Poop,
    Wine = Health.

    Therefore, it’s better to drink wine and talk stupid,
    than to drink water and be full of shit.

  46. I have not yet evenr bought a bottle of wine. In fact, I have not yet ever had more than one or two sips at most – and that has only been VERY recently. I’m still a soft, sweet sparkling rose girl just beginning to taste wine.

  47. Bunny 47

    We have a very nice local winery called Spy Glass Winery that was on the news around christmas time when they were comparing wines.

  48. Linda 48

    We haven’t changed our wine habits too much. We are always trying something new, but also have our favorites on hand all the time. We look at wine as being a part of a healthy diet, so it’s not a cut I’m willing to make in the budget.

  49. Paula 49

    Hey Cathy, I have a wine 101 question. What do you do with great left over wine? I just don’t like to dump it out. I’ve, um, actually frozen some in ice cube trays and used it to cook with. (I hope that didn’t make you grip your head and yell Nooooo!) Any suggestions for me?

  50. Dee 50

    I’m drinking slower. And we’re eating in more often.

  51. Lori 51

    Very interesting post, I enjoyed your tips. And wow…600 bottles! :)

  52. WOW 600!! That’s a lot of wine. I enjoy drinking wine too.

  53. Mrs. L 53

    Honestly, we too are going through our wine cellar more often than not. We usually tend to buy by the half case or case in general so it gives us some stock to go through. And yes, we bought some two-buck Chuck for those burger and wine nights.

  54. Helene 54

    When I travel to the States I’m always surprise at how cheap the wine is. Right now in Canada you can’t find good deals. Wine is really expensive. But we do enjoy it and it’s part of life. I prefer to drink good wine at home than to spend all my money in restaurants. That’s a good way of spending and saving at the same time.

  55. I too have dug into my cellar.

    But I think the best piece of advice you gave is to seek out “alternative varietals”. Although I’d like to add to that and say seek out alternative wine producing regions.

    Instead of Sonoma try Santa Cruz or Monterey.

    Instead of Tuscany try Alto Adige.

    Or my favorite, instead of ___ try ISRAEL!!!! ;)

  56. Excellent suggestions. We have cut back our consumption of wine, but still like to support local wineries and still enjoy a little wine throughout the week. We have considered buying in cases before, but I figure that once all that wine is in my house, I will just drink it every day, and can’t really afford to do that right now. instead we buy about one bottle a week – a big change from drinking it everyday, but we’re trying to cut our budget back.

  57. Great post. I’m currently unemployed so I’ve definitely changed my habits. But I too have been drawing down from my personal cellar a.k.a. broom closet (albeit it’s much smaller than yours). For me I typically keep 2 types of wine. Inexpensive drinkable wines from $9-$15 a bottle which includes Portuguese, Argentinian and some Oregonian wines. Then there are the “special” wines that I’ve picked up over time (many of which need time in the cellar) which I typically save for special occasions.

  58. These are great pics. I have a few blog posts about bbq recipes, but my pics are not nearly as good. Also, the dip looks great. Enjoy the Super Bowl.

  59. magpie 59

    Mmm, vinho verde. Makes me wish it were summer!

    I tend to buy wine, by the case, averaging $10 a bottle. I buy weird stuff, not chardonnay, and I am usually happy.

  60. I have found an invaluable resource in this blog


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