The Frugal Wine Lover: 15 Ways To Indulge for Less

by Janey Womeldorf
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Wine can be a pricey luxury. But frugal wine lovers take notice. Here are 15 ways you can indulge for less.

On special occasions, after a long day, or to complement a delicious meal, nothing beats the indulgent feel of a glass of wine.

With these creative tips, you really can have your glass and drink it too for less.

1. Toast at home.

Going out to celebrate a special occasion? Pour a glass of wine, make your toast, and kick off the evening or celebration at home. Not only will it be easier to resist ordering that pricey glass at the restaurant, but also it’ll start the evening and the fun earlier.

Besides, why would you need to wait until you get to the restaurant to kick off the evening? (Enjoy a home appetizer also for extra saving.)

2. Review before you buy.

Use wine review sites or do a simple Google search to review the wine before you buy.

Don’t let your wine go the way of those unwanted salad dressings lurking in the back of your fridge; you can’t throw them away, but can’t eat/drink them either.

3. Shop wine prices if travelling.

During a recent trip out of state, I found Clos du Bois Chardonnay (one of our favorite “splurge” whites) for several dollars less than in my home state. Even my favorite affordable “company” wine (Meridien) was a dollar cheaper.

4. Invest in a vacuum-sealer pump.

Did you only use half the bottle? Once wine is opened and exposed to air, the flavor starts to deteriorate.

To maintain freshness, you need to do more than simply re-cork. Extracting the air with a pump will help prevent the wine going flat and keep it tasting fresher longer.

5. Refrigerate.

As with food, refrigeration slows down spoiling and works for both red and white wine; just remember to take out the red so it can come to room temperature before serving.

6. Re-visit boxed wine.

Box wine has come a long way in the last few years.

One box contains about 20 glasses, and with boxes ranging from about $15 upwards, that equals 75 cents per glass. Compare that to five glasses from a traditional $10 bottle.

That’s more than a 50% savings. And, it stays fresher longer.

Editor’s note: These prices might be higher right now due to inflation, but boxed wine is still typically cheaper than bottled.

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7. Share a case with a friend.

Most places offer discounts if you buy a case (12 bottles). Check also whether they will let you mix and match.

8. BYOB.

Many restaurants (and cruise ships) offer a “corkage” fee, allowing you to bring in your own wine. Even a $10-$20 fee, may result in a wine cheaper than any wines on the menu.

Plus, you get to drink what you like.

9. Try when you only want one glass.

Consider four-pack miniatures. Four miniature 187ml bottles equal one traditional 750ml bottle. For not too much more, you get portion control and no wastage.

10. Check out warehouse clubs and grocery stores.

In states that allow grocery stores to sell wine, Sam’s and Costco have discounted prices and often offer two-pack specials. Don’t forget stores like Aldi’s, Walmart, and other discount stores that also sell wine.

11. Cook with it.

Leftover wine adds a tasty splash to sauces or sautés. If the recipe calls for broth, substitute a small amount of leftover wine instead. Waste not, want not.

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12. Buy wine pitchers.

If serving cheap labels, 1.5 liter-sized bottles, or boxed wine embarrasses you, pour wine into an attractive glass wine pitcher to serve. They are available at crafts stores, and don’t forget that 40% off coupon.

Not only does this still look attractive, but perception is 95% reality. If people don’t know it’s cheap, it may suddenly taste delicious.

13. Decant.

Aerating red wine and letting it breathe before pouring boosts the flavor. Just because it’s cheap doesn’t mean it won’t benefit from the same treatment of more expensive wines.

14. Switch.

Later in the evening, will guests really notice that you switched to a cheaper, yet similar tasting wine?

15. Don’t be shy asking for recommendations.

What do I have in my fridge?

I have Marcus James Chardonnay. It’s surprisingly full-bodied for the inexpensive price. Plus, it makes a great “second” bottle or an affordable wine for cooking.

Meridian Chardonnay is a delicious white that tastes more expensive than it is and holds its own with company.

Australian Shiraz/Syrah reds rarely disappoint for great flavor for the price.

Reviewed June 2023

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