Most of us know so little about wine that we just grab the best-looking bottle on offer in the supermarket, without knowing whether it will be any good. So we’ve spoken to top wine experts to give you the lowdown on how to make a cheap, but informed, selection instead
1. Don’t opt for the cheapest
‘If you spend £5, £2.83 of that is duty and VAT – over half of your total spend. If you pay £10, this adds up to only £3.67 – around a third. Consequently you’re getting exponentially more for your money with every extra pound you spend between £5 and £10,’ explains Trish Lorimer, wine buyer at Morrisons.
2. Find an independent wine merchant
‘The people working in many of these shops usually have a genuine interest and passion for wine and make a point of tasting most of the items they sell,’ says Nicky Ladwiniec of the Association of Wine Educators. ‘If you let them know your budget, and what styles you like, they will almost always be able to recommend some great wines under £10. The same goes for branches of Majestic and even some supermarkets where they have dedicated wine section managers.’
3. Choose a lesser-known wine region
‘These regions are often under appreciated,’ says Nicky. ‘You can find great value and great wines in places like Portugal, the Languedoc-Roussillon region of the South of France, and less well-known regions of Spain, such as Somontano and Navarra. South Africa, Argentina and Chile are also a good bet.’
4. Try Sherry
‘Years of sweet cream sherries have knocked the reputation of this really great wine, but Sherry is actually one of the very finest wines in the world, and such great value for all the care, time and effort that goes in to making it,’ says Nicky. ‘Finos and Manzanillas are delicate, crisp and dry, while Olorosos and Amontillados are often rich and nutty. Sherry is fantastic with tapas, nuts, olives and many cheeses.’
5. Go Online
‘There are some brilliant specialist wine retailers online that give a really good service and offer free delivery on more than 6 bottles,’ says Nicky. ‘From Vineyards Direct is a great website, as they handpick wines from small but great producers in some of the best winemaking regions in Europe. Because they go direct to the vineyard, they are able to keep the prices low.’
6. Look for smaller discounts
‘If you are buying wine on promotion, go for a bottle with a smaller discount of a couple of pounds, as you will usually get a better quality wine than if you choose one of the ones being offered at half price,’ says i heart wines brand manager Rachel Archer.
7. Read the back label
‘It sounds obvious but the back label actually includes some good indicators of what the wine will taste like,’ says Rachel. ‘Look out for things you do and don’t like. Some people love oak, for instance, while others hate it. Look at the body of the wine – work out whether you want something light and crisp or rich and full-bodied.’
8. Check for awards
‘If the wine has won medals from the IWC, IWSC or Decanter, this is a very strong sign of quality,’ says Ocado’s wine expert, Freyja Kenny.
9. Don’t judge a bottle by its label
‘Avoid being swayed by well-known brands and the all-singing and dancing labels found in large retail chains. The more boring-looking labels often point to the best-quality wines, because your money is going on the wine and not on marketing,’ says Rude Wines’ head buyer Gerald Duff.
10. Avoid well-known regions
‘Avoid buying old world wines,’ says Gerald. ‘These established regions lead to higher price tags. Avoid Bordeaux, Burgundy, Champagne and Barolo.’