It's a truth worth repeating that good wines needn't be expensive. Our price ceiling in this space, for example, has always been $25, and the majority of the dozens of wines we've recommended come in well under that mark. There also are a number of ways to be sure you're getting the best deal on whatever wine you select.
One way to economize on table wines and to be kind to the planet is to choose a decent wine in a box, of which there now are several on supermarket shelves. Boxed wines used to be the butt of bartender jokes, and with good reason, but that is changing. Some still are not worth drinking at any price, of course, but there are those like the 2006 Boho Vineyards Chardonnay we reviewed on Jan. 21, 2009, that represent real value. Another is the 2008 Monterey County Black Box Chardonnay, which goes for about $20 at Publix and other supermarkets. That's for a 3-liter container, the equivalent of four standard bottles. The math is easy: $5 a bottle. It's a refreshing white wine, tasting pleasantly lemony and buttery with a bit of peach and some oak for structure. And it stays fresh in the fridge for up to four weeks after you first tap it, unlike wine in a bottle, which needs to be consumed within a day or two (or in the case of many reds, within hours) of opening.
Here are some other money-saving notes:
• Total Wine regularly prints coupons in its newspaper ads.
• ABC has a loyalty card program that awards points with every purchase, leading to a coupon for $5 off.
• Most big-box stores and some wine-savvy markets like Whole Foods offer discounts, typically 10 percent, on purchases of six or more bottles. Many smaller, independent wine shops offer a mix-or-match case discount on 12 bottles.
• Liquor stores connected with high-volume retailers like Albertsons sometimes score bargains on overproduction from various wineries and offer them at rock-bottom prices while they last.
• Wine tastings are a great way to explore new wines without breaking the budget. And there often are discounts on wines purchased at the event.
By Colette and John Bancroft. She is the Times' book editor, and he is a freelance writer specializing in food, wine and travel.