How to Drink Good Wine on a Budget

St Emilion

The hardest part about drinking wine is that it can get pretty expensive, especially if you want to be drinking good stuff. I won’t lie to you; sometimes I struggle to keep my wine budget at a reasonable limit because there is so much good wine in Walla Walla. I want to pay my rent, though, so I follow a few tips to keep my wine spending within my means!

1. Set a budget. This can be a large budget or a small budget, depending on how much you make, how much you drink, and how much you spend on average for a bottle of wine. I don’t go out to restaurants too often, and I don’t do a whole lot of shopping (on account of the limited options for shopping in Walla Walla), so most of my “fun” money goes to wine. I have a pretty large wine budget, but it’s my job and my hobby, or at least that’s how I rationalize it. However I rationalize it, though, I keep an eye on my wine budget, so I never spend more money than I can afford on wine. If wine is not as big in your life, make your budget a little smaller; you can always cut out other extras to make more room in your wine budget later.

2. Drink less. This was a big one for me. If you open bottles less frequently, you can make them better bottles. Instead of drinking a $10 bottle every night, drink a $30 bottle one or two nights a week! When my boyfriend and I drink wine, we usually finish the bottle over a couple nights, so you can still have a glass every night and save money, if you’re an every night kind of drinker.

3. Make it count. When I started really paying attention to my wine budget, I started planning specific wines to drink with specific meals. You can open a nice bottle once a week with a great meal, and it’s a way better experience than downing several bottles of bad wine a week. It’s a more fulfilling way to experience wine, and you can learn about wine pairings while you do it!

4. Look for great value wine, especially imports. If you look carefully, you can find all sorts of great wines for low prices. One way to drink good wines on a budget is to watch out for imported wines. Argentinean and Chilean wine is often great quality for less money, and there are places to find French, Italian, and Spanish wines for nice deals. Wine is, on the whole, so much less expensive in Europe and South America (except for some of the big name wineries in Bordeaux and other famous wine regions), that you can get good prices on it, even when it’s imported. I like wine shopping at Esquin in Seattle (if you give them a call, you can order over the phone!) and Trader Joe’s, whenever I’m near one.

5. Go wine tasting. Especially if you’re in Walla Walla, or one of the other wine regions with relatively low tasting fees. Some wine stores have free or inexpensive tastings once or twice a week. When I was a student here in Walla Walla, someone gave me this advice, and it was right on. For $5 or so, you’ll likely get the equivalent of a glass of wine, and you can try different wines. If you’re looking to educate your palate about good wine, this is the way to go. And it leads me to my last tip for the day:

6. Learn what you like. This way you’ll never spend money on a bottle you hate. Sure, it’s good to experiment, and you might not love every bottle you buy, but you have a way better chance of drinking wine you enjoy if you know what you like. Go wine tasting. Have wine tasting parties with friends. Read blogs like this one. 


There are other ways to stick to a wine budget and/or maybe you just need will power of steel. Or you can cut out going to the movies as an outing, and that’s at least one bottle of wine right there! 



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