Wine: In search of best buys

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We may have come to the end of our surfeit of wine, but there are still bargains to be had if you know where to look.

Michel Torino Coleccion Calchaquie Valley Malbec 2010 $11.99. Photo / Greg Bowker
Michel Torino Coleccion Calchaquie Valley Malbec 2010 $11.99. Photo / Greg Bowker

Bad news came for wine bargain-hunters with New Zealand Winegrowers' recent announcement that the country's surplus, which had been feeding the market with a rich diet of cheap wines, was no more. However, the good news is that there are still many ways to be thrifty with your wine choices and some great bargains to be bagged.

One of the best places to seek out special deals is on the internet. By cutting out the cost of a bricks and mortar outlet and often dealing direct with the winery, online outfits can cut a whole chunk of costs out of a wine's price, resulting in some super-sharp prices. Sites worth checking out include blackmarket.co.nz, bestwinebuys.co.nz and winesale.co.nz, which offer well-known names to own-label exclusives.

The internet is also the place where a lot of local surplus stock has ended up; it is used by wineries to rid themselves of unsold wine discreetly, sometimes at prices below cost.

Far from being the dregs, these can be decent drops. But as supply comes back in sync with demand we'll see less of these super cut-price labels.

Recent years have also seen the rise of the one-day sale wine website. These include the likes of Wineday.co.nz, grabonebottle.co.nz, 1-daycellar.co.nz and LastDrinks.co.nz, where buyers have 24 hours in which to purchase a daily deal.

Cleanskins are another product of the recent oversupply, but can be something of a vinous Russian roulette as the label gives no indication of who's behind the wine.

Another thrifty way to shop for wine is to buy seasonally.

With Christmas fast approaching, wine stores and supermarkets will soon be bursting at the seams with attractive wine deals, making it a great time to stock up and save money.

Wine bills when dining out can be a drain on finances, with mark-ups from 100 to 300 per cent and more. Pennies can be pinched if you make for an establishment that allows you to bring your own bottle for a modest corkage charge.

Some establishments that don't advertise this openly can still be sweet-talked into letting you consume your own bottle on the premises, especially if it's a special wine.

Pouring leftover wine down the sink is a terrible waste and there are a number of ways to preserve or reuse it. Resealing and storing a bottle in the fridge - regardless of its colour - is the simplest way to prolong its life for up to five days. Lower temperatures slow chemical reactions and inhibit the production of vinegar-forming acetic bacteria.

There are also gizmos that can lengthen the life of an open wine, such as vacuum pumps that remove the wine-destroying oxygen from the bottle, or canisters of gases such as argon, that keep it out by depositing a layer heavier than air across the wine's surface.

When wines get to the point where they're too tired to drink, many of us relegate it to cooking. Old oxidised wine isn't going to improve many dishes, so if you want to stop it going downhill, freeze it in small batches and defrost as required.

Freezing is not appropriate for wine to drink, but is fine in food.

And if you generate a lot of wine waste, you can always start up a wine vinegar culture.

At least with the amount of decent wine available to the savvy thrifty shopper, vinegar is not going to be what you're buying in the first place.

BARGAIN BUYS

ONLINE BARGAIN
Southern Eclipse Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2010 $10.21
Online retailers offer particularly sharp deals, including this classy sauvignon made by respected winemaker Michelle Richardson. It displays notes of blackcurrant leaf, zesty lime and oregano with some wild yeast ferment adding texture and complexity. (Available here.)

SOUTH AMERICAN SPECIAL
Michel Torino Coleccion Calchaquie Valley Malbec 2010 $11.99
Warm climates that make ripening a good crop of grapes easy, combined with low labour costs, mean wines from a country such as Argentina are often great value for money. Made from the country's flagship grape, this malbec has bundles of brooding and rich dark berry fruit laced with spice. This is another smart online deal.

FIRST RATE SECOND
Durvillea Marlborough Pinot Noir 2009 $19.99
As New Zealand started to balance demand with supply, many wineries began producing second labels below their main range in price. In general the good names are responsible for some great second labels, such as Astrolabe's Durvillea range, which includes this amazingly elegant sub-$20 pinot with a fresh and silky palate of cherry and plum fruit, spice and a hint of game. (From Caro's, Auckland Liquor Kings.)

- NZ Herald

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