Drink­ing wine on a bud­get

Montreal Times - - Wine -

When you tell some­one that you write about wine for a pas­sion, the first ques­tion they ask me: Are you drunk, like, all the time? (An­swer: Of course, be­cause that makes for the best cliché.) The sec­ond ques­tion they al­ways ask is: What are the best wines you can buy on a bud­get? Do you have a secret to find­ing good wine deals? The an­swer isn't al­ways ex­actly what they want to hear.

While there are cer­tainly still some steals to be found in the world of wine, ran­domly choos­ing bot­tles for $15 will prob­a­bly lead in dis­ap­point­ment. While you might en­counter a few cheap wines that out­per­form the price, too many are heavy, sweet or strangely tast­ing chem­i­cal, with an edge of straight ethanol or an af­ter­taste of nail pol­ish re­mover.

At un­der $15, it's a mat­ter of get­ting what you pay for...or, more pre­cisely, not get­ting what you're not pay­ing for. Grapes cost money, land costs money, la­bor costs money, wine­mak­ing equip­ment costs money, bot­tles and corks or caps cost money and mar­ket­ing costs money. And do not for­get the huge tax chunk that the SAQ takes. Af­ter you add all of th­ese costs, that does not leave much money to grow qual­ity grapes in qual­ity land.

Choos­ing to spend a lit­tle more on wine is a bit like choos­ing to spend a lit­tle more on, say, bread from ar­ti­sanal bak­eries in­stead of buy­ing the bagged frozen stuff. Per­son­ally, I'd rather have some­thing de­li­cious— even if I can't af­ford to have it quite as of­ten. But if you can kick your bud­get more than $15 and un­der $20 per bot­tle, you can start drink­ing quite well if you shop wisely.

Are there any tricks to choos­ing the best not-too ex­pan­si­ble bot­tles? Sure:

Taste as much wine as you can.

Get a sense of re­gions and grapes you like, so you can stock up on fa­vorites and com­mu­ni­cate with SAQ Staff about what you're look­ing for.

Be ad­ven­tur­ous:

Im­porters can markup fa­mil­iar wine brands; plenty of peo­ple will still buy those bot­tles. But a cheaper price can help sell hard-to-pro­nounce grapes like Blaufränkisch, so you may find good deals among the shelves stocked with wines from lesser­known grapes and re­gions.

Find a good SAQ—

one with friendly, knowl­edge­able staff. I do not have to tell you this but not all the SAQs are made the same. I have 3 SAQs that are among my fa­vorites in Mon­treal. They are the SAQ Se­lec­tion in the At­wa­ter Mar­ket, SAQ Se­lec­tion in 440 de Mais­soneuve in down­town and the Se­lec­tion in Rock­land. All of them have the largest spe­cialty sec­tions and have very friendly and knowl­edge­able staff.

Skip the oak:

In many sit­u­a­tions, oak bar­rels drive up the price of wine. Un­less you're re­ally crav­ing toasty fla­vors, con­sider a un­oaked wine or one that has been aged in old oak bar­rels. They are much cheaper.

Buy at SAQ De­pot.

You can get a dis­counts de­pend­ing on the quan­tity of bot­tles that you buy. For ex­am­ple, if you buy 3 bot­tles you get 3% off; 10% off with the pur­chase of 6 bot­tles; 15% with the pur­chase of 12 bot­tles. In ad­di­tion, you have some wine se­lec­tions that are not avail­able in other SAQs.

Marco Gio­vanetti is an Ital­ianVenezue­lan som­me­lier stu­dent in the ITHQ of Mon­treal, Que­bec. He has 15 years of ex­pe­ri­ence tast­ing wine from Europe and emerg­ing wine re­gions. His key spe­cial­ties are the wines of Tus­cany, Italy and the wines of Spain. He...

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