Awesome ways to skip the bottle shop queues

Looking to elevate your wine game without breaking the bank? Read Drinks Digest founder Alana House's recommendations on how to uncork the world of value wines available online. She reveals the hidden truths about those $7 bottles of wine and the magic of finding quality wines that won't disappoint your palate.

How to buy great value wine online

Here’s a sobering fact for wine lovers: the average $7 bottle sold in Australia only contains about 32c worth of wine.

According to online wine retailer Naked Wines, the rest goes on marketing, duty, shipping and packaging, which doesn’t leave much for the wine itself.

The bottom line: scoring a $6.99 quaffer may be exciting in store, but it’s likely to disappoint in the glass.

So, how much do you need to pay to ensure a quality drop? Naked Wine recommends spending between $15 and $40.

“Spend over $40 on a bottle of wine and you’re mainly paying for brand name and reputation,” it advises.

It’s also worth doing your research and being savvy about where you make your purchases.

Start by getting to know your favourite varietals and the regions that make them best. Then look to the experts for advice on good-value drops and where to find bargains.

Knowledge is power

Knowing the styles of wine you prefer will help you make better choices. Do you enjoy full-bodied or lighter reds, acidic or buttery whites, sweet or dry rosés?

When purchasing online, most winemakers and retailers will include tasting notes that provide insights on the flavour profiles of the wines they sell.

It’s also handy to know the regions that make your favourite varietals best. The Barossa Valley is famous for its Shiraz, Grenache and Cabernet Sauvignon. Tasmania makes excellent Pinot Noir and sparkling wine. The Hunter Valley is famed for its Semillon. Western Australia is a Chardonnay powerhouse. Read more on Australia's unique terroir.

Perhaps try a little wine tourism on your next holiday to get a taste of them first hand.

By experiencing a region’s “terroir” – the particular geology, landscape, soil and climate that come together to make its wine special – you will develop a deeper understanding of what is going into the bottles you buy … and have a great getaway at the same time.

Cellar doors usually have knowledgeable staff behind the counter who can guide you through their wines. If you find a winemaker that creates wines that you love, you can join their wine club. These often provides discounts and free delivery of half or full cases of wine at regular intervals throughout the year. You’ll also be on their mailing list for any specials that are on offer.

For example, I discovered Sandalford Winemakers Rose while on holiday in Margaret River and get regular cases shipped across the country to my front door. The wine has become a favourite afternoon tipple and comes with a price tag of $216 for a case of 12.

Keep an eye on the award winners  

Check out the results of wine competitions for tips on the vintages that are winning awards - they don’t necessarily come with big price tags.

The Sydney Royal Wine Show recently announced its 2023 trophy recipients, with budget-friendly wines scoring almost half the accolades.

The 2022 Millbrook Regional GSM, for example, took out the trophy for Best Value Wine and retails for around $23.

Winestate magazine gives its verdict on Australia’s bargain buys in its annual Wine of the Year awards. This year Duxton Vineyards Rewild Murray Darling Shiraz Rose 2022 ($10) took out the top spot, with honourable mentions for De Bortoli Wines Dean De Bortoli   Durif 2019 ($15), Berton Vineyards Metal Label Vermentino 2022 ($14), Hay Shed Hill Pitchfork Margaret River Semillon Sauvignon Blanc ($15) and Mount Lawson Bunnamagoo Rose 2022 ($16).

Meanwhile, Dan Murphy’s 2023 Decoded Wine Award winners recently recognised Australia and New Zealand’s best wines under $25.
They included Pikes Traditionale Riesling ($21.90), REWILD Pinot Grigio ($8.90), Brokenwood Chardonnay ($22.80), Yalumba Y Series Viognier (11.90), Pizzini Nonna Gisella Sangiovese ($21.90), The Ethereal One Grenache ($15.90), Cat Amongst The Pigeons GSM ($14.90), Wynns Shiraz ($13.90), De Bortoli La Bohème Act Two Pinot Noir Rosé ($17.90), Chapel Hill Sangiovese Rose ($15.90), Distant South Tasmania Sparkling ($20.90), Pewsey Vale Eden Valley 9% Lighter Riesling ($18.90), Tread Softly Pinot Noir ($12.90), Banrock Station Shiraz ($10.90) and Grant Burge Prosecco Zero ($17.90).

Join a wine club … and choose it wisely

Joining a wine club is a great way to secure regular deliveries of quality wine at great prices.

But remember, not all wine clubs are created equal. Some involve lock-in contracts, others will hound you with phone calls and emails, while Vinomofo cautions that “most wine clubs exist to get rid of the crap”.

But there are diamonds in the chaff. Here are three tried-and-tested options:

  • If you are keen to support independent winemakers, try Naked Wines, where you’ll get $100 off your first order.
  • Vinomofo is another smart choice. The online retailer prides itself on only selling wines it loves. Its Black Market Club, for example, offers a deal of $139 for a 12-pack of mixed wines at 60-70% off recommended retail price, shipped free to your door every two months with no lock-in contract.  
  • Qantas Wine which allows you to pay with points or cash for your purchases. Mixed cases start from as little as $131.88 (or 22,920 points).

As the saying goes, life is too short to drink bad wine. Shopping online is a savvy way to drink the good stuff without breaking the bank.

Citro member offer:

Get a $100 gift voucher when you buy a mixed dozen from Naked Wines. Download the Citro App for iPhone and apply for a Citro Card.

Alana House is the founder and editor of Drinks Digest, a website focussed on drinks news and the Australian bar scene.

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