There’s an old saying in the retail wine business that can only be confirmed anecdotally: most of the wine bought in the United States is consumed within two hours of its purchase.
Or something like that. The idea is that essentially no one really stashes wine for a later occasion. The implication is that aging wine in a cellar is really only for wine-obsessed snobs.
For the majority of Americans, buying wine as needed, and not holding onto a few cases to improve in the bottle, is the norm. Even those who buy those elegant wine cabinets with their own refrigeration units typically do not know what they’re doing, why they are doing it, or how to do it properly.
This column is not intended to encourage people to consider aging their wine more than they now do. But buying more than one bottle at a time can actually be a sound decision, both for reasons of wine quality as well as frugality.
For one thing, most wines are released far too young and benefit from a little additional time in the bottle. Also, buying a bottle at a time can be more expensive.
Say you like a particular sauvignon blanc that typically sells for $17 a bottle. Say a discount warehouse has it for $13.
By buying a case, and assuming a 20 percent discount, you can get the wine for less than $11 per bottle.
And keeping that wine in a closet is a small inconvenience when compared with the dollars saved combined with the fact that you will always have a bottle on hand when you want it.
And a few months in home storage will not appreciably change the wine negatively, and might actually improve it.
Is there a strategy to employ that carries the ultimate benefits of frugality as well as maximizing the potential of the wine to improve?
Not really, unfortunately. Each of us is different and each wine purchase is based upon different criteria that relate to the individual.
Do you really love pinot grigio and want it to be as fresh as possible? And do you dislike what becomes of it after it is aged for a year in a bottle?
Then by all means buy the wine only as needed, and buy only the youngest vintage available.
Do you like pinot noir when it is three years old? Today that would mean the 2013 pinot noirs are appealing.
To buy only one bottle before an upcoming dinner might mean never seeing the wine again. I have already begun seeing 2014s and even a few 2015s. Earlier vintages are becoming scarce.
So perhaps buying a few more of these stellar wines while they’re still available, and still being discounted in various locations, is a sound idea.
My best friend for this purpose is wine-searcher.com, a website that can help wine lovers find specific wines that might be available locally or internationally. The site lists all the retail locations where most wines are available, and lists their suggested retail prices at those locations.
For example, the excellent 2014 Francis Ford Coppola pinot noir from Sonoma Coast called Director’s Cut normally sells for about $26. The Wine Searcher site shows that six retail shops in the United States carry the wine for less than $20, and that one retail shop, in Seattle, charges $32.99 for it.
Any Seattle buyer who doesn’t use this handy site is clearly paying too much.
Some wines are in such short supply that buying a case may be the best strategy for those who desire more than a bottle or two — especially for wines that are made to improve in the bottle.
However, for widely distributed, drink-now wines that are seen in most supermarkets, case purchases usually are not a great idea. Checking online can determine the average price you should pay, and discounts often are available.
Wine of the Week: 2014 District Three Pinot Noir, Sonoma County, “The Sonoma Collection” ($16): The nose indicates traces of blueberries and dark berry fruit, a bit of oak overlays the aroma, and the finish is nicely balanced so it can work with food. A fairly priced Pinot with good varietal character.