My ears perked up… like a deer. What I was listening to was the thought in my mind for a particular taste in wine. As I moved in the direction of action, I realized my wallet was not in sync with the thoughts spreading from my mind to my taste buds. The $18 for the bottle of wine I desired was beyond my budget for the day. What to do? Who to call?
I’ll confess that on dry wallet days, I’ve satisfied many urges by trips to Grocery Outlet. They get national closeouts at very low prices and pass them on at low markups. It makes for a very happy moment, but… that’s not ConsciousWine.
As this buying pattern continued for several months, it disturbed me more than I knew, and I didn’t enjoy the cumulative effect. Knowing that monoculture (one crop agriculture) is neither natural nor a good thing from a sustainability standpoint, it was hard for me to continue this pattern regardless of the condition of my wallet.
My dad, in the early ’80s, first taught me that a good bottle of wine should cost around $5. $3.99 was his favorite price. If it was more, it was marketing. Today, I think the starting point for a quality product, that is grown organically and sustainably farmed, is around $15. It doesn’t mean that wines offering quality and a conscious approach can’t be found for less. What it does mean is that living products, that are full of life force, coming from a living soil, where natural processes rejuvenate the land’s vitality after harvest, will cost more. $15 in today’s world is a good starting place.
French wines from Southern France and the Loire Valley in particular, are often grown organically, sustainably, and available in diverse variety between $12 and $20. Many folks love Chilean wines for their value, but most often they do not meet the 4 Principles of ConsciousWine (although this is increasing). American wines tend to cost a bit more, but they have reduced shipping footprints and support local economies.
West coast ConsciousWineries that have multiple offerings under $20 and some around $15 include: Oregon faves Maysara, Evesham Wood, Cooper Mountain, and Montinore. California’s offerings are abundant in the low/mid 20’s with a few spots in the teens. The cost of quality done sustainably is no longer $5 a bottle. It’s an interesting challenge to have our choices support vital farmland for our kids’ kids and beyond. It can be hard on the wallet, especially considering what we’ve become used to on our supermarket, discount box store, and wine store shelves. But lets get back to that wallet! How can I make my dollars go further???
One of my favorite things about natural wine, and ConsciousWine, is that they unwind once exposed to air. They don’t taste best when you first open them. They unfold like a good book unfolds. The cover of the book got you interested, but the really good stuff showed up at various points along the way. These wines often unfold like a good book or flower for 2 or 3 days. Sometimes even more. This is one of the benefits of a living vital wine (that’s well made from a healthy soil and a strong immune system).
A bottle of wine enjoyed over 5 days is a great way to experience wine (25.4 ounces in a bottle would give you five, 5 ounce servings). Many folks ‘gas’ open bottles of wine to preserve them and keep them fresh. For this adventure you can leave out the gassing. The idea here is to see how the wine changes when experienced “au natural” and at what point you like it best. You’ll very possibly surprise yourself.
Once opened, the “good taste” within a $5 bottle probably won’t last real long, but a $25 bottle (that’s five, 5 ounce glasses to enjoy) could provide a lot of pleasurable experiences, and some fun flavor diversity all from a single bottle. Go to a restaurant and have two $10 glasses of wine, plus leave a good tip, and you’ve spent $25. Those two glasses of wine probably came from a bottle that would’ve cost you $15-$18 had you bought it in a retail store. Getting some new ideas on where real value lives?
When I think of ways to experience wine without laying out lots of money, I think of creating or being part of a potluck dinner with a theme. The key is getting folks to chip in so you can get a few nicer bottles then your wallet might choose on its own. Theme examples: Italian Night, local food & drink (all foods and drinks from within 300 miles), wines you’ve had sitting around over a year, wines you’ve never heard of before, …
One of the beautiful things about wine is sharing it with friends. The experience of tasting different things is a great way to learn, be in community, and have fun. Plus it often gives you great stories to tell. One minute you’re sharing a story, and in the next you’ve gotten yourself invited over to someone’s home to participate in something fun and delicious.
Here’s an idea to play with. In your mind, as you peruse your wine shopping destination, stretch your wine budget by 20%. This will get you looking with new eyes as you consider what to buy. Then take a risk! It’s fine if the final price you actually pay stays in your original budget, but look with an extension of your normal max. Let the kid in you have some fun! Consider buying the bottle with the ugly label. The big tip of the day: If you’ve never heard of it, buy it!
Before you know it… you’ll be telling your friends about fun discoveries you’ve made, and why buying those well known brands that are available everywhere just seem to be missing something, even though they’re “priced right,” and convenient… and about all the ways you’re budget is getting you tasting and experiencing interesting flavors and wines. Happy exploring!