Early on in my wine journey I developed a healthy respect for budget wines, and not because I was cheap. My goal from the moment I got hooked on fine wine was to put together a collection of top-notch wines from around the world.
A noble but expensive proposition no matter where you shop for wine.
What I discovered in those early buying sprees was that I was consuming the collectible wines almost as fast as I could purchase them, which sort of defeats the purpose of creating a personal wine cellar. I wasn’t aging my most precious wines to perfection because I was reaching for a “great” wine to serve with dinner on a nightly basis.
When I realized something had to give, I developed a strategy. Once a month or so I would visit a budget grocery store (in my case it was a Trader Joe’s) and snag any number of interesting wines the store was blowing out with deep discounts. I would race home, open each bottle and taste. Then I would race back to the store and buy up cases of the one, two or three wines that had impressed me – before the closeout bargains disappeared from the shelf.
Well stocked then with tasty budget wines for everyday consumption, I was less tempted to raid my wine cellar on a whim for the “good” stuff. I could then count on having an extraordinary wine, sometimes even properly aged, for special occasions.
Having tasty budget wines on hand is especially crucial during the holiday season, when there is a natural inclination to imbibe more in celebration of the season. I recommend a three-pronged attack.
First, visit the equivalent of Trader Joe’s in your neck of the woods and take advantage of the aggressive discounts. Second, consider buying online. The selection will be greater and online purveyors such as Wine.com typically have “specials” galore. WineSearcher.com also can turn up generous deals from brick-and-mortar wine merchants who are set up for shipping. Third, find out where in your neighborhood the Cameron Hughes brand is sold.
Cameron Hughes is a longtime wine industry pro. He developed a unique business model several years ago, buying up odd lots from top-of-the-line wineries in the most fashionable appellations. Hughes knew that even wineries with tremendous star power produce wines that don’t make the “cut” into the final blend. Those wines are often sold on the bulk market and blended away into large batches of generic wine.
Without giving away the name of the winery (which would undercut the star-power winery’s pricing) Hughes assigned each of these wines a “Lot” number to go with the fancy appellation on the label. Cameron Hughes wines are typically sold for a fraction of the price they would fetch if the winery of origin were printed on the label.
Hughes sold the Cameron Hughes brand to Vintage Wine Estates a few years ago but continues to oversee the operation, which is now global, with wines from famous appellations around the world. A Cameron Hughes wine is the epitome of a wine that under promises and over delivers.
And this, dear reader, is how you serve great wines through the holidays on a budget, and preserve your “good” stuff for just the right occasion.
Read more: Robert Whitley
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