Cheap 'n tasty wine (in bulk)
April 21, 2005 12:00 PM   Subscribe

Moondoggie and I are getting married in June and we need some advice on buying good tasting wine in bulk.

The wedding is an outdoor, garden wedding and we're having about 100 guests (no kids). We're only serving beer and wine (and maybe one signature drink). I have no problem procuring bulk beer, but I'm wondering if there is something I should know about buying lots of bottles of wine. We live in Hartford, CT and we are willing to drive about an hour if there's a sale if you have any suggestions on specific stores. Further, should we buy all one kind by the case? Should we buy lots of different types? Bonus points for information on specific types of wine that is inexpensive and tasty (we know NOTHING about wine) and even more bonus points if you can help us figure out how much to buy.
posted by SheIsMighty to Food & Drink (23 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Congratulations! I'm not in CT so I can't help with where to buy, but I can help with what type and quantity. How long is the reception, and what kind of food are you serving? How many of your guests are children/non drinkers? Are you serving Champagne or only still wines?
posted by cali at 12:06 PM on April 21, 2005

Trader Joes often has GREAT deals on tasty wine. They give discounts on cases, and also allow you to return unopened bottles for a full refund if you buy by the case.

They also provide a handy beverage planning guide (pdf).

Definitely check them out.
posted by pmbuko at 12:08 PM on April 21, 2005

We offered beer and wine at our wedding as well (and champagne, but in limited quantities), and for the sake of sanity, we had one red and one white. We served the Bonny Doon Big House Red and one of their whites (can't remember the name now. Alcohol, brain cells - you know). That label is still my favorite affordable wine.

Then again, I don't know much about the details of wine buying. If you can find a place that discounts by quantity and doesn't demand you purchase all one brand, it might be fun to gather your suggestions here and put askmefi to a tasting test.
posted by bibliowench at 12:09 PM on April 21, 2005

The reception will begin around 3pm and go for as long as we want. It's in my mother's backyard, so there's no reason to stop if the wine is flowing and the music is playing! There will only be about 4 or 5 children there and I'm guessing maybe 15-25 are non-drinkers. We're not serving champagne, so we only need suggestions for still wines.
posted by SheIsMighty at 12:09 PM on April 21, 2005

I got married just over a year ago. We bought the house-label wine (merlot and some kind of white) from Whole Foods (which I see has a store in CT); by the case, it's a good deal, and it's a pretty good wine. We also happened to run into a wine sale at the food hole, and saved a little extra that way.

We got the champagne from a wine merchant--Bouvet was the label. And we had a little bit of Guinness that we picked up at Costco.

We massively overestimated the amount that would be drunk (much to our surprise--we thought we knew our friends better) and wound up with leftover wine in the pantry for the next 11 months.

Good luck!
posted by adamrice at 12:22 PM on April 21, 2005


Keep it simple- one red, one white. Multiple varietals is a waste, as the bartender will just grab whatever is close. There are tons of perfectly decent wines in the $8-$10/bottle range (without the per-case discount), which is probably where you want to be.

Don't skimp on quantity- the worst thing that can happen is that you have a lot of leftover bottles, which is a terrible, I say terrible thing ;). Go to your local liquor store and ask them- given how much you're likely to buy (around 8 or so cases), they'll steer you toward some options that will please everyone.

Some personal recommendations:

Three Thieves (personally, I think they're the best "cheap" winemakers out there right now)
Bonny Doon
posted by mkultra at 12:29 PM on April 21, 2005

As a general rule, I think you want to go with just two different kinds--one easy-to-drink red, and an easy-to-drink white--and if it's not a very wine-savvy crowd, you will almost certainly drink a lot more white than red. (I was going to suggest that you pick up a half-case of a nicer red for the more savvy guests, but you know what? Unless they're a total wine snob, they're going to enjoy a perfectly decent table wine just as much as anybody else. Don't bother.)

As for _what_ to buy, Trader Joe's stuff is definitely a great suggestion, but there are some other places you can check, as well. I'm not sure about the Stew Leonard's in CT, but the one near me in Yonkers has a really big wine store attached now, and they've always got competitive prices. Also, there's Zachy's in Scarsdale--that's more like 90mins to two hours away from Hartford, but they're pretty famous for its helpful staff and good prices.
posted by LairBob at 12:31 PM on April 21, 2005

A price point would help -- just because you want to buy bulk doesn't mean you have to buy Two Buck Chuck.

Here's a Google Local Search for wine distributors in/near Hartford -- if they can't sell directly to you, they should be able to direct you to a liquor store that specializes in sales by the case. Alan S. Goodman, Inc. isn't on that list but seems to distribute a lot of California wines in your area.

posted by me3dia at 12:33 PM on April 21, 2005

As far as a price point, I'd say we'd want to stay under $15 per bottle if this helps.

Keep the specific brand suggestions coming (thanks, mkultra!). I'm looking forward to a taste test!
posted by SheIsMighty at 12:38 PM on April 21, 2005

You might want to pick up a copy of the Wine Spectator. Every issue comes with a bunch of specific recommendations, rated on a point system. They always tell you what wines are good to drink right now, and they include a best value section, with wines that have relatively high ratings at a relatively low price. That will include a number of good wines in the under $15 range.
posted by anapestic at 12:42 PM on April 21, 2005

Just a note, some very reputable wine dealers will allow you to return unopened, unused red wine. Since you won't be chilling and un-chilling it, it may be a good option to ask for a return policy, just in case you over-buy. I don't know much about dealers in CT, but Binny's Beverage Depot in Chicago allows you to return everything but beer and white wine, as long as the seals are intact.
posted by MeetMegan at 12:47 PM on April 21, 2005

Bodega Norton makes a Malbec that most everyone likes and which is often as cheap as $6 a bottle. If you want to go a bit higher Bonny Doon's Big House Red is also very nice at around $10. Bogle's merlot, petite sirah, and cab are also great deals for around $10. Lots of people like Castle Rock's cab ($10) as well, though I personally don't see what the hoopla is about.

Guigal's Cotes du Rhone is also a great value and can be had for under $10, but it may not be as safe a bet for non-winos.

Rather than pay for the Wine Spectator, you can check out the free forums on their website for more advice. Also, has another forum that occasionally has threads on inexpensive wine.
posted by chrisgrau at 12:52 PM on April 21, 2005 [1 favorite]

Big House Red is indeed good. My house wine is Los Vascos cabernet, a Chilean winery owned by Lafitte Rothschild. Retails around $12/bottle. Chilean wines in general are a good value, and most are quite tasty.

For white, I like Toad Hollow Chardonnay, which retails around $15/bottle.

Keep in mind most places will give a 5-10% discount if you buy a case, and if you're buying ~10 cases they might drop the price a little further for you.
posted by me3dia at 12:59 PM on April 21, 2005

For a two to three hour event, I'd assume a bottle per person. Each bottle holds 4 or 5 glasses. Some people will drink more and others will drink less but it averages about that. Since you're also serving beer and maybe a cocktail, you can divide that into percentages. Say you're got 90 people drinking. Thirty of them would rather drink beer, so 30 x 4 beers = 10 cases. Sixty people are drinking wine, and more white than red, so three cases of white and two cases of red. If you're planning on staying there longer or if you know your friends and relatives will drink more than the average person, estimate upwards but keep the percentages.

Regarding specific recommendations, I would find a good, inexpensive place to purchase wine and ask the people who work there. I cannot emphasize this strongly enough. It's what they do for a living, and they know and have tasted their own stock. Tell them your budget, and ask for their recommendations for crowd-pleasers.
posted by cali at 1:08 PM on April 21, 2005

I don't know if you can get this on the east coast, but Columbia Crest makes a really good, drinkable chardonnay on its reserve lable. It's about $12 per individual bottle out here in Portland, less by the case.

I also strongly recommend any Coppola wine you can find, red or white. Individual bottles are a bit above your budget, but I bet with the bulk discount you should be able to find something within your price range. All the Coppola wines I've tried have been accessible to non-wine drinkers and really yummy.

If you're trying to save more money, look for wines from Argentina or Chile. Often they'll be $5 or $6 less per bottle for the same level of quality.
posted by croutonsupafreak at 1:08 PM on April 21, 2005

Yellowtail chardonnay and shiraz were the wines of choice at the last wedding I went to (two large Catholic families...lots and lots of wine drinkers). Most of us out-of-state folks were more interested in the Fat Tire, though.
posted by mbd1mbd1 at 1:38 PM on April 21, 2005

chrisgrau writes "Bogle's merlot, petite sirah, and cab are also great deals for around $10"

I can enthusiastically second that recommendation, _especially_ for the petite syrah. Really tasty, great body, and a remarkable deal. Pretty much my favorite red, all 'round.
posted by LairBob at 1:55 PM on April 21, 2005

Listen to chrisgrau, he knows whereof he speaks. Malbec is a great choice; not enough people know about it, and if they have it at your wedding they'll discover its deliciousness! And I third the recommendation for Bonny Doon: good wine made by good folks. (I'm not crazy about Yellowtail, but obviously a lot of people like it.)
posted by languagehat at 2:09 PM on April 21, 2005

I fourth the recommendation for Bonny Doon. The Big House Red is very drinkable, and their Malvasia Bianca is one of my favorite whites.

Trader Joe's has been mentioned already, but I will add a couple of names to look for when (if) you go: Geyser Peak and Ridge both make great wines, and might otherwise be out of your price range, but I have picked up some great bottles of each at Trader Joe's that were *wonderful* (and in your price range.)
posted by ambrosia at 2:45 PM on April 21, 2005

If you are tempted by yellowtail (i.e., you like shiraz) but also have the money to spend $15 a bottle, try Marquis Philips Shiraz or "Sarah's Blend." They are super jammy and decadent. Robert Parker calls them X rated wines... (Having said that, perhaps they would be more appropriate for the honeymoon!)

If you can get Ridge for under $20 then by all means do it, but around here the cheapest Ridge bottling is over $20.
posted by chrisgrau at 3:00 PM on April 21, 2005


I've not tried the Trader Joe's 2 buck chuck, but I understand that it can be quite uneven. I've heard that people buy a bottle, take it to the car and open it, and then go back in and buy a case if it seems like a good run. It seems like a fun way to do it.

For an outdoor summer wedding you might think about a Beaujolais, which although red, takes a light chill quite nicely. Beaujolaises are affordable and very drinkable, the Georges DuBoeuf Villages and the various appelations are good and well within your price range.
posted by OmieWise at 3:59 PM on April 21, 2005

Bonny Doon has Ralph Steadman label art. Very cool, quite tasty.
posted by rfordh at 3:49 AM on April 22, 2005

We bought the wine and champagne for my cousin's wedding from Trader Joe's - if you ask to speak with the person who is selecting the wines from vendors, they are usually very knowledgable and point you in the right direction for tastes in several price points. This is probably true of any real wine vendor, though probably not your local liquor store. They will also special order the quantities you need and accept returns on unopened cases - just make sure your bartenders know to not open additional cases until they empty, many places charge a corking fee per bottle and don't care if the bottles aren't empty before opening new ones (for waitstaff that are refilling at tables, etc.). Congratulations!
posted by blackkar at 7:24 AM on April 22, 2005

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