It's "drink wine day," Tips for purchasing the best bottles on Wine Insiders when using your Amex Offer
Update: Some offers mentioned below are no longer available.
At the virtual TPG office, there's been a lot of discussion about wine recently — and not just because the first two months of the year have been, well, a lot.
No, the real reason we're talking about wine every morning is the spate of credit card offers for wine delivery. And now that it's officially National Drink Wine Day (there's a day for everything, of course, but this might be a personal favorite), we're raising a glass to all the great ways to save money on wine.
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You might have an offer for 15% back when you make your first purchase at Firstleaf Wine Club (with an $18 minimum) or 20% back at Winc with your Chase Sapphire Preferred Card.
If you have The Platinum Card® from American Express, you might have $20 back when you spend $100 or more at Acker Wines, $30 back when you spend $100 or more at Wine.com or $30 back when you spend $100 or more (up to three times) at Wine Access.
And, of course, there's one of the most popular offers available right now: $30 back when you spend $30 or more (up to two times) at Wine Insiders. Plan your purchase carefully, and that could mean nearly free wine.
These are targeted offers, so you might only have some of the aforementioned offers; you might not have any; or you might have an entirely different selection. But on my personal Platinum Card alone, I have 11 offers for deals and discounts at a variety of wine retailers, vineyards and even an offer for canned wine.
Just remember to always read the terms and conditions carefully if you're trying to take advantage of a credit card offer, and avoid stacking other coupons that could make your purchase ineligible. Also, Amex offers are taking longer than usual to post, so don't be surprised if your reimbursement is delayed.
We can help you maximize your credit card offers, but for tips on getting the best wine when you shop online, TPG spoke with Krista Paton, a certified sommelier with The Court of Master Sommeliers (CMS), and Emily Saladino, associate managing editor of digital for Wine Enthusiast. They offered helpful tips and suggestions for wine shopping online if you're a complete wine novice like me.
Here's how to shop like a sommelier when you go to redeem your next credit card wine offer.
Tips for finding a great bottle
Pay attention to the region
Whether you're shopping at Wine Insiders or hoping to redeem a different credit card offer, Paton says certain regions and grape combinations are "safer bets than others."
"A lot of people think they hate chardonnay, or they love sauvignon blanc, only to order one and not realize that it does not taste like the ones they like," Paton said in an e-mail. "This is likely because they are used to a grape from a certain place, and that makes a huge difference in what it tastes like."
So, if there's a wine you really like, pay attention to where it's from and keep that in mind if you're ordering a new wine online.
Choose wines with less variety
Paton also said, "certain grapes don't have as much variety in quality and price as others," which makes them "easier to buy."
A bottle of chardonnay, Paton explains, can cost less than $10 or it could set you back thousands of dollars. But she said it would be "unusual to see a pinot grigio for over $20."
"This is for a reason," she said. "Unless you know you like the taste of a cheap chardonnay, I probably wouldn't recommend you buy one online. Pinot Grigio, on the other hand, doesn't vary that much. None of them are going to blow me away, but they are all going to be solidly drinkable."
Opt for wines that follow strict regulations
Another way to make sure you don't end up with a bad bottle of wine is to look for Old World (read: European) wines.
Paton said there are a "lot of rules about what you can put on a bottle, and there are strict quality controls in the wine industry including what blends of grapes they use, how long they must be aged" and other factors.
For example, Paton said if you like Chianti Classico and you find a bottle that says Chianti Classico, it's likely to taste similar to Chiantis you've had before. "Though if it's made from the Sangiovese grape [and] you buy a wine that says Sangiovese, it means it very likely did not follow the same regional and wine-making rules" as a bottle that says Chianti.
Consider the value
You are, after all, looking for a great deal — and certain types of wines offer a better value proposition than others, Paton says.
"My go-to value for sparkling wine is always cava," she said. "This will be a dry, sparkling wine from Spain made in the same way Champagne is made with different grapes. This generally creates fresh, easy-drinking bubbles for fantastic prices."
Looking for a bottle of white wine? Paton said they're "typically much cheaper than red wines," making it easier to find a deal when shopping online. "New Zealand sauvignon blanc is cheap and plentiful," she said, "and you pretty much know what you're getting." And she said it's "hard to find a cheaper wine than pinot grigio, but try to avoid getting [one] from California or South America."
For red wine enthusiasts, she said the "best value" with the "highest chance of deliciousness" is going to be a red from Spain or Italy. "Because of those geographic [and] quality restrictions ... the countries have done the work for you to maximize the consistency of what you're going to get."
Paton says to go with a Rioja or Chianti for a great value, easy-drinking, food-friendly and crowd-pleasing wine.
Unfortunately for fans of rosé, Paton said she would "shy away from buying [a bottle] online." And if you do, be sure to pay close attention to where it came from. If you like dry, not-too-fruity rosés like Paton does, look for a bottle from Provence. Like Chianti, Paton said a rosé from Provence should have "a certain style."
"If you like a fruitier, sweeter pink wine," Paton said to stick with bottles from the U.S.
Saladino, more than anything, loves "helping people find wine they want to drink," and says that, while "it's hard to give hard-and-fast rules for varieties or years or price points because what you like and want to drink is so personal," there's "a ton of value-for-money in Portuguese and Sicilian wines."
Broaden your horizons
Whether you want to shake things up or you can't find a wine you're familiar with or know you'll like online, these great credit card offers may be the perfect opportunity to try something new.
If you prefer sweet wine, Paton suggests trying a Mosel riesling or an "off-dry" Chenin blanc from the Loire Valley.
Paton says that if malbec from Argentina is your favorite, consider a Ribera del Duero from Spain or a Southern Rhône blend. "These should give you the full-bodied, ripe- to jammy fruit" you'll find with malbec.
And if you love pinot noir, Paton said to "try more" since it's "so distinct ... it's hard to substitute." Look for "hard-to-find but delicious" bottles from Central Otago, New Zealand, or the Willamette Valley in Oregon. And, if you see a red wine that says Burgundy, Paton explains, that's a pinot noir too — you just won't always see it on the bottle.
Saladino suggests developing a relationship with a small wine shop first that "aligns with your tastes or interests or price point, whether it's low-intervention and natural wines, bubbles that won't break the bank or whatever you're looking to drink," so they can help make recommendations in general as they get to know you.
"It's like finding a good dentist or tailor when you move to a new city," she said.
Saladino said that, while "very few customers follow importers," they can be a "really useful window into wine. Small importers [or] wholesalers tend to have their own personalities and specialties, so you'll know so-and-so tends to import natural and low-intervention wines, or big Bordeaux, and so on."
But most, if not all, Wine Insiders wines are exclusive, Paton said. So if you're not even sure where to start, she's combed through the selection to find the most interesting, promising bottles on sale at Wine Insiders for cardholders hoping to take advantage of that particular offer.
Here's what she says you should expect from nine promising bottles.
Paton said this $19.99 red should be a "food-friendly, easy-drinking Italian staple."
This wine (on sale for $17.99) should evoke "ripe cherries, with a hint of tobacco," Paton said. "Like most Italian wines, this is food-friendly," but can also stand on its own.
If you want "a fruit-forward red wine," Paton says this $16.99 bottle "should be jammy red fruit, with a dark chocolate finish."
"The lesser-known verdejo grape makes for a zesty, highly drinkable wine," Paton said. "Fresh and crisp, this should taste of citrus with a hint of green pepper." If you typically drink sauvignon blanc or pinot grigio, Paton said this "is a great wine to try." Bottles are on sale for $15.99.
Paton said soave is like a "much milder chardonnay" that's "light and fresh but with slightly more complexity. [It's] a great wine to expand your selection." Try the Ca' Gregorie Soave D.O.C. from $17.99.
Looking for a more affordable selection? Paton highlighted four wines under $15.
"This should be a nice, easy-drinking Italian red," said Paton of this Sicilian bottle, which is available for $11.99.
Looking for an interesting new type of white wine? Paton calls this "an essential Australian wine, sémillon [and] sauvignon blanc blend." Try a bottle for $10.99
"Don't expect the fruitiness of a New Zealand sauvignon blanc," she warned, saying it should be "crisp and fresh but not as acidic or fruity."
"This won't be as full-bodied and jammy as its Argentinian counterpart," Paton said of this $14.99 bottle, "but the French malbec should still be dominated by dark [but more subtle] fruits."
Also $14.99, Paton expects this Spanish red to be "a less aged, less complex version." You should still get notes of "ripe cherries [and] tobacco aromas with a hint of chocolate on the finish."