After working 13 years in fine-dining restaurants I’m no connossieur on wine. I still can’t tell with certainty a 2000 Beringer Private Reserve from a Robert Coppola’s Ruffino. The Beringer retails for $250. Ruffino retails for $50. That’s all I know.
However, I can guide someone to choose from a Reisling (white zinfadel, blush), a white (chardonnay, pinot grigio, sauvignon blanc) and reds (shiraz, merlot, cabernet and pinot noir). I can also guide someone to match a wine with a dish they’re eating. “Blush” wines work with chicken. Whites work with seafood, chicken and alfredo sauces. Reds work with steaks, hamburger (ie. red meats) and tomato-based or spicy sauces.
Using these talents, it’s easy to direct people on where to buy cheap wine. Red wines are especially cheap because there are more of them. Here are some of the places to buy cheap, red wine.
AT A RESTAURANT OR STEAKHOUSE
Most restaurants that serve food offer wine to sip with it. A good restaurant may have servers or waitstaff “suggestive selling” wine to customers for before, during and after dinner. Wine is offered by the glass or by the bottle. The best specials come from a restaurant’s “house” wine. House wines are ones restaurants choose to “push” on a customer. House wines are sold at a discounted price from the regular wines. Reasons may be that the restaurant has a partnership with the distributor. The establishment may have too much of that particular wine in stock. That particular brand may also be discontinued for something else.
Johnny’s sells their “house” wines between $4-$5 a glass. Bottles range from $16-$20. A bottle of wine contains 4 to 5 glasses each.
NIGHTCLUBS, BARS AND LOUNGES
Very few drinking establishments don’t offer wine for consumption. Drinking establishments are places where the only food served are appetizers, beer nuts or popcorn. The money is driven by beer, liquor and wine sells. Depending on the kind of nightclub, bar or lounge depends on what kind of wine they serve.
For instance, Southport Sports Bar offers glasses of wine for $4.50. The most expensive bottle they have in stock sells for $30. Now, the nightclub, Aura, offers bottles of Christal and Moet for $200 and $275 respectively. Rock River Grill and Tavern has Opus One in stock for close to $300 a bottle. But, they also sell the house merlot for $5.00 a glass. There is something to be said about “it’s not where you’re from, but it’s where you’re at”.
More likely than not, the neighborhood hole-in-the-wall, red wine is much cheaper than red wine bought at Crush nightclub.
Where is the one place, you can get ANYTHING? That place is WalMart. WalMart has red wine too. They keep their stock in the aisles at room temperature. Target sells its wine in the aisle. HY-VEE sells wine in the aisle and in the refrigerated beer section.
All three supermarkets offer prices ranging from $5-$35. They offer the popular, lower-middle class (There is no middle class anymore. Thanks, President Bush!) brands. Beringer, Sutter Home, Ravenswood, Foot, Talus, Copper Creek, Napa Valley, Blackstone, Robert Coppola, Robert Coppola “Ruffino” and brands for the local, vineyard in Newton (Iowa).
I do have a secret. Restaurants add a little to the price on their wine. They’re paying for overhead, taxes and upkeep. That $50 Ruffino at Johnny’s is available for $35 at Target; if you can find it.
So, now you have your guide for places to buy cheap, red wine. As the Dos Equis founder says.
“Be thirsty, my friends.”
Johnny’s Italian Steakhouse, 6800 Fleur Drive, Des Moines, Iowa 50315 (515)287-0848
Rock River Grill and Tavern, 700 Grand Avenue, Des Moines, Iowa 50309 (515)245-5500