A cheap night out - Getting to know your wine merchant

I don't know about you, but as someone who believes if it passes your lips it better be worth the calories, watching Oz Clarke talk about the amount spent on the wine vs the bottle price I was a little taken a back. I always figured the mark up was "upscaled" with the price. Where I thought by paying an extra couple of quid on a bottle I'd only be getting an extra few pennies spent on the wine, it seems I was TOTALLY wrong. He recommended seeking out a wine merchant, and well, who was I to argue

The first time we ventured into out local Majestic, I was a bit like a fish out of water. We picked our first half case (6 bottles) based on guess work mostly, and paid our money and signed up to all the marketing stuff (just in case) and was pleasantly surprised that they sent us home with a copy of the "tasting notes". A really nice touch as sometimes you do forget what the blurb said when you are picking a bottle to go with dinner. it was nicer wine than we felt we would have gotten at the supermarket for the same price, so when we saw they were offering a free seasonal tasting at the store, well.. its not an offer you refuse. 

 This time out we were looking for Christmas, so we had a slightly larger budget than normal. That said we were still firmly in the middle of the sippings on offer.

Firstly, you have to book onto these things, as they like to limit numbers and scale when people are coming in. On walking in, our names were taken and we were handed out first taster - a very nice English fizz in a proper glass - and a sheet with names and prices of the wines out for tasting tonight. They had various "stations" arround the store manned by the extremely knowledgeable staff. The thing you get at a wine merchant rather than the supermarket is expert advice. Its so nice to be able to ask someone who knows what they are talking about for advice before you splash out. We take it for granted when buying some products, but others we just don't think about it. It's honest informed advice too.

There is totally no obligation to buy, not even any incentives for buying during the event. All the special offers they were running had at least another 2 weeks to run, so plenty of time to go home, look over your notes and think before buying should you want to. They also had a variety of cheese and bread about too, making it feel more like an event than a sales opportunity. We tried a good few luscious bottles - some of which we picked up, but a good load more we didn't.

The only downside is the need to buy at least 6 bottles (a "mixed case"), but if you get paid monthly like us its really not an issue. Honestly, do your maths on how many bottles you would drink in a month. Is it really going to impact on your budget to buy 6 bottles at once? You often get discounts for buying more than one bottle of the same wine, and occasionally there are special offers on too. The discounts seem genuine too. We like our foodie fairs, and I spied one bottle we picked up at one after tasting it. I was more than a little annoyed that the list price was much less than I had previously paid for it! You really can get a very nice bottle for a similar price you'd spend in the supermarket for a Jacobs Creek or Blossom Hill.

The tasting events are free, as I said, but they are special events. However, they do always have at least 6 bottles open and available for tasting. If you like your wine it really is worth a visit and a look for yourself. We've picked up some gorgeous everyday bottles for around £7 and some exceptional ones for as little as £10. Might not sound thrifty, but in terms of "you get what you pay for" its the prudent choice. I know I'm a wine merchant convert - no more uncorking and thinking "why did I pay X for this bottle??"

Not to mention the free nights out while picking up some bottles!

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