Step one: Skip wine by the glass. Most restaurants like to make enough on a single glass to pay for the whole bottle, which is not an appetising prospect, especially since the plonk may even have been opened hours before. Think instead about ordering a half bottle of your choice or even a small carafe of house wine.
Step two: Buy in bulk. Many off licences and supermarkets offer a discount of up to 10% for purchases of six bottles and it is not unheard of to secure a discount of 20% for a dozen bottles. If you are a collector of wines, or enjoy trying different ones, it might be prudent to join a wine club, many of which offer significant introductory discounts. Watch out though for high delivery charges.
Step three: Avoid the big names. Don't fall into the trap of paying more for wines from a well-known region or which are made from a popular grape. Experiment with new vintages from other countries – you will find something you like but at a fraction of the cost. If you are feeling nervous, why not hold a wine-tasting party? Get all your guests to bring along a bottle of their choice, within an agreed price range, with the aim of everyone trying something new.
Step four: Find a good, budget 'follow up' wine. When entertaining, people always want to offer their guests the best possible wine. However, once they have had a couple of glasses their palette isn't nearly as sensitive and a good, inexpensive, 'follow up' wine will taste a lot better. Once again, experiment to find some good budget wines.
Step five: Water first. There is nothing more tempting in hot weather than the thought of a cool beer to quench your thirst, but you'll save a lot of money (and will feel much better the next day) if you drink a pint of water before turning to the old amber nectar.
Step six: Shop around. There is more to a good local pub than just the beer, for sure, but it does pay to shop around because prices do vary. The price of beer in a freehouse, for example, is generally a lot cheaper than in a chain pub.
Step seven: Brew your own. Home-brewing technology has come on a lot in the last few years and in some cases a beginners' kit involves little more than mixing the ingredients in water in a sterile bag and waiting a few weeks. Granted, not all the results will be up to the standard of your favourite beer or vintage tipple, but it will be a lot of fun having a go.
The opinions in this article are those of the author and for general information only. Always seek independent advice. This article was published on April 29, 2009.