Wines you can "afford"?

I hear people talking regularly about buying only 1 or 2 bottles of a wine because that’s all they can afford. Maybe it’s to keep up a vertical, maybe it’s because you want to try several wines from the same producer. To me, that’s not a wine you can really afford.

Everyone buys 1 or 2 bottles to taste, of course. But if you already know you like a wine, I would not consider buying less than 4 or 6 of a wine to have in my cellar - ideally 12.

I’ve bought 1 or 2 of things that came up on the secondary market and it results in one of two issues:

  • I drink it and love it and am disappointed because I have no more.
  • I refuse to pull it to drink it because maybe it’s not at its peak yet and then it will be gone.

Sure there’s those white whales that it’s exciting just to score one bottle of for a very special occurrence, but as a matter of course, that doesn’t sound like a fun hobby to me.

There’s nothing better than having great wine you love at enough quantity to drink one when you feel like it and drink them over time to enjoy their evolution. If every bottle you own is a 50th birthday kind of bottle because you only have 1, that’s dejecting to me.

I think the best way to enjoy this hobby is to stick to wines one can actually afford - there’s lots of quality wines at every price point - and buy in enough quantity to enjoy without stressing about when they’re going to pop open that 1 bottle.

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I would disagree. There are a few wines I buy by the six, but most are 2-3 because I want variety in my cellar. Cost is not as much of an issue as is space. In my 850 bottle cellar, I have to consider what will age, what I can drink now, and how many of each I can store. Sure, I could expand the cellar, but that is a totally different cost analysis and not real applicable because at some point you have to say enough is enough and put a limit on quantity.

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As always, it’s relative. To me, a $100 bottle of wine is a big splurge. Valuable enough to me to buy it when I want to, but I cannot afford to drop $700-1200 on one cuvée. Too many eggs in one basket.

The first issue is space; I live in a two-bedroom apartment with a 35-bottle wine fridge. Even with just having rented a ~75 bottle offsite space, buying multiple 6 or 12-packs of wines would preclude me from any real variety and I’d have to drink my wine quickly to keep space available. I would rather have 2-3 bottles of 10 different producers to follow over some time than 6 or 12 bottles of 3-5 producers, personally. Even if I absolutely adore a certain wine, I’m always excited by the opportunity to try different things while knowing I’ve got lots of what I like.

The second is, of course, price; I can’t afford 12 - or even 6 - of most bottles. With Burgundy, that would limit me to half a dozen producers per year and keep me from tasting across the spectrum of appellations and vineyards. I am becoming more targeted with my purchases and trying to snag 2-3 bottles of any producer I’m confident in because I would like to follow that wine over some time in but I am always up for grabbing a single bottle of something to try it and add it to my palate library.

Variety is good. As a rule, I try not to stress about the “perfect” time to open a wine, because I think the best time to open a wine is when I want to open it.

2016 Domaine du Cayron Gigondas. JLL gave the wine six stars. Other things that are discussed ad nauseam in Chinon, Beaujolais, and Chianti. Oregon Pinot Noir. Vincent is one of the best bangs for the buck. He gets a hard time here–but if you are AFWE, I think Fass Selections does a great job. The 2005 Weingut Hermann Ludes Klüsserather Bruderschaft Riesling Auslese that was offered today at Fass is a case buy if it’s anywhere as good as the 1994 (which was a case buy).

After 27 years of seriously buying wine, I know what I like, and buy 4 or more bottles at a time as a general rule.

I do still enjoy variety, so will buy a case of 12 different wines 3-4 times per year just to explore. Sometimes a couple of those random bottles graduate to regular 4 bottle purchases.

Sometimes wines I only bought 1-2 of provide the best experiences. I’m glad to have those, along with others that I buy in greater quantity.

that whole concept seems a little weird to me. why would I not be able to afford a wine just because I can’t afford a case of it? that just means I can’t afford a case of it.

this is a consumption issue and a storage issue. in our house, we average polishing off 1-2 bottles a week, and have about 150 bottles worth of storage. so of my 60 bottles per year, why buy a whole case of the same thing when there are literally thousands of wines out there that I want to try? if we finished off 1-2 bottles a night, or if we had 2000 bottles worth of storage, maybe I would think differently.

I live in a bit of wine desert, so usually to make shipping worth it, I get four to six bottles.

Well first, those two statements fundamentally contradict.(unless you only own a few bottles).
You can’t own ONLY special bottles… and stress about when u’ll pop them… b/c that’s ALL you own no? like if you had 1000 bottles… and they’re all DRC/Leroy types… would you stress about when to open one?
So on the contrary… I’d say if you had a bunch of affordable daily drinkers, but only a FEW special occasion bottles, you’d stress more about opening those.

Second… i’m not sure i agree with the OP’s premise… is the suggestion that one should ONLY buy drinkers you can afford to open at will, and never have special occasion bottles?
So say you have 1000 btls of ~$100 btls… one should should not try and get that one btl $500 bottle once in a while? that makes no sense to me.

Most people eat “meat and potatoes” 9/10 meals… should they not splurge on a michelin star meal b/c it’s not one they can regularly afford?

There are a bunch of factors as people have said. Storage is a big one. Variety is another. Probably very few people can collect all the types of wines and producers they’d like to, but if you insist on buying in larger lots, then you further restrict the vintages and individual wines. I generally like to have a variety of vintages, so I tend to buy in lots of 3-6 and I mostly focus on a set of 10-15 producers whose wines I really like.

In my opinion this is also different for different regions. In Bordeaux where there is generally one “Grand Vin” per estate, it’s easier to focus on that one wine. In Burgundy where a favorite producer might have five, ten or even many more wines, it’s much more difficult. For example I’ve bought Guillemot Savigny and a bit of Corton for the past ten years or so, but it would be totally impractical to buy a case of each wine I’m interested in.

While I generally agree with the saying that “if you can’t afford a case, you can’t afford the wine,” that doesn’t actually imply that you should buy a case. I also think that people should occasionally break the rule and buy a few wines that are a stretch.

This is, in my opinion, a fairly absurd notion. If people were limited to buying a case every time they wanted to buy a bottle, there would be very few wines worth owning.

I buy many wines I can’t really afford but want to experience them at least just once:

I typically buy in quantities of 3 or 6. But I’m not shy about buying 1 to try something new – particularly from a region/producer/vintage I don’t have much experience with. And I fairly regularly buy 1 or 2 btls if the price is right and that’s all that’s available. My buying habits make my cellar more of a mishmash – certainly it’s not constructed to be auctioned someday – but it works for me. I will say that the longer I go, the more I buy in lots of 6 versus smaller lots. But if I started to buy in 12-btl quantities I’d quickly run out of space/money and I’d have a lot less variety than I’d like. (The only wines I consistently buy in case or near-case quantities are Dom and Krug Grande Cuvee, because I love them and they make great gifts to have around.)

Some of this comes down to a fundamental question: would you rather drink variety or would you rather drink your favorites? The geek in my likes to explore. I’m a “completist” OCD-type by nature. So I have a visceral desire to have tried all the major producers/appellations/vineyards/vintages – i.e., to eventually drink through the “wine canon,” so to speak. That said, I’m not a massochist: I know myself well enough not to spend money trying to drink through Napa cabs or Rolland Bordeaux or other wines I just don’t like. But I’d typically rather spend $$ buying a mixed case of four different producers’ wines to explore different nooks and crannies of a Burgundy village, as opposed to buying a case of a single 1er or GC wine, no matter how much I like it. I know that many, many, many experienced drinkers feel differently, and I’m open-minded to the possibility that as I get older (at 37 I hope that I’m still in the early stages of my wine journey) I will start buying more in case quantities.

It depends on how you are interpreting it. I think your interpretation is something like “I’m going to spend $150 on wine today, should I buy three bottles of this wine I like or should I buy twelve bottles of some plonk?”

My interpretation was more like “for the next twelve bottles I buy for $600, should I choose a case of one wine or three bottles each of four wines?” In that sense, all wines you would normally buy can be considered as possible case purchases. I think this was more of the OP’s intent.

Absolutely. But that one bottle of wine just sits there and it never seems to be the right occasion to open it. And then you finally open it and what if it’s corked or underperforms? It seems masochistic to me to stock up on a bunch of special occasion singles like that.

Andrew, I’ve been doing exactly the opposite of what you say for 30 years. There are many of us who like variety, who like exploring, and who don’t always want to drink the same thing every month. And I can tell you it’s a very fun hobby to keep up your exploration and try new things as well as things you’ve always liked. You learn that way, even at 55 years old. And I have enough tasting experience over the years to have a good idea of when a wine might start being in the zone for me. I don’t waste Burgundy, Barolo, Huet, Port, whatever, until I think it’s going to be really enjoyable for my palate. I don’t need a case of a '16 Barbaresco, for example. I’ll buy 3-4 bottles and then put them in storage for 15 years before I even think about drinking them. If you’ve build up a varied cellar over the years, you can do that.

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I almost never buy 12 of anything. That is a “meat and 3 vegetables” buying strategy, for those that don’t have much variety in their cellar, drink an enormous amount, or have Scrooge McDuck bank balances.

There’s probably a few hundred wines I’m interested in annually. That would be buying 1200+ bottles a year in 12 packs. Even in 4 or 6s, it is 400-600 bottles a year.

If you drink 3 bottles a week, the cellar grows by 250-450 bottles a year. Over 20 years you’ve got a cellar of 5000-9000 bottles…

Personally, I only buy as many bottles of one wine as I can envisage writing tasting notes for in future. If I can’t be bothered writing a note for the 12th bottle then that 12th bottle shouldn’t be purchased.

When you put it that way, it is a great idea!


Man, so many people have already gotten stuck on 12 bottles when all I said was at least 4 or 6. I said 12 was ideal but not the standard…

Wouldn’t your numerator depend on your denominator?

I think that, plus I want to explore as I just started to appreciate wine makes me not want to buy more than 2-3 of a wine …

Also cuz of $$$ constraints