A Frugal Freelancer’s Vino Cheapo Trial

This weekend, when I was at the New York Wine Expo, one of the wine reps asked my friend and me if our wine spending habits have changed at all in the face of the recession. I immediately said “yes,” while my friend laughed a little, and said “no.”

“She still has a full-time job,” I told the wine rep.

I haven’t had a salaried position in about 4 years. I’m a New York City-based writer, and until recently, I had a very busy and fruitful freelance writing life that enabled me to take off to Italy for almost 2 years, spend last summer in Berlin, this December in the Caribbean, and pop around to various other places in between. As long as I had my computer and an Internet connection, I could work anywhere. And I did.

However, since the recession hit, my three main clients have slashed their consulting budgets, leaving me with little work and a big challenge: how to be frugal in one of the world’s most expensive cities.

And being a New Yorker – especially one with a discerning taste for food and wine, fashion, and travel – I’d rather die (or move someplace cheaper) than adopt a totally ascetic lifestyle. Frugal may be the new black, but I’m convinced there are ways to still indulge in the Big Apple without going into the red.

Back to wine… we all know that in Europe, you can drink good wine, regularly and affordably. Here in NYC, you’re lucky to get a glass for what you might pay for a decent bottle in Italy, Spain, or France. So, what can we wine lovers do to keep from drinking our quarterly tax payments?

Since there are a lot of “values” touted in wine mags and blogs, I’m now sampling some of the industry’s top picks for $10 and under:

  • Cabernet Sauvignon, 2007; Château Mas Neuf; Vin de Pays d’Oc, South of France Spirit Black Toro – $10 (Inspired by Wine Spectator’s Dec. 31, 2008 – Jan. 15, 2009 issue)
  • Malbec, 2007; Alamos; Mendoza, Argentina – $10 (Inspired by Wine Spectator’s Nov. 15, 2008 issue
  • Chenin Blanc, 2008; Winery of Good Hope; Stellenbosch, Africa – $10 (Inspired by Wine Enthusiast’s March 2009 issue
  • Nero d’Avola, 2006; MandraRossa; Sicily, Italy – $10 (Inspired by Wine Enthusiast’s March 2009 issue)
  • Carménère, 2005; Viña Cono Sur; Colchagua Valley, Chile – $6-9 (Inspired by Good Wine Under $20 Blog
  • Tempranillo & Garnacha, 2007; Red Guitar; Navarra – $9.99 (Inspired by Smells Like Grape Blog)


  1. santino says:

    Thank you Jen!
    I have a piece of frugal advice:
    when you find a wine that you like buy a case, for yourself or to split with your friends. Most wine store will give you a 10% to 15% discount. And also remember that wine is just a drink.

    “Welcome to era of New Modesty” (Karl Lagerfeld 2009)

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