Bulking Up for the Holidays
Americans love to purchase everything in massive quantities, and yet for some reason the one product that they would do well to buy in bulk is the one they are least likely to give the warehouse membership club treatment. No doubt some of this is due to our association of wine with snobbery and delicacy (rich people always buy one tiny, expensive thing at a time!) or perhaps the unhealthy relationship we have with alcohol in general (as though purchasing one bottle at a time means we're less likely to be alcoholics--bad news: the cashier definitely recognizes you and knows you have a problem!). But the truth is that buying wine in larger quantities saves you money, ratchets up your hosting skills, and saves you a ton of time and hassle, especially when you've got the season of giving [drinking] ahead of you. It's true that like all things, wine should not be bought in absurd quantities that you might never manage to consume, but a little forethought goes a long way. And 10 lbs. of cocktail meatballs for $17.50? You can't beat that!
To start buying well in bulk, there are a few questions that need answering: how much to buy and what to get? The short answer is, buy by the case and always have a mixture of red, white and sparkling. "A case?!" you say with dismay. "Red AND white?" you say, with continued, now clearly feigned, dismay. Yes, I repeat, you should always have on hand about a case of mixed wines, and to show you why let's work out the math together: A standard 750ml bottle of wine has five glasses (if you don't believe me ask the somm the next time you go to your favorite restaurant) and a case has 12 bottles, and if you (and your companion if you have one) like to have wine just about every night with your meal and also like to entertain occasionally those bottles will disappear before you can say "Daniel Radcliffe did "Now You See You Me 2?!" If you think, oh but I always drink red so I never need white or sparkling, think again. At the very least, you'll want to always have a bottle or two of both colors on hand for guests who might show up unexpected with a tray of rock-hard Christmas snickerdoodles, and you definitely don't want to be the person who realizes at 10pm on New Year's Eve that the only sparkling you have is cider. Nothing is sadder than ringing in the new year with only a glass of Martinelli's and your own thoughts as company.
Buying in bulk has a lot of perks that go well beyond ensuring you still have wine for yourself after Mark from IT sloshes his way through 2 bottles all on his own and tries to make out with Linda from HR at your ill-fated holiday open house with colleagues. First, wineries and retailers almost always offer a discount, and often a significant one, on whole case purchases, so if you're buying something you like and will drink again, it makes sense to buy a case up front and spend 15-20% less per bottle. Second, if you're ordering online, shipping costs are often much less favorable for small amounts (that is, it might be $30 for ground shipping of anything from 1 individual bottle to 2 entire cases, making it decidedly more cost effective to buy a lot in one go). Third, with respect to those unfortunate holiday get-togethers, even in an explicitly bring-your-own format, guests frequently under buy for their own consumption, assuming that one bottle per couple or even per group is adequate (this atrocious breach of etiquette will be discussed in a later post), leaving it to you to make sure your party doesn't run dry when they inevitably each consume a bottle or more themselves.
Once you've got your wine, the final step is simple but essential: store it well. No need to do anything special, just leave it in a cool, dry place where the sun can't hit it. As bonus you can hide yourself in precisely the same space on Christmas Day when you just can't take it anymore!