I am not a sommelier nor have I studied oenology in a formal way. What I have been doing though is developing my taste pallet and discovering wines of the world through wonderful people for over 25 years. I love sharing this passion for wine and I honestly believe that bin end sales, which obviously have a commercial element to them, provide the opportunity for me to do so.
In this post, I explain what bin end sales are and share my tips for saving money and discovering great bargains.
I fully appreciate that the very word wine conjures up different meanings for different people. For some, it is an everyday beverage and to others, it can be something approaching fine art. Above all, however, I firmly believe that wine is made to be enjoyed.
I totally agree that people need neither skill nor knowledge to enjoy a glass of wine. I would humbly suggest though, that to understand a little about of what you’re drinking will definitely add to your appreciation and pleasure.
There are many ways to buy wine, such as direct from the producer, from a wine-club, online stores, specialist wine merchants (such as Green Acres), convenience stores and out of town supermarkets. And many people buy their wines from a multiple of these sources.
They may look for bargains in warehouse and bin end sales. My point is that whatever way that you select your wine, a little knowledge is a wonderful comfort.
At bin end sales, a little knowledge is a wonderful comfort. Here are some tips.
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Think about it – how many times have you bought a bottle of wine because a friend or family member recommended it. Probably, a lot. In fact, you’d be amazed at the number of people who drop into Green Acres searching for a wine by describing a label from a bottle they had at a friend’s house over the weekend.
Before I continue, I must come clean with you and say that I am writing about this topic because it coincides with the launch of our biggest ever bin end sale – and there are certainly bargains to be had in-house and online.
We need to make space so we have dozens of quality wines looking for loving homes in our current bin end sale.
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What are Bin End Sales?
The term itself originally comes from the practice of storing a single vintage (year) of wine in one space. Because at the stage when bottles didn’t have labels affixed, an area was required to stack the bottles so they wouldn’t get mixed up.
They called that space a bin and gave it a number. When the wine from that bin was almost finished it would be a waste of space to keep it for just a few bottles. Therefore, bin-end bottles would be sold off cheaply to make space for a new vintage.
Nowadays, bin end sales can imply any or all of the following:
- Older wines that are approaching their best before date
- Wine bottles with damaged labels
- Last bottles from a specific year/producer
- A restaurant that has revamped its wine list may return bottles to the supplier
- Sales acceleration of a large stock of a particular wine
- Wines that are from unfashionable places
- Vintages that are to be rotated out of stock
- A genuine requirement for space for new vintages
Usually, bottles included in the bin end sales, by their very nature, are limited so it really is advisable to check with the retailer first, if the list has changed. Of course, in our case – you can just drop in, browse the wines and discover the bargains for yourself. Donal Morris and I will be available to advise – just ask any of the Green Acres’ staff on the shop floor to get us.
If you order online, bin ends are usually available for immediate delivery (again, check with the retailer to check if there is a cost for this). Usually, if you are local there is no charge.
There is one caveat though usually bin ends are sold with no guarantee as to the quality of the content. So beware of tired and poor vintages. This is where a specialist retailer can help you by explaining the story behind the wine. There is usually a no return policy (unless corked) which is reasonable, I guess, due to the discounted price.
Another thing to appreciate is that you probably won’t find first-growth Bordeaux tossed into the bin because of a damaged label. You won’t get the deal of the century in these bin end sales but in my opinion, they offer an opportunity to sample rich, rare and mature wines at a fraction of the cost.
There is actually a chain of outlets in the USA called Bin Ends who specialise in selling only bin end products all year round. Here in Ireland though, you might find that the bigger the retailer – the less likely the bargain.
For instance, the bigger retailers buy wine in large amounts and then dump them when they don’t sell or sales slowdown. Usually, this means that they are definitely discounting lines that didn’t sell. Not that the wines would be bad mind you, but you’ll find that the more specialist wine retailers will have more genuine bin end sales.
On this note, I would also emphasise that you should hunt for the bin end bargains in an outlet that you trust. You won’t be saving basket-loads of euro with their bin ends but a) you will save a % of the RRP and b) the personal advice can help you discover what wines suit your pallet the best.
Anyway, in this age of almost total connectivity, bargain hunters are much savvier through the information available on smartphones and various e-commerce options. For me though, there’s nothing like rooting through a barrel of bottles trying to discover a gem.
Tips to Save You Money When Buying Wine
- It might sound extravagant but, I would always recommend buying at least a half case of wine (6 bottles) – a full case (12) would be even better. Usually, you can get a discount if you buy 6 or more bottles. Why not try a mixed case and do some experimenting on your own. Share with friends (if you must).
- Ask your wine retailer if they have a bin ends selection, at any time of the year – even ask in a restaurant. Very often a bin end list might not be advertised so there’s no harm in asking.
- It seems like every day some wine retailer is having a sale. Keep your eye on the price of your favourite wine throughout the year. When your wine is included, at the sale price – you’ll know it is a genuine reduction.
- Shop around because the choice, availability and prices can vary greatly in different outlets. There is a search engine website called Wine Searcher that enables you to search any wine by name and usually by a retailer.
- Search online for special offers. For instance, www.greenacres.ie has a special offers menu that places wine and food offer that is available 24/7. Usually, online wine retailers will have a page of discounted wines.
10 Tips to Help You Spot Bargain Bin Ends
As I alluded to above, supermarkets seem to have deals all the time but specialist wine shops will usually have a bin end sale to make way for new stock. Here are my 10 tips that should help you bag a bargain.
- Sign up (subscribe) to a retailers wine database. Usually, they get advance notice of the content of a bin end sale. Because of limited stock, you just might get ahead of the posse or at least you’ll be on the list for the next one. (contact us and we’ll put you on our wine database).
- Check that the vintages being offered were not bad ones, to begin with (you can usually search for vintage charts online).
- Check prices being offered (use the wine searcher app, I mentioned above) and online ratings.
- If you’re in the shop, check the level of the wine in the bottle against others. If it has reduced dramatically – there may be something wrong with the cork and therefore the wine.
- If you don’t recognise the producer – ask the specialist in the shop about them. They should be able to fill you in on the background.
- Usually, bin ends aren’t suitable for long term storage. Again, ask the specialist for their advice.
- Surprise cases (mixed cases) can include a dud. Know what wines you are purchasing.
- Don’t ignore the less familiar countries – as mentioned, they mightn’t sell as fast as the popular regions/countries but could be little gems.
- Contrary to popular belief, whites can age just as well as reds.
- Always check the terms and conditions (if any). I mentioned the delivery already but there may be a minimum order or exclude tax and duty.
A lot of so called wine experts refer to specific years as being good or bad. I’m saying to you that even though some vintages are known for bad grape harvests, there are still some delicious wines at great prices to be had. Very often they’re cheaper and ready to drink immediately.
Look out for these wines in bin end sales. A lot of these ‘bad years’ depend upon the type of wine (grape/region) you like so perhaps a chat with your local wine shop owner would be the thing to do.
Finally, from a retailer’s point of view, I would like to leave you with one thought. Price and quality are not the same. In this business, supply and demand determine a lot. If everybody is drinking a particular wine, then the price will be greater. If you have never heard of a particular wine, there is a good chance that you will discover better value there.
So don’t be put-off when you hear that there is a bin end sale on – pop in for a chat to Green Acres and take a wine walk on the wild side with us.
We look forward to engaging with you soon – Cheers, James
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