Expert's guide to picking good, cheap wines

Allison Yee

Have you ever bought wine just because it has a fun label? Or spotted a slew of little gold medal stickers on the bottle and decided that’s the one for you?

When it comes to wine, drinking lots doesn’t necessarily translate to being able to pick the good stuff – which is where wine expert Scott Aliprandi steps in.

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An Aussie now based in the wine lover’s paradise of the Central Otago region in New Zealand and hosting Airbnb experiences in the area, Scott knows his wine – and he’s more than happy to help when it comes to navigating the hundreds of choices you’re faced with at the bottle shop.

“Do your research, read up about the different varieties and what areas they specialise in, for example, if you want a fantastic Chardonnay go to the Margaret River,” Scott tells Be.

Don't know anything about wine? Scott has years of experience with wines. Photo: Be

“Look at the area where the wines are from. That should give you an idea of what grape they grow and what their niche is, and they generally do it well.”

For Scott, who signed up as an Airbnb experience host after spotting an ad on Facebook, being part of a new phenomenon that's seen over 1800 different experiences offered online allows him to draw on his years of experience and take wine lovers behind the scenes at different vineyards.

Take an Airbnb experience, get a sneaky little taste before the wines are bottled. Photo: Be

Another top tip of Scott’s – and one we can all get on board with – is to take time out to try wines, and really get a feel for different kinds rather than sticking to your usual choices.

“Drink more,” advises Scott. “The best way to do it is to get a group of friends together and you all bring a bottle of the same type of wine. That way you can try a lot of different ones at the same time.”

Be toured a range of Central Otago vineyards, including Coal Pit wines. Photo: Be
There's more to wine than the bottles you see on the shelves. Photo: Be

"One of my favourite things is to go to Aldi and buy the wines there – they’re pretty good. Their rose is fantastic and it’s $5 a bottle.”

For those of you who swear by wines that have won awards, it might be worthwhile to take a second to really read what those medals are for.

Buying from the Central Otago region? You can't go wrong with their pinot noirs. Photo: Be

“It depends on which award it is,” explains Scott. “Some competitions match with food, and a lot of wineries don’t put their wines in shows anyway because they don’t need to.

“Don’t trust the little stickers.”

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