Expert tips on selecting a good bottle at a great price.
Credit: Lee Harrelson

January is an ideal time to shop for discounted wines, as storesclear older vintages from inventory. "Bargain-bin wines are usuallywines that are peaking, so it's a great way to find a wine to drinktonight," says Erin O'Shea, wine director at Clio restaurant inBoston. Follow these tips when shopping:

Scoop up the reds. They have a longer shelf life thanrosés and everyday white wines, like California chardonnay andsauvignon blanc. "Most of these wines begin to decline after a yearor two," O'Shea says. To be safe, avoid whites that are pre-2005 orturning orange in color.

Check the fill level, O'Shea says. If it appears low,evaporation is occurring. That means the bottle has been poorlyhandled; you'll be better off selecting a different one.

Make a little conversation. If you spot an amazing deal, getthe full story, says Jesse Salazar, wine director at Union SquareWines and Spirits, which recently offered a $50 wine from Spain forless than $20. "In this case the closeout came from the winery, andwe passed the savings along," Salazar says. "A responsible storeshould welcome the chance to have a conversation and build trustwith you."