Are “Bin End” Wines Really A Good Deal? How To Avoid Getting Tebow-ed At The Bin

Vinted on January 10, 2012 binned in wine buying, wine news

It seems that venerable news-aggregator has stumbled upon the apparently news-worthy advice that shopping in the “Bin End” section (so named, as I understand it, because these were often literally bins of wine stacked up at the end of the aisles in wine shops) of the wine store is a good place to find vinous bargains.

To the tape:

“…you can also score some discounts by looking for your wine or liquor store’s “bin ends” section, or bottles with scratched labels, wines or vintages that are bout to be rotated out of stock, or just not a great seller at that store.”

But not all is a bowl full of rosés in those end bins. The trouble with the bin-end-bargain advice quoted by Lifehacker (which is a re-blog of wine buying tips from – the rest of which are much more sound, by the way) is that quite often the wines offered in bin ends aren’t much of a bargain at all.

If you’re not careful, shopping those bin end bargains might actually leave you more disappointed than a Steelers fan after an improbable NFL post-season Tebow-ing (full disclosure: I’m a long-time Steelers fan, so, yes, this is cathartic for me, okay?)…

If you do decide to take up on their advice to storm the bin ends section of your regional wine shops, study this game-plan to avoid getting Tebow-ed for your $10:

  1. Know this: there’s a reason those bin-ended wines are poor sellers.
    It could just be some of the labels got screwed up in shipping, but in my experience it’s much more likely that the bin ends are full of wines that did not sell and so the retailer is trying to get rid of the inventory by slashing prices. Now, that can be a very good thing if the slow sales are due to a down economy, or an “off-vintage” that got lower critical scores but are still probably really good wines. But it could be because the wines weren’t actually very good to begin with.
  2. The bigger the retailer, the less likely the bargain.
    Again, this is from personal experience, but the larger the retailer the more inventory they have to buy and then dump off if it doesn’t sell. Which means the big boys are almost certainly discounting something there that didn’t sell (see #1 above).
  3. Don’t expect crazy-good bargains. There will not – I repeat NOT – be first-growth Bordeaux stacked up in the bin ends on sale for 50% off the SRP because the labels got ripped a little bit during shipping. Don’t go looking for the deals of the century in those bins, because you will not – I repeat NOT – find them.

Look, shopping in those end bins and/or asking for a look at discounted inventory is a good idea for bargain-hunters – but save yourself some trouble and try it with shops that you trust. You won’t be saving a ton of dough on the wine in those bin ends, but you might save a few percentage points off of SRP, and in these tough times that might be reason enough to go to the extra trouble of asking the shopkeeps (with the added benefit of possibly striking up a relationship with those sellers that could blossom into full-fledged bargains on really good juice for you in the future.






  • RichardPF

    Hi Joe:
    Though you provide some sound advice in this post, I do have to disagree with the absolute nature of your third point. You can find some crazy bargains out there at the right place, though such places might be rare. In the Boston area is a wine store called Bin Ends, which you may have some familiarity with as they ran the initial Twitter Tastings. They are a discount wine store and have a special 50% off bin and you can find some crazy bargains there, as I have done in the past. Like a Josko Gravner, some high end Spanish Priorat, nice Burgundies, Sauternes, and more. I don't know anywhere else that has such an excellent collection of bin ends, and maybe Boston is just extremely lucky,

    • 1WineDude

      Thanks, Richard – Bin Ends (the store and not the actual bins :) is great; I am willing to bet that their bargain bin finds are the exception – but you hint at a great point, which is that independent shops will likely have more opportunity and will to offer those bargains and the good shops are more than worth the effort of seeking out. Cheers!

      • RichardPF

        Agreed, it is definitely the small, independent shops that are often most worth seeking out, and most willing to offer the best bargains.

        • 1WineDude

          Richard – it is why I love Moore Bros. in the tri-state area here. Limited selection, but hey know the families whose wines that they sell, and the attention to detail shows in how interesting the wines are. Sometimes bargains can be had, but they are worth seeking out for other reasons, too, like their personal attention and knowledge. Cheers!

  • @dctravel20

    Good post Joe! I have a related question for you. Where can you find wines from bankrupt or closed vineyards? For example, Ortman in San Luis Obispo, CA is going out of business. Any idea where their wine might end up and if it can be found at a discount in those types of situations?

    • 1WineDude

      @dctravel20 – Thanks, I do not think that there is an easy answer to that question. To be certain you would need to contact someone from Ortman directly, I think – there are a LOT of options for those situations right now. Some of the juice could end up under new labels (e.g., 90+ Wines), or discounted with units like Lot18. Good luck – if you find out what happens, let us know!

      • academicwino

        In my experience in VA, the time one winery went bankrupt, they sold their wines at mega discounts right in the tasting room, but I didn't see the same trend in the stores. I suppose that doesn't mean a store couldn't stock up on uber-discounted wines and sell it in their stores, but I just didn't see it in this case. I think the best bet is what Joe says and just call up the winery (if they are not totally defunct by then).

  • Tom

    Great advice! One other reason I've found that labels get screwed up is because the wine was chilled and then allowed to come back to room temperature. Especially if the bottles were chilled in ice/ice water. Some retailers will take back unopened wine they sold for events and leave it up to the customer to make sure the wine wasn't chilled. But if it comes back in the carton it's sometimes hard to catch them. The big swings in temperature make the wine degrade faster, too.

    • 1WineDude

      Thanks, Tom – good points. Anther reason to stick with retailers that you trust, since they would probably tell you the history of those discounted bottles if asked. Cheers!

  • Jon Troutman

    I'd say that, like with anything, not all Bin Ends are created equally. Yes, some retailers Bin Ends are a result of their inability to sell that wine. However, the good retailers will navigate close-outs, take advantage of these deals, and then pass on the (sometimes huge) savings to their clientele… all the while, enjoying pretty solid margins.

    That said, there are plenty of shops out there pedaling crap that they simply got stuck with. It pays to be a savvy, well-educated shopper. In an era of smartphones and increased e-commerce, almost all shoppers have the capability of becoming smarter. I'm not sure these stores will be able to get away with shitty Bin Ends much longer.

    • 1WineDude

      Hey Jon – I agree, and hope that you are right! Cheers.

  • @Sedimentblog

    Now, on the origin of the term "bin-end" (which is the sort of pedantic stuff we do at Sediment…)

    Think you'll find that the term comes from the storage spaces in which a single vintage of a wine was stored before racking systems were developed. (You can see them on the walls of the Caves d'Auge, the oldest wine merchant in Paris, here: )

    A 'bin' would therefore hold many stacked bottles of a single wine. When that wine was almost finished, it was a waste of space to keep an entire bin for just a few bottles – and so the few "bin-end" bottles left would be sold off cheaply in order to clear the bin to hold a new vintage.

    • 1WineDude

      Thanks, Sediment!

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