By Jim Donovan

In the past few years, the wine industry has taken a big hit. But that doesn’t mean people have stopped drinking wine. Many just haven’t spent as much. As 3-On Your Side Consumer Reporter Jim Donovan finds, wine connoisseurs are joining a growing group of bargain hunters.

The wine industry says sales are back and wine drinkers learned a valuable lesson during the recession. They found that there is lots to choose from at lower prices. Whether you prefer a crisp white or a full bodied red, during the recession many wine drinkers had to retool their budgets.

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Jim Carmody is a hotel manager and wine expert who has watched consumers change their behavior during the recession.

Carmody says, “They didn’t want to give it up. So, they traded down and in that experience they found wines that were very interesting and taste very good for much less money.”

A survey by Neilson found the wines seeing the biggest rebound are those in the $9 – $12 range.

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Carmody believes that range is a bit higher, but he agrees that there are great wines to be found at very reasonable prices.

He says, “The difference between a $15 dollar bottle of wine and a $45 dollar bottle of wine very difficult to detect even by an educated palate.”

He also believes that more and more bargain shoppers are finding great wines in unlikely places.

According to Carmody, “Costco and BJ’s are some of the largest movers in the volume categories of wines.”

If you like a good glass of wine when eating out, here is something to consider. Restaurateurs know that diners don’t want to appear cheap by ordering the least expensive wine on the list, so often they jack up the price for ordering the second-cheapest wine on the menu. You may actually want to consider ordering the least expensive wine. It may be pretty good and you’ll save some money.

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Reported By Jim Donovan, CBS 3