With wine merchants sales in full swing a word or two of warning about snapping up what may look like unmissable bargains:
* Check the vintage particularly on inexpensive whites and rosés. A 2008 white may not sound that old but if it comes from Australia or Chile it's almost two years from harvest. It may even be a bit elderly for a fresh-tasting European white.
* Be particularly careful about mixed and 'mystery' cases. Check the vintages of all the bottles. Merchants have a habit of slipping in one or two older vintages they want to get rid of.
* Don't buy an unmixed case without tasting the wine. OK there's a danger that someone else will snap it up but it's better than being landed with 12 bottles you wouldn't want to serve to your worst enemy. (This of course is true outside sale time)
* Remember many wines are now priced for big discounts so 50% off may not be the amazing bargain it looks. If you have a chance - and certainly if you're buying online - check the price on wine-searcher.com
* With a few rare exceptions (fine wines, designed to be aged) don't keep the wine you buy in a sale too long. Maybe there was a problem with the corks on that particular bottling so you might get a higher than usual incidence of cork taint. (You can of course take the offending bottle(s) back but that's harder to do a couple of years on.)
* Buy from a merchant you trust rather than one you haven't dealt with before. And ideally one local to you who is not going to risk losing your custom.