More than one million wineries currently operate worldwide. Each produces at least three different wines, and plenty of them stomp out 20 or more.

That’s a lot of potential hangovers. But if you sip responsibly you can enjoy the taste, the history, and the geography of the grape without any concurrent headaches.

And if you have champagne tastes but a Boones Farm budget? Buy the fruit of the vine online. A discount comes in handy at this time of year, given the expenses associated with the holidays. In the next couple of weeks you might be:

•Having people over for your only fancy meal of the year, which surely calls for a grown-up beverage

•Making mulled wine or glogg for a holiday open house

•Looking for a good deal on bubbly for New Year’s Eve

Or maybe you’re just an everyday wine enthusiast who likes a glass with dinner. No matter what your reason, there’s no need to pay through the nose, so to speak, for a decent bottle. Thanks to increased competition, better technology, and smarter winemaking, there’s never been a better time to be an oenophile, according to wine critic Natalie MacLean.

“I’m a wine cheapskate at heart. Why pay more than you have to for pleasure? These days you can get a wine that tastes twice as expensive as it costs,” says MacLean, author of Unquenchable: A Tipsy Quest for the World’s Best Bargain Wines.

Although talking with an experienced wine seller can be a pleasure, not everyone is lucky enough to live near a wine store, or even a liquor store or a supermarket that sells wine. And let’s face it: Your local booze emporium or grocery store probably doesn’t have the space to devote to a truly huge selection of vino.

Online sites like Wine.com and WineExpress.com have deep cellars, and sell enough of the stuff to offer discounts. Specialty sites exist, too, with somewhat smaller lists but interesting back-stories — and competitive prices.

Kissing vinous frogs

It isn’t just the discount that’s attractive, but the chance to try dozens (or hundreds) of vintages you might not find in the local carafe-a-teria.

Don’t know where to start? The online sites make it easy:

•You’ll see sections like “90 under $20,” i.e., bottles that have received 90 points or more from wine critics.

•You can search by price point, by region, by type of wine — or even by clearance sales.

•When you click on a wine title, the next screen may also include suggestions à la Amazon.com, “Customers who bought Mad Dog 20/20 also bought…”

Another way to find new varieties: Natalie MacLean and other wine critics have Facebook pages and Twitter feeds, as well as homepages. There you can learn their hottest (and cheapest!) new discoveries. MacLean tastes at least 30 varieties per day. Nice work if you can get it, huh? Yet as she puts it, “I’m kissing a lot of vinous frogs to find those princes for you.”