Feb 25, 2011

Simple, Tasty, Cheap: Wine!

One of the main themes of this blog is that you don't have to spend a fortune to enjoy wonderful things. Well I certainly think wine is one of those things! While having wine on hand is definitely considered a luxury, it doesn't have to cost a fortune! Surprisingly it isn't all about the wine itself! Sure, you've got to have something that is at least decent; rancid wine will not taste good no matter what you serve it in. However, you can take a $5 bottle of wine that would be absolutely terrible in a plastic cup, worthy of a dinner party...if served in quality stemware! Here are a few must haves without breaking the bank!

First, you've got to get full lead crystal stemware! I'm am one of the most frugal people I know. I hate to buy anything without a coupon or discount of some sort. So I hope you'll take my word for it when I say that in order for your wine to reach even 1/2 of its potential, you've got to get proper glasses! They are worth it! We learned this from some good friends of ours who really introduced us to wine about 6 years ago. Sure we drank wine before, but we thought we were doing really well to get the wine by the gallon out at Sam's Club for $7.50/bottle! We even served that stuff at a Christmas Dinner Party! I shutter to think of our poor guests! I think we've come a long way from then, but then sometimes I wonder... :) Anyway, we were at our friends one night remarking on what wonderful wine they always had, and they kind of looked at each other and laughed. The wine they were serving us costs about $10! We were shocked and certain they were under-estimating. We thought it was at least a $25-30 bottle of wine. They told us that it was all in the glass. Since we didn't believe them, they pulled out one of their cheap crystal glasses and poured the same wine in both glasses and had us taste. Seriously, they tasted like two different wines! There was really no comparison. So here is what you should be looking for:

The glass on the left is one of our old wine glasses that we registered for when we got married. They're nice glasses and real crystal, but they're a lot thicker glass, not as high a percentage of crystal, and not shaped optimally. The glass on the left is a Riedel Cabernet/Merlot full lead (24%) crystal wine glass; this is what you want (or something like it). You can actually get these at Target, but they'll cost you about $15-20 per stem. I did just find them on this website for $24.95 for a set of 2, but then you have to pay $4.95 shipping. If that's all you can do, they're still worth the price. But, if you have any connection to anyone in the restaurant business, get them to order them for you! My husband worked in a fine dining restaurant and he was able to get these through one of their suppliers for an amazing $6/stem!!!! These glasses are full lead (which is about 24%) crystal, so they have microscopic cuts in the interior of the glass (you can't feel them) that aerate the wine (that's why people swirl wine in their glasses). Plus, the shape of this glass causes the wine to hit your tongue at just the right spot - so that the flavors are distributed for ultimate enjoyment!

The next thing that will really help the taste of your wine is a decanter. Once again, you'll need to make sure to get one with full lead crystal that will not only let your wine breath and release the aromas and flavors, but will aerate it. The one pictured below is a traditional decanter by Riedel (normally about $35-40), but you can also get one like this that you can slip directly into the bottle and it aerates while you pour! Don't ask me how it does it, just believe me! Super cool! Just remember to open the bottle about 10-20 minutes before you want to drink it, so that it has time to breath.
Having these simple, yet elegant items, will transform your cheap wines into surprisingly flavorful and enjoyable delights! If you can get them through a restaurant, then your investment is small. You'll have super nice wine glasses and be able to buy cheap wine and have it taste good. Otherwise, you'll be endlessly buying wine that cost at least twice as much and will not taste half as good! Now, here are a few go-to wines that I can pretty much always count on!

Rex Goliath (Free Range Red, Pinot Noir, Zinfandel, or Merlot) - $6-$8
Glass Mountain (Cabernet Savignon) - $8
Smoking Loon (Pinot Noir) - $8 - $10
Twisted (Merlot or Cabernet) - $5-$7
Robert Mondavi Reserve (Cabernet) - $7-$8
Beringer Founder's Estate - Old Vine (Zinfandel - 2007) - $7-$10
Frontera (Cabernet/Merlot Blend - magnum @ Sam's Club) - $8-$10

Other things that are helpful:
Vacuum Pump (it helps to seal and preserve left-over wine so that it stays fresh)

Wine Journal (so you can remember the wines you really like, where you got them, and how much you paid for them).

Do you have inexpensive wines that you really enjoy? Share the love and leave a comment! I'm always looking for something new! Check back often for future posts on new wines I've found!


hollie said...

Where did you buy the Rex Goliath? I prefer Merlots and haven't tried the one yet.
I appreciate the breakdown on wine glasses. Wouldn't have known there was much difference! Btw, I have found super great prices on stemware at Ross, TJ Maxx, and Tuesday Morning. I look for the single ones b/c they are usually from a 2 piece set where one gets broken so the other is clearanced even more than the store's original closeout price. Once I picked up our wedding crystal brandy glass for under $1! I also found a nice decanter at a Mikasa outlet years ago.

Isabella's Mom said...

Our grocery store (Harris Teeter) has an amazing wine section and always has wine on sale. I try out so many different wines because I just look at the ones on sale for $4-6 off the regular price, with a sale price around $6-$7. Rex Goliath used to be $10 there, then it went on sale a couple of months back for 2/$10! We stocked up!!! Then they dropped the regular price to about $7! Harris Teeter also gives a 15% case discount and a 5% 1/2 case discount - and you can mix and match. So we rarely buy wine at Sam's Club anymore because we can get such great deals at Harris Teeter!

Anonymous said...

Never mind! I forgot that I had a Wordpress account! :

Anonymous said...

I had to laugh after reading this, look at my latest blog post. You'll be horrified! :D