Many people are confounded and intimidated at the prospect of choosing wine. There are so many varies that few other consumables are imbued with its mysterious aura. We often feel ill-equipped to competently choose wine, mistakenly believing that there’s some secret quality that makes expensive wines “better” than less costly ones. In reality, expensive wine doesn’t always taste better unless you know the price tag. The fact is, there’s a lot more to a good wine than a high price tag. That’s why wine is loved by so many. The average consumer simply doesn’t need to spend a fortune to enjoy it. However, discovering perfectly lovely wines that will fit in our budgets does take a bit of knowledge and trial and error. Here’s how to find quality wines that won’t break your budget
Let’s Demystify Wine First
It’s not that there’s no difference between expensive and less expensive wine. It’s that good wine isn’t some enigmatic, mystical thing, available only to a select, fortunate few with fat wallets. In fact, I’ve tasted ultra-expensive wine that’s been stored past its age. It’s sad because it was such a letdown. On the other hand, I’ve tasted relatively cheap wine that’s pretty amazing.
There are plenty of affordable, quality wines readily available everywhere. You just have to know where to look.
Confidently choose delightful, affordable wines:
First, discover your own taste in wine. Don’t let anyone tell you what you should like - wine preferences are as subjective as any food or beverage. Do you prefer reds or whites? Sweet or dry? Attending wine tastings is not only fun but it can help you grow your personal experience with different wines and discover your preferences. You may also begin to realize you prefer wines from a particular region, which is another helpful bit of information to use when choosing wines. Once you know what you like, seek out the best wines you can find that fit your criteria.
Ask an expert. While you needn’t be an expert yourself, there’s every reason to employ the wisdom of someone in the know. Not everyone who works at a wine shop or liquor store knows about wine, but some do. Ask around until you find someone whose judgment - and attitude - about the wine you trust. Tell them your preferences and ask them to steer you toward wines that fit them. They’ll be able to recommend “boutique” labels that are lesser-known. Rather than being off-brands, these wines are simply produced by smaller vineyards that produce a quality product while avoiding the overhead of advertising incumbent upon a big brand. That translates to savings for you.
Take notes of the wine you drink. I’m not talking about tasting notes that wine enthusiasts rave about. I’m simply saying that you should remember all the names of the wines you try. Many people taste quite a few bottles in their lifetimes, but they often forget all the ones they’ve liked when it came time to buy a new bottle. If you can’t remember which ones you like, then you are always starting from scratch. That’s why I love those wine apps. I try not to read reviews before I make a purchase because I want to draw my own conclusions, but I always try to take a picture of the label to categorize what I’ve tried because it’ll help me remember the ones I like.
When purchasing wines yourself, remember:
Wine is a global pleasure. People the world over produce and consume delightful, affordable wines every day. France, Italy, and California are NOT the only countries that produce wonderful wines. Phenomenal wines are produced in Chile, Argentina, Austria, Greece, South Africa, Israel, and, believe it or not, Long Island, NY. Try out wines from some of these lesser-known regions. You may be surprised at the quality and affordability.
Storage is Way More Important Than You Think
When I bought my house, the previous owner has a wine rack in the living room. Still, I’ve slowly stopped buying wine unless I was having it that day. You see, the wine rack I have is temperature-controlled, and I’ve found that keeping the wines in the living room simply spoils it because the summer heat changes the wine.
I also like wines slightly chilled. All this points to me having a better experience buying wines when I want to drink instead of collecting a bunch to consume later.
What’s Up with Wine’s Needing to Breathe
It’s also worth noting that oxidation plays an important role in the taste of wine. If you’ve heard of people saying that wine needs to “breathe”, then oxidizing the wine is what they mean. Oxidation can unlock flavors in wine, hence the use of decanters. You can also speed up the oxidation process by swirling the wine in the glass. However, wine exposed to oxygen eventually turns wine into vinegar. That’s why wine left out for too long turns sour. When in doubt, err on the side of not oxidizing it enough because you can always expose it to more oxygen but you can’t reverse the process.
Do a little research. Winemaking is a tradition that’s passed from generation to generation. Look into a new brand and you may learn it has a rich history. Often a relative or protege of a distinguished winemaker will branch out on their own, producing fine quality wines offered at lower prices than the “parent” vineyard’s offerings.
Diversify your retailer. Companies like Cost Plus World Market and Trader Joe’s carry international brands that are not sold in most American stores but represent great quality wines at bargain prices.
Costco is another place that sells wine at a relatively cheap price. And in some states, you don’t even need a membership to buy wine from Costco. My friend told me that California law prohibits stores from requiring paid membership to sell alcohol. That’s why you can go up to the guy at the front and tell them that you are going in to buy alcohol, then tell the cashier that you are buying alcohol and they can’t require you to have a Costco card.
Wine is meant to be enjoyed - not to cause feelings of inadequacy. Once you know what they are, you can find the elements you love in wine at a price you can afford. Just remember, quality and affordability are not mutually exclusive. There are literally hundreds of cheap wines that are delicious. You just have to take some time to find them.
Where do you find quality wines that are affordable?