I have a somewhat unpopular confession to make – I like cheap wine. I love it, in fact, and let me tell you why.
All wine tasting and buying is a game. There are some circumstances – occasion, season, personal preference, amount available to spend – and an objective – buy a great bottle of wine. The game would be too easy if the sky was the limit in terms of price. Sure, If money allowed I’d drink lots of Veuve Clicquot, Chateauneuf-du-Pape, and big California reds, but something tells me it would get a little too deliciously simple after a while. Where’s the experimentation? Where’s the intrigue? How can you know you’ve truly hit the mark on a good bottle if you’ve never missed it?
Full disclosure: In addition to being a big wine-lover, I am also a huge bargain-hunter. I relish spending the least possible amount on the largest possible return.
Everything you see in any given store is offering you something, and wine is no different. Each bottle offers its own version of value, but not every bottle’s offer will match the value you expect from buying it and tasting the sweet nectar it holds. On top of that, some wines will want you to pay more because of the name on the bottle, or the specific adorable little hillside its grapes were grown on. Francis Ford Coppola really wants you to think his wine is valuable, and so does the Champagne region in France, for example. Are you going to agree or disagree with what they’ve offering you?
Each bottle is a decision, and a gamble. How much do I think I’ll like this wine? Would I bet $10 to find out? $20? $50? More? For me, the more I invest in a wine the more I expect to love it. But it doesn’t always work like that, which is why I keep my gambles low. If wine was Vegas, I would be at the $1 buy-in tables, turning up my nose at the high-roller tables and private back rooms.
And that, my friends, is why cheap wine can be so exhilerating. It’s like Russian Roulette, except nothing is dying. Well, maybe a few brain cells – we are drinking, after all.
What’s your price limit with wine?
I love your headline and I love cheap wine too! Good wine doesn’t have to be expensive. I usually think about how and where I will drink the wine. For example, if I’m planning to sip the bottle of wine with a few a friends (or alone) on my back deck I may not spend as much as I would if I was about to serve it at a dinner party or a special occasion.
I do that too, and definitely spend less when it’s more low-stakes drinking. Sounds like we might have to do some wine-sipping together sometime soon? 🙂
Looked at another way, when a $30 bottle of wine really delivers I’m not nearly as wowed as when a $15 bottle fills my senses with bliss! Therein lies the challenge! My husband mocks me for not spending more than $20 on a vintage bottle but my agenda is to find that bottle of nature’s elixir for $16 or less!
I love finding those delicious, go-to cheap wines. If you like Shiraz, Deakin Estate from Australia is $9.95 and one I usually fall back on. However, it certainly is like Russian roulette if you’re choosing without trying/don’t have a recommendation. I hate paying less for a bottle I don’t enjoy – I’d rather pay $5-10 more and savour every sip. 🙂
Even a more expensive bottle can be a disappointment though, especially if it’s an unknown quantity. But the less I invest in a bottle the less disappointed I am because the buy-in was so low.
This is awesome, Meg! It really is a gamble when exploring new wines because there are so many of them to choose from. I spend, on average, $10-$13 a bottle, but if a wine is $1 off, I totally go for it. I definitely avoid the vintages section because I seriously can’t afford anything there, but when I can- I will ask you about it!
We have very similar buying strategies!
You should still take a look at Vintages. You’re right that most of it is cost-prohibitive, but there are usually some interesting wines for about $14-15 if you’re looking for a new wine adventure.
Not really a confession for me but I love cheap wine too! What I usually do is go for the rose wine, and if it’s under 9 dollars I usually don’t buy it… BUT if it’s on sale and ends up under 9 dollars then heck yes. My friend and I usually go through a bottle each…(that’s a confession)…so wine night we spend more on fancy cheese or fancy chocolate 🙂 priorities!
I admire these priorities! Cheese is a wonderful thing, and it’s definitely more challenging to find good cheese at a bargain.
One of the things I’m most looking forward to with the warmer weather is getting back to my beloved rosés – blog post to come!