December is expensive for many people. Between gifts, parties, shows, going out for New Year’s, and anything else everyday life throws at you, your wallet may be hurting a bit by the time you hit January. It seems like everything that makes December fun and exciting also strains your budget.
When you throw a party, you want your guests to have a great time and enjoy the food and drink, which may make you want to spend a little more to make your gathering memorable. But throwing a party doesn’t have to send you into bankruptcy; you just need to find some good, inexpensive wines, have a few tricks up your sleeve, and enjoy the party. While there are some good wines out there under $10, you won’t usually get the level of complexity or flavor profiles that you would in a more expensive bottle. It’s simple economics- better wines cost more because of the quality of grapes, the abilities of the winemaker, and many other factors. So, how do you make your $10 bottle of pinot taste like it’s worth more?
First, save money on the wine by buying in bulk. Many stores offer a discount if you buy 6 bottles or more, so take advantage of this! You can purchase better quality bottles for less if you buy multiples. Check out warehouse clubs like Sam’s and Costco. You can get some great values there, especially on the larger bottles. Also, look for unoaked white wines. Oak is expensive, which means money was pulled from somewhere else for it, probably lowering the quality of the finished product. Finally, don’t be afraid to try lesser known grape options. These can be a little less expensive because there isn’t super high demand. Not only will you save a little at the store, but your guests will get to try something new and possibly find a new favorite. Some of my favorite wines are made from grapes like gamay, carmenere, and tempranillo.
Once you get your wines home, make sure to treat them properly by decanting the reds and keeping the whites at the right temperature. Decanting allows the wine to breathe and the flavors to develop. The volatile compounds that cause unpleasant smells liked burned matches and rubbing alcohol will also have a chance to evaporate, which makes the tasting experience much more pleasant. And it doesn’t take that long- most of the work is done as you pour the wine from the bottle into the decanter. Don’t have a decanter? Leave the wine bottle open for a good hour.
You also want to serve white wines at the correct temperature- don’t just serve them as cold as humanly possible or pull a bottle out of the fridge at the beginning of the night and leave it out to get warm. If a wine is too cold the flavors will be suppressed and you won’t necessarily get the best taste, but if it’s too warm any less than desirable flavors will be more obvious. You can leave your wine in the refrigerator, but guests might forget about it if they’re serving themselves. If you prefer to leave the wine out, you can use a wine bottle chiller, a bucket of ice and water, or a wine chiller stick.
Once you have your wines purchased and decanted/chilled, you still have to serve them. Don’t spend a fortune on glassware. Yes, certain types of glasses can enhance the taste of certain wines. But are you hosting a party for a bunch of sommeliers who will notice the difference? I’m guessing not. Don’t worry about buying all new specialty wine glasses for the party. Just use what you have or get some from Amazon or Target for not a lot of cash. If you have a bunch of wine glasses from various wine tastings, don’t be afraid to pull those out even though they don’t match. The different logos will inspire conversations and even help people make connections when they discover they’ve been to the same places.
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I recently stopped by my local grocery store to pick up some inexpensive wines. Here are a few suggestions that will please any crowd, all for under $10 a bottle:
- Riesling- Chateau St. Michelle
- Chardonnay- Estancia, unoaked
- White blend- Skinnygirl California White
- Red blend- Cupcake Black Forest
- Pinot noir- Middle Sister Goodie Two Shoes
- Chianti- DaVinci