Wowing Your Guests With Inexpensive Wine

As featured in Pulse Magazine

What makes a holiday party fun and memorable?  Great food and great wine!  That’s an easy answer.  If it’s your turn to host or organize the festivities this holiday season, you want to impress your guests.  This year, don’t let the good times impact your budget – step outside of the box with a new approach!  Serve wine that drinks like a $50 bottle, but only costs $10.

What’s the difference between the bottles that cost $10 or $50?

Some people claim that they can’t taste the difference between a bottle of wine that costs $10 and one that costs $50.  Maybe that’s true… if you’ve had a really awful $50 bottle of wine!  Let’s take a step back for a minute and do some reverse supply chain logistics.  You buy your bottle of wine from a retailer (who takes a profit), they buy their products from a distributor (2nd profit), who buys from an importer (3rd profit), and, before that, a winery (4th profit).  Let’s say after all those profits, that $10 bottle costs the winery $3 to make including the glass bottle, label, cork and foil around the cork.  Pretty cheap, huh?  So what are you really drinking at that point?  Honestly, probably some low quality grape juice and chemicals.

Back to the $50 bottle and the $10 bottle and the difference between the two:  it’s the quality of grapes/juice, quality of production, and quantity produced.  The $50 bottle of wine uses the highest quality grapes generally aged in oak barrels.  The $10 bottle has oak chips or oak flavoring thrown in.  The $50 is aged and watched intensely by the winemaker for anywhere between one and three years.  Bottles that are $10 usually are in and out of a winery within months.  Finally, there aren’t a lot of those $50 bottles.

How do I get cheap wine to taste great?

Let’s clarify for a second; you never want ‘cheap’ wine, inexpensive – yes, cheap – no.  Cheap is exactly what we just talked about… cheap ingredients and cheap production.  What we’re looking for is a wine produced like that $50 bottle for a much less expensive price.  Here are a couple of ways to save some money while maintaining quality.

1.       Think Exchange Rate: It’s a simple economics lesson that when the US dollar is up against certain foreign currencies, the goods of that other country are cheaper for us.  How can this apply to wine?  There is a favorable exchange rate in countries like Argentina and Chile that are also incidentally producing some very good wines.  Countries like these also have a lower cost of living, and are able use the higher quality production items for a less expensive price.

2.       Try Something New: Unique varietals, not your standard Cabernet or Chardonnay, are much easier to find at a lower price point.  One reason is because they aren’t as ‘popular’ as the other grape varietals, and also because sometimes they are less expensive to produce.  Some favorites are Torrontes on the white side, and Carmenere or Barbera on the red side.

Picking your party wine

Now that we have some basics in shopping for great ‘inexpensive’ wine, let’s pick those party wines!  First, you want to shop at a store that offers a mix and match case discount, typically 10% off.  This allows you to mix and match wines of a higher price point with less expensive items to get to an average bottle price that is within your budget.  Have your sales representative help you select wines that are crowd pleasers and friendly to most palettes.  Pick some higher priced wines for the first hour and a half of a party, then switch to a drinkable, good house wine.  I call this the Third Bottle Theory.  When people arrive at a party, they generally have one and half drinks per hour.  Most people’s palettes and taste can only be discerning for so long.  They will not even know that you switched the wine selection, and will be super impressed with the quality of wine that was served.

It may also be fun to theme your holiday party, such as serving all South American wines, which are very popular right now.  Put a different twist on your holiday party by using decorative holiday bags and concealing the identity of each wine bottle.  Select a mix of bottles priced in a range of $5 to $50 a bottle, and then have the guests taste and rank each of the wines.  If some guests aren’t acquainted with each other, this game encourages discussion and breaks the ice.

Happy Holidays from Decanted!  Cheers!

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Posted on December 7, 2010, in Wine. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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