As a wine auctioneer, I've been privileged to travel across the country selling some of the worlds' bests wine for huge, sometimes staggering amounts of money. Anybody got a spare $232,692.00 lying around for a bottle of Châteaux Lafite-Rothschild 1869? No? Good, me neither. And there's the downside to my great gig -- you never get a chance to drink the wine -- ever!
So what's a wine lover like me on a budget to do? And when I say budget, my idea of a good affordable wine is to spend $20 or less. After all, wine is for drinking and there has to be a better way to break the bank.
With that idea, I set out to learn about good, drinkable wine in my budget. My approach was to study wine with the same approach I'd become accustomed to with my investigations as a History Detective on the PBS television show. After all, wine, like other objects, has history, culture, geographic influences, comparables in the market place and certainly a huge amount of literature, all of which to choose from. So I dove right in to my research and liked the topic so much I ended up writing a book, Great Wines Under $20 as way to share my love of wine and the good word that wine doesn't have to be expensive to be good.
There is much to say and I could go into great detail, but as the holiday season approaches, here are my quick tips about enjoying wine at affordable prices!
- For White Wine: use a smaller, narrower glass, preferably a tulip shape. For Red Wine: use a wider, larger rimmed glass. If you use one, go with red wine glasses for both.
- You do not need expensive crystal to enjoy your bottle and there are plenty of affordable options on the market, but whatever you do, please stay away from plastic.
- There is nothing wrong with a screw cap! It tends to be more common on economical wines than those higher priced, but it doesn't mean the wine is "cheap." Even better -- it's easy to open and easy to save.
- When drinking wine below $20, do not worry about the vintage. Most of these wines are meant for immediate consumption and are not produced to be stored in wine cellars for years.
- While the old axiom of pairing white wine with fish and red wine with meat is not a rule written in stone, it does have some validity and makes for a good starting point if unsure what do buy with your meal.
- You can not go wrong by pairing food and wine by region.
- Cheaper red wine usually needs to breathe before it is served. Keep it in your glass for a while or pour it into a decanter. No, uncorking the bottle is not enough...
- You do not need to spend a lot of money on a cork screw. The simple waiter style cork screw will do the job just as well and at a fraction of the cost.
- At wine under $20, you do not need to be a sommelier to pick the wine. There should be no snobby opinions or written rules here -- it's a matter of personal taste.
- Have fun! At these prices, you can play around, have wine tasting parties and just relax and enjoy without worrying about the price.