How I Learned to Appreciate Cheap Wine


One September evening in 2013, my father opened a bottle of wine to enoy with the family–a red blend from Australia.  He wanted to share something special with his wine geek daughter.  It was nine years old, vintage 2004.

The nose had black cherries, cigar, eucalyptus, and more.  Half an hour later it opened up a bit more and had truffles, leather, cologne and sandalwood.  And so on and so on.  I got at least 20 notes from that wine.  Not only that, but it had great length and depth, with a generous headiness to set me in the mood of contemplation.  I remember sitting alone in an armchair, in the dim light of the living room, cupping the glass in hand, and just concentrating.

Fast forward to summer 2013, when Randy and I took a wine trip to Napa.  We visited a world-famous winery that produces an iconic red blend, and I had to try a glass of it. It was expensive, but I didn’t care! It was legend.

The blend shared many of the same notes as the Australian blend from a year ago, and had that same wonderful quality of revealing layer after layer of surprise.  Truffles and cologne? Check.  Sandalwood and cherries? Check.  It was nice to experience a wine I had once only read about.

But…the glass of wine cost $40.  Whereas the bottle of Australian wine had also cost $40.  And although both were quality reds, it was the Australian that had possessed that je ne sais quoi factor.

I learned a valuable lesson that day.  You do not need to spend $200 for a great bottle of wine.  It was fun to try, but I don’t know if I’d spend that much on a single glass again (okay, maybe for Penfold’s Grange).

It was worth the $40 to check it off my bucket list, but $40 could get takeout for Randy and me two times. And that, in the long run, is a much better use of our hard-earned cash.  Leave the $200 bottles to the corporate lawyers, CEOs, and whoever else makes a lot of money.  Teachers and substitute teachers can subsist on $17 vins de tables and the occasional $30 splurge.

I’m not saying $200 bottles are not worth it.  But I am saying I now realize it’s foolish to overextend your budget just for that experience.  There are enough great wines for $40.


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