Wine Budgets Are Discretionary
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People look at wine budgets differently. Are we speaking about the cost of a single bottle of wine or the self-imposed limit we place on our monthly wine allowance? The distinction most likely is dependent on the occasion. I will share an example from our own lives.
Bill and I have frequented P.F. Chang’s over the years and often it has been for a celebration. A favorite wine we ordered for those occasions was Cline Ancient Vines Zinfandel (unfortunately they no longer include it in their wine list). The price wasn’t ridiculous, but more than we’d typically pay, and we enjoyed it so much we were unwilling to order single glasses. So, we ordered the bottle, enjoyed it thoroughly and without regret.
For us, those occasions were special, we really preferred that wine choice and it increased the celebratory mood of the event. In that moment, the budget was discretionary. Now, if it had been $50 instead of $30, we likely would have made a different selection… hmmm that is still discretionary, isn’t it?
What is a Wine Budget?
A wine budget is what YOU define it to be. Online articles refer to buying good wine or affordable wine. That is budgeting if your objective is to find good wine at a price you are comfortable paying. I think everyone has their own comfortable price point for a bottle of wine.
When you receive a discounted price for buying “6 bottles or more” or buying a case of wine, that’s terrific. But only it is a wine you already know you enjoy. We have taken advantage of special offers to join a wine club with regular deliveries at a “discounted” price. In the long run, those usually turned out to be a disappointment and we realized it was more enjoyable to select wines ourselves and maybe get that discounted price for 6 bottle or more than receive an assortment we weren’t thrilled with.
There are other factors to consider in a wine budget. Similar to your grocery budget, you know what you can afford, and you plan accordingly. During special occasions such as holiday dinners, you are more likely to spend more for special foods or just to be able to serve more people. The same holds true for wine during special occasions. Holidays and special events are going to impact your wine budget, especially if you are hosting an open house or holiday dinner.
Wine Budget Options
Probably the first question in setting a wine budget is, “How often do you drink wine?” If you normally serve wine with dinner every day and there are two of you, consider how that adds up. One bottle typically serves 6 glasses of wine X 30 days = 30 bottles. Are you starting to jump ahead with the math? Right 30 bottles at a minimal cost of $6 to $8 per bottle is $180 to $240 per month on wine!
That is not insignificant for most budgets. It is surprising how rapidly that monthly budget can increase if there are not limits set. There are alternatives to explore …
A 5 liter box of wine (yes! I said box of wine, but I really prefer calling it a “cardboard carafe”) shows it will serve the equivalent of 34 glasses. In reality, a typical glass of wine is a bit larger, which would translate to approximately 28-6 ounce glasses. Our preference at home is Fanzia Merlot or Cabernet Sauvignon which ranges from $15 – $18 per box. Even at the top end, that translates to only $0.64 per glass! ($18 ÷ 28 glasses = $0.64 per glass) Compare that to a typical $8 bottle ÷ 6 glasses = $1.33 per glass. Box wine is affordable and can be enjoyed regularly without killing the budget. An addition benefit is that it can sit in your pantry for weeks without turning to something you should add to salad dressing.
Discovering Cheap Wines
When we lived in California, we always loved Trader Joe’s Two Buck Chuck (now twice that price) and bought it regularly. We could count on consistent good quality at a great price. But the real fun at Trader Joe’s was discovering a new bargain wine, taking it to the car, uncorking the bottle and taking a sip. If it was good, we’d go back into the store and buy a few more bottles. If it was GREAT, we’d go buy a case while the price was low and there was still a case to be had!
There was the “rush” of discovering a great wine at a bargain price and it almost became a scavenger hunt game! Trader Joe’s is not the only location to find great wines. There is also World Market, Total Wine and More, Grocery Outlet and even Walmart. When you expand your horizons you may discover many options.
We recently learned of a store the places great wines on sale when they near the end of their shelf date. Buy a bottle, taste and decide. If it is to your liking and is still a great wine, then go buy more. Don’t plan on storing it long term, just enjoy the bargain.
Making Cheap Wine Taste Better – Really?
If you’ve purchased a disappointing wine, there are a few possibilities to salvage the investment. The typical top-of-the-list options are to pour the wine over ice, add some seltzer or even a lemon-lime soda to cut through the some of the unfavorable taste. This is especially pleasant in warm weather when you are expected to serve something light and chilled.
A traditional option, and one that is regularly done even for great wine, is to aerate the wine. When wine is exposed to air it helps filter the wine and allows it to breathe. Even pouring the wine into a decanter and allowing it to sit before serving is a normal process among wine enthusiasts, so it wouldn’t appear you are trying to mask an unpleasant taste.
A favorite way to offset a strong taste is to serve appetizers – and cheese is one of the best wine pairing for wine. If you are serving a wine that you find unsatisfactory, put together a simple assortment of cheeses, fruit and crackers. Fruit can be fresh, like grapes, or dried such as mango or apricots. The cheese will complement the wine and help mask any strong taste.
The bonus is that you will look like a pro!
We’ll have some tasty appetizers to share with you, so please come back to discover our creations!