How to Find Great Wines for Under $15
The wine world is full of snobbery and some so-called “experts” will exclaim that good wines under $15 dollars don’t exist, and are always ready to ridicule the tastes and preferences of people who may not know much about wines. This is the part about wine education that can be very intimidating to some people. However, a beginner need not fear; learning about wines can be a lot of fun once the misplaced elitism is taken away. As many sommeliers and multi-starred chefs will say, the best wine is the wine that YOU like. And this is how you find which wines work best for you, at a price you can more than afford.
The best way to get to learn about wine and build up an idea of what you like and don’t like is to throw a party. That’s right. Instead of paying mega-bucks to go to a wine-tasting hosted by a shop or alcohol outlet, invite all of your friends over and have your own wine tasting. You and your friends don’t need any previous knowledge about wine for the event to work; in fact, in some cases it works better if people don’t have any preconceived notions about wine tastings.
In order to try the most wines possible at the event, each guest should bring along one bottle. The only rule is that the bottle of wine MUST cost under $15 or $10 if you and your friends are on a tight budget. If you or your friends have difficulty deciding on a wine when you’re in the shop, just ask an employee to help you; they usually know which wines are half-way decent. Just let the employee know you’re on a budget, and keep in mind that at this point, it doesn’t matter if the wine chosen is red or white; the name of the game is just trying new things.
Before your party guests arrive, make sure that you have a few snacks; have some sliced fruit, some sliced vegetables, some cheeses, cold-cuts and crackers and maybe some chips in nice bowls. Along with the nibbles, make sure that there is at least one sheet of paper and a pen or pencil for each guest to write with. Also make sure that you have a corkscrew and know how to use it so that you won’t be stuck trying to remove a wine cork with a butter knife or some other inappropriate instrument. Now you are all set for your wine tasting.
If 10 people show up to the wine tasting party, there will be 11 wines including your chosen bottle to sample from. The rules are simple; everybody tastes the same wine at the same time. Everybody writes down the name of the wine on their paper, and after tasting they must answer the question “Would you spend 15 bucks on this?” If a person answers “maybe”, it counts as a “no”; remember, we’re looking for wines that are great, not mediocre or passable.
Guests can eat snacks the entire time, and encourage everyone to write down any observations about the wine that they may have, such as foods they think may go well with the wine, any outstanding characteristics, or what they think may make the wine taste so yummy. Some of the wines are going to be terrific; other wines are going to be absolute splonk. The great thing is that you and your guests will have the opportunity to sample as many wines as there are guests, you’ll be able to express your feelings about the wines served without the fear of being ridiculed by the infamous wine snobs, and you’ll be experiencing a new learning experience with your friends in a fun, relaxed environment.
This was how I started to build up my wine knowledge base, and I am very proud to say that I know a heck of a lot about wines, and I have never had to pay to go to a “wine tasting”. Some of my friends in the bartending industry took wine tasting courses that cost them up to $250 a session; all they got to try were 3 red wines, 2 white wines and had to sit through a lot of lectures on how to “taste” good wine. Furthermore, they weren’t allowed to really form their own opinion; they were basically told that the wines they were drinking were “good”. The result of their wine drinking courses was that none of them actually like wine at all now and have the idea that wine needs to be incredibly expensive to be enjoyable. Simply not true.
At your wine party, you will find that some people will absolutely love a wine that others will feel neutral about or will thoroughly hate. Wine, like everything else in life, is subjective; what’s awesome for you may be quite gross for someone else. However, the point of the wine-tasting party is to start building your wine knowledge and discover what tastes good to you without spending a fortune and wasting your precious time. As I mentioned earlier, I got my start at a wine tasting party back in 1998 where the maximum price per bottle was $8; and now, many years later, two of the wines I had at that party are still my all-time favourites, even though I’ve been very privileged to have bottles of wine that cost in the neighborhood of several hundred dollars.
Enjoy your wine party, and never forget that nobody can tell you what to like: the best wine on the market is always the one that YOU happen to like best!