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  • November 13, 2015 3 min read

    Maybe your mother in law is visiting? Or your boss is hosting a Saturday night barbecue for you and your backstabbing colleagues? Or perhaps you are on your 100th blind date and honestly, you are feeling a little jaded?

    Let’s face it. Sometimes you are obliged to go to events that are emotionally draining. But if you cannot weasel your way out and going empty handed is out of the question, a practical option may be to bring a bottle of wine that is at least friendly on the wallet. You do not have to add financial pain to emotional distress.

    But how can you be cheap without being branded a cheapskate? Follow these three steps to dress up your bottle and you just might achieve this delicate balance.

    1.    Getting the temperature right

    We all know that a wine served too warm tastes flat. This is especially true for a bottle of cheap wine. If a warm wine tastes flat, imagine how a warm cheap wine will taste like. Always chill your wine before serving. This applies to red wine as well. When a wine is served chilled, it tastes more refreshing. As it warms up in the glass, more flavours are released, giving the impression that the wine is evolving and has a lot more going for it. Refreshing and evolution are buzzwords that never fail. Just make sure everyone drinks up before the wine’s lack of depth becomes apparent.

    2.    Serve it with cheese

    In the trade, we say “buy on apple, sell on cheese”. Food with high malic acid such as apples makes a wine’s acidity and tannins more obvious. It tastes a lot sharper and rougher and generally less pleasant. Only very good quality wines can stand up to the test. On the other hand, lactic acid in cheese helps soften and flesh out wines and makes even the most ordinary wine tastes so much better. The next time you open a cheap bottle, do consider having some cheese. If budget is an issue, sourdough bread will do the trick.

    3.    Serve out of a decanter

    Like it or not, first impressions count and some people go to extremes to ace it. An incident I witnessed in a restaurant years ago still tickles me to this day. A customer was waiting for his date and he asked about the corkage charge. It wasn’t expensive, so the bloke took a bottle of Yellowtail from his bag and told the waiter in no uncertain terms to chuck the bottle and serve it from the decanter over dinner. Throughout the evening, the bloke never mentioned the label to his date, although he did say he was saving it for a special occasion. I don’t know if there was a happy ending for him, but I was really impressed with his ingenuity.

    Joke aside, there really is a good reason to serve a cheap wine out of a decanter. Very often, sulphites are added to wine to preserve it. In the case of red wine, sulphites help in colour pigment extraction, so the resulting wine looks redder. For cheap wine, this addition can sometimes be very noticeable. Sulphites give off an undesirable smell reminiscent of a burning matchstick. Serving the wine out of the decanter gets rid of the smell fast and lets wholesome wine aromas to surface quickly. You can buy a cheap decanter at IKEA.


    So there we have it. Three simple steps to help you get away with cheap wine. I hope you will never need to do these often, but in life, we play with the cards we’re dealt with.

    Have you ever poured cheap wine in a social setting and worried about being called out? I will like to hear what you did to make it taste better than it really was.

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