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Getting the Most from Value Red Wine

March 12, 2010

Every wine retailer sells a red wine under $15 recommended as a great value. Some of these are spectacular and would taste great out of a dixie cup at a tailgate. This is a post about the others (see the 4v reviews on this site for examples of identified top values needing no improvement).

Some wines are second, third, and heaven help us, fourth labels of wineries bottling to rid themselves of juice not worthy for other labels. Some of these wines can have harsh flavors, astringency, off notes, and other unpleasant aromas and flavors to lessen the experience. I prefer to avoid bottles from big corporate wineries, but am frequently duped.

In some instances, the best solution to improve the value of the moment is to rinse out the glass and open a different bottle. However, follows are a couple of tricks every value buyer should consider to get the most from a value red.

1. Decanting – Most red wine tastes better decanted. This is especially true of less expensive wine when harsh on opening. Everyone should own something to decant wine. Fancy crystal stuff works, but is expensive. A water pitcher could suffice, but I prefer something simple and dishwasher safe.

Decant the wine 30 minutes before drinking. Wine geeks will discuss allowing the wine time to breathe, rate of oxygen transfer, etc., but think of it as quick aging.

2. Pouring/Fining – Because in real life, none of us have 30 minutes to wait for decanting, I frequently opt to skip step 1 above. At home, I use the Wine Finer to pour and aerate the wine from bottle to glass. This attempts to duplicate the benefits of decanting.

Years of research gives me the opinion it softens the harsher notes and filters out any bits of cork and sediment. Every lover of value wine should invest in one of these, or better yet, receive it as a gift.

3. Glassware. Great wine can stand up to any method of serving (see reference to disposable dixie cup drinking above). Most wine in the value category needs to be presented in their very best light. Think of it as lighting and lens filters for a movie star with fading looks or air brushing photographs of the chemically dependant rock star for the magazine cover. I won’t name names as I don’t want to be sued.

Wine glasses can be super complicated with designs for specific varietals and have stems so delicate they require hand washing. I choose high end glassware without stems that are dishwasher safe. There are more expensive and cheaper options, but these work perfectly, don’t have stems to shear off in the dishwasher, work equally well for reds and whites, and have the fancy tuned shape designed by experts to enhance wine aromas and flavors.

Next time your value wine isn’t perfect, try one, or all of these tricks and you may improve the value.

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