In Praise of Cheap Red Wine

He probably doesn’t even realize he’s doing it, but the guy at the liquor store makes a face when I buy this wine. The expression says, “Ugh… that stuff is crap. Enjoy the rotgut, chump.”

Yes, it would be quite an ego stroke to be congratulated by the clerk for picking out something extraordinary — but I don’t want that, I just want a glass of wine while cooking dinner. I’m not buying the $50 bottle of 2007 Stags’ Leap Cabernet Sauvignon.

He can’t help it; most people (me included) don’t know much about wine. A good liquor store clerk helps the customer not make a mistake — especially if it’s for a special occasion or they’re presenting it as a gift. You don’t want them walking away with something awful.

But wine in America has been elevated to the rarefied strata of class and sophistication — at the expense of ordinary table wine. The Europeans seem to understand this better, that you have the everyday wine and the special wine.

No, I wouldn’t bring a 1.5 liter bottle of Yellow Tail that cost $11 as a housewarming gift, but I’ll certainly quaff it while chopping up garlic.

On the other hand, it’s always worth spending a few extra bucks for good beer. And I wouldn’t look down on somebody with a case of Keystone in their shopping cart, just someone who puts ice in it.

15 thoughts on “In Praise of Cheap Red Wine

  1. I took a wine class last year and was worried it would ruin me, turning me into some sort of snooty connoisseur who could not appreciate a blue collar vintage. Actually, it did just the opposite.

    Now I’m an expert at rooting out low priced wines of a very good quality. When it comes to wine, people often spend too much time thinking and not enough drinking.

    1. To be fair, he was quietly snooty.

      Mad Dog? Ack! I remember back in high school we would drink Tango Screwdriver. Just the thought of that stuff makes we want to hurl.

    1. Not a big Trader Joe’s fan, but I’d go there for that!

      (Except in NY, of course, where for some reason you can buy beer at the supermarket but not wine)

  2. Inexpensive table wine is good for cooking. As Ina Garten from Food Network’s “Barefoot Contessa” says, “Never cook with anything you wouldn’t drink.”

    Must I be the one to mention Thunderbird? My mom once threw a party and invited some neighbors. One old woman carried on about how much she liked the wine my mother served. “Clara” brought a bottle of wine, too.

    The next morning, we took Clara’s wine out of the bag and our jaws dropped. It was a huge bottle of the fruit-flavored kerosene, which set Clara (who was well off) back about $2 (1986). We ended up dumping it down the drain, although I voted to take it to our town’s “Otis Campbell.” Mom vetoed that, saying that “Otis” would turn it down.

  3. We need to stage a Thunderbird vs. Wild Irish Rose taste-off. Maybe it could be a blogger meetup? I’ll shoot Mike Huber an email.

  4. I couldn’t agree more.

    I will make a bottle of Barefoot Cab or Block 50 Shiraz disappear during a basketball game, while making pizza or during a Jersey Shore marathon…that’s why they were created.

    I’m a wine snob in the making but I still enjoy being able to buy a bottle with a $20 bill and having enough change by buy my daugther a Dora the Explorer coloring book and crayons with the change.

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