How To Make Cheap Wine Taste Expensive

November 19, 2014

Want to throw a classy party but don't have the money to spend? Here's how to make cheap wine taste expensive!

I love me some cheap wine, but that doesn’t mean I don’t want it to taste more expensive.  As a gal on a budget, chances are you may not want to be a total wine snob, but you would be able to like to, at the very least,  be confident in your wine buying prowess.

To begin exploring wines and thus be able to incorporate new varieties into your holiday hostessing, you may want to start with some cheaper bottles- but luckily, they don’t have to taste so cheap!  Here are some of my favorite tips to help you get adventurous with your palate and make cheap wines taste expensive.


1.  Go On A Wine Adventure & Intentionally Explore

If you’re like me, you buy wines based on labels or with funny names, or perhaps whatever is the absolute cheapest. For years I had no rhyme or reason as to what I bought- but when I discovered what my favorite wine was, a Pinot Noir, I then could peruse the many $10 wines at Trader Joe’s to find the best one for my palate. But, how did I figure out it was all about the Pinor Noir? Well, I would sit down and intentionally try my wines.

You can batch wines, tasting a few Merlots one night with friends, then moving on to the Shiraz- or you can buy one of each type and do a taste test (hopefully with others around, that is so. Much. Wine.)  When you are able to narrow down your wine tasting preferences, you’ll have more buying confidence before your next party or when you purchase a hostess gift.  Eventually, the goal will be to have a few wine go-tos that you know are perfect for whatever evening you’ll be having and not entirely base your choices on how pretty the label is, but rather, have taste-based preferences to base them on.


2.  Crowdsource Other People’s Tastes

So, a slightly contrary position to take after my first point- if you’re not totally flush with cash (and have a strong liver) you may not be able to explore wines as much as often or as completely as you’d like.  That’s fine- I’ve been there, so simply piggy back off the palates of your more cultured friends.  Don’t be afraid to use social media outlets for ideas and feedback when buying your wines, chances are somebody you know is quite an aficionado and would gush with pride to share their knowledge with you.

Simply putting it out there on Facebook, surely you have one wine aficionado who won’t be too snobby when you want to know what the best cheap wines are. If you find that you’re staring down the wine aisle and the vast number of similarly labeled bottles is making you dizzy- I’ve had great luck sending a tweet out for people to crowdsource my next purchase. I may not be confident in my wine prowess, but someone on Twitter is bound to be totally opinionated about theirs!

If you’re more of an “in person” type of social butterfly- throw a wine party. Have everyone bring their favorite and spend the night together learning the art of wines. Try not to get so boozey you don’t learn anything though- that seems to be my problem 😉  Case in point- I told a friend that I was trying to learn wines and she and her husband invited me over for an afternoon.  Turns out they volunteer at a local winery and had an insanely cultivated collection which they were more than happy to share with me.  Yes, I hit the jackpot- you could too.


4.  Chill All The Wines..All Of Them.

Keeping wine at the right temperature is key- even if you don’t have a wine fridge (because honestly, who does? I don’t). If your wines are in direct sunlight, near an oven or sitting up high (like on top of the fridge or on a high shelf in a pantry) temperature fluctuations can really make a difference.

Also, quick tip- chilling even red wines make them taste better. Yes, I was aghast about this as well, but I’ve heard from several of my wineo friends and a local wine seller that this is the way to go. Chilled wines are classy wines, even if they cost $1.99 and are named after a guy named Boone. (Okay, scratch that last part….just, don’t.)


 5.  Give Your Wine Some Air

Fancy glass wine decanters can be pricey and most likely cost more than the wine you’re buying..well, at least, the wine I’m buying. You can though, get a great wine decanter for about $25 off Amazon, or there’s also options of aerator spouts for about $7.

The ultimate cheap option though, is to simply open the wine, pour it in a pitcher, and let it breathe for a bit- your wine can change a bit when it’s aired out.  This can be a helpful tactic in making it a bit better if your $3 wine truly tastes like $3 wine.


6.  Taste Often & Learn

Many boozeries (places that sell lots of booze, like Binny’s in the Midwest, and yes it’s a word I use now) have staffers that can really give you an education about the wines they stock, but you can also find gobs of free wine tastings at markets, and yes, even Target, on select days. Local restaurants and shops offer paid tastings/classes, but honestly- even bursts of free exposure, like a free Saturday wine tasting at Trader Joe’s is a good way to explore and it costs you nothing- you may just have to sit through a sales pitch.
Most in store events will be posted on a flyer near the door or touted on social media- but it never hurts to ask if you don’t see something posted. I’ve had some good sips while out weekend shopping at Target, Mariano’s, Whole Foods & Trader Joe’s!


A Frugal Guide To Make Cheap Wine Taste Better… You're going to love that two buck chuck!


What is your favorite way to explore new wines on a budget?

Any recommendations for a kind I have to try next?


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9 comments so far.

9 responses to “How To Make Cheap Wine Taste Expensive”

  1. Christina says:

    19 Crimes Red Blend. It can be found at Kroger and is amazing!!

  2. Katie says:

    I am quite a fan of the Naked Grape myself… very good for summer sangrias.

  3. Caitlin M says:

    Wine nerd alert!

    While all wines should indeed be chilled, the degree to which depends on the wine – don’t just keep them all in the fridge. While whites can be kept there, reds should just be popped in before serving and otherwise stored in a cool place.

    Since serving rules are pretty much a result of traditional cellar storage, most wines indeed need to be chilled to best attain “cellar” temps (unless, of course, you store wine in an unheated basement!)

    A good rule of thumb is the lighter the body of the red, the more chilled it can be, but never as cold as a white. So, a Pinot Noir can be lightly chilled (maybe 30 min) but, say, a Cabernet should only be chilled enough to take the warm edge off (maybe 10 min).

    Taste weird? Chill it more, or leave it out. Try decanting it (you can thrift a decanter, or use a pitcher!) to let it breathe for an hour. Most if my dirt cheap wines taste WAY better after this…sometimes even better the next day!)

    These guidelines will make all wine taste better (cheap AND expensive), so just have fun!

    • Loie Maxwell says:

      LOVE this! Great ideas and of course I’m loving the comment about Coca Cola making crap red wine taste better – I’m on the case….. FYI – I’m going to tweet this puppy out to my followers. They have an appreciation for living life to the fullest on a budget as do moi…xoxox

  4. Janine says:

    These are some great tips! I have a thing for expensive wines, but I’v also managed to find some amazing wines that taste excellent and they are around the $10-$15 mark!

  5. Another cool trick I learned: If you experiment with a red wine that you really end up disliking, add a little Coca-Cola to it. It can make any gross red instantly taste better!

  6. Ann says:

    Wine tip. If you need to serve red wine now and you haven’t had time to let it breathe you could air it quickly by whirling it in a blender for a minute.


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