Wine and the City – Can Wine be “Tastefully Cheap”?

Does money buy taste? For the former president of the United States, it may have bought a model wife and a serious property portfolio, but it didn’t hide his toupee or the orange tan. So what about wine – is a big price ticket all that counts or can you have a good time and save your pennies? 

There is no doubt that Penfolds Grange is greater than Goon, but does pricey wine always come out on top? We live in a world where many of us would rather blow a week’s rent and survive off Mie Goreng than be that person to bring a bad bottle of wine to a dinner party. Everyone remembers the guy who brought Moscato to a champagne breakfast. RIP Moscato Man. 

What if I told you that there was a way to have it all? To have your cake and eat it too with a great Pinot Noir – all it takes is confidence and being a little risqué. 

It is time we took inspiration from the fashion industry. 40% of online sales are returned. Yet we continue to risk the wrong fit, identity theft, Grandma’s doily instead of ‘boho’ and Dolce & Bananas. Why?

Why do we brag about a bargain little black dress but never admit to a cut price chardonnay or a reduced riesling? Perhaps we fear the wine will be judged by its label and not what’s in the glass. What if it’s bad? Will I look cheap? The world of wine is just like High School or Mothers Group; we want to impress the cool wine drinkers and fit in, so we spend more to minimise the risk of embarrassment.

Flashbacks to my thirteen-year-old self, rocking a lisp and blue dental plate, reminded me that you are not always going to be cool. Nor can you impress everyone. So, I rounded up the people who accepted me when I could fit a two-dollar coin between my front teeth and set out to prove that a good wine does not need to break the bank. 

Tom is the most conservative drinker of the group and works in the medical industry. Often trying to impress surgeons, he lists Rockford Basket Press and Mornington Peninsula Pinot Noirs as his favourites. And at 30 years of age, he is no stranger to taking a few bottles from his father’s cellar.

Emily is a label person and advocate for Afterpay. With a background in marketing, she is the most likely to select a wine based on pretty packaging. Like any female in their late 20s, she also lists “cheese and wine with the girls” as a hobby, despite being lactose intolerant.

Marty is the adventurous one and loves to try something new for bragging rights. He lists armadillo, scorpion, moose meatballs and a 100-year-old goose egg as some of his culinary conquests. Considering himself the alpha male, Marty works in the construction industry and, although in a corporate role, often reminds others of his time “on the tools”.

It’s 6.50pm, the table is set with tasting glasses in a row. Pens, note pads and water too – I have found my calling as a wine steward.

7pm and the guests arrive; Emily with a cooler bag full of cured meats, chèvre, quadruple cream Brie, muscatels and quince paste. Marty and Tom are packing a six pack of beer, each. It’s time to taste some wine.

2018 Kendall Jackson Zinfandel

Nicknaming it Kendall Jenner, this wine was very Kardashian. Artificial, overpriced and nothing left to the imagination. In true US fashion, the flavours were supersized; blackberry jam, glacé cherries, sweet liquorice and darts. For $35 we agreed this was the perfect regifting wine.

2019 Sancho Garc?s Tempranillo

There was some nostalgia with this wine and Emily put it best “It reminds me of 2007 when you only had $5 for wine.” A fun label, with foreign charm, it served its purpose and at $9.99 the group collectively agreed it was best served in Sangria. 

2018 LAS Vino’s Margaret River T.N.T (Touriga Nacional Tinto Cão)

Wax sealed cork, rum-shaped bottle and straight from the set of Pirates of the Caribbean. Emily was appealed to its rogue yet vogue design, a little bit ‘Alexander McQueen’. We were unanimous in thinking that the wine was in the $40-$50 price bracket. At $42 the group were bang on. There was something seductive about this wine, “dark and handsome” with a velvet mouth feel. Tom cheekily noted that, “this wine is trying to get in your…glass”. Christmas cherries, Lindt 85% cocoa (the one we’re convinced is better for us) and the scent of rain after consecutive 40 degree days. With sobriety fleeting, the illustrative descriptions of Emily, Tom and Marty confirmed that this was as its name suggested… dynamite (Sorry I had to).

2019 Little Yering Pinot Noir

This was a wine that tastes like you’d want a rebound to look (their words not mine). Uncomplicated, she’s fun and approachable with raspberry, Allen’s Strawberries & Cream and a little bit of spice. However, in the dating world of Pinot Noir you know there is better out there which is more complex, intriguing and leaves you wanting more. But for $20 we were not left feeling cheated. You can bring this to a dinner party without fear of judgment.

2020 19 Crimes Shiraz

Matt black bottle, mug shots of convicts and a partnership with Snoop Dogg – this is Fight Club spec Brad Pitt. Could the 20th crime be that this $10.95 Shiraz is a crowd pleaser? Perceived as $22, there was initial scepticism of a too sweet, too alcoholic style. However, when the team found out they could buy 2 for the price of 1, flavours of Ribena and Portobello jelly were suddenly desirable and deemed value for money.

When wine was described as “a freshly opened can of tennis balls” and Tom omitted the ‘o’ in chocolate, I realised after your 6th bottle that price and quality become irrelevant. Just like Fight Club, the irrational fear of buying a bad wine or looking cheap is all in our head and every wine has its time and place. And the worst-case scenario is that you end up with a key ingredient for Spaghetti Bolognese. And there it is folks – how to have your wine and eat it too!

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