Mission: Good, Cheap Wine

Mission: Good, Cheap Wine

I like wine…good, expensive wine. I am a little bit of a wine snob. So now that we’re on a strict budget, I’ve made it my mission to find decent, cheap wine that is palatable to this little snob. Because we don’t have reliable refrigeration (and because there’s nothing worse than warm, cheap white wine), this search has to be limited to the best cheap red wine.

First I thought I could stick with less expensive bottles of wine — this mission started out as a $10-and-under best bottle of Zinfandel search. I am a huge RED Zinfandel fan, and I thought it’d be fun to find a cheaper bottle that could stand up to my favorite, Ridge. In my limited research, I am pretty confident that Kenwood Yulupa Zinfandel is probably the closest you can get for $9/bottle. But then I realized that the unit cost of a $10 bottle of wine was still too high for our circumstances, at $2.50/glass (I am assuming 4 glasses/bottle, a generous pour). This would have to evolve into a search for…gasp…the best, cheap, red, boxed wine.

Those of you who know Paul know that he loves boxed wine. He always goes for the underdogs. The cheap coffee, cheap whiskey. Now, I don’t need to drink $30 bottles every night, but I like my wine to taste good – that’s the whole point.

With 4 bottles/16 glasses per 3L box, at least you get a good volume of wine in a box. But it’s scary to commit to that quantity without having an idea of the quality. So consider me your guinea pig. But be patient: it’s going to take a long time to compile this list, since I can only get through the equivalent of four bottles of wine so fast. And please, share any tasty red boxes you may have come across in your adventures in the comments!

So where to start…in the past I’ve tried the Bota Box Cab, boxed Big House Red, Black Box Malbec and Cab, and of course many flavors of Franzia, though I haven’t had that since college so those recollections are hazy. Out of all of these, the only one I’d even consider purchasing again is the Big House Red, but I haven’t seen it again, so I’ve branched out to the following:

FishEye Shiraz (unit cost: about $19/box / $1.19/glass)
This has been my favorite so far, with enough complexity and versatility to make it continually interesting to drink. But it didn’t taste as good indoors: when consumed at a modest Rodeway Inn, its flavor whimpered on the palate. It demands to be consumed in the fresh air. Good for barbeques, picnics, camping or canoeing trips, on the porch – you name it, as long as it’s under the open sky.

Hardys Shiraz (unit cost: about $15/box / $0.94/glass)
Sort of boring. Not bad, just not interesting. This is a good, sturdy, regular old Shiraz. I wouldn’t buy it again – I want more drama.

Bota Box Old Vine Zinfandel (unit cost: about $19/box / $1.19/glass)
This ranged from gross to nasty to barely palatable, depending on the day. The best it tasted was when we drank the last glass in front of a smoky mesquite fire, a setup that requires too much effort to replicate. I can’t quite put my finger on the problem – I just didn’t like it.

Kenwood Yulupa
Sigh…someday maybe we’ll meet again, Kenwood Yulupa.

More to come!