How to make cheap wine taste expensive

by Jessie K on January 21, 2013

186758715767348979_KeyC4cIp_cJake and I were invited to a dinner party over the weekend and our hosts served the most delicious red wine: smooth and rich without any of that tart, astringent aftertaste that is characteristic of many lesser tier wines. It was so delicious, it reminded me of my all-time favorite red. I asked the hosts what kind it was but they politely demurred. Later on, as we finished our meal, I asked again. The hostess looked a bit sheepish and asked, “You’ve heard of Three Buck Chuck, right?” I hesitated, thinking I’d just been wine punk’d.

She admitted the luscious wine I couldn’t stop praising was the famous (or infamous) Charles Shaw — a.k.a. Three Buck Chuck — Cabernet Sauvignon from Trader Joe’s for $3.29! $3.29!

The secret, she said, to making Three Buck Chuck taste top shelf is to decant it twenty minutes before serving. She began employing this trick after she also couldn’t stop commenting on the “fine wine” served at a friend’s dinner party some time ago.

Decanting — pouring wine from one vessel to another — works because it exposes a wider surface area of wine to oxygen, enabling it to take on subtle, complex flavors at an accelerated pace. (Read more about decanting here.)

I have a decanter — a wedding gift — but I admit I rarely use it, long assuming decanting is one of those fussy, old world activities performed more for pretension than any legitimate flavor benefit. I now see the error of my ways. Think of the savings! Three bottles of vino for the price of one. And I’m telling you: Three Buck Chuck tasted amazing.

One-of-a-kind decanters abound at thrift shops. If you want a new one, check out options from Terrain, CB2, MoMaStore, and Wine Enthusiast.

{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

Joolz January 21, 2013 at 9:02 pm


It’s Two Buck Chuck in California. lol

Janelle January 21, 2013 at 10:09 pm


Good thing you didn’t give away that decanter when you were cleaning out your house when the filming crew came in.

(PS – Did you ever break your consumption diet and buy that pesky important garment when you were in NYC?)

Jessie K January 22, 2013 at 9:37 am


I know! I thought about giving it away but I’m so glad I held onto it. I plan on posting about the consumption diet check in today.

Michelle January 22, 2013 at 8:55 am


I work in a winery and wanted to point out that you don’t even need a fancy decanter, just poor it into a clean empty wine bottle!

Angela Shelton January 22, 2013 at 12:52 pm


Yes! Use a wine aerator to pour the wine through into that gorgeous decanter and make it EVEN better.

Charlie January 22, 2013 at 2:11 pm


I’ve known Mr. Shaw quite a long time even back in the day when he still called himself Two Buck. Many Walmart stores currently sell a wine labled Oak Leaf for $2.65 a bottle. They have several varities and a couple are ok but not as good as Two or Three Buck!

Jessie K January 22, 2013 at 4:35 pm


Three Buck Chuck must represent a grand step up in his world. Mr. Shaw going fancy!

Paula January 22, 2013 at 3:49 pm


I bought a bottle of that Walmart wine once and poured it down the drain. It never crossed my mind that decanting might have made it drinkable.

Jennifer January 24, 2013 at 7:12 pm


I use my aerolatte to aerate my vino, it’s super fast and great results as well. You can also use an immersion blender.

Jessie K January 25, 2013 at 2:21 pm


I can’t imagine taking an immersion blender to wine. What is it like?

Pat January 27, 2013 at 9:39 am


Le Petit Pond, Red is our current favorite wine under 10 dollars. We will have to try to decant it. Last visit to our liquor store I went for the 10% case discount.

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