5@5 - Sommelier Belinda Chang
July 20th, 2010
05:00 PM ET
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5@5 is a daily, food-related list from chefs, writers, political pundits, musicians, actors, and all manner of opinionated people from around the globe.

Belinda Chang joined The Modern, the Michelin-starred, fine dining restaurant in New York City's Museum of Modern Art, as Wine Director in November 2007. Before that, she coordinated the wine service at restaurants by culinary luminaries like Rick Tramanto, Charlie Trotter and Laurent Gras.

Considering the overwhelming number of Eatocracy readers that like to get their drink on, it only seems fitting that today's 5@5 offers up those same good libations.

As it turns out, boozing doesn't have to be a budget buzz kill.

5 Ways to Sex Up a Bargain Wine Bottle: Sommelier Belinda Chang

1. Decant it
"Use the decanter that you got as a wedding gift, inherited from Aunt Louis or bought for $10 at Crate and Barrel. Many people assume that we only decant the grand bottles, but a little air makes most wines taste better AND it is sexy."

2. Merchandise it
"Use the best lead crystal glasses. Riedel makes amazing hand-blown wine glasses that are worth the investment. Even inexpensive Beaujolais tastes incredible in those Sommelier Series Grand Cru Burgundy glasses. Bigger initial investment, but great rewards again and again."

3. Google it
"Every wine tastes better when accompanied by a great story. Every sommelier knows this, and every host and hostess should as well!"

4. Temper it
"An extra bit of chill does wonders for simpler wines – even the reds. Cooling the wine down minimizes the alcoholic impact and volatility, and tightens up the aromas and palate (like a good pair of Spanx!). Reserve the deep freeze for vodka, though."

5. Pair it
"A great food and wine match serves to elevate both. Inexpensive Loire Valley whites will sing with a Loire Valley goat cheese. A simple Tuscan Sangiovese is a slam dunk with espresso cups filled with Pappa al Pomodoro. Your guests will be so busy complimenting your pairing prowess that they will not notice the single digit price tag on the wine bottle."

Is there someone you'd like to see in the hot seat? Let us know in the comments below and if we agree, we'll do our best to chase 'em down.

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Filed under: 5@5 • Sip • Think • Wine

soundoff (50 Responses)
  1. joe

    I've been in the wine business for 40 years and have seen, tasted and experienced much of the worlds wines. Wine has been a beverage of man for thousands of years. There is something for everyone.; expensive pretentious wines,
    crazy labels, affordable good quality wines, sweet, bitter, soda pop style with fruit juice added, fortified high proof for the "bang for the buck " drinker. Drink what you like. If you dont like wine there are hundereds of beers to choose and thousands of spirits to drink. Whatever you choose it keeps me in business. More people are drinking today than ever before. In good times or in bad time the booze business is always good.

    July 22, 2010 at 10:35 am |
  2. dmanburger

    Young wines for me ! inexpensive usually comes with that !

    July 21, 2010 at 4:17 pm |
  3. Rick McDaniel

    Why not just admit, that there are inexpensive wines, that are just as good as more expensive wines, and that the informed shopper, gets the best deal????

    July 21, 2010 at 12:50 pm |
  4. Andrew

    Paper bag it and push the cork through with a stick.....

    July 21, 2010 at 11:16 am |
  5. Craig

    Here's a tip. Open the wine bottle slowly and grasp bottom third of the bottle. After carefully setting the cork asid, top side down of course, gently tilt the bottle over a sink. Soon the contents will begin pouring from the top but don't panic. Continue tilting the bottle in a downward fashion allowing the beverage to percolate over the lip of the bottle and into the sink, down the drain. You are finished once the bottle is full of room temperture air and the majority of the contents have gone through the drain. If there is some left over in the bottle, don't worry! It will be cleaned when you recycle the bottle. At this point, give your dinner guests (pretentious little snits that they are) a cold aluminum can of cola. They will enjoy this (or anything really) better than wine because, you see, wine tastes like poison rat piss. That's a tip you can use! It's rotten grapes, people. Snap out of it. If your guests complain that their drink didn't cost $50 and therefore you are being rude, it's no worry. Locate the empty wine bottle and throw it forcefully at their skull from a distance. If the bottle does not break, you're in luck! You can repeat the process until they leave, saving your guests from their boring, droning, drunk babble that would be sure to follow if you didn't tip the bottle as directed in step 1. If the bottle does break, this is also good fortune, because now you get to pick up the shards of broken glass and push it into their esophagus severing their jugular and rescuing many dinner parties in the future. Bon Apetit!

    July 21, 2010 at 11:15 am |
    • mr. cool ice

      Here's another tip: If you don't like wine, don't feel that you need to broadcast that fact to anyone who'll listen. Not liking wine is fine, but disparaging people who do like it doesn't make you sound interesting–it makes you sound like a philistine troll.

      July 21, 2010 at 1:29 pm |
  6. Jo-Jo

    An inexpensive red mixed with Fresca and slices of lemons, oranges, limes.... yum! I can hear a glass calling me now.....

    July 21, 2010 at 10:48 am |
  7. Mr. Pink

    First of all the glass makes absolutely no difference at all. Totally bogus. The wine will taste exactly the same regardless of the glass, period. Anyone who tells you otherwise is simply blowing smoke.

    2ndly, you never chill reds, that's right never. They are meant to be served at room temp.

    Most importantly, most of the crap spewed by so called wine enthusiasts is just that, crap. My friend, who is an excellent wine maker, constantly spews utter nonsense to his customers who eat it up with a spoon. Why, because that's what they want to hear and it works. At the end of the day he is a salesman.

    The bottom line is this, if you like the wine, then it's good, regardless of it's score or the things people say about it. That is the single most important aspect to wine and the best lesson I ever learned about the subject.

    July 21, 2010 at 10:44 am |
    • Mark, Phoenix

      Red wine should be consumed at cellar temperature, not room temperature; mid 50's, not mid 70's.

      July 21, 2010 at 10:53 am |
      • Mr. Pink

        To each his own I guess. Mid 50's is way to chilled for me.

        July 21, 2010 at 10:57 am |
  8. Jonathan Mills

    Yes, Vino Tinto is delicious! REAL lemon soda (Schweppes, not Minute-Maid) mixed with an inexpensive red wine is always a hit at gatherings, especially during the summer.

    July 21, 2010 at 4:30 am |
  9. delmar H. Knudson

    My non-wealthy friend was having a few friends over, and I arrived early. He let me help a little in getting the last things ready. He took some cheap rot-gut whiskey and poured it into an empty bottle of Chivas Regal. He was going to serve it, get a reaction, then tell folks what he had done. When the first couple was served, the male took a good draught, sighed and said "You can always tell a good whiskey." My friend, the host, didn't say anything.

    July 20, 2010 at 10:30 pm |
  10. Mariana Mulic

    Does it help that it is sold to you by one od your top distributors.

    July 20, 2010 at 9:16 pm |
  11. brad1001

    Swig deep red out of a goatskin, grab a blanket and your baby and swing. Who cares how much it costs. People who keep score (pricing), aren't in the game are they?

    July 20, 2010 at 9:15 pm |
    • mr. cool ice

      ...and people who claim to drink wine out of a goatskin aren't living in reality, are they? Unless you're a shepherd or gaucho or something, in which case I do apologize.

      July 20, 2010 at 9:32 pm |
  12. Adam

    Do what I did. Marry an Italian woman and move to Tuscany, where the Santa Cristina is 4.50 a bottle at the local Esselunga. Done.

    July 20, 2010 at 9:10 pm |
  13. Me

    I'm sorry, but if I invite someone for dinner and I serve wine, I'm going to serve what I like. I don't care if it comes in a box (which I personally like, because no air touches the wine till I'm ready) or if it's $8 per bottle. And I don't want to hear anyone complain. If you don't like it, don't come again.

    July 20, 2010 at 8:53 pm |
    • mr. cool ice

      I imagine you polish off quite a few boxes of wine all by your charming self.

      July 20, 2010 at 9:23 pm |
      • Me

        Personally, I like Bully Hill wines – I don't care if they are cheap or not, I like them.

        July 20, 2010 at 9:38 pm |
  14. David

    "Yellow Tail Pinot Grigio over ice with a splash of blood orange soda on top....very addicting"

    July 20, 2010 at 8:10 pm |
  15. paolo deux

    want your cheap Tempranillo to taste like a good Rioja? Add Copenhagen chewing tobacco and Dunkin Donuts coffee grounds!

    July 20, 2010 at 7:42 pm |
  16. Steve

    Great advice! It really is so simple to make moderately priced wines very enjoyable. Here in California many of us buy "two buck chuck" (Charles Shaw) at Trader Joe's and think its pretty tasty. Some say if you decant their reds (Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz, Merlot) they compare well to wines costing $5 to $15.

    July 20, 2010 at 7:19 pm |
    • Adam

      i ohio it's not 2 bucks because of all the taxes, but I also enjoy Charles Shaw from Trader Joe's.

      July 22, 2010 at 8:35 am |
  17. Sheila

    Ah, but just because it's a bargain bottle doesn't mean it's "bad". Of course, there are some harsh realities out there. However, I submit that some of the selections from up here in Washington State and south into CA can be had at very reasonable prices and are perfect for little get-togethers. I have my favorite Chilean and Australian ones as well. My freinds and I enjoy the hunt for tasty bargains. Only wine snobs think you MUST spend a lot to enjoy wine.

    July 20, 2010 at 6:42 pm |
    • Kate

      Amen Sheila! The wine snob postings on here are cracking me up! Puh-lease!

      July 20, 2010 at 7:25 pm |
  18. GuestColin

    You can't really improve really cheap wine all that much, so why not indulge in the atmosphere entirely? Cheap Wine + Menthols + Taco Bell + Scratch Off Lottery Tickets = Epic Date Night.

    July 20, 2010 at 6:31 pm |
  19. relians

    this is silly, if you want cheap wine to be considered to be fine wine, just add vinegar.

    July 20, 2010 at 6:27 pm |
    • Amanda

      That kind of creates the opposite of good wine...

      July 20, 2010 at 9:27 pm |
  20. Jennifer

    See also: Putting lipstick on a pig.

    July 20, 2010 at 6:17 pm |
  21. paolo

    want to make a cheap Red wine taste expensive? put the wine in a decanter and add a few drops of fresh espresso, a drop of pure vanilla, anice, or any of the other flavors that wine drinkers look for. A good many self-proclaimed vinophiles will be fooled.

    July 20, 2010 at 6:14 pm |
  22. Chris

    You missed the best way – decant it, and then leave an empty bottle of something way more expensive next to the decanter.

    July 20, 2010 at 6:11 pm |
  23. michael hiller

    These are all good suggestions...only problem that I see is that if you have more than 2 or 3 glasses you will still wake up with a nasty headache...something that you can't hide about cheap wines.

    July 20, 2010 at 6:09 pm |
  24. GT66

    What about five cheap ways to dress up a wino? That would be very informative.

    July 20, 2010 at 5:56 pm |
  25. ChiefOBoB

    If it is cheap wine, it is cheap wine. Putting in a decanter or fancy crystal is not going to help. But if someone has fancy, crystal glasses, cheap wine is not a problem they have.

    July 20, 2010 at 5:50 pm |
  26. Josh

    I heard that alcohol leaches the lead out of lead crystal glasswear. I don't think the material of the glassware, or a story for that matter, makes the wine taste any better. Perhaps the shape does, but not glass vs. crystal...

    July 20, 2010 at 5:43 pm |
    • Ralph

      Yes, lead can leech out of crystal, but it takes months, so decanting and drinking from lead crystal is perfectly safe. Just don't use it for long term storage.

      July 21, 2010 at 5:46 am |
  27. bye

    guzzle the first bottle(box),,, then you won't care

    July 20, 2010 at 5:40 pm |
    • Paul

      Bravo! The truth, at last!!

      July 20, 2010 at 6:16 pm |
    • sotrue

      DING! We have a winnah!

      July 20, 2010 at 6:42 pm |
  28. Robert oppedisano

    Why the maddening and totally unecessary rush to play act with one of life's simplest pleasures? If I serve, say, a good Cotes du Rhone or Garnacha or Nero d'Avola, I may decant it, and serve it a little cool in "bistro" glasses with similarly robust, simple dishes. But that's it–the meal, the company is really the point for me. No need to explain, pretend, or apologize.

    July 20, 2010 at 5:37 pm |
    • Waky

      It's "Goats du Roam"..isn't it? great wine...is it still available? Not at HEB anymore.....darn!

      July 20, 2010 at 8:18 pm |
      • Mike

        "Goats do Roam" is a parody on "Cotes du Rhone" and is not a true Cotes du Rhone. It is from South Africa and is intended to emulate the that elusive French style.

        July 21, 2010 at 9:29 am |
  29. UhOh01

    make sangria!!!

    July 20, 2010 at 5:35 pm |
    • ChiefOBoB

      – Actually, that is what you do with cheap wine. Never use a nice wine to make sangria. If you hear a winery say their wine makes great sangria it means the wine is not strong enough to stand on its own.

      July 20, 2010 at 5:48 pm |
    • Allison R

      In Spain they serve a drink called Vino Tinto de Verano (Summer Wine) it's essentially a poor man's sangria – red win and lemon soda. It's great for that leftover open bottle of red that's been sitting out for too long. Just pour it over ice!

      July 20, 2010 at 5:56 pm |
      • dave-o

        Tinto is fantastic with orange Fanta as well. Most places on the souther coast of Spain offer the choice. You are absolutely correct that it is a super easy way to make a quick sangria-esque drink.

        July 20, 2010 at 6:53 pm |
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