My husband and I buy two main types of wine. I'm not talking about red and white. I'm talking about what we call "maintenance" and "bottle" wine. As much as I hate to admit it, the hubby and I have NO problem polishing off a good bottle of wine with dinner...and a not so good bottle will be gone by the following day's dinner. I also cook with wine...often in fact. If you do the math and consider that we drink wine with dinner about 4 or 5 nights a week, and factor in the wine I use for my beef bourguignon, wild mushroom risotto and lets not forget those burgundy mushrooms that sit atop a nice piece of aged steak, it can end up being quite an investment in wine. So over the past few years we've started splitting our wine purchases into box or what we call "maintenance" wine, which we use to cook with or drink when we're looking for a "one glass" evening, and bottles of wine, which we save to pair with a particular dinner or break out when we're feeling a bit saucy (I love that word). I think our box/bottle system has made all the difference in our wine budget.
Alright. Not all boxed wine is created equal, and having tasted some pretty nasty ones over the years, I can understand how they gained such a poor reputation. But recently the boxed wine movement has been pumping out some good wines in convenient boxed form. A few of my favorites right now are Bota Box's Old Vine Zinfandel (they make a pretty bitchin Shiraz too), Pinot Evil's Pinot Noir (I'll be honest...it's not my fav boxed wine but it's good AND it's got the "see no evil" monkeys on the box...cute), and the bargain wine that started it all for the hubby and I...drum roll please...Banrock Station's Riesling. Food & Wine magazine has given this riesling kudos over and over again. 3 or 4 years ago, after reading it's praises AND finding that my local Kroger in VA had it on sale for $3/bottle for about 3 years in a row, I became somewhat of an addict. I recently found it in boxed form and it's just as good as ever.
So what does all of this boxed wine talk have to do with the title of my post you ask? Even some of my favorite bargain wines could use a little help. That's where decanting comes in and where my next "holy crap, Christmas is in 10 days and I still need a gift for 8 people" gift comes to the rescue. Decanters! After our latest trip to the Napa Valley the hubby and I have been decanting fools. Basically, young wine (as most boxed wine is) needs to "breath" a bit before you drink it. I'm sure you've all heard this term associated with wine. The lady in Napa told me something about the tannins in young wine being rough and oxygen helping smooth them out and blah, blah. I'm not a chemist...I'm a drinker. Here's what I DO know. We honestly enjoy our boxed wine MUCH more when we decant it. We can even get away with serving it at dinner parties! We use a traditional crystal decanter that we received as a wedding gift (I love it) but there are some new, inexpensive (and conveniently small) decanters/aerators out there on the market that can make the perfect gift for people who even mildly like wine...because it makes even the most mediocre wine better! The Vinturi aerator is the most popular hand-held one out there now but there are plenty to choose from. I think a cute gift would be a cheap-ish bottle of wine (like my all time bargain bottle fav Banrock Station) and a Vinturi type aerator OR a box of wine with a traditional decanter. For around $30 or $35 you can give a cool, useful and fun gift. For even more fun I recommend doing blind taste tests (try it when you're sober...grape juice spiked with vodka might taste good after a few too many).