Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Do you need to spend a lot to enjoy a bottle of wine?

My friend Len once explained that he had a “$30 palate”.  If you spent anymore on wine for him, you were wasting money.  At an educational tasting presented by a representative of Castello Banfi, the educator asked those in attendance to guess what her favorite wine was.  We couldn’t guess, so she told us that it was Riunite Lambrusco.  She said, “Give me a bottle of Riunite and a Wendy’s Spicy Chicken sandwich, and I’m happy!”
In the latest issue of Wine Spectator, a bottle of 2014 Petrus Pomerol is rated at 95 points, and sells for $1,764.  It’s a Merlot. A bottle of 2011 Domaine Chichery sells for $6.99 at your favorite Fine Wine and Good Spirits store. It’s a Merlot, too.  I’m not sure if a wine’s price matches its quality. Is a $100 bottle of wine really ten times better than a $10 bottle of wine?  How much better can a wine taste?! It takes a lot of nerve to charge over one thousand dollars for a bottle of wine. Grapes don’t cost hundreds of dollars... unless you shop at Whole Foods.
But as far as “wine economists” are concerned, the relationship between the price of a bottle of wine and its quality is low or nonexistent. In a number of studies, they suggest that wine is not just poorly priced, but that the different tastes we describe in wine may all be in our heads.
We all know that certain wines go better with some types of food. For example, you’re supposed to have red wine with meat and white wine with fish. (And mouth-numbing acid when you’re eating Irish food.)

In truth, your filet mignon tastes the same whether you have a vintage French Bordeaux or a Mountain Dew. Connoisseurs, though,  are sticklers for the detailed art of wine. Much like statistics-obsessed baseball fans, or nerds who watch Marvel Universe movies. Experts find comfort in their belief that, even though we’re all drinking the same beverage or watching the same movie, they more fully “experience” what we novices don’t understand. And we’re all experts in something. (For me, it’s Polka.)
We think of wine as a classier, more upscale alcoholic beverage. It’s a bad choice of words, then, to refer to homeless alcoholics as winos. How come nobody ever describes the drunk hopping the train car as a malt liquoro?

There is nothing about wine that makes it more prestigious. Biologically, your taste buds don’t know wine to be of a higher culture. If you spent your life in a cave, and you drank wine and then beer for the first time, you wouldn’t think one beverage tasted “classier” than the other.

The truth is that those with power control the reality of culture. People who drink wine tend to be wealthier and more educated. Wine tends to be more expensive. Hence, any meal with a little Chardonnay is classier. If the nation’s most exclusive country clubs replaced wine with groundhog milk at $75 a bottle, then rodent-milk parties would the newest trend.

Luckily, if you’re on a budget, there are quality wines are available at affordable prices. Or, if you’re willing to chance it, you can buy boxed wine. Bota Box Nighthawk Black is award winning and really good!  Hey, if you can eat chicken from a bucket, you can drink wine from a box. And for people who are really on a budget, I think Dollar Store is selling wine in a Tostitos bag.
Other than actually drinking the wine, the two things that wine lovers enjoy doing most are letting their wine breathe and attending wine tasting events. Wine tasting trips, parties and festivals continue to rise in popularity. These events give fans a chance to sample different wines (and to get drunk in a more refined way).

Wine tastings are usually a good time, especially at our AWS tastings, and attendees tend to be very social. You can learn about some wines that you might not otherwise try (like box wines). As a general rule, people are friendlier when alcohol is involved. When you watch violent riots in the Middle East on television, you can think, “If only these people had more to drink!”

Since a $5 wine can so easily be mistaken for a $50 wine, we encourage you to reach for wine on something other than that top shelf. We've applied this principle and have found some seriously good wine. But it should also give you pause about everything you eat and drink. If you boycott expensive wine, should you also avoid sushi and seafood restaurants because you know that cheap fish can be just as enjoyable? Is a Ruth’s Chris $53 T-bone six times as good as a Ponderosa $9 T-bone?
No!  Eat what you like, and more importantly, drink what you like!  People often tell me, “I don’t know a lot about wine, but I know what I like”.  That may be true, but the likelihood is that they mean to say “I like what I know”.
Experiment, taste, and then decide.  
Don't forget to check the blog often for news, tips,
and general wine information.