Whining about Wine

About 10 years ago, I read a blog by a young lady that was just getting into wine and was wondering why anyone would pay more than $10 for a bottle of wine, citing that you can get pretty decent wines at that price from Trader Joe’s.

I posted a response to that. Today, what I said then still seems relevant. Here is my post as it was written:

“Ah..WINE.  Wine is a world onto its own.  It has its own history, culture and language.  People either speak ‘wine’ or they don’t.  Wine appreciation is something that is acquired and it takes a long time and most likely a bit of monetary due.  It is not something that you can get reading a book, second hand from someone else’s tasting or try a couple of different wines and come to any worthwhile conclusion.  Aside from what one likes or dislike, wine is like modern art or jazz music.  To the casual observer, a master’s great work looks the same as a child’s doodle or sounds just like a bunch of noise.

It is true that there are good and not so good wines in each price category.  There are good ten dollar wines and not so good ones just as there are good hundred dollar wines and so-so ones.  It is also true that taste in wine is very subjective.  That’s why the same wine is most often rated differently by the different authorities (Wine Spectator, Wine Enthusiasts, Robert Parker, etc.)  BTW, stores generally quote the highest ratings from these authorities.  By the same token, the taste of a wine can be altered due to the way it was stored, the way it is served (decanted, properly rested, temperature) as well as the glass it is served in.   In general, better wines (more expensive) do cost more to make.  Cost can increase based on the spacing and trimming of the vines, the method used in picking, selecting and crushing of the grapes, the care and method of making the wine such as the type of barrel used, as well as the timing of the bottling, etc.  It is very difficult to make a great wine and sell it cheap commercially.  Trader Joe’s (as well as a number of outlet stores) is a clearing house for wineries when they want to have large quantities of wines cleared for some reason, be it over production, quality not up to the usual, expected standards or to make room for the newer vintage.  Some better known or higher-end wineries will actually create a second label to do the clearing out of their wines thru TJ’s.  No winery will ever strive to make wine to be sold at TJ’s and for some more prestigious brands it could be seen as a kiss of death.  It is possible to get very good wines at very reasonable prices at TJ’s but the down side is if you do find something you liked, it may not be available anymore.

I like wine and I like to think that I can generally tell a good wine from a not so good one.  I drink wine pretty much everyday for at least the last twenty-five years.  I have about a thousand bottles in my cellar.  I belong to mailing lists of wineries that only sell their wines direct.  I seek out wines from different regions of the world and different varietals.  I make it a point to try the local wines (if they produce any) everywhere I travel to (sixty? plus countries).  I am no expert by any means and I don’t know what the secret is.  I wish I do!  Last week, I went out to two nice restaurants for dinner.  At each place I had two different wines.  One place I had two wines (I selected and paid for) in the hundred and fifty dollar each price range and the other place (I selected and someone else paid) in the sixty dollar range.  I had not tried any of the four previously.  At each place, one of the wines I thought was great and the other not so much and not worth the price.  I wish it is as simple to pick a good wine as reading the label or the price tag.  But then again, it would take the joy out of the whole experience, wouldn’t it?  I will just have to continue to explore and keep tasting until I discover the secret!”