And just a hint of snobbery
I always get a kick out of people who are, or believe themselves to be, wine experts. They'll take a sip of wine and talk about the flavors of vanilla, black pepper, tobacco and blackberries that shine through. There's a line in the great movie "Sideways," after Miles (played by Paul Giamatti and shown above with Jack, played by Thomas Haden Church) takes a swig at a California winery. "There's just the faintest soupcon of, like, asparagus and just a flutter of, like, a nutty Edam cheese." Asparagus? Cheese? I've taken in a lot of red wine, and I'm obviously no expert, because all I ever taste is ... well, wine. We've been conditioned to believe that something that is more expensive, be it wine or food or cars, is inherently better than something with a lower price tag. Eric Asimov, in his New York Times blog "The Pour," recently wrote about a new book by food writer Robin Goldstein called "The Wine Trials." Goldstein gathered up 500 volunteers and had them try more than 500 unidentified wines ranging in price from $1.50 to $150 a bottle. Professional wine tasters in the group had different opinions, but the average Joes and Janes preferred a $10 bottle of champagne from Washington state over Dom Perignon, and they thought Two-Buck Chuck, the ultra-inexpensive cabernet from Charles Shaw in California, was more quaffable than a $55 cabernet from Napa Valley. I've had Two-Buck Chuck, and it's a very good wine. Of course, we can't get it at our Soviet-style state liquor stores. But that's another issue. Asimov also pointed to a study by the California Institute of Technology and Stanford Business School showing that the more expensive people think a wine is, the better they like it. The researchers gave their subjects the same wine twice but gave them two different prices for what they were drinking. They always preferred the "higher-priced" wine. I think what this tells us is that we're a bunch of sheep. The best advice I ever got about wine was to experiment and then drink what you like, label or price be damned. Some wines that I've enjoyed around the $10-a-bottle range are Barefoot merlot, Rosemount shiraz and Firestone gewurztraminer. Please feel free to share some of your favorites with me and readers of the blog. And, as always, "To your health."