Steve wrote in to ask why one Cabernet Sauvignon wine sells for $5.00 and another for $50.00. What makes the difference? This is a complex quesion but here goes:
Does the $50.00 wine give you ten times more pleasure?
My husband is home! He’s still very weak but it’s great to have him home again. Thanks, again, for your patience with the spotty posts and for all the good wishes. I’ll try to get back to postinig regularly again.
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Question from Sarah: I really like wine but it’s hard for me to pick it out. Sometimes I buy it because I like the label. Should I subscribe to Wine Spectator or something like that to help me choose good bottles?
Reply: Hi, Sarah. Thanks for writing! I think everyone will admit to selecting a bottle by the label. I certainly have.
Using a critic’s advice can be helpful if you and the critic have similar tastes. For instance Robert Parker is famous (or notorious, depending upon who you’re talking to) for giving high marks to reds that are heavy, extractive and high in alcohol. Not everyone appreciates that style.
I think the best thing to do, if you want to subscribe to a wine publication, is “audition” a few of them to see if you have similar tastes. An experienced, knowledgeable critic, has what it takes to recognize whether or not the wine is well made and representative of its type, but it’s really hard for anyone to overcome personal preference.
Beyond the score you want to look at how he/she describes the wine to help you decide if you might like it. In any case, I don’t recommend buying multiple bottles of wine based upon a critic’s opinion. Try a bottle and see what you think. If you love it you can go back for more.
One of the best ways to find wine you really like is to develop a relationship with a good retailer who knows his wine and his inventory. Tell him about wines you’ve enjoyed before and he’ll make educated suggestions. Be sure and talk with him about his recommendations once you try them. He’ll ask how you liked the Syrah he suggested last time and you can say “loved it!” or “Too spicy for me.” Or whatever. If you keep this up his suggestions will get better and better. This creates a great foundation for the day you want to branch out and try something new. Knowing your tastes, he can sell you your first bottle of, for instance, Cotes du Rhone and chances are you’ll be happy with your purchase. Continue reading
Dontcha just love this label?!
So, what do all those designations on it really mean? For today, let’s just take a look at American wine labels. Fortunately, the regulations behind other new-world labels are extremely similar – how convenient! The old world is quite another matter.
Of course, this is self explanatory, although don’t forget the “virtual” producer, which doesn’t have a brick and mortar winery. There are lots of them and these producers are usually so small that they can’t justify building an actual winery. They use a “custom crush” facility like Napa Wine Company
(really fun tasting room, BTW!) or use another winery’s equipment.
Also, restaurants and some stores may feature their own brand. In that case, most likely, they’ve contracted with a winery to produce their wine. I assume that’s true for most celebrity brands, too.
The Appellation of Origin
When you see a place name such as Oregon or Alexander Valley it refers to where the grapes were grown, not the location of the winery. The government calls this the appellation of origin. To me, this is a make or break issue – some growing regions are a heck of a lot better than others.
If it’s a very general appellation, like the name of a state, this is just a geographical declaration and the minimum requirement is 75%. Individual states my upgrade, but not downgrade, the requirement. For instance, if the label says California, 100% of the grapes must be California grown.