Does a wine's high price indicate that it's an exceptional wine?
Imagine a young couple, on their first date perhaps, sitting next to you in one of the more high-end restaurants in town. You can hear them softly making nervous conversation and scanning over the menu. “Pick anything you like”, the young man says to his date, “don’t think about the price.” The waiter arrives to take the couple’s order. The young woman orders the filet mignon smothered in mushrooms with a pinot noir sauce. This entrée is the most expensive beef on the menu, priced at over $45. You overhear the young man trying to impress his lovely date by ordering one of the more expensive bottles of wine, Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars Artemis Cabernet Sauvignon, at $120 for a bottle. Considering this one bottle of wine costs almost triple the entrée, it must be good, right? Not quite!
It is a common misconception that the more expensive a bottle of wine is, the better quality you are getting. When it comes to most drinks and foods, this is USUALLY the case. Our young woman’s forty-five dollar filet is most likely a better cut, and taste, than say the $10 American burger. While this approach does make sense most of the time, it doesn’t ALWAYS apply to wine.
What I have found out recently is that the price of wine does not necessarily determine the quality of the wine. My personal favorite go-to wine is a Cabernet blend called Ménage a Trois. Aside from the catchy innuendo, this wine goes well with just about everything; beef, chicken, even a simple array of cheese and crackers. The second this Nectar of the Gods collides with your taste buds, your mouth will begin to water and crave more. It has just enough bite to give it some, “bam!”, yet is smooth enough to give you that warm, fuzzy feeling deep down in your belly. “Wow”, you are thinking, “this must be quite the bottle of wine!” Alas, it is quite the bottle, and at quite a good cost. The most I have ever paid for this wine is probably about $12. Yes, that is right, twelve dollars! Now, while you are bringing your jaw up off the floor, try wrapping your head around that $120 wine the “trying-to-impress” young man ordered. I once purchased the Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars Artemis Cab at my local liquor store for $45. I read the description on the back, which made it seem like I would feel as if I were sitting on a vineyard in Napa just by taking my first sip. Naturally, I believed I would be getting $45 worth, especially with that delicious picture in my mind. Imagine my dismay when I barely even noticed I was drinking wine. It was a little thin, and lacked unique taste. I thought, perhaps, I should let it breathe for a while. I left the bottle open and returned after about two hours. My second time around was just as disappointing as the first.
“How is this possible?” you may ask. Well, my fellow amateur wine drinkers, it is quite simple. I was not paying for the quality of the wine, but for the limited supply of the Stag’s Leap. This wine comes from a much smaller vineyard and is not mass-produced like many of the other, more impressive wines are. It is a given that I was more than just disappointed in the quality of the wine, I was somewhat ticked that I had just wasted $45 on one crappy bottle. I could have bought three or four bottles of a much better wine with that money! Unfortunately, this is the way of the wine world. It is a process of trial and error. Sometimes the trials turn out to be a major error, not only in the price of the wine, but the taste itself. Some wines, no matter how expensive, might make you want to down a bottle of Yellow Tail Shiraz (for those of you who have tried it, you should know what I mean). This is the price we pay for craving More Wine; we must try the bad to get to the good.