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Tag Archives: expensive wine

Winebits 388: The world hates expensive wine

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expensive wineThe cyber-ether has been full of vitriol for expensive wine over the past month, so much so that even the Wine Curmudgeon has wondered what’s going on. Some of these posts make me seem like a “bring on the $100 samples” member of the Winestream Media:

Damn you, Napa cabernet: Something called Vox Observatory, which is part of the company that owns the chi-chi Eater food site and the SB Nation sports blogs, posted a video called “Expensive wine is for suckers.” The results? Not only is expensive wine overpriced, but many of the tasters said they liked the way the cheap wine tasted better than they liked the way the expensive wine tasted. One even went so far as to say that she was glad she had cheap wine taste. I wonder: Would Eater have run a similar post, citing the cheap and simple qualities of grocery store tomatoes over $15 organic, heirloom tomatoes? Of course not. This post speaks directly to the cliches the wine business and the Winestream Media reinforce about wine, and how their approach intimidates people who aren’t wine drinkers.

Grocery store cheap wine: The cheapest offers the best value, according to a study done among British supermarkets. Almost two-thirds of the wines sold at Lidl and Aldi, known for their low prices, were called a good value; at least half the wine at six other chains was judged a poor value; and three-quarters of the wine at the bottom grocer was called a poor value. This is an amazing result, and not just because so much wine in grocery stores is so ordinary. It speaks to the concept of premiumization, and that producers and retailers aren’t giving us better wine when we pay more money, but the same wine in better packaging and with more expensive marketing.

The placebo effect: Think your pricey wine tastes better than the cheap wine I drink? That may be because you want it to, says a study in the Journal of Marketing Research. Says the report: “Expectations truly influence neurobiological responses,” and there are even brain scans to prove it. Again, not a surprising result, and especially for those of us who have spent our professional careers trying to educate people on the differences between cheap and expensive wine.

Expensive wine 74: Domaine Roger Belland Les Champs-Gain 2005

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Belland Les Champs-GainYou love your Mom, right? You want nothing but the best for her, don’t you? Then the Belland Les Champs-Gain is the wine for her and Mother’s Day.

The Belland Les Champs-Gain ($70, purchased, 13%), a premier cru from the Puligny-Montrachet region in Burgundy, is everything that great wine is supposed to be. It’s the kind of chardonnay that people dream about, and that even those of us who don’t want to pay more than $10 for wine will drink without hesitation — subtle and muted, with layers and layers of flavors and aromas.

Look for white pepper, a brilliant use of oak, and almost ripe apples, three signs of great white Burgundy from Puligny. But there is so much more going on that it’s almost impossible to describe. Besides, just listing a bunch of adjectives won’t come close to doing the wine justice (even though that’s apparently what I’m supposed to do).

Highly recommended, though availability may be limited. In which case, ask your retailer for something similar, and you can’t go wrong. White Burgundy remains one of the few parts of the French wine business that hasn’t shot itself in the foot, head, and behind, for which the Wine Curmudgeon is quite appreciative.

Expensive wine 73: Pierre-Marie Chermette Fleurie Poncié 2013

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Pierre-Marie Chermette Fleurie PonciéWine geeks get teary-eyed at the mention of high-end Beaujolais, and not just because they’re usually the only ones who know about it. Their argument: That Beaujolais that isn’t the $10 stuff that the Baby Boomers grew up on can be as subtle, interesting, and sophisticated as any great wine, and often at half the price.

The catch, of course, is that there isn’t much high-end Beaujolais, called cru Beaujolais, for sale in the U.S. and it’s not so cheap as to be a great deal compared to other great deals, like Rioja. So even if you find one, how do you know if you should buy it if there isn’t a wine geek handy?

Which is where a knowledgeable retailer comes in, like Cody Upton at Pogo’s in Dallas, who sold me the Pierre-Marie Chermette Fleurie Poncié ($32, purchased, 12%) for a BYOB dinner with the Big Guy. Because, given the price and how little I know about high-end Beaujolais, I wouldn’t have bought it. There’s plenty of sparkling, some white Burgundy, lots of quality Rhone and Rioja, and even California red and white at that price that I know and enjoy.

But I trust Cody, and the Poncie, a red wine from France, shows why. It’s not so much that it was delicious, or that the Big Guy marveled at what it tasted like. Rather, it showed that wine geeks can be right, and that just because a wine is made with the sadly unappreciated gamay grape and comes from Beaujolais is no reason to dismiss it. Cody said this is one of the great Beaujolais of the world, and he was right.

Look for a violet sort of aroma, lingering soft berry fruit, and even some earthiness, which I usually don’t associate with Beaujolais. In this, as with all great wine, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, and maybe one day I’ll figure out how great wines do that.

Highly recommended, and especially with Mother’s and Father’s Day coming up. Interestingly, it needs food, despite its soft fruit and cushy tannins — almost any roast meat, cheese courses, and even pate.


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