So last Friday Rebecca and I hosted the High End/Low End seminar at our Plank Road store. If you hadn't heard about the seminar before, the premise was that we did a blind tasting of four different kinds of wines, one expensive (at least $40) and one less than $15 side by side to make eight wines in all. Part of it was meant to be a fun blind tasting (ie guess what it is you're tasting), but the main idea was to see if people could tell the difference. I can't tell you how often people tell me that expensive wine tastes just like the cheap stuff to them, so why bother? The truth is that if you are an inexperienced taster and somebody pours you a wine and asks you to guess how much it costs, that is difficult. But what we found from the seminar is that when you taste them side by side, it's much easier. Most people in the seminar were able to guess which wines were high end. Here were some differences between the expensive and inexpensive:
- High end wines had more going on. The aromas and flavors were stronger than the inexpensive wines, making the flavors of the latter seem weak in comparison.
- High end wines are more complex. You get a greater variety of aromas and flavors, and they tend to be more precise. In other words, it's easier to spot the blackberry, blueberry, and smoky flavors in a high-end cabernet.
- High end wines are more original. I got some comments during and after the seminar about a high end Riesling we tasted, to the effect of how different it was than any other white wine people had tried.
My own opinion about expensive vs. inexpensive wines (I'm leaving out mid-range wines for the purpose of this argument) is this: it's basically analogous to food. In my day-to-day life I don't eat expensive food. If I want a little treat I might go get a burger at Five Guys, because I think they make good burgers and they don't cost too much. But if it's a special occasion, like my birthday, I don't want a Five Guys burger. I want something different and something special. So it is with wine. Liking more expensive wine from time to time does not mean I don't like some inexpensive wines (our own kybecca brand wines are only $7.99), any more than liking a gourmet meal means I don't like Five Guys. It's a matter of circumstance. So saying that it's never worth spending more than $15 on a wine is like saying it's never worth spending more than $15 on a meal. It may not be worth doing on a regular basis, but it's definitely worth it.