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Keep Your Cheap, Sweet Jug Wine To Yourself

By Stephen Eliot

Most of my mornings begin with an oversized cup of coffee and thirty minutes or so skimming through the day’s latest tidbits of blogging wisdom regarding all things about wine, and I have learned to not let what I read get me too flustered. Where once I would find my blood pressure rising when encountering a particularly wrong-headed piece of writing, these days I just the shake my head and smile, maybe even quietly chuckle out loud though there is nobody listening. I do admit, however, that every now and then, something comes along that makes my coffee taste bitter and triggers a fighting response despite my best efforts at subjective acceptance. Today is such a day.

It seems that there is yet another new study, this time from Hertfordshire University in Hatfield just north of London, “proving” that perception trumps reality with regard to wine evaluation, the end logic of such thinking is that cheap wines are every bit as good as those costing a tidy sum, and that without some knowledge aforehand, the average drinker cannot tell the difference between the two. This is not the first time we have heard this, and I am sure it will not be the last, but, while I find such studies the stuff of pseudo-science at best, I simply do not see their point other than to belittle those who believe otherwise. Is it to prove that taste is illusory or that humans are flawed? Perhaps, it is that Hertfordshire students should drink cheap and save their pounds sterling for tuition. Maybe the message is that those who would make and sell wine should spend their monies and time on marketing rather than content. It appears to work in the American political arena, so why not with wine…besides, it’s already been done.

Now, I would be the last person to argue that quality and price are inextricably tied and that big bucks are an absolute guarantee of vinous rapture. What I do for a living proves otherwise most every day, but the idea that wines of ambition and crafting are fundamentally indiscernible from cheap ones and thus to be summarily ignored is without merit. I can certainly see that the casual, uninterested wine drinker might find far more pleasure in a soft and sugary, cheap red wine than a tannic, two-hundred-dollar bottle of young Cabernet from Oakville, but I am not sure what that proves.

It all leads too easily to the notion that fine wine is a hoax. So too then, I guess is symphonic music, fine art and great literature. Is the message that anything whose appreciation depends on experience and learning is inherently lacking legitimacy? If not, why do such “studies” seem to proliferate without pause. What is their point?

As for myself, I am far from well-heeled and am very cognizant of price when it comes to choosing my favorite tipple, but to all of those would save me from spending a few extra dollars, I would say keep your cheap wine and please leave me alone to my oh-so-tasty delusions.


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