Out there, somewhere is a bottle of wine that will complete a great meal. To eat, perchance to drink, ay there’s the rub; the gluttonous means are constrained to “around” $15 a bottle or less in my household.
Consequently the premise is now questionable. Can a great meal be attained at this price point for wine? I would wager a “yes”, considering that the word “great” is somewhat subjective.
I begin my quest armed with information obtained from various sources like articles from acclaimed publications, such as Wine Spectator or the Wine Advocate. Results from wine competitions held annually in San Francisco or the California State Fair have been noted. The expertise of renowned wine critics such as Robert Parker and the ubiquitous ratings in the upper 80s to low 90s guide my selections.
However, reality is more like information gleaned from ad flyers for Total Wine, Bevmo, World Market and Safeway. Signs that hangs over a pallet of wine at Costco can display claims of a 90-point Wine Advocate rating and a price of $7.97 per bottle. I am drawn to these wines like a moth to a porch light. Such bottles are placed tenderly in the shopping basket with a smile. Fairs that have been attended in the past, like the Southern New Mexico Harvest Wine Festival and Taco fiesta, tend to recall memories of a reddish wine-like drink and booths of food-on-a-stick (something yet to be achieved when it comes to tacos, I might add).
The weekend has arrived. Kabobs are sizzling on the grill. A rice or pasta dish, salad and some good bread complete the dinner. I reach for the handle on the wine fridge and grab that bottle. The wine I selected that will turn this good meal into a great one. I extract the cork with a pop and pour it into a decanter to let it “breathe” for 40 minutes or so.
With the meal served and glasses poured, we dig in and taste the wine. My wife is usually the first to ask me where this bottle of vinegar comes from and how much did I pay for it? “But what do you mean? It’s an 88 point Cab from an appellation in Chile, and only $6.59 at World Market!” I state emphatically. She remarks about the clean and crisp taste of her chilled and filtered Arizona tap water, as she slides her wine glass toward me. With a sigh, I realize that she is right. This wine is not good. Where did I go wrong?
I would be remiss if I did not mention that my wife’s favorite wine is 35 bucks a bottle. But she has had an acceptable response to a few others in the $15 to $20 range. Had I known that there was a less renowned wine critic in my own home…
We had a very good Pinot Noir by Patz and Hall a few weekends ago. That bottle was remarkably good in fact. It was given to me as a gift. Sometimes the best bottles are free! All of us at dinner agreed that it was very good. I saw it on sale at AJ’s Fine Foods for $30. My wife stated that she’s a $30 per bottle girl, in a rather matter-of-fact tone.
I agree that your chances of getting a good wine improve as you go up in price, but all in all, there have only been a handful of vinegar bottles and a handful of really good “value” wines in the last few years. Most were good and a few were great. Those great wines were at least $20 a bottle, I recall. Perhaps my premise should be updated with an increase in my dollar per bottle threshold and a decrease in my purchasing frequency (to appease the less renowned live-in wine critic/accountant).
So what’s on sale this week?