8/31/2009

Indecent Proposal

Posted by The Wine Whore |


When we left off yesterday, I was explaining how you need to be careful what you wish for. Don't get me wrong... it's not that I don't enjoying drinking free wine. It's just that the job comes with its fair share of burdens. Today, I am going to share with you the most difficult position I have ever been faced with as a wine lover.

Just last Friday, it happened again. You always know when it is coming. It starts with an automated message from UPS and when you get home from work, there's a little orange and white post-it note stuck to your front door. I'll save my rant on FedEx and UPS for a later date as it could easily fill up an entire session, but what I will say today is that if you are able to intercept a package in one of the three strategically random scheduled delivery attempts, consider yourself very lucky.

Ok, so you got the package... now what?



Getting packages in the mail, minus the headache of having to deal with the carriers, is like Christmas. You anxiously rush home in anticipation. You look at the box, shake it, and try to guess what's hidden inside. It's only a matter of minutes before the package is torn open and the contents revealed. It's a different surprise every time but there is one surprise that is the equivalent of getting a sweater your mom knit... you know, the one with the arms that are completely different sizes and three sizes too small in the neck. Awesome! :(

You have no choice but to say thank you while trying to hide the disappointment behind a weakly composed smile. It's a very uncomfortable position to be in. I�ll never forget the Christmas when my folks pulled this crap on me� I�ll never forgive them. It wasn't because they tried to give me a lousy gift. I understand how hard it is to pick out a perfect gift, especially when times are tough. Instead I was pissed off because they PURPOSELY gave me a lousy gift just to see the reaction of my poorly disguised disappointment. After I politely accepted my grossly misconfigured sweater with a smile, hug, and a thank you, they brought out the real present. It sure taught me a lesson. It taught me that while 9 times out of 10 you may be dealt something you don't like, you should always be thankful. You never know what may happen or what awesome surprise it may bring.

What the heck does this have to do with wine?

Getting back to last Friday, as I said, it happened again�I was lucky to intercept the following brown box after only the second delivery attempt:



It was heavy too! For those of you who don�t ship wine often, I�ll give you some math to remember. A bottle of wine ships at about 4 pounds and this package weighed in at about 24 pounds. Sure enough, I tore it open to find SIX bottles of wine and one heck of a dilemma. I pulled out the first tray of bottles to discover a bottle of Merlot, Cabernet, and Chardonnay. The second tray held an entire duplicate set of the first three bottles: Merlot, Cabernet, and Chardonnay. Bonus! This would be good news except for the fact that when I looked up the retail cost of each bottle, they all topped out at a staggering value of only $8 each.



You may be thinking: So what's the big deal?!?

The MOST difficult position I have ever been put in is to have to FAIRLY review an $8 bottle of wine. The reason: everyone's expectations of such a value wine are so different. If you say that the wine tastes great, people think you are full of crap and if you say that it sucks, you seem snotty and elitist. If you don�t believe me, I can provide examples.

So here�s the million dollar question about a cheap bottle of wine:

What do you EXPECT from an $8 bottle of wine?

An impromptu survey from Twitterland revealed the following diverse and somewhat humorous results:

  • I often apply the term "quaff-able:" Fine to quench a thirst, but not a taste to slowly savor. Except for the surprises.
  • Not much. Just absence of anything offensive or off.
  • Depends on where it's from. Had some nice surprises. Generally, good ones are pleasant if unsophisticated. Better w/ food.
  • I don't think I have many expectations from a bottle like that.
  • A headache and lots of sulfates!
  • Nothing fancy and ponderous, but definitely drinkable.
  • nada...
  • If it goes down nicely with a cheeseburger maybe? ;)
  • A good drinking wine that can be enjoyed w/friends.
  • an 8 euro wine should give me foreplay...i dont expect an orgasm for that price.
  • A headache! Actually it depends on where it from, and the style its going for.
  • Is it a good $8 bottle or a not so good $8 bottle? ;)
  • OK for every day. Good taste, with little or no character.


So here's what I have decided to do... Instead of just tasting the wine by myself and then feeding you some boring recount of what I see, smell, and taste, I want find out whether YOUR expectations would be met by drinking these $8 bottles of wine from Coyote Creek. I am sick of doing all of the talking. It's time for a good ol' fashioned debate (with a lot of wine).



Click the TWWTV logo above to join me this Thursday @ 7:30pm ET as I'll be discussing the qualities that make up a GOOD bottle of $8 vino. Bring your own value wine to open and share what you like or hate about it while I open, taste, and share my honest thoughts on these three bottles. I�ll see you there!


We are all out of time for today�s session. Tomorrow, I'll let out some aggression on a topic that really pisses me off. In the meantime, throw in your two cents on what you expect from an $8 bottle of wine here.




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24 comments:

The Happy Mrs. said...

Hmmm...No offense, but I don't get your problem.

The wine could be great, the wine could be horrible. But I feel like you are automatically dismissing it because you can count the amount of dollars it costs on two hands.

I've had fantastic bottles of wine under $10. I've also had horrible. But I can say the same thing for higher price points.

And for any haters that can't believe you can like a wine that costs $8, what does it matter to them? Its your tastes, your preferences, and your money ;)

The Wine Whore said...

Don't get me wrong... I am not saying that they have to be bad just because they don't cost a lot. I am just trying to figure out what exactly people expect from a bottle of wine that doesn't cost over $20.

What do you look for?

Cheers!

The Happy Mrs. said...

Maybe I am just a naive wine drinker, but no matter the cost, I look for the same things out of a bottle of wine: Smoothness, balance, and the general yumminess of the flavor. If the bottle make me think about its flavors and tests my knowledge of them, its all the better.

Now, my question is - If you only had $10, will you be able to buy a "better" white or a "better" red. "Better" could be mean taste, rating, or whatever you think!

The Wine Whore said...

That's a great question!

I think you have a better chance of finding a value white that is good since I would think that there are more white wines out there that are good for that price than red wines. That being said, I would think that you could find equally good red wines out there for that price as well... you just may have to look harder to find 'em.

Anyone else have any thoughts on this one? These are some great questions for this Thursday!

Cheers!

Taylor Eason said...

Have to agree with The Mrs. on this one Wine 'Ho. As a professional wine writer who has tasted tens of thousands of wines in all price ranges, I've been shocked -- no, floored -- by many wines under $10. And I've also been horribly disappointed by wines costing ten times that price. I taste my sample bottles blind as often as possible to prevent any marketing influence and price prejudices. It helps... a lot. That doesn't mean your $8 bottles are going to taste any better but at least they get a fair shot at your love. Give 'em a chance.. like the ugly, fat girl at the party, personality might win you over.
Cheers,
Taylor

The Wine Whore said...

Great point Taylor!

Given you experience tasting and writing reviews, what would you say would be a reasonable level of quality to be expected from a bottle priced at only $8?

Cheers!

Matt said...

I'll have to agree with you on the white, I do tend to find more low cost bottles of those then reds. But there are a lot good reds out their as well, I just had a $5 dollar one last night. Now granted it wasn't blow my socks off great, but it went well with my dinner and that's a big quality I look for.

I've never been a fan with the whole if it's under $20 it's no goo mentality. Most of the bottles I drink are under 20 and usually range between 8-15. if you wanna get a sense of what you can get for those prices check out my review, they are almost always in that range (sorry for the shameless plug).

And best of all with these lower cost wines, if they do suck you haven't lost much I mean come on all you lost was pocket change really. where as I have bought a $40 bottle that I thought was horrible and that bad wine really hits the pocket book hard ... especially these days.

The Wine Whore said...

That's a really good point... at least if a lower cost wine doesn't taste good, you haven't lost as much.

Do you think it's fair when judging wine to consider price? Should less expensive wines be measured by lower standards?

Cheers!

ben@67wine.com said...

Wine Whore,
What a great question- I thought about it for a few minutes . . .I can easily find bottles I love at 15 and under (Artisian beaujolais, Traveres de fontanes, Muscadets . . the list goes on a ways!), but under 10 is really harder to get . . .If I come up with anything really cool I'll let you know!
Great thoughts.
Ben

Matt said...

huh, thats a really good question. I have never really though of that before, though I don't personally think it should be lower standards just different ones (if that makes any sense at all).

Like for instance an expensive wine for me needs to hold well on its own. I don't care much about food with those as I spent a lot of money on it I want to enjoy just the wine.

But for a cheaper wine I care much more about how it goes well with food to accompany my meal rather then alone.

So I don't think they should be lower standards just different as, for me at least, they function differently.

The Wine Whore said...

Hello Ben!

$20 or even $15 does open up a lot more possibilities whereas < $10 is somewhat restrictive. I know a few different bottles that I wouldn't mind drinking that sell for less than $10 but I wonder if other people with well developed palates and who have tasted much better wines would agree that these value wines are "good".

Cheers!

The Wine Whore said...

Matt,

I like the idea of different standards and the comparison of wine with food. It seems like a lot of people would agree... if a wine is more expensive, it should hold up on its own, whereas less expensive wine needs to be more "drinkable" or "food friendly".

I believe that like people, every bottle of wine has a personality, strengths, and weaknesses. Some wines are better by themselves, some are better with food, and some are even better for different seasons. Choosing a bottle is more about finding that companion than finding the best tasting bottle from the rest. As Taylor mentioned in an earlier comment, sometimes you are in the mood for "the ugly, fat girl at the party".

Just my thoughts... :)

Cheers!

Wendy Cantu said...

I think it's ridiculous that people would have such preconceived notions on a bottle of wine because of price. Price isn't the end all be all of the quality of wine.

I wouldn't think you were full of crap reviewing an $8 wine. Hell, I've done it and it was a good review (I enjoyed the wine I mean).

I think you should review the wine and give us your opinions!!!

Taylor Eason said...

I agree with Ben that it's getting harder to find decent wine under $10 but not impossible. He brought up Muscadets -- perfect example. Or Spanish garnachaa and monastrells. Delicious stuff that doesn't know it's cheap, er, inexpensive.

As for your question, a reasonable expectation of an $8 wine is drinkability. Without knowing the price, do you like it? What occasions would it be good to drink at? Are there other people who would enjoy it? Analyze the pros and cons of it -- too much alcohol or chemical flavor (which are often the worst faults)?
I invite a group of average wine drinkers to my house each month and open up 12-15 sample bottles (blind tasting) and they provide incredible insight into what people like. It's pretty fascinating.

The Wine Whore said...

Wendy,

Very well stated! I think you hit the nail on the head... it's all about what the person drinking the wine likes. Reviews are just opinions and as long as you are honest, that should be all that counts.

I'll make sure to give my honest opinion of the wines when I try them this Thursday.

Cheers!

The Wine Whore said...

Taylor,

I think you have a good point. Blind tasting is really the only way to evaluate a bottle of wine without letting cost become a factor or bias. This brings up another question: At what point should price be considered in assessing a bottle of wine?

Cheers!

The Happy Mrs. said...

Definitely agree with Matt on this one: "And best of all with these lower cost wines, if they do suck you haven't lost much I mean come on all you lost was pocket change really. where as I have bought a $40 bottle that I thought was horrible and that bad wine really hits the pocket book hard ... especially these days."

For the "Happy Husband" 30th birthday, i bought an $125 bottle of wine. I was a little nervous about it being undrinkable, but also excited at the possibilities. Just as its a little thrilling to drop that change on a bottle of wine, its also thrilling in a different sense to drop $5 on a bottle, just to try, just to see what the heck it tastes like.

Also, the "Under $10" bottles of wine come in handy at parties as the 3rd, 4th, etc bottle being opened....I'm just saying, many times people can't tell the difference at that point!

The Wine Whore said...

Hello The Happy Mrs.,

Now I am curious as to which bottle you got for your husband... how did it turn out? Would you spend this much on a wine gift again?

When I go out to eat for a special occasion or on a trip, I will often splurge for a relatively expensive bottle ($100-$300). I don't think I would follow it up with another expensive one for my wallet and like you said, after the first couple of glasses, you can't tell the taste as much and it doesn't really matter.

Cheers!

The Happy Mrs. said...

I would and will spend $100+ on a bottle of wine again.

1998 Robert Mondavi Reserve Cabernet. I heard 1998 wasn't the best year for Napa, and that some people thought the bottle was a little past its prime. I chose it over a 1999 Rubicon because 1. The Mondavi was going to the be the oldest wine we have drank and 2. We are Rubicon wine club members.

The verdict: My husband LOVED it, and after a couple sips of easing into it, I did too.

Here is my review from snooth, for what its worth: The first sips were a little shock to the palate, a little overwhelmed with tannins. But as I drank more, the undertones of the wine came to the front. I loved the black cherry/dark fruit mixed in with a little smokiness (or was it oaky-ness?) Either way, A solid wine for those wanting to go outside their comfort zone.

I like buying expensive bottles of wine for home use vs. at the restaurant. You get more bang for your buck. That being said, I'm not as much of a foodie and into the food/wine pairing as much.

Kevin said...

1. I expect the wine to taste good, with or without good, though I rarely drink wine without food.

2. There are plenty of good values in the $10 or less category, though they are rarer and moving your budget up to $15 helps a lot. Look to Spain and Washington State for some good buys.

3. When you taste blind, it makes a huge difference. Just try it and see for yourself. Make sure to have at least one wine outside the price range of the other to see how it compares when nobody knows the price. I've done this and you'd be surprised at the results.

4. For me, QPR does matter when reviewing a wine. I don't hold the lesser priced wine to a lower standard, but rather the more expensive wine to a higher one. I don't mind dropping $100 on a bottle, but I better remember it on my deathbed. Of course, income bracket, experience and your palate all make a big difference in these evaluations, so I can see why WS tastes blind and doesn't regard price in their reviews. I think WA does, well just based on history and knowing they don't taste blind. I'm not sure about WE.

Great discussion!

The Wine Whore said...

The Happy Mrs,

Thank you for letting me know which bottle you got him. I think that was an excellent choice. I have another question... how much do you think mood plays into how good the wine tastes? I've had times where I have REALLY enjoyed a bottle of wine and then tried it again in a different sitting and found the same wine not as impressive.

Does mood influence the taste of wine?

Cheers!

The Wine Whore said...

Kevin,

I think blind tasting is a sure way to evaluate a bottle of wine because it eliminates price as a factor. How about people who are new to wine and think that a bottle of Almaden White Zinfandel tastes great... how does experience in tasting influence what tastes good?

Cheers!

tampawinewoman said...

I think the important thing in tasting any wine is to not expect . . . open mind, open palate . . . much like a blind date. If you put too much thought in, it could ruin the experience. Once you start thinking about how much you are paying or not paying for something you are not really evaluating the wine. You are then evaluating the Quality Value Ratio.

The Wine Whore said...

That's a really good point!

QVR is really a whole different thing than deciding whether or not a wine is "good".

When you read reviews about wine, what's more important to you: QVR, or taste?

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