The headline for this article in USA Today reads With wine, let your palate recalibrate your budget. That would seem to be sound advice, and in general this article is chock full of sound advice. Here is some more:
The days are gone (if they ever existed) when one could blithely throw some extra money at an unfamiliar bottle in the hopes that it would bring exceptional rewards. Researching a wine beforehand is more important than ever, and so is honestly reassessing where your true passions lie so that you can more easily restrict your impulse purchases.
Every so often I like to recalibrate what I call my pleasure index. I examine my recent drinking habits and ask myself which types of wine truly knock my socks off and are worthy of occasional high-end purchases, and which are best enjoyed only at a lower price. My tastes change over time, and various kinds of wines come in and out of vogue, so the index needs to be updated occasionally.
So far so good. Excellent ideas there. Here is where I encountered a problem:
To begin this process, I conducted a simple tasting of domestic (mostly California) Chardonnays, Pinot Noirs, Syrahs and Cabernet Sauvignons. For each variety I chose five wines that cost $20 or less and five that cost more than $20, and made sure that some very inexpensive bottles and some very expensive ones were included for each variety so that I could compare the extremes. I tasted through the 40 wines (this wasn’t a blind test, so I knew what I was drinking and the price) and jotted down notes about how much pleasure I received from each.
Great methodology! Shit, if I could afford to do that for one tasting I would not be worrying about my budget, I would be cooking with Napa Cabs on a daily basis.
Then Fonzie backs his bike away from the shark tank just in the nick of time.
While this tasting was rudimentary and unscientific, it wiped out some of my outdated biases, alerted me to some unexpectedly good stuff and helped to shape my future buying strategy. You can achieve the same goal over the next few months by trying a greater variety of wines than you normally would and occasionally sampling from a price category that is slightly above your normal comfort zone. Keep track of what moves you and surprises you, and use that information next time you get the urge to treat yourself.
Even Leather Tuscadero would have to agree that we are back on much more solid ground now. All in all, a pretty good article, and he has some decent wine suggestions at the end. Not much in the way of bargains that are great, but his expensive picks rock. One other thing I took exception to was his characterization of Syrah as “boring.” Different strokes, I guess.