I’m not a wine snob. I can distinguish between outright swill, of the $3.99 a bottle variety, and better wines, but my palate’s capabilities end at about the $10 a bottle mark, and from there on up I can’t really appreciate the fine nuances and subtle distinctions that effete wine drinkers claim to enjoy. Now, a recent taste test suggests I’m not alone, and that wine snobs are faking it.
The taste test follows in the wake of famous blind taste tests of the 1970s, in which experts were unable to distinguish between esteemed French wines and upstarts from California — and indeed, twice selected Stag’s Leap wine over the finest wines of France. The latest blind taste test contest pitted wines from France against wines from, of all places, New Jersey. The French wines won, but only barely, against the New Jersey offerings that were 20 times less expensive.
As the New Yorker article linked above demonstrates, there’s lots of evidence that the supposedly educated palates of the wine snobs really are influenced mostly by labels, and that supposed experts will describe the same wine in diametrically different ways, depending on whether a high quality label or one indicating the cheap stuff is attached. The studies all point to the conclusion that most people really can’t distinguish the high-cost vino from the $10 bottle. I think that’s right, and that’s why I don’t spend more than $15 a bottle in stores and refuse to buy the outrageously priced bottles in restaurants.
Our friends the Cave-Dweller and his lovely wife soon will be taking a wine-tasting trip to the Napa Valley, to celebrate their 25th anniversary. Perhaps next year they should head to New Jersey?