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"Wine's Pleasures: Are They All In Your Head?":
The New York Times has this very interesting essay on the psychology of enjoying different wines -- and more broadly, on the psychology of enjoying lots of other luxuries. More over at The Pour.
Brian K (mail):
here's another take that i thought was interesting. It talks a bit about the organization of wine in supermarkets.
5.8.2008 6:04am
Mr. X (www):
Has anyone else noticed that articles in the Economist become articles in the New York Times about three to four weeks later?
5.8.2008 8:22am
Cold Warrior:
The NYT article notes that the wine professionals had no problem picking out (and preferring) the real stuff (at least when it comes to champagne).

I'd be interested in what those of us middlebrow wine types would do in a blind tasting. I almost invariably dislike the really cheap stuff (that is, the sub-$8 range), occasionally find what I consider to be a fantastic everyday wine in the $8-12 range, seldom have any problem noticing the very significant quality/complexity improvement in the $15-30 range, but have a real difficult time discerning much improvement above that. In fact, I doubt I'd be able to distinguish a very good $30 Bordeaux from a fantastic $200.

Like I said, I'm middlebrow.
5.8.2008 9:43am
skyywise (mail):
While I like wine and do get some pleasure out of the subtleties, I personally think the depth of flavors people claim get out of wine is, perhaps, superfluous. (e.g. "Oh yes, the citrus, pomegranate, and gooseberry blend is quite nice in the initial breath, and is cut well by the chocolate and cigar after-tone. This Merlot could be a Syrah to the average palette. Most people wouldn't be able to tell this is from an Oregon vineyard, they would mistake it for Northern California.")

That said, I think this summer as a lawyer-in-training, I'll have a fair opportunity to learn wine and "refine" my taste buds so that I can make the relevant high-society small talk with partners &clients. It'll be a change from the middlebrow culture I'm much more comfortable with.
5.8.2008 10:33am
titus32:
Has anyone else noticed that articles in the Economist become articles in the New York Times about three to four weeks later?

I hadn't noticed that -- and doubt it is true most of the time since the NYT is a daily. But, FWIW, what I did notice while perusing an Economist a couple of days ago on a plane ride was that its coverage of stories which I had earlier read in the NYT were far inferior to the NYT's coverage--the NYT's articles were much more complete and nuanced.

In fact, I doubt I'd be able to distinguish a very good $30 Bordeaux from a fantastic $200.

While I can't say I would be able to either, this is only because I've never drunk a $200 Bordeaux. Have you?
5.8.2008 10:55am
another commenter (mail):

this is only because I've never drunk a $200 Bordeaux. Have you?

I have, and I can't tell the difference.

Also, I actually prefer a $40 Moet &Chandon over Dom Perignon

I don't doubt that there are subtle complexities in wine that you can only distinguish if you are a trained expert, and I don't doubt that the $200+ wines contain these subtle complexities. But, since I'm not a trained expert, I find it really difficult to justify crossing the $50 barrier.

Indeed, I enjoy trying different wines in the $7 to $12 range. You can frequently find some great wines here. I've found that price correlates not directly to quality, but rather to risk of poor quality. There are some great $8 wines, but there are many bad $8 wines too. There are some bad $30 wines, but many are pretty good. If you don't mind the risk, buy cheap and have fun. If you don't want the risk, buy more expensive wines and you are less likely to open a bottle that you don't like, but know that bad $30 wines still exist.
5.8.2008 11:25am
alias:
Eh... two-buck Chuck actually burns going down sometimes. I don't know much about nose or tannins or that sort of thing, but I know when a red wine needs to be chilled so that it doesn't burn when you drink it.
5.8.2008 11:31am
alias:

FWIW, what I did notice while perusing an Economist a couple of days ago on a plane ride was that its coverage of stories which I had earlier read in the NYT were far inferior to the NYT's coverage--the NYT's articles were much more complete and nuanced.

Perhaps, as with wine, that's all in your head as well and due to the power of suggestion.

As a conoisseur of written media, however, I can tell you that the opposite is true and that you're just wrong.
5.8.2008 11:32am
New World Dan (www):
I generally prefer not to know what wine I'm drinking before trying it. I haven't had a bad value wine from Trader Joe's yet. The $3 Charles Shaw wines are very enjoyable. In fact, the Franzia cousins seem to delight in selling good wine as cheap as they possibly can. It's not going to dazzle a serious wine drinker, but it's a very solid and dependable bottle. Plus, I feel no guilt if I don't quite finish the bottle and I can uncork a bottle to go with dinner anytime I feel like it. Compare that to the countless $20 dissapointments I've tried and I'm rather reluctant to bring anything else home.
5.8.2008 11:49am
titus32:
As a conoisseur of written media, however, I can tell you that the opposite is true and that you're just wrong.

I'm honestly not sure if you're being sarcastic -- not because of the opinion itself but because of the summary and pretentious way it's presented. Anyway, to bring something more concrete to the discussion: In covering the Bell shooting by the New York police, and noting that the public was less outraged than in previous shootings, the Economist did not mention as a factor the fact that two of the policemen were black. The NYT did. In covering HRC's appeal in Indiana, the Economist applied a simplistic picture of Indiana as comprised of poor uneducated whites who would vote for Clinton, while the NYT published a story accurately describing the demographic complexity of Indiana voters (e.g., the downstaters versus the Calumet corridor) and its effect on the primary.
5.8.2008 11:50am
Doc W (mail):
Laying myself bare to ridicule, I confess to being a score-chaser. I agree with "another commenter" about good and bad wines under $8 (or, here in Pennsylvania, $10). I avoid the ones with Wine Spectator ratings under 85, and am very seldom disappointed. Admittedly, much beyond $10 a bottle is terra incognita to me--and I intend to keep it so, to avoid the risk of developing a taste for stuff I can't afford.
5.8.2008 1:01pm
alias:
Sarcastic. Sorry for the ambiguity.
5.8.2008 5:19pm
LM (mail):

I've found that price correlates not directly to quality, but rather to risk of poor quality.

Which may explain $4,000 hookers.
5.8.2008 5:42pm
titus32:
Thanks for the clarification -- I guess I wasted my ink on that one.
5.8.2008 5:43pm