Wine: Pricey Pours are Rarely Worth It

Can you pay too much for a wine? And what’s a logical price?


Published:

So, here’s a really embarrassing moment: I’m at my own dining-room table, pouring a 1982 Bordeaux that I had fully expected would be a great experience for my friends, who’ve come to my house for an anniversary dinner I’m putting on for them.
 

Instead, out comes a rather dull, flat, overall disappointing wine.

It wasn’t a matter of bad storage, or chemical defect, or that the wine was too old. It had been properly stored, the cork was in good shape when it was pulled, and the wine was aired for two hours and then passed through a decanter. And it was a wine to which Robert Parker gave 100 points. So, it must be good, right? It wasn’t.

I have three bottles of this Bordeaux, which shall remain nameless. The wine sells for about $1,600 at retail, and $2,500 on restaurant wine lists. At this point, I should say that, no, I don’t buy those kinds of wines. I can’t afford them, for one thing. They happen to have been in a family estate; my sisters and I shared the remainders of a small wine cellar.

What I realize is that my great Bordeaux wine had a problem that a lot of high-priced wines suffer from: too much reputation and exceedingly high expectations. And when it came down to show-and-tell in the glass, the truth was, well, difficult to swallow.

I’ve seen this happen often enough to be convinced that it’s likely true of a large percentage of wines in the $100-and-up category. So, the question is: Can you pay too much for a wine? And what’s a logical price?

My own view — and I follow this — is that I rarely pay more than $30 for a red wine.

These days, the price of a wine is often related to its weightiness, and I am just not a fan of those massive, very dark thick wines, which is what a vast number of high-priced reds are today.

I recently had a telling counter-experience to this story. I took a wine of far lesser repute and expectation, or price — a 1972 Beaulieu Vineyard from Napa Valley from what was supposed to be a mediocre year — to a dinner for an old friend. At about $80 a bottle today, if you can find it, and 12.5-percent alcohol, it had great balance and acidity; the fruit was still holding. It’s what we would call today a lighter red, but even 38 years later, in marvelous condition, more so than the younger-by-a-decade 1982 Bordeaux of the same grape.

So, price and reputation are a slippery slope. Not always, but with a little care and analysis, you can find better wines under $50.

> 2007 B.R. Cohn Cabernet Sauvignon, North Coast, Silver Label ($20): Great structure, balance, good acidity. Herbal aroma and black-cherry notes.
> 2007 Chateau St. Jean Merlot, Sonoma County ($25): Dominated by bright-red fruit notes, hints of green olive. Front to back, long and lingering without being overwhelming.
> 2007 Kendall-Jackson Cabernet Sauvignon, Knight’s Valley, Jackson Hills ($40): Blackberry and ripe plum with a touch of clove. Great acidity and structure throughout.
Edit Module
Edit Module Edit ModuleShow Tags

Archive »Related Content

Sanctuary for the Senses

Castalia in Midtown offers a cocktail experience unlike any other

Local Pie Makers Offer Variety of Fillings

Area bakers offer alternative fillings for holiday pastry.

A Taste of Paris

Cannelle Patisserie chef Matt Knio’s baked goods are turning up in restaurants and markets across metro Detroit

The Big Dipper

Garden Fresh Gourmet is a shining star in the metro Detroit Food scene

A Zen Monk on Her Vegetarian Diet

Myungju Hillary talks spirituality, a plant-based diet, and more
Edit Module
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Most Popular

  1. Best Dressed 2018
    Pulling back the curtain on this year’s selection of the region’s most stylish denizens
  2. Cocktail Recipe: Casa del Cider
  3. Keeping Up with Sheefy McFly
    The multitalented visual artist and musician is ubiquitous in the Motor City
  4. Designer Taste
    A quaint Ferndale shop sells exotic cheese, chocolate, and charcuterie
  5. Excellence in Care: Beaumont Health
    Hour Detroit presented Beaumont Health with an Excellence in Care Award for this extraordinary...
  6. Gathering Spot
    Eastern Market restaurant finds its groove after a rocky beginning
  7. The Way It Was
    Better Made Snack Foods, 1971
  8. Food Recipe: Barbecue Mac & Cheese
    Vast Kitchen and Bar executive chef, Jordan Gillis, upgrades the comfort staple
  9. Sanctuary for the Senses
    Castalia in Midtown offers a cocktail experience unlike any other
  10. Excellence in Care: St. Joseph Mercy Health
    Hour Detroit presented St. Joseph Mercy Health with an Excellence in Care Award for this...