Is it Pate or Dog-food?
May 10, 2013 5:12 AM   Subscribe

 
The upshot: screw the experts. Drink what tastes good/whatever you can afford. Or just have a beer – it's unequivocally better, anyway.

I endorse this article wholeheartedly, and I can definitely tell a pilsner from a stout in a blind taste test.
posted by Drinky Die at 5:23 AM on May 10, 2013 [9 favorites]


If you think you can consistently rate the "quality" of wine, it means two things.

For me it means only one thing: I'm out of whiskey.
posted by three blind mice at 5:24 AM on May 10, 2013 [47 favorites]


I accept the contention of this article, but I've found one caveat. Once in a while, you get a wine that's so good it makes you glad to be alive. And those are never the cheapos. I guess this concurs with "The Exception."
posted by texorama at 5:31 AM on May 10, 2013 [13 favorites]




Far be it from me, etc., but a variation in scores from 4-5 points on a scale of 100 is pretty consistent.

Just drink beer instead? Troll.
posted by Wolof at 5:35 AM on May 10, 2013 [6 favorites]


Far be it from me, etc, but a variation in scores from 4-5 points on a scale of 100 is pretty consistent.

The article says the scale runs from 80 to 100.
posted by burnmp3s at 5:37 AM on May 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


The variation is 8-10 points; 4-5 either way.

Still not horrible, although it seems that range would be much greater if labels and appearance weren't held constant and they were just judging on flavor.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 5:37 AM on May 10, 2013


I found this article piquant and slightly nutty with overtones of ripe boysenberry and green tea and a finish reminiscent of early morning in a Scandinavian forest.
posted by kinnakeet at 5:38 AM on May 10, 2013 [48 favorites]


Wine culture is a class and identity marker. So is complaining about wine culture.
posted by gimonca at 5:39 AM on May 10, 2013 [37 favorites]


kinnakeet: "I found this article piquant and slightly nutty with overtones of ripe boysenberry and green tea and a finish reminiscent of early morning in a Scandinavian forest."

Charlatan! You missed the jaunty undertone of beans!
posted by jquinby at 5:39 AM on May 10, 2013 [30 favorites]


finish reminiscent of early morning in a Scandinavian forest.

Cold, damp, and smelling faintly of reindeer shit?
posted by eriko at 5:40 AM on May 10, 2013 [20 favorites]


So what does this say about wine rating sites? What are they calculating if all the data is nonsense anyways?
posted by Foci for Analysis at 5:41 AM on May 10, 2013


I found this article to give me a splitting headache three hours later.
posted by not_on_display at 5:43 AM on May 10, 2013 [5 favorites]


Why are we listening to i09 about this?
posted by crossoverman at 5:44 AM on May 10, 2013 [15 favorites]


The funny thing is, I see exactly the same level of snobbery and florid language in the coffee geek world.
posted by Thorzdad at 5:45 AM on May 10, 2013 [14 favorites]


All you can conclude from this article is that most wine experts are full of bullshit.

Here's my experience with wine. There are 4 categories:

1) Wine that has gone off. Most people with any taste can tell this.
2) Cheap wine. A bit rough but drinkable
3) Good wine. Usually smoother, with a better nose.
4) Great wine. Stuff that makes you swoon.

The problem is that the vast majority of wine falls into categories 2 and 3. And the differences among them are very subjective.

I'm sure you can make all these arguments with beer, cheese, chocolate, coffee...almost every type of food or drink that is craved. The argument being that there's a huge middle tier full of subjectivity and nonsense.

What it doesn't prove is that there is no such thing as great beer, chocolate, cheese, wine, etc.
posted by vacapinta at 5:46 AM on May 10, 2013 [36 favorites]


The funny thing is, I see exactly the same level of snobbery and florid language in the coffee geek world.

And let's not kid ourselves that this has escaped the beer world. For christsakes there are even salt snobs now!
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 5:47 AM on May 10, 2013 [16 favorites]


So if you buy 2L bottles of non-citrus, actual fruit juice at the supermarket you can drop a few grains of wine or champagne yeast in and loosely screw the cap back on (give a test squeeze to make sure air can get out) and put them in a cool place then in a couple weeks you have a very palatable dry alcoholic beverage which, while not wine, and not a fruit spritzer, and not beer, is still a meritorious member of the "drinkable things with ethanol in" category. Just don't disturb the yeast on the bottom when you pour.

I mention this because making a sipping beverage this way is actually easier than buying wine from the LCBO because you don't have to go to the LCBO to buy bottles, and when you're done with it you don't have an empty that needs to go back to the beer store.

Also it costs about $3.
posted by seanmpuckett at 5:48 AM on May 10, 2013 [19 favorites]


No one is willing to admit that wine doesn't actually have a taste
posted by Just this guy, y'know at 5:48 AM on May 10, 2013 [7 favorites]


The funny thing is, I see exactly the same level of snobbery and florid language in the coffee geek world.

It's commodity fetishism all the way down man.
posted by Foci for Analysis at 5:49 AM on May 10, 2013 [13 favorites]


The funny thing is, I see exactly the same level of snobbery and florid language in the coffee geek world.

Or any kind of geek world, actually. Will that Boba Fett figure really give you the pleasure you seek? Is Lord of the Rings in any way objectively better or worse than A Game of Thrones?

De gustibus non est disputandum; we can only haggle about the price.
posted by GenjiandProust at 5:49 AM on May 10, 2013 [3 favorites]


Why are we listening to i09 about this?

Why aren't we listening to i09 about everything?!
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:50 AM on May 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


Yeah, it's an 8-10 point spread on a 20 point scale, not 4-5 on 100, so that make a bit of a difference.
posted by Nothing at 5:51 AM on May 10, 2013 [3 favorites]


The funny thing is, I see exactly the same level of snobbery and florid language in the coffee geek world.

This is setting the lowest possible bar. Coffee people are the absolute worst.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 5:52 AM on May 10, 2013 [6 favorites]


Charlatan! You missed the jaunty undertone of beans!

And a true connoisseur should be able to discern and correctly identify the grade of bone china on which the beans were served.
posted by Strange Interlude at 5:54 AM on May 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


Yeah, it's an 8-10 point spread on a 20 point scale, not 4-5 on 100, so that make a bit of a difference.

I'm an idiot. But you knew that.
posted by Wolof at 5:54 AM on May 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


This is setting the lowest possible bar. Coffee people are the absolute worst.

You're snobbish about your snobbery. How meta is that.
posted by fungible at 5:55 AM on May 10, 2013 [15 favorites]


Yet it's pretty clear that some wine is better than other wine. Can i get that at least?
And some wine is really not very good.
And some is very very nice.

I do not always drink wine, but when I do I prefer the very very nice.
posted by cccorlew at 6:00 AM on May 10, 2013 [7 favorites]


Why aren't we listening to i09 about everything?!

Because teenage boys are annoying?
posted by R. Mutt at 6:03 AM on May 10, 2013


when I do I prefer the very very nice

I think the gist of the article is not that some wines aren't better than others, but that the factors that determine what is 'very very nice' are as much to do with mood, environment, and preconception as anything else.
posted by pipeski at 6:04 AM on May 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


One bottle bore the label of a fancy grand cru, the other of an ordinary vin de table. Although they were being served the exact same wine, the experts gave the bottles nearly opposite descriptions.

You can do this at home with your friends. Open one bottle of wine (or tap the box), pour some into an ordinary wine glass and pour some into a fancy Reidel, put the two glasses in front a friend and ask them to pick the wine that tastes better to them. A large majority will tell you the wine in the expensive crystal glass is better. I've done it to dozens of people, nobody has asked if they were the same wine.
posted by peeedro at 6:05 AM on May 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


Coffee people are the absolute ...

Excuse me, coffee people don't do "tastings" they do "cuppings", there's a world of difference there.
posted by sammyo at 6:05 AM on May 10, 2013 [8 favorites]


The funny thing is, I see exactly the same level of snobbery and florid language in the coffee geek world.

See also anything else in the world that is vaguely luxury-ish and lends itself to reviews by experts - cars, video games, beer, restaurants, consumer electronics...
posted by backseatpilot at 6:05 AM on May 10, 2013


Every time. Every fucking time someone decides he thinks wine critics are too snobby or exclusionary (a really sneering kind of anti-intellectualism, predicated mostly on deciding he thinks their adjectives are too effete), he breaks out that that Brochet article about people who can't distinguish between red and white wine, and guffaws into his sherry about how incompetent wine "experts" are. I'll just paste in my comment from the last time this came up on MeFi:

Let's talk about the simplistic and completely incorrect analysis of it that got parroted all over the internet. Its genesis in popular culture can most likely be tracked back to a discussion in "You're Not As Smart As You Think You Are," another blogging success story that launched a book deal. Unfortunately, as part of that book deal, the original article has been taken down, and they've opted not to allow Search Inside to index it on Amazon, so I'm stuck working with synopses of the article (which was itself apparently a reasonably poor synopsis of the paper in question, frequently confusing the individual studies performed and misattributing the number of subjects and the conclusions actually reached by the author. But I digress). Following the trail, here's the paper in the original French, and an English translation without diagrams. My French is middling at best, and I certainly don't know the full vocabulary of tasting notes, so let's stick with the English version and refer back to the diagrams in the original, yes?

The setup: bring in a bunch test subjects, give them glasses of red and white wine and write down their tasting impressions, and then bring them back a few days later with the great ruse in place: two identical glasses of white wine, one dyed red. The subjects are then asked to describe their olfactory and gustatory impressions of the wine, with specific mind to their choice of adjectives. Crucially, you will note the lack of any mention of the subjects' wine-tasting expertise--I'm left to infer that these were undergraduates he recruited for the day. I wonder where the later summaries got the idea that experts were involved? Perhaps it was this, buried in the discussion:
The hypothesis of very strong variations in representations, even among expert subjects, could also be demonstrated by a third experiment.
It could indeed be demonstrated. Let me know when it is.

Now to the conclusions. In which we learn that this is primarily a study of word choice, noting the words used to describe the wines in their various circumstances. (note the list of adjectives referenced, which includes terms we're familiar with like "balanced," "open," and "complex" versus "unbalanced," "closed," and "simple") Here's the meat of the results:
The real red wine was described from an olfactory and gustative point of view in classical red wine terms. Whereas the white wine was described in usual white wine terms during this first experiment. In a similar fashion the white wine of the second experiment was described with white wine terms, this opposed to the same white wine coloured red. The Chi test carried out on the descriptions permitted the affirmation that the subjects described the two wines of the colour red in an identical fashion whereas one of them presented the aromas of a white wine. On the contrary the presence of the colour red in the white wine reversed the description of its descriptive parameters. In this experiment the perception of fragrance and taste conformed therefore to colour.
"[I]n an identical fashion" probably leaps out at you, but you'll note from the context that we're talking about abstract descriptive terms, and not "notes of lemon and citrus" versus "oaky and full of cherry and pomegranate." So. Sounds to me like he's actually talking about abstract descriptive language, couched in terms that the subjects were only peripherally familiar with from reading Parker's guides to the great chateaux. Maybe there's something in the analysis that warrants a sweeping generalization like "experts couldn't tell the difference between red and white wine?"
It should absolutely not be imagined that the perceptive representation of great or small wines relies only on their label or their colour
Nope, that still sounds like it's contributing toward the general theme, "sensory inputs can color the analysis of other, seemingly-unrelated sensory inputs." He did MRI studies and everything! What he did not do, however, is make any sort of statement in support of how the article was synopsized by "You're Not As Smart As You Think You Are" (and the irony therein is duly noted). Which leads me back to my original statement: This guy is absolutely full of shit, and I can't even begin to fathom why anyone would believe anything he wrote.

No serious person would ever make the claim that red and white wine cannot be distinguished by someone who knows what s/he is talking about. It is analogous to saying that a chef is unable to distinguish between salt and pepper. It is a ridiculous statement, parroted by those who enjoy sneering at people who like different things than they do. Please stop parroting obvious bullshit.
posted by Mayor West at 6:07 AM on May 10, 2013 [99 favorites]


"Also it costs about $3."

It's also occasionally possible to pick up 30 bottle wine kits for about that price/finished litre (I've got 1 ageing and 3 waiting to be made up that were about 1/2 that). Quite a bit more work involved, though.
posted by titus-g at 6:08 AM on May 10, 2013


Coffee people are the absolute worst.

This is unfair and untrue. Before their first cup of coffee, coffee people care nothing about quality. After their fourth cup, they cannot focus enough to judge. It's only that median area where they can be annoying.

Whiskey people are not so much annoying as a menace. At least coffee, wine, and beer people try to get you to drink something that tastes of floral elements, fruit, or chocolate, all lovely things. Whiskey gets described as "with a aura of bog moss and iodine...."
posted by GenjiandProust at 6:10 AM on May 10, 2013 [8 favorites]


This is exactly why I make my own wine with Kool-Aid and a touch of Everclear.
posted by orme at 6:10 AM on May 10, 2013 [4 favorites]


Yeah, it's an 8-10 point spread on a 20 point scale, not 4-5 on 100, so that make a bit of a difference.

Why are we listening to anyone who couldn't report this with a simple standard deviation or coefficient of variation so we'd know exactly what the issue was and whether or not it was 9.7, 9.4 and a 5.2 from the guy who lives in the oleander bushes behind 7-11.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 6:12 AM on May 10, 2013 [3 favorites]


IO9 seems to have mistitled their article somewhat; it seems like they are claiming that wine rating is bullshit or perhaps even professional tasting is bullshit. I'd agree with that at least a little.

But regular person wine tasting is awesome and fun. There is definitely a difference between brands and varietals. (I have done an amateur wine tasting where different reds were served, sans label, in the same glasses and most people including myself could tell some key characteristics) Cab franc does not taste the same as zinfandel. It doesn't smell or look the same either and enjoying wine (not professional tasting perhaps but actual drinking and enjoying) is about the color and feel and scent as well as taste.


Vacapinta nails it: The problem is that the vast majority of wine falls into categories 2 and 3. And the differences among them are very subjective.

I'm sure you can make all these arguments with beer, cheese, chocolate, coffee...almost every type of food or drink that is craved. The argument being that there's a huge middle tier full of subjectivity and nonsense.

What it doesn't prove is that there is no such thing as great beer, chocolate, cheese, wine, etc.
THAT is true.
posted by pointystick at 6:12 AM on May 10, 2013 [3 favorites]


Really, the problem with wine reviews is the same problem with any sort of product reviews lately - too much buddying up by the industry, payola, and fear of retaliation if you should dare to give something a negative review. What we need is something like Consumer Reports for wine.
posted by backseatpilot at 6:14 AM on May 10, 2013


"Commodity fetishism" was a nifty turn of phrase that I am absolutely stealing.
posted by aramaic at 6:21 AM on May 10, 2013 [4 favorites]


You investigate a subject long enough, you're going to find subtleties that are difficult to define with the terms used by those who haven't investigated the subject as long. This is neither a good nor a bad thing in itself. The problem seems to present when those who have investigated subject x long enough to know the jargon for some reason assume they're better than those who have not.
posted by Mooski at 6:22 AM on May 10, 2013


"Commodity fetishism" was a nifty turn of phrase that I am absolutely stealing.

Might get you labelled as a Marxist... Commodity fetishism
posted by titus-g at 6:27 AM on May 10, 2013 [3 favorites]


I'd no sooner trust i09's take on wine tasting than I'd trust Wine Spectator's assessment of which Doctor was the best.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 6:32 AM on May 10, 2013 [7 favorites]


A large majority will tell you the wine in the expensive crystal glass is better.

My husband and I, no wine snobs by any stretch, tried this a few years ago with a wine we liked (Cline zinfandel, IIRC) -- the glass really did make it taste different. It was because of the shape of the glass, not the fanciness of it. The globe-shaped glass made it taste/smell way more barnyard-y than the one with the straight sides. (or was it the other way around? I forget)
posted by mneekadon at 6:33 AM on May 10, 2013 [3 favorites]


No serious person would ever make the claim that red and white wine cannot be distinguished by someone who knows what s/he is talking about.

Agreed. That was when it was clear the article was written either by an idiot or a troll.
posted by aught at 6:39 AM on May 10, 2013


Didn't we just have this conversation?
posted by shakespeherian at 6:40 AM on May 10, 2013


sweet berry wine!
posted by a shrill fucking shitstripe at 6:40 AM on May 10, 2013 [8 favorites]


I remember seeing Jilly Goolden doing blind tastings on The Food & Drink Show (BBC) back in the day, where she could identify the grape, region, year and even vineyard from a single slurp. Was that bullshit?
posted by Shatner's Bassoon at 6:42 AM on May 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


Is the wine Eiswein or Muscat or a very sweet Riesling? Then it's good. Otherwise, meh.

This is my wine heathen scale of wine judging.
posted by kmz at 6:42 AM on May 10, 2013


Because teenage boys are annoying?

Which alternate universe io9 are you reading/making assumptions about?
posted by kmz at 6:46 AM on May 10, 2013


Dylan Moran says there are only two types of wine
posted by Shatner's Bassoon at 6:47 AM on May 10, 2013 [3 favorites]


> This is my wine heathen scale of wine judging.

I can tell Ripple from Mad Dog 20-20. Every. single. time.
posted by jfuller at 6:48 AM on May 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


Once in a while, you get a wine that's so good it makes you glad to be alive. And those are never the cheapos. I guess this concurs with "The Exception."


Eh. The only examples I can cite that really even come close to this were pretty inexpensive, in relative terms. One was a pear mead from somewhere in the finger lakes, that had this achingly brief explosion of pear essence with every sip. It's there -- it's gone. The other was a really nice tawny port from australia that, to be honest, I've forgotten the name of. ('Old Cave', maybe?) Tasted like hazelnuts. Really, it did. I have no idea why. I used to like to dump a tot of it in Sierra Nevada porter.

anyway, cheap can be bad, but i've never noted that expensive had any real correlation with 'good' aside from the fact that some varietals (e.g. Malbec, which I like a lot) are just always a little more expensive because there aren't cheap versions yet.
posted by lodurr at 6:53 AM on May 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


I pretty much go with the Dave Barry approach to it, which is the same as his approach to beer, which is pretty much drink it and look around for more.
posted by GallonOfAlan at 6:55 AM on May 10, 2013 [9 favorites]


Is the wine Eiswein or Muscat or a very sweet Riesling? Then it's good. Otherwise, meh.

you just gave me a sugar-rush headache even thinking about this. which is why I can also no longer drink tawny port. that's one of the few things I actually miss drinking.
posted by lodurr at 6:55 AM on May 10, 2013


Because teenage boys are annoying?

*shoots rubber band*
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:58 AM on May 10, 2013 [3 favorites]


I will agree with the author of on thing, wine scores are advertising bullshit and nothing more. Wine tasters though, are not - even if they can't score consistently. Beer suffers from the same problem, as do any other competitive spirits. The other part is that once you taste something, you can never un-taste it and start again. Your scale, your point of perception is forever altered. This also goes with food, except food has the ability to hide behind its appearance. Physically, wine is judged on its bottle, label, color and its legs; - everything else is smell and taste.

I can generally spot signature elements of cooking when it comes to culinary competitions. Certain people do certain things really well - and in competition they get somewhat creative and do something they've never shown before, but they definitely play to their strengths - and only work within their knowledge. With wine, there are some signature notes, but there is no experimentation or spontaneity in the output.

As a matter of fact, one of the best wine experiences that I ever had was with Steele vineyards. Their rep went to a level that was pretty insanely awesome. They tasted about 15 bottle of the same wine for us, varying the year and the lot# - effectively they put it out there for us to see the level of consistency in product they had. This, by the way, is something I had never seen a vintner do before. Effectively what one could see was that the bottle was consistent with certain flavors, that lots were consistent, and that characteristics. While their wine is pretty cheap by the standards of where I was cooking, it was awesome to see them work their way onto our list. It was well worth the price and good for a low-cost good glass.


Once in a while, you get a wine that's so good it makes you glad to be alive. And those are never the cheapos. I guess this concurs with "The Exception."

AN/2 - a Spanish Rioja, a wine I generally detest - it was probably the most perfect bottle of wine I have ever had. The tasting was great, I had seconds - rare for me. Then I found out the wholesale cost per bottle was $472.00 - amazingly worth every penny. We bought none, though - it wouldn't sell with what we were doing.
posted by Nanukthedog at 6:59 AM on May 10, 2013 [5 favorites]


Which alternate universe io9 are you reading/making assumptions about?

probably the one where most of io9's writing staff isn't women between 25 and 35.
posted by lodurr at 7:00 AM on May 10, 2013


regular person wine tasting is awesome and fun

Regular person anything tasting is fun. You sit down with some friends and a variety of something, and really enjoy the food and/or drink that is in front of you. Focus on the flavors, chat about it, and enjoy some more. Try something different, compare and contrast. Beer, wine, cheese, coffee, pastries, cookies, anything you like.
posted by filthy light thief at 7:02 AM on May 10, 2013 [4 favorites]


seanmpuckett: "So if you buy 2L bottles of non-citrus, actual fruit juice at the supermarket you can drop a few grains of wine or champagne yeast in and loosely screw the cap back on [...] making a sipping beverage this way is actually easier than buying wine from the LCBO because you don't have to go to the LCBO to buy bottles, and when you're done with it you don't have an empty that needs to go back to the beer store."

Speaking as:
A.) a guy who lives in an area where alcohol culture is celebrated and not restricted
B.) a guy who works in the wine industry
C.) and also works in the warehouse from which our wine is distributed

I can barely even comprehend your post. That sounds so much more complex than sending an email to the inventory manager saying, "Hey, mind putting in an order for me?" and having the bottles delivered to your desk a few hours later.

but maybe I'm spoiled.
posted by komara at 7:04 AM on May 10, 2013 [5 favorites]


I have a friend who likes to use the phrase, "cult of nuance."
posted by Jode at 7:07 AM on May 10, 2013 [8 favorites]


Once in a while, you get a wine that's so good it makes you glad to be alive. And those are never the cheapos. I guess this concurs with "The Exception."

Agreed, mostly. Once in a great while you strike gold on a <$10 bottle of wine, but I've only had it happen twice, and the next vintage of both of them doubled in price because word got out. Your odds of striking gold go up as the price does, up to a certain point. Above $50/bottle, it's basically a flat line. I have a lot of wine in my basement, including one remaining bottle of the most ethereal beverage-tasting experience I've ever had. (When I found it, I bought up every bottle I could find, but there weren't many left) It was a little pricey, but this is wine so good that it can turn a bad day around; it's so good that it ruins other wines for a few days, because it makes you think "hey, if this winemaker can do this so well, why can't other people?"; it is like the wine equivalent of sipping cocoa in front of a fire on a bearskin rug on a snowy day.

Every now and then you get lucky and find a bottle that is more an experience than a libation. When it happens, you feel as though everything in the universe has—just for a brief moment—aligned in your favor, and that all is well in your life. That is what I seek. And when I see people try to tear down the experience as elitist or onanist, I get a little cranky and wonder what it is that drives their antagonism toward something I love.
posted by Mayor West at 7:13 AM on May 10, 2013 [9 favorites]


I learnt to drink wine out of my granddad's amazing collection of mainly French grand vins. (It came to him in the form of a host of 50 years birthday presents in 1966, but he was already interested).
It's taken me 20 years to get used to wines I can actually afford. There is a difference, but it's not between 10 and 20 dollars, or even 50. Within that range, there are variations. You can easily find a ten-dollar bottle you prefer to the pricier ones.
When my granddad died, my grandmother sold off some 50 bottles, at a median price of 500 dollars. Only then did we realize how privileged we'd been. Obviously, it's crazy to spend a month's rent on the stuff you drink with your roast chicken, but that was essentially what we'd been doing. And that wine was good.
posted by mumimor at 7:18 AM on May 10, 2013


That is what I seek. And when I see people try to tear down the experience as elitist or onanist, I get a little cranky and wonder what it is that drives their antagonism toward something I love.

I don't see anyone as trying to tear down your experience, I see them trying to tear down the cruft that has built up around that experience. Pretty much every article like this ends with a line to the effect of "find some wine you enjoy and drink it," which is what it sounds like you've done. All of the ratings and specialized language can, for many people, be a barrier to finding that bottle that they love and drinking it, and I think the ultimate goal of people who complain about elitism in wine is to get rid of that.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 7:21 AM on May 10, 2013 [5 favorites]


Wine culture is a class and identity marker.

Well when I was living on Ponce de Leon near Highland Ave in Atlanta in the 1980s I got to know a a number of homeless drunks who used to sleep in the stairwell of my apartment building whenever it was cold. When I would hang out drinking with them, they would go on and on and on about whatever wine they were drinking, what was the best buzz for the money, etc. - when they weren't making fun of me for drinking beer.

Let me tell you, it is not only upper class wealthy white people who drink and hold strong opinions about wine.
posted by three blind mice at 7:28 AM on May 10, 2013 [7 favorites]


Good wine tasters and good poets are rare.
Good wine-tasting poets or poetic wine tasters exponentially so.
posted by fullerine at 7:33 AM on May 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


they would go on and on and on about whatever wine they were drinking,

I'm guessing they were drinking from this family of wine.

Actually, I wish I liked wine, since it's always fun to have a new way to get a buzz, but it makes me gag.
posted by jonmc at 7:34 AM on May 10, 2013


The problem with all claims that there are some wines which are simply in a different world from "ordinary" wines is that these "extraordinary" wines--about which the most uncompromising claims are made as to their radical difference from the ordinary--can never, ever be reliably distingished from the ordinary wines in genuinely blind tastings.

If you want to cure yourself of wine snobbery, go look at the winners of genuinely blind and genuineky open wine tastings (and there are relatively few of them because wine "experts" strongly dislike them). You will find that home-made wines frequently feature in the top ten--that there is simply no consistent finding that certain wines are "extraordinary" and reveal themselves to be in a different league from $10 wines.

Now, this isn't to say that there aren't wines you love and wines you don't and that it's not worth figuring out which is which. But it is to say that our taste is hugely subject to the influence of expectations, and that if you have consistently found that expensive wines are better, richer, more complex than cheap wines, there is simply no good experimental data to support a claim that this finding was independent from your knowledge of the wine's cost.

Another way of putting this is that if you were given the entire contents of a good wine shop with all the labels removed and told to experiment with their holdings for a year or two and then choose your favorite five wines it is almost certain that there would be at best a very weak correlation between your taste preferences and the prices of those wines.
posted by yoink at 7:36 AM on May 10, 2013 [4 favorites]


For me, because I'm a cheap bitch, there's wine that sucks and wine that doesn't suck. That's as good as it gets. Wine that sucks usually means about 5 hours after I drink some, I am cursed with the searing banana of pain running down the back of my skull into my neck and that takes a full 24 hours to get rid of.
posted by PuppyCat at 8:08 AM on May 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


Two things:

1) Wine is rated between 80 and 100. WTF?! 1-20 was too simple? Why not make it between 73 and 93? Or 126-146? How stupid and needlessly confusing is that?

2) Rating wines as a sort of 'math' is bullshit. The article makes this abundantly clear. I wish wine tasters would treat their craft more like 'wine reviewing' like movie reviewers. Find a critic who generally matches your tastes and trust their instincts.
posted by Phreesh at 8:16 AM on May 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


I'm kind of biased, because I work for a small-batch, high-quality coffee roaster, and could easily be thrown into "coffee snob" classification. But only coffee-assholes will disagree that it's really all about the line you call good. Same goes for wine. Same goes for cheese.

Price doesn't always go hand in hand with quality. It's not even a rough indicator. I've had the pleasure of drinking some very, very expensive coffees in my day. And even being in the industry and working with higher quality coffee everyday, is that what I want for breakfast? Is that what I drink with bacon and eggs? Fuck no. My favorite all-time coffee comes from a medium sized farm in El Salvador run by a super fucking rad family, and costs on average about $20.00/lb (cheaper than k-cup coffee per pound mind you....). I have picked that coffee out of a double-blind line-up about half a dozen times, and it's phenomenal. I love it. but in terms of the "specialty coffee" market, it's fairly inexpensive.

My wife and I have plenty of wines that we keep in the basement like this too. Not super expensive, but not the basement of cheap. They drink well, and we like them.

Drink what you like, and don't be an asshole.
posted by furnace.heart at 8:19 AM on May 10, 2013 [5 favorites]


seanmpuckett, fermented fruit juice is wine. So, that's wine you're making. (Except if it's apple cider you're doing it with, in which case it's hard cider, which I don't understand why that's not wine either.)

I've been using the following guidelines for years for making a $5.00 gallon of wine using common household ingredients and equipment. If it does not taste as good as, or better than, wine that costs $6.00 a gallon (as well as getting you good 'n' drunk) then I will personally drink the rest of it.

Please note: This is not a recipe. These are guidelines. If you want to use a standard specific recipe you can always go to the local beer-and-winemaking supplies place and spend a couple hundred bucks on "carboys" and "wine yeast" and clarifiers and whatnot.

Ingredients:
I small packet of Yeast
3 cups Sugar
A couple of cans of juice concentrate or 2 12oz bags of frozen fruit or a 1/2 gallon bottle of fruit juice or whatever.
Water

Equipment:
1 gallon or 3 Liter (4/5 gallon) jug
balloon

If you are using fresh/frozen fruit instead of concentrate or juice, mash the stuff up with a potato masher or fork or put it in the blender or something first.

Dissolve the sugar in very hot, but not boiling water.

Put the fruity stuff into the jug.
Add the yeast pack.
Add the sugar/water. Top it off with hot water, leaving a little room, like 3 or 4 inches from the top. Put the lid on the jug

Shake it up Oo oo...shake it up

Take the lid off the jug

Poke a few holes in the balloon and put it on top of the jug. This will let CO2 out without letting air in.
Wait 2 weeks.

You will now have Wine! It will be cloudy and there will be a layer of dead yeast/rotten fruit sediment at the bottom. If you refrigerate it for a couple of nights, it will stop fermenting and all of the sediment will settle. (You can drink it when it’s cloudy. It will taste a little yeasty, but, what the hell). Then you can siphon it into a different bottle. Or pour it through a coffee filter.
posted by Cookiebastard at 8:19 AM on May 10, 2013 [6 favorites]


From what I've seen, most people who do it cookiebastard's way end up drinking less. Plus they have fun making it. But I'm unconvinced most of those folks save any money.

It's kind of like making your own yoghurt. Most people who do it aren't saving any money. Some are, for sure, but most of them keep doing it because they like knowing they made what they're eating. for most people it's an aesthetic choice.

a lot of these things we're talking about here are aesthetic choices. we're just making them in different places, with different criteria.
posted by lodurr at 8:31 AM on May 10, 2013


Whiskey gets described as "with a aura of bog moss and iodine...."

You say that like it's a bad thing! Also, you forgot "eau de bonfire."

When I worked at Whole Foods, our wine buyer held tastings pretty regularly for the department so that we'd have a better idea of how/what to recommend for pairings (he did this with beer, too). We always tasted things from a range of price points, and I learned a lot. Still would rather have a beer or a whiskey, though.
posted by rtha at 8:36 AM on May 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


Well, at least I can tell the difference between wine and whine. That article was full of the latter.
posted by Termite at 8:36 AM on May 10, 2013


regular person wine tasting is awesome and fun

Regular person anything tasting is fun. You sit down with some friends and a variety of something, and really enjoy the food and/or drink that is in front of you. Focus on the flavors, chat about it, and enjoy some more. Try something different, compare and contrast. Beer, wine, cheese, coffee, pastries, cookies, anything you like.


A while back -- ok a great while back -- I attended an olive oil tasting at a local 'gourmet' grocery store. It was educational, enlightening, and enjoyable.

As to the article, there are many ways of dealing with subjectivity. Conspiracy theories are one strategy, I suppose.
 
posted by Herodios at 8:37 AM on May 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


i don't drink, but i buy wine for gifts. usually varietal, and there are two or three varieties that ALWAYS get positively commented on. their flavors/characteristics are unambiguous. i won't bore you with details, but i do think that usually, a randomly purchased wine in any price category is a crap shoot. the stuff isn't diet coke.... it's a lot more complicated and variations in the input, processing, and post-bottling make it a fun game for < $20 wines.

at a certain point, economics gets really important and once something crosses my 'threshold of value', i have to think hard about it. currently, that stands at $7 US. So, if a bottle exceeded $28, that would be more or less four servings at that level and i'd balk. below that, noise level, but in the 10-20 dollar range, that seems fair for what's involved in production and distribution.

most people go by the label. impressive label? high price. ergo better? not often, and certainly not often and enough to warrant a huge premium.
posted by FauxScot at 8:37 AM on May 10, 2013


I've been homebrewing for five years. My beer certainly has some devotees, but there are quite a few in my circle, including Mrs Robots, who prefer wine. So, I've started making wine. And, you know what? It's fun! The best part? Now I, too, can be a pompous asshole! Like, last night, I read that Zinfandel is just the American name for a Croatian grape called Tribidrag. I can hardly wait to label a batch under its real name, and smirk at everyone who needs me to tell them it's Zinfandel!
posted by No Robots at 8:38 AM on May 10, 2013 [3 favorites]


Whiskey people are not so much annoying as a menace. At least coffee, wine, and beer people try to get you to drink something that tastes of floral elements, fruit, or chocolate, all lovely things. Whiskey gets described as "with a aura of bog moss and iodine...."

Sounds like someone got you to sample an Islay, probably Lagavulin. There are a great many different scotch flavors, some of which are sweet, and yes even fruity. Try some Clynelish or Glengoyne.
posted by Fleebnork at 8:38 AM on May 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


Just b/c wine tasting is subjective doesn't mean it's bullshit.

Wine ratings as some sort of absolute, objective measure of the quality of wine, sure, that's bullshit. Think of wine ratings like music ratings. Taylor Swift might get a 91/100 or whatever on Metacritic, but it sure sounds like shit to me.

Enjoy what you drink. Taste lots of different wines to learn what you like. That's what wine tasting is for.

Another way of putting this is that if you were given the entire contents of a good wine shop with all the labels removed and told to experiment with their holdings for a year or two and then choose your favorite five wines it is almost certain that there would be at best a very weak correlation between your taste preferences and the prices of those wines.

I don't think anyone here is likely under the impression that more $ = better wine.

If you automatically think that more expensive wines are better, you need to improve your critical thinking skills (although it is our society's conventional wisdom for any consumer good.)

tl;dr - that article was SEO chum. Wine tasting is no more bullshit than beer tasting.
posted by mrgrimm at 8:40 AM on May 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


Sounds like someone got you to sample an Islay, probably Lagavulin. There are a great many different scotch flavors, some of which are sweet, and yes even fruity. Try some Clynelish or Glengoyne.

Pshaw, study after study has shown that in quadruple-blind taste tests 90% of heads of state cannot tell the difference between high-end whisky and a brick in the teeth. Anyone who says otherwise is a liar and also a pretentious asshole who should be murdered.
posted by shakespeherian at 8:42 AM on May 10, 2013 [6 favorites]


If someone is testing how heads of state react to getting their teeth knocked out with bricks I want in.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 8:45 AM on May 10, 2013 [3 favorites]


Bay Area mefites have done several potluck-style liquor tastings over the last few years (we just did a bourbon & rye one recently), and they've been great - many props to aubilenon for hosting. It's been a great way to discover new things in good company.
posted by rtha at 8:47 AM on May 10, 2013


regular person wine tasting is awesome and fun

Any sort of wine tasting can be really fun if you have the right attitude. Tasting wines with an expert in a 13th century French wine cellar was a once in a lifetime type of fun for me (honeymoon).

It was not long after Sideways, and (though in Chateauneuf) the guy was bemoaning the Merlot backlash. He kept saying, in a tremendously entertaining accent, "the '61 Cheval Blanc is 90% Merlot!"

:D
posted by mrgrimm at 8:49 AM on May 10, 2013


I actually was dating a sommelier shortly after Sideways came out and asked him to comment. He said that the whole Merlot backlash was more of a market-driven thing - at the time the movie came out, a whole lot of vinters had come out with their own takes on Merlot blends, and some of them were just really crappy - but they sold well anyway because Merlot was just sort of in vogue. It had nothing to do with the Merlot grapes themselves - it was more like, at that point in time, a lot of people were trying to do Merlot and there was a big signal-to-noise issue.

Kind of like the bacon craze - a lot of people are all "ugh, don't give me anything with bacon, I'm sick of it," but it's not that bacon itself is a problem, it's more a backlash against people putting bacon into every damn thing because it's trendy.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:56 AM on May 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


I don't think anyone here is likely under the impression that more $ = better wine.

If you automatically think that more expensive wines are better, you need to improve your critical thinking skills (although it is our society's conventional wisdom for any consumer good.)


There are plenty of statements in this thread to the effect that $10-$20 wines can never be expected to match the rarified excellence of really *great* (and consequently, much more expensive) wines.

And if there were such a thing as wines that are--for the majority of people with reasonably educated palates--markedly and consistently superior to other wines then there should be a pretty strong correlation between price and quality. Why on earth wouldn't there be? Why would anyone pay $200 for a bottle of wine if they weren't reasonably strongly convinced that drinking it will be a considerably more pleasurable experience than drinking a $2 bottle of wine?

But the simple fact of the matter is that if you get a group of the most sophisticated wine-tasters in the world together and ask them to rate, blind, a flight of wines ranging from the most expensive to the least expensive their ratings will bear very little correlation to the prices of the wines (interestingly, with champagnes, there's actually a slight inverse correlation). I have read hundreds of different studies on this stuff because it's a personal interest of mine and by now it's simply beyond reasonable argument. There is simply no such thing as a wine that is so markedly superior to all "cheap" wines that if rating it blindly we could confidently predict that sophisticated and knowledgeable wine tasters would generally agree to it being worth substantially more than average wines in the $10 to $20 range.

One of my favorite such experiments, actually--although I've momentarily forgotten the name of the guy who has been running it--is one which rates different vintages of the same wine against each other. You are all familiar, of course, with the notion that there is a marked difference between different vintages of the same wine, that the '67 was one of the greatest ever wines but the '68 was utter bilgewater etc. These ratings tend to get pretty strongly codified (you can buy guides to the best vintages and the price differences are very, very strongly marked etc.). So, anyway, there's this guy who's a professional wine taster who has been running an ongoing triangle test at wine-tasting conventions that he goes to where he takes what are conventionally regarded as the best and worst vintages of a given wine, pours two measures of one and one of the other and asks people (and, remember, these are all professional wine tasters) to see A) if they can detect which is the odd one out and B) which of the two wines they think is better. Many will fail at step A), which is remarkable enough in itself; remember, these are wines where there is a strong professional consensus that the difference between them is night and day. But for those who do correctly and consistently distinguish vintage 1 from vintage 2, the question as to which is the better wine comes up with random responses. There is simply no coherent and consistent judgment from professional wine tasters as to whether the "best" vintage or the "worst" vintage of the same wine is the better wine.
posted by yoink at 9:01 AM on May 10, 2013 [6 favorites]


Is Lord of the Rings in any way objectively better or worse than A Game of Thrones?

/draws sword
posted by Celsius1414 at 9:02 AM on May 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


Wines are rated from 80 - 100? What, are video game reviewers moonlighting now?
posted by xedrik at 9:03 AM on May 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


My tried and true method of buying wine...if the label has animals wearing people clothes it is a winner and it goes in the basket.
posted by ian1977 at 9:05 AM on May 10, 2013 [19 favorites]


So, just thinking outloud here, because I don't care one way or the other about wine tasting. I just get Yellow Tail because its cheap and reliable.

Wine chemistry is complicated, but it's not that complicated. I don't know why they don't do chemical analysis of wines, match up the compositions with the scents and flavors people claim to be able to perceive, and automatically generate flavor profiles, and comparisons between different brands and vintages.
posted by empath at 9:06 AM on May 10, 2013


MetaFilter: the searing banana of pain
posted by slogger at 9:06 AM on May 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


Heck with two weeks, I did some DIY that only took 2-3 days and LOVED it. Plus, it's my house and my fridge so I could swig out of the 64oz jug and put it back in the fridge and NOBODY YELLED AT ME.
posted by mrbill at 9:09 AM on May 10, 2013


I've been homebrewing for years, and the wines that I've been putting out (some from kits, some from fruit) are, according to a couple restauranteur friends, on par with a lot of $30-40ish wines in terms of taste and quality. All for the low, low price of about $2 per bottle to produce. I think what turns me off most about commercial wines is the high sulfite content, which makes me flush and has a disagreeable taste to me. I like splitting my wines into smaller batches for aging, and experimenting with different oaking and finishing techniques to produce vastly different results. That's what I really enjoy about wine (and beer, for that matter); being able to taste the differences from one batch to the next (or from one differently-aged portion of a batch), and knowing and appreciating the "nuts and bolts" that produced that change. This tastes this way, and here's precisely why.


(But for off-the-shelf wine, you'll take my $6 Barefoot Moscato from my cold, dead hands. That's grown-up Kool-Aid for the summer, right there.)
posted by xedrik at 9:10 AM on May 10, 2013 [3 favorites]


Wine culture is a class and identity marker.

I'm a winin' boy
Don't deny my name
posted by Kirth Gerson at 9:12 AM on May 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


Kind of like the bacon craze - a lot of people are all "ugh, don't give me anything with bacon, I'm sick of it," but it's not that bacon itself is a problem, it's more a backlash against people putting bacon into every damn thing because it's trendy.

Oh, I understand the history. The bad Merlot was flowing for a long time, and it was a good detail for the character, to show the extent of his wonkery and snobbishness, i.e. I'm sure he wouldn't be fucking drinking any White Zinfandel or fortified wines either.

The Frenchman gave the movie makers credit on the Cheval Blanc and called it a perfect ironic touch that most American idiots would miss. I tend to disagree. I think Giamatti should have been drinking a classic DRC (or was he not enough of a yuppie for that?)

I've been homebrewing for years

What's the best way to start?

Wine culture is a class and identity marker.

What culture isn't?
posted by mrgrimm at 9:13 AM on May 10, 2013


But the simple fact of the matter is that if you get a group of the most sophisticated wine-tasters in the world together and ask them to rate, blind, a flight of wines ranging from the most expensive to the least expensive their ratings will bear very little correlation to the prices of the wines (interestingly, with champagnes, there's actually a slight inverse correlation). I have read hundreds of different studies on this stuff because it's a personal interest of mine and by now it's simply beyond reasonable argument.

Then I'm sure you must know of similar studies as to beer tasting?
posted by mrgrimm at 9:16 AM on May 10, 2013


Just b/c wine tasting is subjective doesn't mean it's bullshit.

Well, that rather depends on what we mean by "subjective" (and what we mean by "bullshit" I guess).

For example, we could claim "o.k., there are no wines that all or even a majority of wine drinkers will agree--in a blind test--are worth ten times the price of an average $10 bottle of wine; BUT, there are wines which I personally find so enjoyable that they are worth that much to me." Thus you could say "sure, there's no way to justify the average person shelling out $200 for Chateau Plonque because they won't, on average, enjoy it any more than Two-Buck Chuck; but for me personally it's worth it because I do."

The problem with that claim, though, is that you have almost certainly not subjected yourself to any kind of rigorous double-blind testing to see if your heightened enjoyment of Chateau Plonque is actually due entirely to its taste or is due to your knowledge that it's very expensive, that purchasing it suggests something about your sophistication, your savoir-faire, your superior capacity to enjoy the fine things of life etc. etc. etc.

The thing about most of these psychological pressures on subjective taste experience (and this applies to taste in the widest sense: music, art, food, wine etc.) is that they aren't tiny effects that only get expressed significantly en masse; they're pretty gross effects that influence individuals very radically. If I pour you Two Buck Chuck out of a Chateau Plonque bottle, it is a very, very predictable and repeatable effect that you will enjoy it a great deal more than if I pour it for you out of a Two Buck Chuck bottle.

Now, obviously wines don't all taste the same and we enjoy some of the tastes and we don't enjoy others. Also the same wine in different circumstances (with different food, different company etc. etc.) tastes very different. So it is certainly true that there are subjective judgments that we come to that are assessing real "qualities" of the experience we have with the wine. But we still need to be on guard, even within that subjective realm, against the effects of expectation. Or, putting it another way, even the claim "I know what I like!" can be just as much bullshit as the critics claim "I know what you should like."
posted by yoink at 9:17 AM on May 10, 2013 [3 favorites]


If you want to start making wine at home, you'd do much worse than to start with an OzTops kit, which is basically what I described above. You get special venting caps for your pop/juice bottles and a couple kinds of yeast. $25 AUD including shipping, no special equipment or kitchen science, and you can make hundreds of litres if you are stingy with the yeast.

Note that I let mine sit for weeks, months or years; I'm not interested in sparkling sweet wine, I want dry sipping wine.

However, if you pop it in the fridge after a couple days so fermentation stops before all the sugar is gone, you get sparkling sweetness.
posted by seanmpuckett at 9:18 AM on May 10, 2013


Wine culture is a class and identity marker.

What culture isn't?


Agriculture.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 9:21 AM on May 10, 2013 [2 favorites]




Wine isn't some magical substance that is immune to capitalism. Prices are come from a combination of demand, scarcity, and price to produce, not some sort of objective truth about quality. This is true about everything. And like almost everything food-related, the best stuff (to my taste) comes not from big champagne houses or the grand cru chateaux, but from small farmers who love their land and love what they make and can do basically everything from growing to labels themselves. They tend to make the type of wine they want to drink (and drink often), not wine designed to go into cellars or auction tables.

In fact, this is a lot like concert tickets. The Rolling Stones made some great albums decades ago, and maybe they can still put on a good show, but that ticket costs $150, you already know what you're going to get, and you share that experience with a whole arena full of people. A new, exciting band touring in small venues costs $10 bucks and you get a more intimate, personal, and novel experience. And even more similarly, one can use wine distributing companies just like record labels. Just as I like pretty much anything on 4AD because I have similar taste as the people who sign artists there, it turns out that I have similar taste to the individuals who pick wines for Wegandt Wines, Louis/Dressner Selections, Selection Massale, Jenny and Francois Selections.
posted by Schismatic at 9:30 AM on May 10, 2013 [3 favorites]


Then I'm sure you must know of similar studies as to beer tasting?

It hasn't been something I've really focused on. I've come across quite a lot of more-or-less informal blind tasting tests which usually end up surprising everyone involved. Here's one example, where Westvleteren--oft proclaimed "the greatest beer in the world"--goes up against a bevy of similar style beers and ends up well down the field.
posted by yoink at 9:31 AM on May 10, 2013


I have read hundreds of different studies on this stuff ... One of my favorite such experiments, actually--although I've momentarily forgotten the name of the guy who has been running it

It's not the way you cite the many studies that support your confident and categorial assertions that has me convinced, it's the way you haven't linked to any of them.
posted by nicwolff at 9:31 AM on May 10, 2013 [4 favorites]


Wine isn't some magical substance that is immune to capitalism. Prices are come from a combination of demand, scarcity, and price to produce, not some sort of objective truth about quality.

Of course. But if it costs me $50 to produce my wine and it costs you $1 per bottle to produce yours, why on earth does anyone buy my product ever unless they believe that it's of markedly superior quality to yours?

Or if it costs us both the same amount per bottle to produce our wines, but mine have a huge demand and yours have low demand, so that I can afford to price mine at ten times the price that you can yours, where did that demand come from if not from a perceived difference in quality?
posted by yoink at 9:34 AM on May 10, 2013


What's the best way to start?

Talk to your friendly local homebrew shop. They are an incredible source of information, tips, and technique. Talk about how much money and space you're willing to commit to the hobby. Start small, see if you like it. My local shop sells a starter kit for kit wines (which, despite being a kit, can still turn out very well, thank you) for about $150 or so, including your first kit (typically $50ish). You get the wine kit, a food-grade bucket for your primary fermenter, hydrometer, siphon, glass carboy (secondary fermenter), brushes bottles, corks, sanitizer--literally everything you'd need, end-to-end, to start and bottle a kit. After that initial investment of equipment, follow-up batches are much cheaper. You can re-use or scavenge bottles, which really helps with cost. Much of the equipment from wine making carries over to beer as well (fermenters, siphon, hydrometer, carboys, brushes, etc.) and vice-versa if you're starting on the beer side. The equipment you'll use for wine will also let you do cider, cyser, mead... all sort of branching out to do.

There are, of course, many add-ons and equipment upgrades available down the road, but with time, patience, and attention to proper sanitization, you can turn out a surprisingly good kit wine with some small kitchen space and a temperature-stable corner of the garage or closet for fermenting.

The best way to get started (and get hooked!) is to find a local friend who homebrews beer or wine, whatever your interest is. Going through all the motions is not only a great way to learn, it's also a good way to determine if it's really for you, or not quite what you'd envisioned, before you go and buy a starter kit. Most people that have sat in with me are surprised at how very little time is involved overall.
posted by xedrik at 9:35 AM on May 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


I've been homebrewing for years, and the wines that I've been putting out (some from kits, some from fruit) are, according to a couple restauranteur friends, on par with a lot of $30-40ish wines in terms of taste and quality. All for the low, low price of about $2 per bottle to produce.

This. One million times this. If you put the labor in to do it yourself, and buy the gear to do something "pretty okay," you can make a wine, beer, cheese, coffee yourself that will destroy.

We do this at home with just about everything, but we make it a point to with beer and wine. Everyone always asks us, "does that save you money over buying charles shaw or pabst?" and...no, not really in that context. We still spend the entry-fee on ingredients on the beer or the wine, but even our shittiest outtings on beer get us to "regional craft beer" level quality, and on wine get us to the $20/bottle mark. If we were to buy the same quality that we could make at home, we'd be bankrupt. That's part of why we DIY that shit.

Oh god, coffee is the same way. Retail markup on that shit is bananas; a bag of coffee that goes for $20+/lb can be roasted at home for the low, low price of $4/lb or so. Oftentimes you can find goodies at the $3 mark.

What's the best way to start?

If you're interested in homebrewing beer, with a non-intensive gear setup, I've found that this book is really good, and it's focus is 1 gallon batches, so you can experiment plenty before scaling up with recipes that you like. It seems like a shitty pop book, but it's quite quality (if you skip the part about "designing your labels" an "naming your beer." Just use masking tape and call it "beer."
posted by furnace.heart at 9:38 AM on May 10, 2013 [4 favorites]


PuppyCat: "searing banana of pain"

I don't know why, but this expression just makes me really happy.

(And wine does indeed have a similar effect on me. Have you tried drinking lots and lots of water afterwards? I've found that it helps.)
posted by vanar sena at 9:42 AM on May 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


Try some Clynelish or Glengoyne.
posted by Fleebnork at 11:38 AM on May 10 [+] [!]

epony-what-the-hell-sterical.
posted by wenestvedt at 9:43 AM on May 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


It's not the way you cite the many studies that support your confident and categorial assertions that has me convinced, it's the way you haven't linked to any of them.

Mate, at this point this has been so extensively and endlessly studied that if you refuse to go and do the minimal Googling necessary to explore the issue for yourself my linking the same damn studies that have been linked a hundred times already in a zillion of these threads in the past sure as hell isn't going to change your mind.

But, you know, the hypothesis is open to testing in either direction. Please feel free to link to rigorous double-blind studies that show a strong correlation between either wine price and blinded ratings by wine experts or between expert wine reputation and blinded ratings by expert tasters. I mean, think how useful such studies would be for the wine industry, no? Funny that they've somehow overlooked the opportunity to fund them. Funny, too, that the makers of the "outstanding" wines of the world--those ones which are simply indisputably "greater" wines than "ordinary" wines--refuse to enter them into open blinded competitions. Don't you think?
posted by yoink at 9:44 AM on May 10, 2013


Just use masking tape and call it "beer."

Totally. The only bottles I label are those given as gifts. Beer is capped, and wines are topped with shrink-wrap cork toppers, based on a color-coded chart. Scrubbing labels off bottles is a huge pain, and puts way too much labor into an otherwise enjoyable DIY hobby.
posted by xedrik at 9:49 AM on May 10, 2013


Those OzTops are really cool. Now I want some!
posted by wenestvedt at 9:49 AM on May 10, 2013


Canucks who want to start homebrewing have it really easy. We have two nationally-distributed brands of full liquid wort kits that are as easy as wine kits: just add yeast.
posted by No Robots at 9:53 AM on May 10, 2013


If I pour you Two Buck Chuck out of a Chateau Plonque bottle, it is a very, very predictable and repeatable effect that you will enjoy it a great deal more than if I pour it for you out of a Two Buck Chuck bottle.

Only if I think it's not Two Buck Chuck. If I know it's Two Buck Chuck, it doesn't matter what bottle you pour it from. Cognitive and neurologically-ingrained biases can be overcome, imo. The brain is a curious thing.

Sure, if you pour me wine out of a Beaucastel bottle, I'm gonna be preconceived to enjoy it, no matter what the real wine is. But the more aware that tasters of those biases, and how they work, the better they can be beaten. (Disfluency is your friend.)

You seem to be putting wine on a linear scale where something that is 2x "better" to me should cost 2x more, but that's not how it works, at least for me.

Wine, like beer, or anything for which we might have an aesthetic preference, does not exist in a vacuum. Most wine is drunk with food. If pressed, I would certainly pay more for a white wine if drinking spicy Thai food and I wouldn't buy a bordeaux at any price.

The wine I want to drink is also going to depend very much on who I am drinking with and what they like. Finding wines that satisfy a combination of preferences is fun for me. I try to ignore the bottles as much as possible.

Smells are the sense most associated with memory, and taste goes along with that. A (personally) great wine can bring back wonderful memories. How do you price that? Wine is unique and changes over the years - sometime who drinks bottles quickly is not going to buy the same wine as someone who ages them 5-7 years. Even aside from all of the marketing and collateral influences, the market for wine is complicated.
posted by mrgrimm at 9:54 AM on May 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


By the way, nicwolff, seeing as I made specific reference to one of these studies, I'll give you a link to that. The guy who did the triangle tests with vintage wines is Roman Weil, co-chairman of the Oenonomy Society of the US. Here's a link to a PDF of his account of that test. His conclusion in a nutshell: "Buy wines from the Appalling years." That is, wines whose vintage has been rated "Appalling" show no consistent tendency to be disfavored in comparison with the same wine in a vintage rated "Excellent." When expert judgment shows no consistent differentiation between "appalling" and "excellent" I think you can safely say that the expert judgment is largely useless.
posted by yoink at 9:55 AM on May 10, 2013


If I know it's Two Buck Chuck, it doesn't matter what bottle you pour it from

Well...yes. Do you not see how that's confirming my point?
posted by yoink at 9:56 AM on May 10, 2013


When I tell people I work in the Christie's wine department, their first question is always, "What's the most expensive bottle you've ever tried?" quickly followed by, "Was it worth it?" The answer is: It's complicated. It depends on the wine, whom I drank it with, what condition it was in and, of course, who paid for it. Wines are worth different things to different people for different reasons. I've met people who wouldn't give California Cabernet to their dog, and others who drink nothing else. I know one collector who poured one of the most expensive Burgundies in the world, from Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, down the drain because he "didn't like it." (He happily opened a $50 bottle of Bordeaux with dinner that night instead.) I have colleagues who would pick a $15 Grüner Veltliner over a $150 cult California Chardonnay any day, and one client who drinks only Dom Pérignon. In some cases, these preferences are so strong there's simply no changing them, and nothing—not even the price of the bottle—matters.

- Trading Up: How I Turned a $43 Box of Wine Into a $600 Burgundy

Fun article, but I stopped reading the first time when I saw Domaine le Garrigon box wine (!) and immediately thought GIMME THAT, and then I realized I can get Garrigon $10-11 per bottle (which is the same as $43/box) and then I bought a case. WIN WIN. :(

(Also, my credibility was stretched too far by the first trade. NO WAY. I'd take any one of those 3 bottles over the Garrigon box.)

on wine get us to the $20/bottle mark

WHOOSH!
posted by mrgrimm at 9:58 AM on May 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


WHOOSH!

I'm making a Barolo that my vendor assures me will be equivalent to a $100 bottle if I give it a couple of years.
posted by No Robots at 10:03 AM on May 10, 2013


If I know it's Two Buck Chuck, it doesn't matter what bottle you pour it from

Well...yes. Do you not see how that's confirming my point?


All it does is confirm the fact that we have pre-conceived biases. I'm saying those biases can be recognized and overcome.

If you poured me Vendange out of a fancy bottle at someone's house, and the person pouring it was a friend and said, "you gotta try this great wine!" I would be very preconditioned to think the wine tasted good.

If a waiter at a restaurant poured me Vendange out of a fancy bottle, I would probably drink it but think "this wine sucks." I am often disappointed with crapshoot wine, regardless of price.

Anyway, I'm not totally sure what your main point is. My best guess would be either:

1) There's zero relationship between quality (defined how?) of wine and price.
2) There is no such thing as wine "quality" (see parenthetical in #1) - no wine is objectively better or worse than another

or both. I'm really not sure I disagree too much. I guess I would disagree mostly with:

even the claim "I know what I like!" can be just as much bullshit as the critics claim "I know what you should like."

Unless you're challenging the very nature of "knowing" anything. Or "can be just as much" is hyperbole.
posted by mrgrimm at 10:12 AM on May 10, 2013


I've met people who wouldn't give California Cabernet to their dog,

And I would be happy to wager a large sum of money that in a blind taste test they wouldn't be able to consistently tell the California Cabernet's from the Cabernet's of their preference.

Remember the famous 1976 Paris wine tasting where the Californian wines trounced the French? The guy who set that up did so because he was convinced that the French wines were so markedly superior to the Californian ones that a blind taste test would securely establish that fact. The French wine companies went along (since then they've been v-e-e-e-r-y leery about offering their wines up to blind competitions) because they, too, were convinced that the Californian wines were self-evidently swill compared to their wines. Here's a nice link for nicwolfe to a summary of the event, which also includes summaries of a slew of other such blind tasting competitions over the years which have had equally confounding results (I love the 2005 St. Catherine's competition where wines from Ontario (yep, Ontario) trounced a bunch of pricey Bordeaux).

It's all very well, again, to go down the "sure, there's no hard and fast rule, but people know what they like" road--but there is ample and, indeed, overwhelming evidence to prove that people do not in fact know what they like. That expectations and reputations powerfully shape and distort our simple "experience" of the event. The same thing is true, for example, of people's judgments of the quality of musical instruments. In a non-blind test, a Stradivarius will always be judged not just the best violin but markedly and inarguably the best. In a blind test, the Stradivarius will consistently be ranked middle-of-the-pack with other well-constructed high-end violins (and consistently be ranked below the best modern violins). The problem with "I know what I like" is that I also know "what I think I like."
posted by yoink at 10:15 AM on May 10, 2013 [4 favorites]


...if the label has animals wearing people clothes it is a winner and it goes in the basket.

This is pretty much my wife's method for buying wine and beer (neither of which she will actually drink). She usually nails it.

Though she wouldn't have gotten Pork Slap Ale. I picked that. I was not disappointed.
posted by lodurr at 10:15 AM on May 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


If a waiter at a restaurant poured me Vendange out of a fancy bottle, I would probably drink it but think "this wine sucks."

Also, if a waiter poured my Vendange Cab out of a French Rhone or American Zin bottle with which I am familiar, I am fairly confident I would recognize the error. I have done some blind-tastings with wines and am decent at picking out varietals/cuvees. If I order a Cab and get a Pinot, I can tell. In that case, a LOT of people could, I would think. Am I wrong?

Here's a nice link for nicwolfe to a summary of the event, which also includes summaries of a slew of other such blind tasting competitions over the years which have had equally confounding results

And an enjoyable movie, IMO. Rickman and Farina were great, and I don't really like either.
posted by mrgrimm at 10:20 AM on May 10, 2013


I'm saying those biases can be recognized and overcome.

Yeah, sure; as, for example, by subjecting your favorite biases to the cold shower of a genuine double-blind test. In my experience, though, most people just can't face what they learn from an experience like that (if, for example, they find they like the Two Buck Chuck more than the $450 Chateau Plonque). They'll find a way to rationalize the experience away: "Oh, I wasn't well that day," "oh, there's something about the pressure of a blind test experience that doesn't allow you palate to fully open," "oh, you need to know what the wine is so that you know what it is that you're looking for when you drink it" etc. etc.
posted by yoink at 10:21 AM on May 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


If I order a Cab and get a Pinot, I can tell. In that case, a LOT of people could, I would think. Am I wrong?

No, not at all. Again, I'm not saying that wines don't have distinct taste profiles. I'm saying that the judgments we make as to the relative value of those profiles are highly susceptible to various kinds of psychological priming.
posted by yoink at 10:24 AM on May 10, 2013


Man you've got to stop using Two-Buck Chuck as your example of 'cheap thing that is indistinguishable from expensive thing' because that shit is dire.
posted by shakespeherian at 10:27 AM on May 10, 2013 [5 favorites]


Great comments by vacapinta and Mayor West. This topic comes up every so often on metafilter, and it would save time to simply paste these two wonderful comments in every thread from now on.

I love good beer, and whiskey, and I love good wine. Some people don't (drinking wine means I'm out of whiskey lol). That's fine. But there is, of course, a difference between good wine and bad wine. Certain wines go better with certain meals. And sometimes the perfect wine at the perfect setting is pretty amazing.

As many have already pointed out, there's snobbery everywhere. But the prevalent though I hear today, from casual to even wine 'experts', is to simply drink what you enjoy. The article linked mentions this as if no one's every thought of this before.

But regular person wine tasting is awesome and fun.

I had the same thought when reading the article. There's a difference between tasting and rating. People watch Sideways and believe that's Miles is your average taster. On a recent trip through California my girlfriend used the complicated system of a smiley face or frown for each wine.

Wine tasting is awesome and fun, and relaxing and bonding. I highly recommend it.
posted by justgary at 10:28 AM on May 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm saying that the judgments we make as to the relative value of those profiles are highly susceptible to various kinds of psychological priming.

yoink, do you mean value as in "value for money" or value as in "I value this wine for its taste of crunchberries"?

Is this about when one might say say, "I prefer cab franc to merlot" that one may just think that and it's not true or is it more of "a $50 cab franc is better than a $8 cab franc" or even "cab franc is artifically by market forces priced higher even though it is no better on average than merlot"?
posted by pointystick at 10:29 AM on May 10, 2013


Yeah, for that particular wine... I was sold on value wines, and finally found and bought some Two Buck Chuck, completely primed for it to be surprisingly good, if basic... and, no. No no no. It was so bad. I've since heard (not sure if true) that its first bottling was a bit of a fluke which got so much press that they made it a label.

If you enjoy Two Buck Chuck, excellent! If you're parroting that old news story, man stop. Try it first.
posted by gilrain at 10:30 AM on May 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


Two Buck Chuck tastes like metal and headaches.
posted by shakespeherian at 10:31 AM on May 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


I've done the occasional wine tasting, and I have to say it was a lot of fun. I never expected to be able to tell the difference between different vintages, but, surprisingly, it's not all that hard. And, since I have no "wine experience," I have no idea which ones I'm "supposed" to like and which I'm supposed to sneer at. I just know which ones I like out of the 5-6 glasses on the table. :)

Sadly, this has never translated into an ability to choose a wine without going to a tasting. Or maybe it's not that sad after all.
posted by blurker at 10:34 AM on May 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


yeah...let's have some perspective...nobody who's paying attention and routinely consumes them would ever confuse a cab, a merlot, a pinot or a zin. there are some pretty basic differences that are easy to spot. confusing a cab and a pinot is analogous to confusing an IPA with a weissbier, or ginger ale with sprite. i might well confuse a malbec with a zin on a blind test, but i'd never confuse either with a pinot or a cab.
posted by lodurr at 10:34 AM on May 10, 2013


After work today I'm going to grab a magnum and head over to the Tesla dealership. When the salesman asks me why I'm getting sloshed in his showroom car I'll simply say "We need to rise above these prescriptive class definitions that the Internet has assigned to us"
posted by wcfields at 10:39 AM on May 10, 2013 [4 favorites]


yoink: But if it costs me $50 to produce my wine and it costs you $1 per bottle to produce yours, why on earth does anyone buy my product ever unless they believe that it's of markedly superior quality to yours?

Novelty (particularly for scarce old wine), social signaling, good past associations, reliability year after year, a pretty label, belligerent wealth, entrenched preferences, lots of things that don't directly relate to objective bottle vs. bottle quality — but they do all probably amount to "they enjoy it more," even if the reasons aren't always particularly romantic or noble. Also, there are particular things like natural orange wines out of Italy that are low-yield and manually intensive and one just can't make for a buck a bottle.
posted by Schismatic at 10:46 AM on May 10, 2013


Speaking of judging, how come two different Supreme Court justices interpret the same law to mean opposite things? I think the legal system is bullshit.
posted by JJ86 at 10:47 AM on May 10, 2013 [3 favorites]


Two Supreme Court justices reading a law in different ways is understandable. If you've got one justice who keeps looking at the same law and getting completely different meanings out of it...well, we'd call him Antonin Scalia.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 10:56 AM on May 10, 2013 [4 favorites]


I'm pretty good at knowing what wines I like — most Spanish reds, most Italian reds — and there are a few where varietals have a strong jump in quality between the $12 and the $30 (barolo and nebbiolo), but it tends to be diminishing returns past a certain point. The $100 barolo I've had hasn't been three times as good as the $30 one, though it was better.
posted by klangklangston at 10:56 AM on May 10, 2013


Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish: "Two Supreme Court justices reading a law in different ways is understandable. If you've got one justice who keeps looking at the same law and getting completely different meanings out of it...well, we'd call him Antonin Scalia."

Too much Tonin totally ruins the taste of a wine thread.
posted by chavenet at 11:22 AM on May 10, 2013


it tends to be diminishing returns past a certain point.

Making wine at home, though, obviates the law of diminishing returns. I mean, the price of a cheap kit is about $50, meaning that a bottle costs $1.50; and an ultra-premium kit costs $250, meaning that a bottle costs just under $10. So, the difference between a standard bottle of wine and an exceptional bottle is about $7.50, which is really no difference at all in terms of retail price.
posted by No Robots at 11:30 AM on May 10, 2013


Too much Tonin totally ruins the taste of a wine thread.

Flagged as offensive! Come on now, jeez! Let's keep the Manhattan Transfer out of this folks, this is a family weblog!
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 11:36 AM on May 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


The article says the scale runs from 80 to 100.
posted by burnmp3s at 8:37 AM on May 10 [1 favorite −] Favorite added! [!]
Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish :
The variation is 8-10 points; 4-5 either way.

Still not horrible, although it seems that range would be much greater if labels and appearance weren't held constant and they were just judging on flavor.
A variation of 8-10 points on an 80-100 scale is a 40-50% deviation in real terms. Not quite completely random, but certainly dominated by randomness, given that 2-sigma is roughly the entire scale.

Wine-tasting is not bunk. Wine-judging for others is bunk. Wine-tasting where the taster knows the label a/o price is bunk.
posted by IAmBroom at 12:12 PM on May 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


Man you've got to stop using Two-Buck Chuck as your example of 'cheap thing that is indistinguishable from expensive thing' because that shit is dire.

It's also no longer two bucks. And really, when you say "Two Buck Chuck," it could mean absolutely anything. Different cases and even bottles of the same wine are ridiculously different.

To boot, Fred Franzia is a consistent Republican donor and an admitted crook.

So fuck "two-buck" chuck.
posted by mrgrimm at 12:25 PM on May 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


Wait, the scale is literally 80-100? We're not just talking about "grade inflation"? That is bad.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 12:39 PM on May 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


Goddamnit, I learned how to type soupçon after I looked like an idiot past time and I'm too hungover to think of anything even romotely witty to say about soupcons.

One thing I learned is that there is no marked difference between cinnamon and peppermint schnapps after the first 5 shots, and no matter how much I want to pretend, neither have terroir
posted by Ad hominem at 12:46 PM on May 10, 2013 [3 favorites]


The most interesting wine I ever had tasted and smelled like nothing so much as Kraft singles. It had clearly gone off somehow -- I'd actually asked the clerk for a recommendation for a white wine in my (low, but not $3 low) price range, and the clerk didn't seem like he was trolling. I probably should've returned it to find out for sure. I have no idea how this cheese got in this wine, or why.
posted by asperity at 12:51 PM on May 10, 2013


asperity, the wine was infected by lactobacillus, literally the same bacteria that make aged cheese (which is almost all cheese) taste differently than cottage cheese. It's a risk for brewers and vintners alike (and rogue lactobacilli for cheesemakers, like weeds in your corn rows). The best vintners have better safeguards, and better quality control; the cheapest do not.
posted by IAmBroom at 12:59 PM on May 10, 2013


mrgrimm: "So fuck "two-buck" chuck."

On a truck! In the muck!

sorry
posted by jquinby at 1:00 PM on May 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


So I agree with the basic idea that reviews need to be taken with a grain of salt, and that the public could be better educated about just how subjective they can be. I just sort of want to argue with him because he's trying so hard to upset the establishment, I'd feel bad if nobody got upset enough to argue.

Here's one example, where Westvleteren--oft proclaimed "the greatest beer in the world"--goes up against a bevy of similar style beers and ends up well down the field.

The guy's selling a book about how to do Blind Taste tests, of course he's going to talk about how SHOCKING the results are. Except, they really aren't that shocking, every one of those beers has a reputation for being world class beers. Basically the surprise is that given 8 good beers, people will like some of them more than others. I mean, he doesn't exactly go into great detail about the results either. He only reveals the top three; that everyone hated Chimay; and that only one person preferred Westvleteren to the others. The other thing is, (not that I have any way of knowing if this happened here) that comparing Westvleteren to commercially distributed beers can be a big problem. Who knows how that beer was treated on its way over from Belgium to Portland? I also get the impression that they were talking about the beer while tasting, which can lead to the stronger opinions dominating the conversation.
posted by Gygesringtone at 1:06 PM on May 10, 2013


"So fuck "two-buck" chuck."

On a truck! In the muck!


Paired with duck!
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 1:07 PM on May 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


if you refuse to go and do the minimal Googling necessary to explore the issue for yourself my linking the same damn studies that have been linked a hundred times already in a zillion of these threads in the past sure as hell isn't going to change your mind

I was taunting yoink for posting all that without links but, having had time to Google, the preponderance of the evidence certainly seems to show that neither experts nor hoi polloi prefer or can identify expensive wines with any consistency. So consider my mind changed.
posted by nicwolff at 1:16 PM on May 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


Just to correct something: The general scale for wine ratings is from 50 to 100, not 80 to 100. 80 to 100 is what tends to get published; if it's below that, no one is going to waste the column space to tell you that your Gallo is best out of a jug when you're already drunk.

A deviation of 8 to 10 points is 16 to 20 percent, which is significant but not nearly to the level of deviation on a scale of 80 to 100.

More here and here.
posted by klangklangston at 1:17 PM on May 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


Also, if you can swing it, get thee to the Canary Islands for some really fabulous wines. We have one bottle left and I am trying to find an occasion to open it...
posted by blurker at 1:30 PM on May 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


So if you buy 2L bottles of non-citrus, actual fruit juice at the supermarket you can drop a few grains of wine or champagne yeast in and loosely screw the cap back on (give a test squeeze to make sure air can get out) and put them in a cool place then in a couple weeks you have a very palatable dry alcoholic beverage which, while not wine, and not a fruit spritzer, and not beer, is still a meritorious member of the "drinkable things with ethanol in" category. Just don't disturb the yeast on the bottom when you pour.

I mention this because making a sipping beverage this way is actually easier than buying wine from the LCBO because you don't have to go to the LCBO to buy bottles, and when you're done with it you don't have an empty that needs to go back to the beer store.

Also it costs about $3.
posted by seanmpuckett at 5:48 AM on May 10


And if you are on food benefits, it's a cheap way of making a fermented beverage. Wine yeast is fairly cheap.

Non citrus fruit juices are fairly cheap.
So if you are not up for makin kvas or mead, it could work.
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 1:56 PM on May 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


Here's one example, where Westvleteren--oft proclaimed "the greatest beer in the world"--goes up against a bevy of similar style beers and ends up well down the field.

That points to one of those things that you can't catch in a blind taste test --and really it should be a double blind test to make it properly scientific -- which is that Westvleteren has its mystique because it's only available in very limited quantities, it comes from an exotic country (well, to yer average American cult beer drinker, that is) amd it is a very good beer, if not necessarily the best beer in the world.

A blind taste test will reveal that if you don't know you're drinking it, you might just rate it as a good or average trappister beer, but that doesn't mean the rest of its appeal is fake.

The same goes for wine, only more so and it's a bit calvenist to deny all this in favour of supposedly rigorously scientific quantifications.
posted by MartinWisse at 1:57 PM on May 10, 2013


For those who have asked how to get into beer and wine making, this thread is the one that helped me get started. It's been a lovely hobby and I owe mccarty.tim for making that post. (and now I see that thread is in Related Posts just below; good job Related Posts)
posted by jepler at 1:59 PM on May 10, 2013


my best wine tasting experience was when a friend treated me to a drink of shweppe's ginger ale mixed with richard's wild irish rose

frankly, i think she should have used vernor's but that might have spoiled the cinnamon and citrus aura fortified with a precocious but smooth hint of turpentine and wet, smoky shoe leather ...

it was pretty good

and you can bet your ass that your two buck chuck, 20 buck favorite or expensive vintage wine doesn't mix worth a damn with ginger ale

so there
posted by pyramid termite at 2:10 PM on May 10, 2013


"So fuck "two-buck" chuck."

Ugh, thank you (not) for reminding me of that scene from the movie Chuck and Buck.
posted by aught at 2:15 PM on May 10, 2013


I guess you're...sunglasses...out of luck.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 2:15 PM on May 10, 2013


The trouble with blind tests is that a single blind test doesn't prove anything. What would be really interesting would be to carry out multiple blind tests featuring the same wines and people and see how consistent people were.

The main thing this thread and the original article proves is that some people really relish the opportunity to feel superior by labelling others as elitist, snobs or whatever. And going on, and on, and on about it.
posted by epo at 2:22 PM on May 10, 2013


Metafilter: going on, and on, and on about it.
posted by sweetkid at 3:24 PM on May 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


Tastes pretty good to me!
posted by 4ster at 3:45 PM on May 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'd like to try this kind of wine sometime. Anyone here ever tried it? Is it any good?
posted by MattMangels at 3:57 PM on May 10, 2013


John Gruber (who had posted this original link earlier today) just posted a a follow-up video with some impressive blind judging. But note how much the estimate of price depends on the variety each judge thinks he's identified. So there are clearly distinctive elements in the flavor, but pricing is still subject to some BS (though it's not clear how much the alcohol content influences pricing in general).
posted by stopgap at 4:30 PM on May 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


Thanks for linking to these videos, stopgap. I think everyone in this thread should take a breather and watch four or five of these to see just how a truly educated wine taster works with a wine; it's like Sherlock Holmes in action. And while the folks in these videos are like gold-medal Olympians at what they do, clearly educated at a professional level, it is highly educational. The videos also provide some insight into the factors and variables an expert wine taster examines in the wine, as well as the range of learning (geography, history, chemistry and methods of wine making, even economics) that inform the opinions of those who can render this rarified sort of analysis and opinion. It is because I've known a couple of folks like the people in these videos, as well as the owners of a small wine store, that I am ambivalent at best about the studies that "prove" nobody can tell the difference between different wines, or that all wines are the same (more or less). That all said, I also don't equate the ability to speciate wines and identify their characteristics, provenance, etc. with the ability to declare a wine "better" than another. Above a certain level of quality, a level that I think is met by most wines above the $7.00/bottle level in the U.S., and probably 95% of wines over the US$20 level, it's all about taste and preferences for certain flavor profiles, matching wines to particular foods, or other specific characteristics that are not about "good" vs. "bad." I've actually been insulted to my face my a sommelier at a rather expensive restaurant here in Chicago when I indicated that I like Zinfandel. OK, to heck with him, but among Zin lovers, there are favored and unfavored Zins; we can compare our relative fascinations with various bottles; there is a big divide between those who want "spicy" (and tightly wound) Zins vs. those looking for "jammy fruit bombs" (my own preference). We can have fun comparing our favorites within that niche. The problems, I think, begin when folks try to make normative/evaluative statements about wine "qua wine" ... as compared to ALL wine, this is "good." There is so much variety of character in wine that this "absolutely good" vs. "absolutely bad" approach is inherently flawed and, I would even argue, evidence of a logical category mistake by its proponents. The single "50 to 100" evaluation scale utilized by Wine Spectator is to my mind ridiculously simpleminded and reductionist; maybe, possibly, it would make sense to have a 50 - 100 scale for each different category of wine (where to draw the boundaries among categories, I don't know), but I know that if I see, e.g., a Madeira receiving a 99/100 score, I still know that I won't ENJOY that Madeira as much as I might an 80/100 Zinfandel.
posted by JimInLoganSquare at 5:13 PM on May 10, 2013 [3 favorites]


Skeptics should watch this episode of So, You Think You Know Wine? Watch what taster John does. Unless you want to argue that this is a fake (for which I would demand some extraordinary evidence), it's clear that he is doing exactly what the "wine snobs" allegedly are unable to do. Again, he's not saying it's good or bad; just saying EXACTLY what it is he's tasting, and even nailing what the retail cost of it would be, in a blind tasting. Although there are others conversing about their opinions and conclusions, his conclusions vary greatly from theirs, and are correct. Find some other episodes where John is tasting; he's very impressive.
posted by JimInLoganSquare at 5:46 PM on May 10, 2013


Skeptics should watch this episode of So, You Think You Know Wine?

I'm skeptic enough to know not to trust TV shows media without knowing why they're made, what the protocols behind the creative process are, and how they see their relationship to the pursuits of truth(s) and entertainment.
posted by tychotesla at 6:10 PM on May 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


Btw, oenophiles will definitely want to have a look at an extraordinary new book, Wine Grapes, now #1 on my Christmas wish list.
posted by No Robots at 6:49 PM on May 10, 2013


The main thing this thread and the original article proves is that some people really relish the opportunity to feel superior by labelling others as elitist, snobs or whatever.

Nice thrust home to an almost an entirely imaginary opponent. The only people who have been directly accused of snobbery in this thread are "coffee geeks."
posted by yoink at 7:12 PM on May 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


Wine chemistry is complicated, but it's not that complicated. I don't know why they don't do chemical analysis of wines, match up the compositions with the scents and flavors people claim to be able to perceive, and automatically generate flavor profiles, and comparisons between different brands and vintages.

Sure. Here's a review of that sort of thing from last year. Wine is close to being completely chemically characterized apparently, in that the majority of flavour and aroma compounds can be quantified.

Chemical analysis doesn't solve the basic problem of making quality wine. The vintner still has to dance with the partners they have, the individual grape wines. Analysis gives a vintner a more precise understanding of taste and aroma of the end product, but doesn't help (directly) with the road map to make that wine.

The thousands of chemicals which make-up wine are not individually available. It's not possible now to make a reasonable facsimile of wine from individual chemical feedstocks. It seems very unlikely to me that this will change anytime soon, given the complexity of flavour and aroma in wine1.

Chemical analysis is a supplemental tool used to check quality and taste profiles. It's probably most used by the larger producers to ensure a more consistent blended final product, making certain that every bottle of Two-buck Chuck tastes the same.

1Not to say it's impossible to fake a natural juice: "apple juice" can be made out of some simple sugars and a few phenols from New Jersey.
posted by bonehead at 10:27 PM on May 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


Great thread! The article was mostly scoffing about pomposity, which doesn't really have much to do with a sincere appreciation of something. Drink what you like and describe it how you like, just be authentic.

I'm seriously considering trying the Oztops thing and making my own cider.
posted by h00py at 2:13 AM on May 11, 2013


Phreesh: "Two things:

1) Wine is rated between 80 and 100. WTF?! 1-20 was too simple? Why not make it between 73 and 93? Or 126-146? How stupid and needlessly confusing is that?

2) Rating wines as a sort of 'math' is bullshit. The article makes this abundantly clear. I wish wine tasters would treat their craft more like 'wine reviewing' like movie reviewers. Find a critic who generally matches your tastes and trust their instincts.
"

A jaunty and insightful comment, with notes of sarcasm and strong undertones of the Ring of Truth. Editing of a bit of awkward phrasing would have made this worthy of at least three stars, but there's no excuse for such sloppiness here.

2 1/2 stars
posted by krinklyfig at 3:30 AM on May 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


Chemical analysis doesn't solve the basic problem of making quality wine.

No, but it could solve the problem of identifying preference categories. You could identify relative preference for vintages or vineyards, and get a recommendation.

As I see it, the real source of difficulty here is threefold:
  1. First, there's the highly problematic assumption that you ought to take someone's word for objective quality on anything. This really is a working assumption in ratings systems: experts like it, therefore I ought to. This is broken, conceptually, because it depends on the existence of objective quality, which is not only not a given, but a pretty dubious idea. (Basically: Your Favorite Band Sucks, And I Can Prove It Scientifically.) Preference, on the other hand, is real and can be quantified, at least enough to produce recommendations.
     
  2. Second, there's a proliferation of terminology that not only doesn't but probably couldn't map to people's general experience of the actual flavors and aromas they experience.
     
  3. Third, the alleged experts are mostly bogus. Wine reviewing is not unique in this -- it's a problem that plagues all reviewing -- but in wine reviewing the problem is compounded by the fact that wine reviewing dresses itself up with a lot of fake precision (see [2]). Maybe "taster John" can really do the stuff he demonstrates and it's not all a series of production and editing tricks (and those of us in advertising or film/TV production -- and i know there are a lot of us here -- ought to be especially skeptical on that point), but as noted again and again here and elsewhere, most so-called experts don't have any reliably demonstrable qualifications to be regarded as such.
     
So the systems supporting a flawed assumption are deeply flawed themselves. It's no wonder the product is bogus.
posted by lodurr at 4:39 AM on May 11, 2013


... worthy of at least three stars...

that's on a scale of 1 to 3.95, right ?
posted by lodurr at 4:40 AM on May 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


Wine chemistry is complicated, but it's not that complicated. I don't know why they don't do chemical analysis of wines, match up the compositions with the scents and flavors people claim to be able to perceive, and automatically generate flavor profiles, and comparisons between different brands and vintages.

That's old news. Try The Grapes of Math from Wired or The Chemistry of a 90+ Wine from the NY Times Magazine. The bottom line is consumers just look at two numbers when looking at the bottle of wine on the shelf, the price and the Parker scale rating.
posted by peeedro at 8:43 AM on May 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


On a recent trip through California my girlfriend used the complicated system of a smiley face or frown for each wine.

My system is a heart or an X, with + or - depending on how much I want to buy that particular wine. Except for the one time I literally burst into tears of joy when I tasted a mead produced a few hours East of here. No marks, just handed the winemaker my credit card and asked for a case.

I have colleagues who would pick a $15 Grüner Veltliner over a $150 cult California Chardonnay

I would happily hang out with those colleagues of yours. I don't care how much the damned wine costs, if I don't like it - and I'm not terribly fond of most California Chardonnays (too oaky) - I won't drink it. I'd go swimming in Grüner Veltliner, I've yet to find one I don't like.

Yeah, for that particular wine... I was sold on value wines, and finally found and bought some Two Buck Chuck, completely primed for it to be surprisingly good, if basic... and, no. No no no. It was so bad. I've since heard (not sure if true) that its first bottling was a bit of a fluke which got so much press that they made it a label.

So, last weekend, my bestie and I met up in Chicago and went to a Wine Riot, and we had a ball. We overheard a couple jokingly remarking upon the absence of Two Buck Chuck, something neither of us had ever had before. After the Wine Riot, but before we crashed for a pre-dinner nap, we stopped at Trader Joe's (which I don't have in my city) and snagged a bottle of Cab Sauv.

It was REVOLTING. It tasted like battery acid, and I regret having put it in my mouth. I'm sure some people love it, but my tastebuds do not roll that way. I don't think that even trying to turn it into a wine slushie would help it. The only wine I have ever hated more is Thunderbird. (Yeah, hush, a co-worker when I was in college handed me a glass of the stuff after work one night. Pretty sure he still has a pic of the look on my face. OMG.)

The single "50 to 100" evaluation scale utilized by Wine Spectator is to my mind ridiculously simpleminded and reductionist; maybe, possibly, it would make sense to have a 50 - 100 scale for each different category of wine (where to draw the boundaries among categories, I don't know), but I know that if I see, e.g., a Madeira receiving a 99/100 score, I still know that I won't ENJOY that Madeira as much as I might an 80/100 Zinfandel.

Dear gods, that scale makes me want to throw things. OK, sure, it serves a semblance of a purpose - it helps consumers pick out a wine that is not utter shit when they're looking for something interesting to have with dinner. It doesn't mean they will like it, necessarily, though. Even variations in styles make a difference - I've spat out 93/100 oaked Chardonnays, and gleefully poured more of 80/100 Chardonnays aged in stainless.

(Send me the name of the restaurant with the rude sommelier, so that the next time I'm in town, I can go there and school his ass in customer service vis a vis wine.)

Great thread! The article was mostly scoffing about pomposity, which doesn't really have much to do with a sincere appreciation of something. Drink what you like and describe it how you like, just be authentic.

Concur. Being a pompous dickweasel about liking something doesn't make you more appreciative, it just makes you a pompous dickweasel. When our winemaker conducts tasting and pairing classes, he always directs the guests to the top of the tasting notes: "Drink what you like."
posted by MissySedai at 11:21 AM on May 12, 2013


The only wine I have ever hated more is Thunderbird

Thunderbird is better than Cisco. MUCH better.
posted by mrgrimm at 4:30 PM on May 12, 2013


Mayor West: "No serious person would ever make the claim that red and white wine cannot be distinguished by someone who knows what s/he is talking about. It is analogous to saying that a chef is unable to distinguish between salt and pepper. It is a ridiculous statement, parroted by those who enjoy sneering at people who like different things than they do. Please stop parroting obvious bullshit."

Word. Even I can distinguish between red and white wines and I don't know what I am talking about. There is the odd red wine that isn't very oaky and I'm guessing there are may be some whites out there that are aged in such a way that they approximate reds, but overall there is a real pronounced difference between the two.
posted by Deathalicious at 11:42 PM on May 13, 2013


Also, need to comment on this:
mango with skins [Ed. note: jesus wine-swilling christ – mango with skins?]
Yes, mangos with skins. Now, I'm not a wine taster by any means, but even I know that mango near the skin has a much different flavor than the rest of the mango. It's a very distinctive flavor.
posted by Deathalicious at 11:46 PM on May 13, 2013


"It was REVOLTING. It tasted like battery acid, and I regret having put it in my mouth. I'm sure some people love it, but my tastebuds do not roll that way. I don't think that even trying to turn it into a wine slushie would help it. The only wine I have ever hated more is Thunderbird. "

Two buck chuck is whatever wine they have excess of at the time. Sometimes it's really good, other times it's terrible.
posted by klangklangston at 11:56 PM on May 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


The only wine I have ever hated more is Thunderbird.

Oh, Thunderbird. A friend bought a bottle of that not too long ago, and we all gamely gave it a swig.

I ended up using it to clean my toilet. It's probably about the same price per ounce as toilet cleaner. The toilet cleaner might taste better, though, and probably wouldn't actually turn your tongue black, like the Thunderbird did.
posted by asperity at 8:34 AM on May 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


Possibly of interest. One of the wines they investigate on the show is indeed "Two-buck Chuck".
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:39 AM on May 14, 2013


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