Wine for Normal People
March 20, 2015 8:45 AM   Subscribe

Wine for Normal People is a podcast and blog where wine lover and expert Elizabeth Schneider discusses geeks out about all things wine. Fun highlights include wine scoring systems and why we should revolt against them, the difference between cheap plonk and well made wine, wine reviews and BS, and offensive ways wines are marketed to women, all peppered with industry insider knowledge from her years working for a big, hulking winery.
posted by gueneverey (50 comments total) 63 users marked this as a favorite
 
gueneverey: " offensive ways wines are marketed to women"

I ran into this over the weekend. Turns out both of us love it.
posted by boo_radley at 8:54 AM on March 20, 2015


This is probably the important quote for me:

"In 2008, a survey comprising more than 6,000 blind tastings found a positive correlation between price and enjoyment – for individuals with wine training. In other words: if you're a wine expert, there's a chance you'll enjoy expensive wines more than cheaper ones. "

which means I treasure my ignorance. It makes drinking wine cheaper and more pleasurable.
posted by Just this guy, y'know at 9:06 AM on March 20, 2015 [5 favorites]


Hey, I thought this looked familiar! Schneider used to be a semi-regular at the wine bar where I worked (and for all I know, still is). I always loved waiting on her, and not just because her taste in wine is impeccable, but she was also a lot of fun. If she came in during off-hours we would play a "guess the wine" game, where'd I'd pour out a few samples for a blind taste test. She was frighteningly good at nailing grapes and styles, but I did manage to stump her with a txakoli once. Anyways, glad she's still doing her thing (the blog was pretty new at that point) and looking forward digging into the podcast.
posted by Panjandrum at 9:26 AM on March 20, 2015 [9 favorites]


i love how her husband is a part of this as the 'guy who knows nothing about wine'. he has some great comments to make as a general person who knows nothing about wine. he doesn't always agree with her and that's pretty cool. sometimes he just likes the cheaper/plebian/mere mortal version. and she's totally ok and can explain why it might taste better to him. it helps me understand why some "great" wine i've had was kinda meh.
posted by sio42 at 9:33 AM on March 20, 2015 [2 favorites]


This sounds super up my alley. Thanks for posting!

(I also LOVE beer so if you know anyone who does this for beer as well, hit me up.)
posted by Kitteh at 9:36 AM on March 20, 2015


From the "offensive ways wines are marketed to women" link:

I know women who drink these types of wines. They are just looking for an inexpensive wine that can be swilled, typically served with ice. I don’t think anyone expects the wine to be of high quality. It is just something cheap to drink.

I have no problem with cheap commercial plonk at all. I know many of these women too, and all they want is an unfussy drink, yes even with ice. I'll sometimes join them, or sometimes I'll get a beer instead. We make our vin ordinaire, but not everyone wants to do that. This isn't something we need to be judgey about. Crappy marketing maybe, but the existence of the product, not at all.
posted by bonehead at 9:41 AM on March 20, 2015 [2 favorites]


I treasure my ignorance

This is sort of a "if you've only eaten McDonald's hamburgers" sort of thing. Once you start down the path of drinking things that aren't best described as "sweet," "red," and "hangovery," you can pretty easily get ruined. Never learn what it is you are missing can be some good advice. But then again, so is "drink and enjoy."

When I go home for holidays the parents have a ubiquitous box of cheap (but plentiful!) wine. I drink it, and not just because no one should have to suffer through family holidays sober, but because it's not toooo awful, I just know there are better things. Of course, I do wait for the bottle of Ribera del Duero or whatever it is I brought to run dry before cranking open the Franzia spigot.
posted by Panjandrum at 9:49 AM on March 20, 2015 [2 favorites]


bonehead: "This isn't something we need to be judgey about. Crappy marketing maybe, but the existence of the product, not at all."

But sort of maybe judgey? Because if you're looking for cheap agony aunt session wine, get a box of wine for $4. Shit, the local joint has 3 boxed liters of drinkable wine for $17. You don't need to buy a bottle of "Bitch wine" -- actually literally named "Bitch" -- in order to gripe with your group.
posted by boo_radley at 9:50 AM on March 20, 2015 [4 favorites]


Never learn what it is you are missing can be some good advice. But then again, so is "drink and enjoy."

But one needs to be pretty careful about how we're defining "expert" here. The bar is set pretty high. It's not "I drink a lot of expensive wines on a regular basis, and consider myself pretty well-informed." Those people are mostly enjoying the psychological priming effects of knowing how much they paid for the wine. Here's a pretty decent example of that: Steven Levitt's little experiment at the Harvard Society of Fellows.

That's a test on an audience of people who would all consider themselves to have "educated" palates, who take their wine knowledge seriously and who--in a blind test--not only cannot tell the difference between expensive wine and the cheapest plonk available but cannot rate the same wine consistently. It's not people who've only ever drunk Thunderbird whose palates aren't "ready" for the sophisticated stuff.

And, of course, even for experts while there is a statistically significant positive correlation between price and value-rating, the effect is not huge. For each individual expert, the variability is very large: there is little predictive certainty that a $150 wine will yield more enjoyment for an expert than a $20 wine.

There is, by now, simply an overwhelming set of experiments that demonstrate that wine pricing is largely independent of any measurable rating of "predicted enjoyment in consumption" even for experts. I think it would be good for the industry as a whole and for wine enthusiasts if they would simply accept this massively and repeatedly demonstrated fact and change the discourse around wine accordingly.

To take just one example: the notion of "good years" and "bad years" in wine--a bedrock aspect of wine commentary since the beginning of wine connoisseurship. Roman Weil has demonstrated--robustly and repeatedly--that wine experts presented with a triangle-test of low-rated vintages vs. high-rated vintages of the same wine prefer the high-rated to the low-rated at rates basically indistinguishable from chance.
posted by yoink at 10:29 AM on March 20, 2015 [6 favorites]


But sort of maybe judgey?

Bonehead is saying it's fair to be judgey about the marketing (i.e., naming the wine "Bitch") but not the wines themselves.
posted by yoink at 10:31 AM on March 20, 2015


"Bitch Wine?" Weak.

Expand the line into other vulgarities and we'll talk.

"Hey, you can't go yet! I just opened up a bottle of Asshole Red!" "The wine place sold me this bottle of Dipshit Riesling for a song!" "Did you seriously buy a box of Grandma-Fucker Cabernet?"

Imagine the ads.
posted by Harvey Jerkwater at 10:42 AM on March 20, 2015 [9 favorites]


I don't drink wine and I would buy the hell out of a bottle of Asshole Red or Dipshit Riesling. That's marketing gold.
posted by conorh at 10:47 AM on March 20, 2015 [2 favorites]


I can't wait to add this to my line-up!

And I'm predisposed to forcing it on some friends. Because while I totally believe that the more you learn about wine the more you enjoy it, I also know too many people who've become trapped in the Robert Parker / Som (the movie) / Wine Spectator world. Or rather, allow that world to dictate their pleasure.
posted by kanewai at 10:52 AM on March 20, 2015


conorh: "I don't drink wine and I would buy the hell out of a bottle of Asshole Red or Dipshit Riesling. That's marketing gold."

you arrogant bastard.
posted by boo_radley at 11:00 AM on March 20, 2015 [7 favorites]


yoink: "But sort of maybe judgey?

Bonehead is saying it's fair to be judgey about the marketing (i.e., naming the wine "Bitch") but not the wines themselves.
"

I got that. I just don't know how to separate the two. If you want a decent wine, there's no likely aspect of Bitch Wine that distinguishes from a tetrapak of wine. Also, the podcast mentioned that hey, these garbagey brands of decent wine are sort of a wildcard for suppliers. If your Bitch Wine brand shuts down, what's the supplier going to do with the reserves of moscato he's got? Granted, the answer's probably "put it in next years 'Sad Mommy Juice'", but the blend's going to be different and it's not like wines all have infinite shelf life. How do you plan for that?
posted by boo_radley at 11:08 AM on March 20, 2015


As a total wine novice who occasionally enjoys a bottle, I've found that my sweet spot seems to be right around $15-$20/bottle. The jump in quality from a budget-priced wine to that specific range is exponentially greater than the jump in quality from the same range to that of the $50-$100 bottles I've tried (admittedly with other people, as I wouldn't buy them on my own).
posted by dreamlanding at 11:25 AM on March 20, 2015 [3 favorites]


I think the distinction is between "stupid marketers who think women will only buy wines with names and labels like that" and "stupid women who drink cheap moscato with ice cubes."
posted by yoink at 11:35 AM on March 20, 2015


The jump in quality from a budget-priced wine to that specific range

You should set up an evening blind testing, say, five $20 wines vs five <$5 wines with some friends. You may find that you can save yourself a bunch of money in the future.
posted by yoink at 11:38 AM on March 20, 2015 [2 favorites]


> you arrogant bastard.

I actually noted to myself before posting that I also enjoy that beer. I'm just a sucker for being insulted I guess?

Anyway, to contribute to the thread, there are price points in many products above which IMO price no longer meaningfully correlates to quality, or at least, any quality I can perceive. The trick is to experiment to find what that price point is for you to maximize your enjoyment/dollar (or at least, that's what you do if you are an overly analytical robot like me). For me, that point for me might be lower than most people because I don't know much about wine. It might go up if I chose to invest more time and money in drinking wine. Or, given the links here, it might not.
posted by conorh at 11:38 AM on March 20, 2015


My dad used to love Fat Bastard, mostly for the experience of dadjoking with the server to remember it was "Fat Bastard for the fat bastard." But I haven't seen it in a while, for some reason.

I used to drink a lot of two-buck Chuck, and was horrified to hear about the arsenic lawsuit, although, really, should we have been surprised? I drank the Pinot Grigio, which was not listed as containing arsenic, although I would easily believe it.
posted by Countess Elena at 11:43 AM on March 20, 2015


Expand the line into other vulgarities and we'll talk.

"Uh, George, it's spelled ay-nuh-LYNN-gus but pronounced Connard Blanchi."
posted by a halcyon day at 11:45 AM on March 20, 2015


WineFolly.com
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 12:03 PM on March 20, 2015 [2 favorites]


There is, by now, simply an overwhelming set of experiments that demonstrate that wine pricing is largely independent of any measurable rating of "predicted enjoyment in consumption" even for experts.

But this isn't unique to wine! The wine reviews BS episode carries on about this kind of thing at great length, but you know, taste is our weakest sense and it's totally subjective--regardless of whether you're a rank amateur or a master sommelier. She mentioned some study or marketing experiment where they gave people apple juice dyed orange, and successfully passed it off as orange juice. I'm sure you could do blind tastings where you give people a Budweiser and some random microbrew's pale ale, and people would enjoy the Budweiser more. Or coffee! My dad thinks Tim Horton's coffee is fantastic, and I really should have known the nice Guatemalan stuff I gave him for Christmas would go unappreciated. But that doesn't mean all beer or coffee or juice or wine is the same, and therefore you should just buy the cheapest stuff you can. I mean, buying cheap is a valid option, and I've drunk--and even enjoyed--my share of Charles Shaw, but studies like these really say more about human psychology than they say about wine.
posted by gueneverey at 12:17 PM on March 20, 2015 [3 favorites]


I just opened up a bottle of Asshole Red!

We've been going on a winter wine tour in the Shawangunks most Decembers for quite a few years now. The wine is mediocre-to-bad, but it's fun, and a good excuse to ride around in a limo listening to Elvis sing "Here Comes Santa Claus."

Anyhow, one of the wineries makes something called "Kick-Ass Red" or somesuch. It's vile stuff, sickly sweet and sour at the same time, and every year I try to remind mrs ozzy of this. But every year, somehow, we come home with a bottle which we wind up surreptitiously leaving at somebody else's house a few months later.

Point being, I think of that wine as Asshole Red, because I feel like an asshole every time I see it in the wine rack.
posted by uncleozzy at 12:24 PM on March 20, 2015


Wasn't Asshole Red the 2010 Pantone Colour of the Year?
posted by ominous_paws at 12:45 PM on March 20, 2015 [4 favorites]


But that doesn't mean all beer or coffee or juice or wine is the same, and therefore you should just buy the cheapest stuff you can. I mean, buying cheap is a valid option, and I've drunk--and even enjoyed--my share of Charles Shaw, but studies like these really say more about human psychology than they say about wine.

But unless you're not a human, then the human psychology of perception is not removable from the experience of wine. I don't disagree with your list of other taste experiences that are likely to yield similar results to the studies of wine. And it's not just taste. Look at the people who throw away money on audiophile equipment which produces no measurable improvement in sound quality, for example.

Now, it is completely true that "not all beer or coffee or juice or wine is the same." But it is also true that when we taste two samples of an identical wine, one poured from a cheap bottle and the other from an expensive bottle, we judge the one poured from the expensive bottle as superior. I think it's that portion of the experience that I think we should work to minimize. That's why I think having blind-tasting parties where you genuinely try to put your prejudices to the test is a good idea, for example. I think you want to actively work against the kind of "priming" techniques used by the wine industry and echoed unthinkingly by wine enthusiasts.

So, no, I don't think you should just look for the cheapest possible wine. I do think there's enormous pleasure to be had in trying wines from different regions, different grapes etc., and exploring their variety. You can't do that without being willing to drop at least $20 or so on the odd bottle. But I think you can also learn to guard yourself against throwing money away on wine which simply does not, qua wine, give you any more pleasure than vastly cheaper alternatives.

I often find a useful conceptual experiment is to imagine a vast wine cellar, full of case after case of wine. Somehow, the wine cellar floods, and the labels get removed from every single bottle (the cases were all generic--the owner of the cellar put all his/her wines in his own specially designed cases). Now, imagine that you know that there are, say, 200 different wines in this collection. You know that there are 1,000 cases of each wine (the owner's cases all have catalogue codes, but the master is lost). You don't know if the wines were high end or low end. You don't know what country or countries they came from. It's just 200 different wines, and a hundred cases of each. You can test each wine some arbitrarily high number of times--so you can really convince yourself of how much pleasure you derive from drinking it (you can even take a bottle home and try it with different foods, if you like). The one thing you can't do is any kind of analysis that would let you reconstruct who made the wine (other than what you can deduce from tasting it), what year it was and so forth.

O.K., so what is the highest per-bottle price you can imagine paying for one of these unidentified wines? You can be absolutely confident that none of them are going to sell for $150 per bottle. I, personally, think you'd struggle to get up to $20 per bottle at auction. I can imagine some of them going for north of $10 per bottle, but I wouldn't necessarily bet on it.

To me, that price--whatever it ends up being--should be near the maximum you would ever be willing to pay for any wine: because it tells you what the real value to you is of the wine itself--i.e., the actual pleasure you derive from drinking that particular beverage independently of any of the stories you might tell yourself about how sophisticated you are or how special the bottle you bought is or whatever it might be.
posted by yoink at 12:54 PM on March 20, 2015 [2 favorites]


Related plot point: with the dollar and euro close to parity, the latest shipments coming in from Europe are amazingly affordable. A good wine shop will let you know which of those currently $7 bottles of Spanish reds are the equivalent of a standard $30 bottle of California red.

These are good days to be a drinker.
posted by kanewai at 1:00 PM on March 20, 2015 [3 favorites]


No one seems to complain about Arrogant Bastard Ale, so I'm not so sure what's so wrong about a Bitch wine.

If female-centric brands should be shamed for being "edgy" (for marketing-department values of edgy), why do male-oriented brands get a pass?
posted by bonehead at 1:01 PM on March 20, 2015 [2 favorites]


I don't drink wine and I would buy the hell out of a bottle of Asshole Red or Dipshit Riesling. That's marketing gold.

A local winery had one of their first batches of wine go off due to some kind of contamination problem that rendered it safe to drink but unbearably unpleasant -- one person who tasted it prior to bottling judged it "a harsh, nasty, uncompromising red." This was a big problem because they were in your standard new-business cash flow pinch and they really needed the revenue from that wine to keep moving forward, but it was almost undrinkable. So they named it Josef Stalin Table Wine, put the " A harsh, nasty, uncompromising red" line right on the label, and sold it for $11 as a novelty. They made a shitload of money and still sell the label as a T-shirt. Now THAT'S marketing gold.
posted by KathrynT at 1:40 PM on March 20, 2015 [4 favorites]


bonehead: "No one seems to complain about Arrogant Bastard Ale"

Of course we do, you yokel. I mean, sure, mainstream journalism doesn't, but it's not a great name, you know?
posted by boo_radley at 1:41 PM on March 20, 2015 [1 favorite]


People don't complain about Arrogant Bastard because it's a tasty beer from a reputable brewery. I don't know about Bitch wine in particular, but I've gotta believe these girl wine brands are by and large, just another stupid marketing gimmick to move crap product. What kind of quality do you think you're getting out of a bottle of Girlfriend Wine, for instance, when the very people who made it describe the brand like this:
"The five 'Girls' of Girlfriends Wine are made with independent, fun-loving women in mind," said Val du Charron co-owner Craig Entwistle, who directs the winemaker's marketing efforts in the U.S. from his base on St. Simons Island, Ga. "Our market research led us to this development of easy-drinking wines. They exude fun character and deliver delicious tastes popular with female consumers."
But let me know when you find a wine brand self-described as having a rugged character and great tastes popular with male consumers, and I'll be sure not to buy that too.
posted by gueneverey at 2:12 PM on March 20, 2015 [1 favorite]


I, a normal person, can offer an anecdotal opinion of Bitch wine. It tastes awful.
posted by clavicle at 2:37 PM on March 20, 2015 [1 favorite]


Arrogant Bastard isn't in the top decile for stupid or offensive beer names these days but I have absolutely seen both the name and taste - the combined effect of the name and taste really - criticized as an early representative of a certain strain of macho excess in craft brewing and the marketing thereof.
posted by atoxyl at 2:42 PM on March 20, 2015 [1 favorite]


But let me know when you find a wine brand self-described as having a rugged character and great tastes popular with male consumers, and I'll be sure not to buy that too.

Sledgehammer: Wine for men who never whine.
posted by Panjandrum at 2:49 PM on March 20, 2015 [3 favorites]


Countess Elena: "...., and was horrified to hear about the arsenic lawsuit, although, really, should we have been surprised? "

I did not know this was a thing. This is a big thing, how is this not news all over the place?
posted by dejah420 at 3:32 PM on March 20, 2015


KathrynT.... any link? I want that t-shirt ; )
posted by coust at 4:09 PM on March 20, 2015


At Christmastime the local liquor store was holding a tasting of "Santas's Little Helper" and it was exactly as loathsome as expected. I'm a big fan of $10 wines, but I'm successfully deceived by labels that have pictures of chateaus on them.
posted by acrasis at 4:12 PM on March 20, 2015


Hey, I'm a low-level wine snob and I like Bitch wine. Stick it in the fridge and it tastes like not-totally-terrible sangria without all the work. Used to be one of my favorite hot-summer-day wines.

That and the $7 vinho verde from Whole Foods makes the cheap summer drinking season go round.
posted by olinerd at 4:19 PM on March 20, 2015


I did not know this was a thing. This is a big thing, how is this not news all over the place?

Because it's a bit of a trumped up issue. The lawsuit is being brought on behalf of a researcher who found that several brands of wine had higher arsenic levels that the EPA allows in water. Because the EPA has a rigid standard of allowable levels of arsenic in water, due to the recommended amount you are supposed to drink a day, you really can't compare it to other beverages, especially beverages made of fruit, which have naturally occurring levels of arsenic in it anyway.

I say a bit trumped up, because the brands in the lawsuit do have higher levels of arsenic than other comparable wines. However, in order to reach the levels of arsenic that would be dangerous to humans, you would have to consume several bottles a day.

More info in yesterdays Wine Spectator
posted by lootie777 at 5:22 PM on March 20, 2015 [1 favorite]


lootie777: "However, in order to reach the levels of arsenic that would be dangerous to humans, you would have to consume several bottles a day."

Uh oh.
posted by stet at 6:51 PM on March 20, 2015 [5 favorites]


Uh oh is right! No, you would get into the danger zone of alcohol poisoning before the arsenic would affect you.

To get back on topic, the marketing stuff is condescending and annoying, but unfortunately it works. Some of the "big hulking wineries" (I like that, I'm going to steal it) have tried alternate types of marketing and branding, but sales always skyrocket when the bottles are pastel for the ladies, and macho for the men. Hopefully, once the Boomers are past the point of being the largest cohort purchasing wine, this gendered nonsense will start to fade. Millennials don't respond to it nearly as much as Boomers or Gen X.

I'm subscribing to the podcast, thanks for the link!
posted by lootie777 at 7:36 PM on March 20, 2015 [1 favorite]


Gendering wine is just silly. Good wine is good wine, and bad wine is bad regardless of the color of the label.

Now, if I owned a winery, I would pay a lot of attention to the label colors and branding, because I'd want to sell the maximum amount of wine and gendering it might well be the best way to do that.
posted by Dip Flash at 12:19 AM on March 21, 2015


Hey Yoink, why are you so mad at wine? It exists, has flavors, there is science and everything! If you can't tell the difference, and some other folks can't either, well that is fine.
Stop trying to "debunk" it. It's a losing game. Just go listen to this podcast, man! It's occasionally pretty interesting.
posted by metasav at 8:40 AM on March 21, 2015


Also want to add, thanks to lootie777, for actually debunking the arsenic nonsense.
Because it is absolute nonsense.
posted by metasav at 8:44 AM on March 21, 2015


Hey Yoink, why are you so mad at wine? It exists, has flavors, there is science and everything!

Er, where did I deny any of those things?
posted by yoink at 1:21 PM on March 21, 2015


You didn't. You win.
posted by metasav at 5:05 PM on March 21, 2015


Okay- I will play. You troll this post about wine, saying vintage variation, price and the ability to actually taste the wine in your mouth have been debunked by "experts" and I push back and all you have is " I never claimed no science"...? You state "our" tastebuds, as if to encompass some mystery group...I just don't dig it.
Why all this energy spent for something you clearly have so much disdain for?
Wine is wonderful, it's bottled history, its a story, it's about what happened and it's about flavor and marrying it with food and making that greater than the sum of its parts, which is absolutely real, and to say wine is some kind of scam or something is to say that Gravity is a scam.
I absolutely can't explain how it works...so I just trust that I'm not floating away.
I genuinely mean no I'll will, but I must defend wine. It's magnificent.
(Just cracked a bottle of $12 wine, French, that will hopefully be the pepper and salt on this big meal I just cooked. )
Drink wine. It's good stuff, folks
posted by metasav at 6:59 PM on March 21, 2015


What kind of quality do you think you're getting out of a bottle of Girlfriend Wine, for instance

Well, it depends. I found these at a local grocer for $3 each and figured "What the hell, they're only $3". Price is not the best indicator of quality - there's an Argentinian vineyard whose wines go for about that, and they're shockingly delicious - but is a hint to set your expectations fairly low. (I don't have one of their bottles in the house right now, so I can't share the name, but they do a fantastic Bonarda/Merlot blend and a fruity Malbec that makes me happy.) The Good Girl and Wild Girl were perfectly drinkable, and I would buy them again for evenings of drinking ordinary wine and playing video games. The other ones were stunningly awful and I was glad to have only spent $3 on them when I dumped them down the drain.

Wine is wonderful

It is, indeed. If you enjoy wine to begin with, that is. If you don't, no amount of hectoring is going to convince someone to drink it.

it's bottled history, its a story, it's about what happened and it's about flavor and marrying it with food and making that greater than the sum of its parts

Don't do this. Please? Please don't do this. This kind of attitude is what makes people skittish about walking into a tasting room to try to learn. This kind of attitude is why I sometimes have to spend 15 minutes comforting a potential customer in the tasting room, someone who is apologizing for not "knowing anything" about wine, as if I'm going to imperiously point to the door and tell them there is no place for them in our establishment. I find this over-romanticizing of wine off-putting and angry-making. Please stop telling people this nonsense, it really gets in the way of people being open to trying wine and learning about what tastes good to them.

I am in my 11th year of volunteering for a small SE MI winery. I have been involved in all aspects of the process at this point, starting just with bottling, eventually moving into the tasting room, then assisting with harvest, crush and press, testing, and "dialing in" the blends (my second favorite part of working there. We spend an afternoon in the cellar, blending, tasting, blending some more, tasting, until we all agree that it is what we want to present to our guests. My favorite part is working in the tasting room, talking to people about wine and comparing it to other familiar flavors and scents so they can explore more wines they might like.)

Yoink makes valid points about the prevailing "wine culture". Namely: "I do think there's enormous pleasure to be had in trying wines from different regions, different grapes etc., and exploring their variety. You can't do that without being willing to drop at least $20 or so on the odd bottle. But I think you can also learn to guard yourself against throwing money away on wine which simply does not, qua wine, give you any more pleasure than vastly cheaper alternatives." and "To me, that price--whatever it ends up being--should be near the maximum you would ever be willing to pay for any wine: because it tells you what the real value to you is of the wine itself--i.e., the actual pleasure you derive from drinking that particular beverage independently of any of the stories you might tell yourself about how sophisticated you are or how special the bottle you bought is or whatever it might be."

This is precisely the sort of thing that I tell my customers in the tasting room when they want to know how to select wines that they are not able to taste before buying. When I am with you in the tasting room, and you are anxiously peering at the sample of Le Griffon - our 10 year-old Bordeaux-style red that is the second most expensive wine in the place (the ice wine being the most expensive) - and I ask you after that first sip "What does that remind you of?", I will cheerfully take a full bottle of it to anyone who leans over to you and tells you that it's "pretentious, yet graceful" and beat them upside the head. That shit is just not helpful, and neither is "it's bottled history". No, it isn't. It's bottled fermented grapes that might remind you of the way a leather shop smells, or make you crave a fat steak, or leave you wondering if there might be a touch of vanilla or black cherry lingering on your tongue, or the scent of the tobacconist's hanging around your nose. I will tell you to write those impressions down, so that when you're looking for a similar wine that doesn't cost $36 a bottle, you can find something else you will most likely enjoy.

If you're going to drink wine, drink wine that tastes good to you, whether it's $4 a bottle or $40, whether Robert Parker adores it or has pronounced it sewer swill. Don't feel like you need to have some sophisticated vocabulary or knowledge of terroir or varieties of oak or the merits of aging in oak vs. stainless to enjoy wine. You don't. All you need is a tongue, a nose, and a willingness to occasionally pour a bottle out when you really don't like it and make a note to not buy that one again. I'm not going to kick you out of the tasting room for preferring the simple sweetness of our Harvest Apple over the complex flavors of Le Griffon, and I'm not going to look down my nose at you for wanting a somewhat less expensive red for everyday consumption. It's OK to save expensive wine for special occasions! Drink what you like - ALL wine is for "normal people" - and tell anyone who badgers you about it to fuck off.
posted by MissySedai at 10:13 AM on March 22, 2015 [6 favorites]


Now, if I owned a winery, I would pay a lot of attention to the label colors and branding, because I'd want to sell the maximum amount of wine and gendering it might well be the best way to do that.

The winery I volunteer in has a uniformly simple label for all of our wines. But the partners figured out that the best way to sell the maximum amount of wine is to let people taste it in different contexts. There's the usual "Hey, let's go look at the list and taste what sounds interesting", of course, but we also offer themed events where we feature a wine and pair it with different kinds of food. The little town we are located in also does themed events that we participate in that are, surprisingly, gendered events. All of the downtown businesses offer something special to fit in with the theme. For the "Man Cave" night, we featured spicy chili and samples of our boldest reds. Last week was "Downtown Divas at Dusk", and we featured our fruit wines (Apple, Peach, Plum) and our super sweet Channel Marker One, along with fruit, cheese, and some interesting desserts. The featured wines FLY out the door.

As a certified lush, these gendered preferences are baffling to me. But if participating in this weirdness means we sell wine and get to continue to stay in business, well, I guess I've got to go along with it.
posted by MissySedai at 10:29 AM on March 22, 2015


Every time I need to buy wine, I decide what my threshold is (usually like $10), then go down to HEB and look for the wine that has been bought the most (so there's like none in the front row or two anymore) from that price bracket. This is tricky because sometimes they move all the bottles back up but as long as there's still a lot fewer than the rest then maybe it's a good sign, and also sometimes the ones way in the back are all dusty and I don't know sometimes thats not great. Then you just pick I guess. It's very scientific.
posted by DynamiteToast at 1:12 PM on March 23, 2015


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