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The Adventures of Like This Love That in the Wine World

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July 30, 2013 Wine , ,

Rags & Riches

aka why a $200 wine will taste better if you taste more $20 wines

Drinking great wine is an incredible luxury, I think we can all agree on that. One of the oft mentioned but rarely defined ‘finer things in life’. And as with many of these ‘finer things’, if you really wanted to you can devote a limitless amount of time (and money!) to its pursuit.

But if you pursue too hard you'll end up with a sore head...

But if you pursue too hard you’ll end up with a sore head…

And while this post is a bit of an ode to that possibility, I’d like to come at it from a slightly different and hopefully original angle.

Many people have decided at one time or another to ‘splash out’ on a really nice bottle of wine – or maybe received one a a gift. The most obvious example of this is the ‘birth year Grange’ phenomenon. Unfortunately, by the time this bottle is opened it’s usually surrounded by a huge cloud of expectation (often attached to the dollar value of the product) and is often met with great disappointment when it doesn’t live up to those expectations.

So what to do about this? Well it’s all about range.

One may think that the best way to do this would be to drink lots of expensive wine, and by all means go right ahead if you have the circumstances to do so, but you also run the risk of simply moving your norms to a higher price point. If you can’t pick out a $20 bottle that will taste fantastic with a take away pizza, cracking out (and talking about) all the $250 bottles you’ve bought (note I don’t say enjoyed) is nothing more than a pissing contest!

The best thing you can do for your drinking is extend your range. You can do this by moving sideways – trying new varietals, styles, regions – or upwards – throwing a more expensive bottle in the mix from time-to-time (the step-up, as blogged about in a previous post).

Think you don’t like Pinot? Maybe you just haven’t tried the right one – or tried enough other wines with a similar flavour profile and dry finish. Mostly drink shiraz from warmer regions? Find a spicy one from cooler climes. Don’t like sweet wines? Maybe the right German riesling will change your mind.

It’s all about picking up on the differences. And the more time you spend with differences, the more likely you are to have that transformative experience.

Think of it like this. Getting a better sound system doesn’t necessarily mean that it plays music louder – it’s all about the clarity. Over time your ears will start to adjust, and you’ll pick up on things that you hadn’t before.

Your palate is exactly the same, and as you expand your range you’ll start to see that the ‘expensive wine = bigger and more concentrated’ assumption (responsible for many high expectations) falls down very quickly. Over time you’ll treat a new bottle, expensive or not, as simply another thing to discover and try – and removing the sense of occasion will increase your chances of having a revelatory wine experience; right when you least expect it.

Doing this successfully is all about finding good service, and it’s one of the principles that LTLT operates on, so whichever direction you’re looking to take your drinking, give me a hoy!

Happy Drinking,

Peter