We often learn more from the bad than the good

If you’re a wine consumer, you’ll no doubt have been questioned about the differences between good and bad wine. Many a time I’ve found myself opposite a person sucking on a Marlboro between slugs from a crystal flute of , and without fail they mention that they can’t tell the difference between one wine and the next and that they’re sure the whole thing is a hoax. Almost always, one finds these guys spouting such nonsense whilst eyeing out the waitress as if trying to bring the canapés in their direction by telekinesis and at the same time grumbling out loud that they wished there was some hard tack at hand. To such a person, one would have to agree,

if you’re trying to get drunk and sleep with cocktail waitresses, then there really is no difference between the wines you choose. Wine’s alcohol volumes vary at a maximum of 3%, and if you’re out to get drunk you should just hit the cheap stuff. Don’t even worry about getting a bottle, some places do bag in the box without the box, and what it may lack in style, it sure makes up for in price.

However, cheap wine is not just for students and desperate men looking to gain some confidence to proposition the waitress, I would put forward that there’s a lot to be learned from the real el’cheapo stuff. In fact, in many ways one can learn more from cheap wines than from expensive stuff.

My wife and I like to go to wine bars and experience whatever flights they have, we then rank the wines in the order we like them, from best to least. I find it so difficult at times, because I generally like all wines equally, so long as they have an interesting flavour note, and then when one revisits the wine, it it often the case that it has completely changed since your first impression. For this reason, it is incredibly difficult and may take years of experience to be able to distinguish between single varietal wines from the same region at the same price point.

Do an experiment for yourself though, purchase an inexpensive bag in the box white blend; and then source a reasonably priced Chenin Blanc or . If you do a vertical tasting between the two, you’re likely to learn more about the more premium wine when you sample it next to the bag in the box. I’ve found that this is the best way to display to people that words like ‘complexity’ or ‘layers’ or ‘evolving bouquet’ are not just a bunch of elusive sommelier jargon. You will see that the more premium wine will begin to display different layers, and may completely evolve as it warms up by just a single degree in temperature. Bag in the box, however, is likely to be fairly one dimensional and keep the same characteristic throughout, and is likely to have some chemical added to it that would make it taste consistent from bag to bag, and from year to year. Consider that Yellowtail is able to make 1 million bottles of Cabernet taste almost exactly the same year in and year out, I should think this a little strange, having personally tasted individual barrel samples at more boutiquey wineries where the same Cab tasted different from vineyard block to vineyard block.

The greatest value of a ‘two-buck-chuck’ is it makes us appreciate just how much value we’re really gaining by just spending $10 more and that wine is one product you should never cut corners on.

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