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Jan 6, 2007 09:47 PM

cheap vs. expensive wine tasteoff

Sometimes you remember a wine because it reminds you of some other wine.

I had a 2002 Roth Alexander Valley cabernet sauvignon, not an outstanding wine, but a spicy fruity balanced one with a slightly bitter finish which I appreciated nonetheless.

Then the next day I had a "private-wine-cellar-bottle-aged" 2002 Charles Shaw "2 buck chuck" cabernet. Oh, my, the parallels were unmistakable. If anything, I liked the chuckie better - so what if it wasn't oaky. I also liked that I paid, oh, 20 times less?

This was so funny, and reminded me of the parallels I tasted between Tariquet Chardonnay Sauvignon blanc and Conundrum, although I don't think the price difference here is that notable.

Can you think of any wine parallels between an expensive wine and a moderately priced one? I do realize the discovery has to happen by accident.

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  1. I can think of dozens, if not hundreds . . . .

    To my mind, however, the question is not whether the $10 bottle is better than the $100 bottle (it typically isn't, though there certainly are numerous exceptions), but rather does the "high priced spread" provide enough pleasure to make its purchase worthwhile.

    There is no doubt that I enjoy (e.g.) a Grand Cru Burgundy, given my druthers, but I do not receive significantly less enjoyment from a Premier Cru, or even a villages lieu-dit. And the prices are significantly less! Which can you find more of in my cellar?

    My present "house" wine is the 2000 Mas Gabinele Faugeres. Kermit Lynch is offering the 2003 vintage for $26. Is it a good wine? Absolutely! But the 2000 cost me only $7, and not only is it a delicious bottle of wine, but the price makes it that much -- uh, "sweeter."

    1. A similarity, though not quite in the 2$C range, is the Zins from Turley. I've had many (actually examples of most of their sites, though not all vintages) and I always compare them to Robert Biale's Zins from the same, or similar sites. In most cases, Biale's Zins are about 1/2 to 2/3 the price of the Turleys, and compare very well. That said, I recently was running low on my Biale Black Chicken Zin. My allocation was used up, as was almost all of that wine in my cellar, plus all that the local distributor had. What was I to do? A purveyor happened to call with a Zin from the Brown Family, that she touted to no end. I bought a case (about 1/2 the cost of the Biale) and have since dubbed this wine the "Brown Chicken." I'm still talking US$17.50/btl., but it was THAT good. Did I dump my Biale Black Chicken? Did I gift my Turley? Nah, I just enjoy them all. Looking back, I wish that I'd taken a ride on the "Brown Chicken," and bought TWO cases, except that I cannot reach my Pinot Noirs, because there are about a dozen cases of wine on the floor of the cellar, and most have to be moved, just to get to the PNs. Who would have thought that a 3700 btl. cellar would be too small?!

      Back to the original question - it's all on the palete (and in the pocketbook) of the beholder.


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