The Better Question

The space that separates price and value from worth is an interesting thing. Price, at least in the free market, is the intersection of supply and demand.  But value incorporates quality, a subjective little beast of a word that's debated from fishing docks to domino tables to trading floors.  More complicated still is the concept of worth.  And worth, well, brings into account a relativity dependent on the position of the person declaring it.

Who's to say whether a wine is quality enough to be worth the money?  Who's to say that quality should be the driving factor behind the price of a wine?  In large part, we, the consumer, decides.  But there is dissent, or preference, among us.  Different strokes, different folks, all that.  As Jack Galante wrote in response to an unfavorable review I wrote years ago, "That is the great thing about wine – there are flavors for everyone!"   

Amen, Jack.

I'm often asked what the "best" wine I've ever had is.  More often I'm asked what the most expensive wine is.  The first question is impossible, the second silly.

When either question comes up, my profane response is an unspoken version of 'Please ask me a different question.'

Thanks to generosity of others and this writing gig, I've been afforded access to more than my fair share of beverages I otherwise don't have the means or opportunity to experience.  Have I had great wines?  Oh, mamma.  Have I had expensive wines?  Certainly.  But what (I'd like to think) people are really curious about is the last wine that made me weep, that made me laugh, that made me stop talking for one goddamned second and look into the glass.

That, that is the better question.  And it's a question that moves wine lovers to pitch the fulcrum of a corkscrew time after time.

Somewhere in between the pillars of price and value and worth exists a completely different dimension.  Something immeasurable. Call it a soul, substance, meat and potatoes, X factor, whatever.  The fabric of a wine that resonates with the innocent person inside every one of us is the magic that separates this social lubricant from Hawaiian Punch.

At a recent family dinner we were treated to a rare gem: a storied first growth from a Vintage of the Century oozing with equal parts breeding and Parker points.  There was no question as to its quality - or its price. (A single bottle of this stuff goes for more than I scraped up for my first car working a dish washing job.)  I am grateful for having the chance to have had a glass.

But rather than a refill, I instead reached for the twenty dollar powerhouse Pinot cobbled together by a few spirited buddies with everything to gain and something to prove. Maybe I'm a simpleton, but I wasn't alone.

My wallet reflex draws the line at the dollar equivalent of a bag of groceries.  Chalk it up to Yankee frugality or just plain common sense, but at a professional level I guarantee you this: there is an abundance of enjoyment to be had in wines within your reach, however deep (or not) that is.

I wish you well in your personal pursuit in finding wines that strike a chord within you. 


PS- In anticipation of the emails asking what that Pinot was, here it is: 2009 Banshee Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast.  A second bottle of the stuff is what drove me to write this piece.  Insanely good shit.  Enjoy.