Yesterday, I had an interesting conversation with an associate. They texted me about a wine that a friend had enjoyed. She asked if I could source if for them, and I said yes - it would be about $40 per bottle.
Her reply was, "that's all! - that's so cheap - and my friend actually loved it."
Now, in my world I am very lucky because I get to taste wines of all different styles, and from all kinds of regions, and have even had the opportunity to travel and visit some fantastic wine regions and people. But, in my world, I also understand that at $40 a bottle, not everyone's reaction would be that that is a cheap wine. My response was simply, well it depends on your perspective, and that price isn't necessarily indicative of quality. She replied to me, "well we are taught to assume that wine is only good if its expensive and not everyone is a Sommelier like you."
I have had this conversation happen before, and people often simply assume that you have to pay a lot in order to get a great bottle, or be an educated wine snob to know what is good. I replied to my associate that you don't have to be Sommelier to be a connoisseur, and that we are all connoisseurs of what we put in our mouths. Meaning, we select the things we like to taste, as well as select out the things we do not like to taste. Obviously there are factors that can influence our decision making - price point being one of them - but it is not the only factor. At least it shouldn't be in my opinion.
So here is the thing, I have learned to taste for what is in the glass, not what is on the label. Yes, I may select a wine to drink based on grape, region, or producer, but if I am assessing a wine for consideration to buy, either for my personal enjoyment or especially for one of the wine lists I curate, then I am going to assess that wine firstly for its inherent quality. I then take the other factors into consideration before making a final decision.
How do I do this?
Well, I have learned through training and practiced qualifications to break down a wine's traits and characteristics and understand them from a theoretical point of view. This is done using a basic system to evaluate the balance, length, intensity, complexity, and even expressiveness of the style or grape. By understanding and evaluating these factors I can then make an educated decision as to whether the wine is worth the price being asked or if it is not up to the standard I consider to be fair.
A $40 bottle of wine can be a great bargain, just as a $10 or $100 bottle can be. Each have factors that contribute to their style and substance, and if you like the wine - which is the biggest factor - then the price can be irrelevant. But, if you want to learn to buy and assess a wine on its merits and what is in the glass like a professional then learning about wine from a theoretical point of view can be a great tool to have. Wine qualifications will provide an avenue to understanding.
Whether for yourself or for that wine snob-wannabe in your life, taking a wine qualification (or spirits qualification) can be fun and entertaining. It's a learning process that can pay you back over a lifetime. We have classes on offer throughout the year, and there are Gift Certificates in various denominations available, too.
Click here to take a browse through our shop of courses and gift certificate options.
ABOUT THE Author
Brian Mitchell runs The New England Wine Academy, and is responsible for the content of this blog. With 30 years of drinks industry experience, Brian has learned a few things, but everyday he is learning more. This blog helps to bring that knowledge to you.