On Fridays, Deb Harkness of Good Wine Under $20 drops by with Serious Grape. This week, she stands up for cheapo wines.
In today's Wall Street Journal Tastings column, two of the country's most distinguished and level-headed wine journalists (Dorothy J. Gaiter and John Brecher) announced their annual wine gift pick for the holidays.
Usually, this wine is expensive, hard to find, or both.
This year, it's a case of Gamay from the Beaujolais—one of the world's best wine bargains.
Gaiter and Brecher explain why they made this unorthodox choice: "a single, very expensive bottle of wine seems as dated as bloated executive bonuses." Is America ready to put aside its love affair with $100-plus bottles of wine with 95-plus ratings from the major critics? I think so. I think 2009 might be the year of the budget wine.
I've already extolled the virtues of Beaujolais in a bad economy here on Serious Grape. In general I'm a fan of the smaller, lesser-known appellations and grapes that provide seriously good value everyday. So my shouts of appreciation when I read Gaiter and Brecher's column today won't surprise any of my regular readers.
However, for people who equate high prices with great wine—people who may well subscribe to The Wall Street Journal—this announcement might come as something of a shock.
But this is the kind of shock American wine drinkers need. We still suffer in this country from the lingering effects of Prohibition. What that means is that we still see wine as something special, something we don't fully understand, and something that costs a pretty penny. So many of us drink our old reliables instead: beer and hard liquor. And when we go to the wine store, we plunk down huge sums of money on wine we may not even like.
The bad economy seems to have been the first thing on voters' minds on Tuesday. We need to stop spending money like we did in the 1990s. The boom years are over for now. In wine terms, it's time to start drinking Beaujolais, sparkling wine from Spain, Rieslings from Germany, and Merlot from Washington State. These all represent wine value, and they seem much more up-to-date politically and economically than some over-the-top red wine you can't afford. This is everyday wine culture. This is what makes sense for 2009.
While our beer and cocktail culture continues to thrive, our everyday wine culture is still in its infancy. President-elect Obama is said to prefer beer to wine. I hope when it comes time to restock the White House wine cellar, they put a few cases of Beaujolais in there.
What other wine bargains do you think should go in there? Who knows, Serious Grape readers could become the official sommeliers of the Obama White House.
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