With around £2 minimum tax per bottle in the UK, there's no such thing as a $3 bottle. And other costs mean the £4.99 bottle many of us buy contains <£1 worth of wine, ex-vineyard. But can you tell the difference?
In truth, the answer is, "it's up to you". Here at Purple Teeth we tend to feature wines between £8-15 because this is the price point which stretches the average consumer but doesn't take your "at home bottle" to a price above what you'd pay for a bar/restaurant bottle. I believe you can taste the difference, if you know what 're looking for. And the flaw in the Huff Post's article is choosing a wine like Cabernet Sauvignon to demonstrate the point. A great Cabernet will take years to develop and open up, while a simple blend made for drinking now will be much more accessible. But they'll both get you drunk, and if that's what you're after then be my guest!
So what should you be looking for if you want to identify fine wine as opposed to wine that's fine...
- Flavour Complexity: Does it taste of "red wine" or "white wine"? Does it have a one dimensional flavour eg apples or strawberries? Or, do you taste many different levels of flavour? Perhaps you taste things that show the wine's been aged (eg leather) or that show oak has been used in the wine making (eg vanilla)?
- Balance: Is there a dominant aspect eg high alcohol, harsh tannins, high acidity which overrides the rest of the experience of drinking the wine? Fine wines will tend to be made to show real integration of flavours and structure to create a balanced glass that's a pleasure to drink. Even so, there are easy-drinking, lower cost wines which are pleasantly balanced.
- Length of Finish: That's wine snob terminology for how long you can taste the wine for after you've swallowed it. When you drink really fine wines, you can taste the complex flavours for over a minute without taking another sip. That's great if you like the flavour, less so if you don't.
It's personal choice, and there's no right or wrong. If you prefer the £4.99 bottle, then drink it and enjoy, but know that you're spending almost 60% of that on tax. In a £10 bottle, for twice the spend you're getting 4 times the wine value. Why not give it a try? You'll find us limiting our reviews of bottles over £20 because we don't drink them very often, but when we do, we certainly taste the difference!