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In Praise of Cheap Hooch

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Slate has a solid article on “why you should be drinking cheap wine”.  While I know my way around a bottle a bit better than the average person, I strongly support the core thesis of said article.  This dates back from my previous life as a brewer / beer judge / beer writer when I argued that the price/quality relationship in wine doesn’t even try to approximate a linear function.  The same is true of single malts for that matter; back when I built and maintained a collection (which is sadly down to a single unopened bottle of 1974 Ardbeg), I only broke $100 on a bottle once, and that was for a 1973 Longrow.  Yes, there’s really bad, dumpable wine available under $6 a bottle.  But there are also plenty of terrific wines down there as well.  The wine we served at our wedding, an Italian Pinot Grigio, is available at our local Trader Joes for five bucks, and it earned plaudits from those in attendance with superior knowledge and palates.

There are a couple statements in this article that I find contentious however.  To wit: “Granted, few Americans actually drink that much wine—annual consumption is around one bottle per month per capita . . .”  Seriously?  One bottle per month?  I guess my intake, even when limited to the several months I spend in the US per year, makes up for the lack of consumption of entire states.  Second:

In Europe, consumption is 3-to-6 times higher than in the United States. But only the most affluent would spend 11 euros to drink a bottle of wine at home on a Wednesday night. Europeans seem perfectly comfortable cracking open a 1-euro tetra-pak of wine for guests. Germans, for example, pay just $1.79 on average.

Yet further evidence that the United Kingdom is not part of Europe.  Wine is vastly more affordable here in Oregon than England; the same was true when I lived in the Netherlands, where it was fairly easy to find solid value, unlike in the UK.  The best value I can find in Plymouth is a £3.15 bottle of Australian red (and white, I forget the varietals at the moment) sold by my local Tesco Metro (which has turned into the house wine at the Brockington Manor).  Prior to the opening of this Tesco last summer, the best value was whatever was on offer at the local Co-op, usually at £5.

That said, I instinctively go for value when drinking wine.  It’s easy, even on that outrageously expensive island where I spend the majority of my time, to find a solid wine at an affordable price.

h/t to my friend Karen Semyan.

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