On Friday, our Czech friends hosted a wine tasting competition. The idea was simple; we’d taste wines of five different price ranges and then try to figure out which was which. We are not a bunchs of oenophiles, admittedly, but we all loved the idea of a competition. And equally importantly, given that we are all grad students living on limited incomes, we were excited about the possibility of finding that we actually liked (or even preferred!) a cheap wine. Between the 11 of us, we brought wines that were $4, $7, $12, $18, and $30. We were given leeway to bring any wine of our choosing and though all of us chose reds, several different varietals were represented.
As I said, none of us are wine experts, but some of us drink red wine often enough that we thought we’d have a decent shot at distinguishing between a cheap wine and a pricier one. Turns out, it was much harder than we expected. None of us managed to match all of the wines correctly and many of us even confused the $4 with the $30. In fact, though most of us had a favorite, no one preferred the $30, a pinot noir from Domaine Chandon. My personal winner was the $18 bottle of J. Lohr Cabernet Sauvignon, which was both flavorful and smooth. I would definitely get it again, were I in the market for a slightly more expensive bottle of wine than my usual $10 or less.
The real surprise was how many people, including Dylan, preferred the $4 J.W. Morris Merlot, which is carried by Trader Joe’s. Perhaps this all goes to show that our tastes in wine are truly undeveloped and could use some refinement. But on the other hand, maybe a lot of what goes into determining the price of a wine is packaging, marketing, and the reputation of the vineyard.
As a final note, the woman who won the competition had an interesting strategy for matching the wines to their prices. She put them in order of her personal preference and then reversed that order when she matched them to prices, meaning that the one she liked best she chose as the $4 bottle, whereas the one she liked least was picked as the $30. An unorthodox strategy, perhaps, but it seemed to work for her. Her prize as winner of our wine tasting competition, a sash (a la miss america) and a giant wine glass, large enough to hold two or three bottles of wine. I sense the start of an annual tradition…