Wine & Prejudice

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contributed by: Courtney Cochran

Like Elizabeth Bennet, I sometimes misjudge characters based on false notions I have of their true nature. But where Elizabeth erred in judging men, I sometimes make my mistakes in appraising wine. And while this may sound like a trivial comparison – certainly Ms. Bennet has been called one of English literature’s great heroines, and I’m just a newbie wine critic still shy of my two-year anniversary as a certified sommelier – I’m hoping you’ll find it refreshingly tongue-in-cheek and perhaps even a little enlightening.

You see, it’s my opinion that our relationship to wine is a lot like our relationship to the opposite sex. As with potential mates, we sometimes incorrectly conclude that a wine isn’t meant for us based on external factors like labels, prices, and point scores. But these factors don’t always account for what really counts – the more subtle things lingering inside the bottle. Read on for a short list of common pitfalls when it comes to appraising a wine’s character and how to avoid stumbling into them.

Labels
The most frequently misjudged things when it comes to wine, labels tell us very little about the quality of what’s inside the bottle. I’m always surprised at how some of the worst wines I sample have the most appealing labels, while some of the most amazing wines I’ve stumbled upon often come in the most anonymous-looking packages. My point: The Wickhams of the wine world are plentiful. These are wines that trick you into believing they’re something special simply by wooing you with their flashy exteriors. The moral: don’t judge a wine by its label.

Price
Another common prejudice pitfall! In the wine world especially, price and quality simply aren’t always on par. I’ve had just as many amazing $15 wines as $50 wines, although the best versions on the lower end have taken a little more work to find, I’ll admit. At the same time, there are a handful of wines out there that are extremely expensive and totally out of this world – in other words, absolutely worth it! These are the Darcys of the wine world, and when you find one, be sure to savor it.

Points
In the same way that a handful of snobby aristocrats dictated who was popular in Jane Austen’s 19th Century England, a few influential wine critics tell today’s consumers which wines are worth buying. But, just as the aristocrats of Ms. Bennet’s time represented a singular – albeit influential – take on popular society, today’s wine critics aren’t the ONLY arbiters of taste when it comes to what’s in your glass. At the end of the day, what really matters in your perception of a wine is if it resonates with you personally, whether that be because it’s been well received by a certain critic or because it just blew your mind. In the latter instance, be sure to buy a case.

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