Wine: from small to medium
Good wine ruins the purse; bad wine ruins the stomach.” – An old Spanish saying
Hello lovely readers 🙂
I read an article a while back in Food & Wine magazine. The author described her first foray into expensive wines, explaining that drinking an expensive, truly great wine helps properly mold your palate. Having a well formed palate for wine, in turn, aids you in recognizing good wines at all price points.
My husband and I love wine, and drink it often. We usually buy bottles anywhere from $6.99 (the price of the smile-inducing Opala Vinho Verde at Whole Foods when it’s on sale) to $35 (a yummy ’05 Pierre Amadieu Gigondas Grande Reserve). But I was curious to expand the horizon a bit. I wanted to know: when I’m paying more for wine, what exactly am I paying for?
We decided to scale up from small to medium. My choice? A 2006 Les Forts de Latour as a birthday gift for my husband. Yes, I’m aware that ’05 was a better vintage for Bordeaux, but research seemed to point to ’06 as a decent wine for drinking now as opposed to holding (which many wine lovers are doing with their oh-fives), so ’06 it was.
Les Forts is a second wine from First Growth French wine estate Chateau Latour–essentially, their second-tier wine that doesn’t quite satisfy the criteria for the estate’s Grand Vin. Not that such a classification implies second-rate wine. Chateau Latour states that Les Forts is produced:
a) with the grapes from the ” young vines ” of the “Grand Enclos”, which are less than 12 years old.
b) from the grapes grown on three plots situated outside the “Grand Enclos”,
c) in addition, and depending on the quality of the vintage, certain vats of Grand Vin may not, after numerous tastings, be up to the standards required.
They may then be demoted to ” Les Forts de Latour “
Fair enough– and at $125 for the bottle (the price at a South Florida Total Wine), it costs several hundred dollars less than its big brother, the Grand Vin. We cooked a good meal at home to pair with it–or my husband cooked a good meal, while I took a hot bath. A dry aged ribeye and mushroom caps off the grill; tomato basil salad; many, many, many sauteed cloves of garlic.
Wine poured. My husband took his first few sips and shared his first impressions with me. His descriptions were peppered with colorful language that I wouldn’t post in my blog, so suffice it to say that he quite liked it. Overall thoughts? It’s a good wine. In all honesty, that’s all anyone wants to know, isn’t it? My detailed impression is that it was ultra smooth, very blackberry and floral, more balanced than overly tannic, and of medium body. But hey, that’s just my two cents. Was it great? Yes, but there are cheaper bottles that are comparable, like the unarguably delicious Almaviva from Chile that runs anywhere from $75-$95 depending on the vintage.
Final verdict? Apparently I have either to go big or go home. It was a delicious wine, but it wasn’t earth-shatteringly different from a much less expensive good wine. Maybe spending more money on a bottle of wine is just a stronger assurance that you’re weeding out bad or weak competition, i.e. “If I spend $150 on a bottle of wine, I’m guaranteed that it will be a good albeit safe wine.” Perhaps sparks fire louder and brighter around the $500 price point? Cheers, happy drinking, and please have a designated driver!