I had this inspiration to do this tasting for a while and it finally came together last night.31 wine lovers gathered in the new 1640 Wine Bar in Hamden, CT for a tasting of 9 wines on the theme Rich Man/Poor man, or Can you Really tell the Difference between an expensive and inexpensive wine.
Bottom line: it’s not as easy as you may think.
Using the sage advice of one of Connecticut’s best wine palates, Bob Feinn of Mt. Carmel Wines, we started with an aperitif: Veuve de Vernay Rosé Brut, which at $10, is an outstanding example of a great wine value in the sparkling wine category.
The balance of the tasting was conducted blind and in pairs. Everyone knew which wines were to be poured, only the identities were hidden.
Our 1st pair was La Petite Perrière 2017 vs de Ladoucette Poilly Fumé 2017, $10 vs $40. My reaction: although La Petite Perrière was a fine example of Sauvignon Blanc, the de Ladoucette was in a league of its own. It had a distinguishable elegance. Is it worth 4 times as much? That’s a question for the consumer to answer.
Then we tried Cabernets: Straphanger 2015 Paso Robles vs BV Rutherford 2014. This was the most challenging pair; it was very difficult to decide, which is a supreme compliment for Straphanger. $12 vs $30, or 2 bottles of Straphanger for 1 bottle of the BV.
From there we moved to Italy, tasting 2 wines from Montalcino and the same producer: Caparzo Rosso di Montalcino 2015 and their Brunello 2013. Both really fine wines, but what threw me off was the light color and brown edges of the Rosso, which I guessed was the Brunello. Wrong, but again I consider that a compliment for the Rosso which retails for $18 vs $40 for the Brunello.
Our last pair featured Pinot Noir: Castelbeaux 2016 vs Dufouleur Frères Nuits-St. Georges 2014. The Castelbeaux had no AOC or any designation and was again not in the same league as the Burgundy but it had subtle cherry aromas and the light nuanced hue of French Pinot Noirs. At $9 vs $40 for the Burgundy, it warrants serious consideration from wine lovers who like Pinot Noirs but without paying the big bucks.
Our conclusion: when you have to have the real McCoy and nothing else will do, then you have to spend the extra money. But if your goal is a wine with somewhat similar characteristics but at a fraction of the cost, then there is no shortage of alternatives.
Look and you will find. It also helps if you have a great wine retailer like Bob Feinn.