What's in a price tag?
Lots. Consider your red headed blogger here; while I dream of the days when I can buy @ Chambers without looking at price tags, (even though every bottle of wine I buy is tax deductible), most of what I spend is in the price category Robin Goldstein addresses in his The Wine Trials, 175 wines under $15 with an occasional stretch to under $20, and a few times a year splurge to under $45.
If I stopped buying wine I could almost afford health insurance (not quite), but still, the point is that I do choose wines that could have made Robin's book.
Here's what I like about his wildly popular paperback.
The man who won a Wine Spectator award for a phony Italian wine list wrote it.
The front chapters are very well done. He discusses the fact that price does not necessarily have a correlation to taste. He takes on LVMH for the amount of money spent on advertising and that cost is sent over to the customer. Bravo. Well done. Of course what about Mionetto? They also advertise, but never mind. Also there is no Duboeuf included. And, he lambasts one particular palate for driving the prices on bordeaux. (Who might that be, we wonder). Robin's beef with Eric Asimov was amusing (the merits of blind tasting), which is a problematic way of writing a wine recommendation book, as sometimes knowledge of the producer is necessary. Most importantly: he clearly shows how cheap industrial/conventional wines are preferable to expensive ones. In other words, when shopping 'brands' go cheap.
Another plus is that he sums up taste trends he has seen.
This is excellent because it give me a good sense of the market changes, where the bean counters see their consumer and how they've adjusted wines to suit their tastes. In other words, he tells me about a whole section of wines I categorically ignore. Brands.
He missed a great opportunity by avoiding real wines in the book. There are practically none. Nor does he address the issue in hia narrative. (In a recent Twitter @ Robin did point this out: 10000 cases is discussed in Wine Trials text; it's to maximize the book's national relevance & usefulness. I counter that one, with most states allowing wine shipping, this is less of an issue, what this does however, is help perpetuate the myth that all wine is the same.)
Now, look at this line. "Our blind tastings have consistently shown, again and again, that people consistently prefer a $9 Spanish Cava to that $40 Veuve--and even to a $150 Dom Perignon."
Well, what about putting up as comparison a $40 Lassaigne or a $24 Montbourgeau cremant or a $150 Selosse Initiale? Yes, those are way under 10,000 cases. Okay, what about Pol Roger, Parigord Cremant de B, Cave Saumur or Vertice, a sparkler from Portugal?)
Give the drinker something to work with, other wise we're comparing Target to H & M, or cardboard tomatoes from Mexico against ones from Canada.
For a real approach to consumer journalism, the book should be rightfully titled, "The Best of Supermarket Wine," because, those are the wines between the sheets. (caveat: Gobelsburger Gruner? Large production but still, how did that get in there? Nice to see, and the only wine included in those 175 I would buy.)
I'm not saying that the person looking in this book would appreciate the wines of Guion, or even the blind tasters, but more people are and charmed at something pure and simple, then the author could have ever expected. I'm not sure a consumer guide to shopping soda in the supermarket is really that much of a service, but on the other hand, bringing back the pluses, this book is much better written than it needs to be.