Well, where do I start?
The Big Swing is a process I've experienced as a wine lover over the years. I think most wine drinkers know the temptation of trying wines that are above their normal price range. Is it worth it? Will it be greater than what I'm used to? Will I then be stuck spending more money on wine because I can't go back to that plonk I was drinking? Might I feel cheated, like I wasted my money? These are very common feelings believe it or not, but ones we rarely share with each other.
Wine prices vary...a lot. I've encountered many people who've asked me why wine is so expensive. (I have written quite a bit about the answer to this question in a series of articles that starts here.) The short answer though is: How can they make wine so cheap? The answer, as in so many other industries, is mass production and shortcuts. These facts are not to criticize or diminish the value of the wines they produce, since they allow people of modest means to choose wine as a part of their lives. On average, this is a positive thing.
If you are used to drinking mass-produced wines because of their lower price point, you will at some point get to try something more expensive, and more carefully produced. Will you like it? That's when all those questions I presented above come into play.
As a devoted wine lover, I have obviously tried many wines at many price points, and struggle with the economics of the whole process. When is a bottle of wine worth $30 or more to me? Clearly it's when I feel like I can afford it, and like I am ready to experience something a little more special. And it's only by doing it once in a while that you learn to appreciate the "special-ness" of those wines. The exact price point is not the point here. It's whatever you consider to be "too expensive for me". Special occasions certainly come to mind here, but I also love the idea of making an occasion special by getting a nicer wine to try.
|Sancerre is One of the World's Great Sauvignon Blancs|
Though You Wouldn't Know It from the Label
So, the "Big Swing" (remember that's the title of this article), is the periods of time I experience when I've decided I'm sick of the cheaper wines I've been settling for, and it's time to up my game, at least for a while. Yup, more of my money will be spent on wine, and eventually this will start to bite. At some indeterminate point, I will decide that I've had enough luxury, and am ready to come down to earth and spend less on my average bottle. It's a little hard adjusting, but I do. This becomes the time when I seek out the lower priced wines that are simply better than the rest. Yes that's right, trying the more expensive wines helps me identify the good ones from the less good at the lower price range. This has happened a couple dozen times to me over the last twenty years. These periods can last for a few weeks, or even a year or more. Ultimately, it starts over and over, swinging from once price range to the other.
Of what value is this concept? I guess it's that this experience has taught me a great deal about wine: it's relative value, pricing, characteristics of higher priced wines, what wine adds to a meal, how much of a good "cocktail" it can be (or not, depending), and my own relationship with it. Why do I now understand what I get for my $20 when I buy a bottle of Sancerre? It's because I've tried them enough times for it all to make sense. And I've paid attention to the experience.
I hope that more and more people start reaching above their own comfort zones into wines that have more character and uniqueness. You only have to do it in spurts, and stop when it starts to bite. Small producers, hand picked grapes, lower chemical content, carefully selected vineyard sites, these are hallmarks of special wines, though those alone do not make the wines themselves special.
Only you can do that.
-- Marc Soucy, FWS CSWMarc Wine Blog