Food & Wine magazine is a well-done and professional book that has hundreds of thousands of readers. The Wine Curmudgeon likes Food & Wine. For one thing, it occasionally acknowledges regional wine, and its wine stuff is mostly written in English. Compared to the rest of the Wine Magazine universe, that’s top of the class.
But what Food & Wine doesn’t understand is the same thing that all of the rest of them don’t understand. Cheap wine does not cost $20. Cheap wine costs $10 or $8 or even $5. The average price of a bottle of wine in the U.S. (all together now, regular readers) is $6.
But Food & Wine, apparently, has the same blind spot that the rest of the wine world has. The winner of the “value” pinot noir (Manhattan magazines hate to use the word cheap) in its American Wine Awards, which will be announced in the October magazine, cost $20. Yes, $20 – or three times the average price of a bottle of wine.
Or, to quote the magazine: “This entry-level bottling. …”
Entry-level bottling? For Donald Trump, maybe. Why this matters, and that it’s not just another excuse for a Wine Curmudgeon rant -- after the jump:
Again, this is not about Food & Wine. It’s not even about the Siduri pinot noir that won the “value” pinot category. Siduri makes nice wine – pricey, $50 wine, but quality stuff (which, it should also be noted, is made in very small amounts and has limited distribution). Though, to its credit, Siduri doesn’t try to kid anyone: It calls its wines “ultra-premium.”
What this is about is that Americans will never accept wine as something to drink with dinner, the way we accept beer and iced tea and soft drinks, when we think that we have to spend $20 for a decent wine to have with dinner. I’ll let the wine business in on a secret: Tell an American that they can drink water for free or wine for $20 with their pork chops or meatloaf or takeout roast chicken, and most of them will drink water.
Do the math: seven times $20 is $140 a week for wine, which turns into $500 a month, which translates into two car payments. (Or one really nice car payment, I have been told.) No wonder we choose water.
This is an attitude that doesn’t exist anywhere else in the world, where they drink cheap wine every day and think nothing of it. But not here. No, we have to consult scores and wade through winespeak and have someone, with a straight face, tell us that $20 wine is an entry-level wine. Are they that out of touch with the real world?
What’s worse is that this is happening in the midst of the worst wine slump in an at least a decade, when Americans are abandoning wine that costs more than $15 so quickly that the industry has no idea what to do about it.
So give an award for the best $20 pinot in the U.S. Give as many awards as you want. But please, please don’t call them awards for cheap wine. You’re giving cheap wine a bad name.