To WSJ's New Wine Columnists: Not everyone drinks $820 bottles of wine

13 Apr

Like many wine aficionados, I turned to the newest wine column, On Wine, at the Wall Street Journal with interest when I read the paper Saturday morning. The newest column will feature the writing of Jay McInerney and Lettie Teague (formerly of Food + Wine magazine — I love Lettie and was sad when she was laid off from the magazine).

The very first column featured McInerney’s love of pink champagne. I enjoyed how he started the piece, taking us back to the day when he first fell in love with pink sparkling wine on a date with a young woman.

Good start, no problem there, although I did dislike the phrase, “I eventually learned to turn up my nose at Cold Duck….” Why? I’ve never had Cold Duck, and I’m sure it isn’t great wine, but it makes McInerney sound arrogant and quickly alienates any reader who is just starting to get into wine. The role of a wine writer is to entice the reader into enjoying wine and learning more about it. A writer who claims his superiority in the first paragraph isn’t going to win over any wine newbies.

The other part I disliked in his column was his explanation for the price of the 1990 Dom Pérignon Œnothèque Rosé. “I’m not going to pretend that either the 2000 or the 1990 Œnothèque is inexpensive, but look at it this way: The former costs about the same as the tasting menu at Joël Robuchon in Las Vegas; the latter the same as the tasting menu for two.”

That is probably the least useful information I’ve yet to read in a wine column. I can guess what the tasting menu costs at Joël Robuchon in Las Vegas, but sorry, I don’t regularly dine there (and probably neither do most people), so I don’t know the exact cost. Moreover, people who are going to plunk down however much it costs to savor the tasting menu at Joël Robuchon in Las Vegas very likely have no problem paying $820 for a bottle of wine (or $360, if you opt for the “cheaper” 2000 vintage).

Why not put the cost of the bottle into terms people can understand a little better?

Here are some ideas, Jay. A bottle of the 1990 Dom Pérignon Œnothèque Rosé costs about as much as:

4 New Apple 3GS iPhones or

1 50″ Plasma HDTV or

328 Starbucks Short Lattes or

12 All-Day Lift Tickets at Park City, Utah

Now, if you were to put it on those terms and asked a variety of people, would you rather drink 1 bottle of wine or drink a Starbucks Latte for nearly every day this year, or would you rather have one bottle of pink champagne or ski at Park City 12 times, which would you choose?

This puts things into perspective. There are those who would rather have their daily Starbucks treat than enjoy one fabulous wine. Or those who like wine, but like skiing better.

Everyone has their priorities. I happen to love wine. My boyfriend recently expressed shock that I had paid $140 for a bottle of wine (a 2007 Williams Selyem Litton Estate Pinot Noir, if you would like to know). But I know he would MUCH rather get the flat-screen TV or the 12 lift tickets than pay for the Dom rose.

So, my advice for the On Wine column: rather than just speak to the wine lover, who probably has at least 20 books on wine, reads the Wine Spectator and Wine Enthusiast religiously, speak to the wine newbie. I always loved Dottie and John’s Tasting column at the WSJ. I thought it made wines fun, approachable, and they often touted affordable buys. Let’s follow in their excellent example and stay away from $820 bottles of wine.


Posted by on April 13, 2010 in Wine


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11 responses to “To WSJ's New Wine Columnists: Not everyone drinks $820 bottles of wine

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