Don’t judge a glass by its cost.

On our first dinner date, my wife, Liz, asked me to order a bottle of wine. Narrowly avoiding the onset of panic, I surreptitiously chose an unfamiliar bottle based upon its affordable price-point.

“A finer choice could not be made!” exclaimed François, our flamboyant French waiter, who evidently sensed my desire to impress without the benefit of private equity funding. He promised it would “demonstrate the confident elegance that reflected a life well-lived, approaching like a trusted friend, awakening the senses, bursting adventurously with a complex flavor of incredible intensity and retaining a dry personality without sacrificing sweetness or an unforgettably bold finish that brings happiness to all who have the pleasure of making the acquaintance.” That sounded like the best $38 I would ever spend.

Over the years, Liz and I since have enjoyed spectacular glasses of dry Falanghina on Italy’s Amalfi Coast; a wonderfully acidic, Assyrtiko in Santorini, Greece; and, a dramatic Cabernet Sauvignon at the Silver Oak vintage reveal in Napa Valley. Each of them different, yet memorable.

One favorite experience involved visiting a small family-owned vineyard where the owner demonstrated the patient nurturing needed to provide mottled sunlight to the individual grapes. Over a picnic lunch in the vineyard, she explained each vintage had a unique personality based upon the grape varietal, soil condition, weather and a host of other variables. In short, the life experience of each grape uniquely shapes the ultimate character of the wine. To complicate matters, each person tastes the wine uniquely on their pallet based upon individual senses, food pairing and other factors. This is why every taste of wine can be unique!

Judgments about the quality of a particular wine based upon preconceived ideas about its color, pedigree, and cost rarely correlate to the actual performance of the grape or appreciation of the pour. Wines, like people, need to be vetted based on actual experience to be judged.

When you enjoy your next bottle of vino, swirl your glass and let the character of the wine slowly reveal itself to you. Allow your pallet to search for the aromatic tastes of black cherries, tart apples, oak, butter or even crushed oyster shells. You may be surprised by the wine’s “personality” and what you taste when you’re really paying attention.

I myself remain hopeful that François will one day deliver the eulogy at my funeral. It would be nice to have someone attest that I “demonstrated the confident elegance that reflected a life well-lived.”
I’ll drink to that.