Made you look.
This was a test and only a test. Did you really believe there was a 100-point Napa Cabernet Sauvignon selling for $15? Even if you didn't, you still clicked on the headline to find out what it was all about.
Consider all the red flags in that headline. A 100-point score means it's a perfect wine. Napa Cabernet Sauvignon is a favorite topic of our readers and most wine lovers. And a price tag of 15 bucks? Who doesn't love a bargain? Put those all together and it's the Mother of All Wine Headlines.
So why did I do it? To test your biases and preconceptions about wine. We all have them. Well, I sure do anyway, although I try to rise above them.
How much a wine costs is a big bias. All of our eyes light up when we see the words "value" or "bargain," and it doesn't matter how fat our wallet is. Some people will swear there's no real difference between a $20 bottle of wine and a $100 bottle. (Sure, we've all had a few 100-buck stinkers, but that's a different blog.) Chances are the guy who thinks there's no difference hasn't had a lot of $100 wines in the first place.
And yet, sommeliers will tell you that no one ever buys the least expensive bottle on a restaurant wine list. Who wants to look cheap? All the action starts with the bottle that's $10 or $20 more.
Then there's the other side of the coin—if it's expensive, it has to be good. There are those rarified few who think a $50 bottle is cut-rate. And even that can be taken to the extreme, and wine becomes nothing more than bling. There are some classic sommelier tales about nouveau riche customers pouring $5,000 bottles of wine over ice.
Then we have Wine Spectator's 100-point scale—it's an important tool for our reviewers. Scores tell you the general quality of a wine, but that's only part of the story. They're like Cliffs Notes: a guide, not a substitute for the real thing. You have to read the tasting note to get a true idea about the character and style of the wine. Blindly following scores doesn't serve anyone.
Sure, if a wine rates 90 points that means we believe it's outstanding, but there's a chance—if you read the tasting notes—that you might prefer an 89 or 88 pointer even more.
Varietal and regional biases and prejudice abound as well. Napa Cabernet and Bordeaux are some of our readers' favorite wines, and who can argue with that? That's not likely what they used to drink, or what they always will-some prejudices change. When I moved to Sonoma County 20 years ago, just about the only wine sold here was from Sonoma. Restaurant lists are still mostly stocked with Northern California wines, but there are many more bottlings from France, Spain and beyond. Sonoma and Napa wines now face serious competition on retail shelves from Europe and South America.
Other prejudices are hard to shake. Some wine lovers on the East Coast dismiss California wines entirely. Typically they're Francophiles who might allow themselves an occasional Italian, Austrian or German wine. Most of the wine drinkers and winemakers I know here revere the wines of Europe and have room to love California, too.
One East Coast wine notable told me he had never tried a Zinfandel that be liked. A sweeping condemnation if I've ever heard one. Here's a person who hasn't tried enough good Zinfandel like Carlisle or Hartford.
I just touched on a few of preconceptions and prejudices out there. There are so many. What have I missed? Care to admit to your own biases?