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Lovers of low-cost vino are Scrooged

ColoradoBiz Staff //December 9, 2011//

Lovers of low-cost vino are Scrooged

ColoradoBiz Staff //December 9, 2011//

I attended one of the most delightful Thanksgiving dinners in years last month. The hostess made it so – she’s from Louisiana and the girl can throw a party.

But that’s not the point. The point is that she opened up our get-together by announcing a “wine tasting.” She’d purchased enough Thanksgiving Day wine to keep the entire population of Burgundy, France inebriated (as is also her way). But she’d opened up three “special” bottles of red before our meal that she’d either discovered, been hard-sold by the wine shop owner, and/or she’d heard about.

Without telling us the price of any of the three bottles, we spent a lively 30 minutes tasting, assessing, rinsing our glasses and repeating until all of us had had the chance to weigh in on the three bottles.

Like everyone else there, I didn’t like a one of them. So I asked her, “What did you pay for each of these bottles?” Her answer? About $12 each.
Aaaaahh. Therein lies the problem. Over time – as I’ve grown older and therefore imbibed, collectively, more wine, and, as I’ve spent time in the food and wine worlds tasting and judging and writing about same – my palate has become more critical and more pricey.

And for that I am not so happy.

I can easily recall the good ol’ days of enjoying the $6 bottle when, bought by the case, made my indulgence more like $5 a bottle. Then a rash of $10 bottles hit the scene, usually from Spain or Chile, countries with centuries of wine-making culture behind them, but who’d yet to catch on to marketing or distributing abroad. Those $10 South American wines were a definite upgrade from the $6 hooch.

By Christmas 2005, I can distinctly remember getting turned on to a $15 and then a $22 Pinot Noir. It’s Christmas. We splurged a little.

Life has never been the same. For the last several years, I’ve discriminated against all of my old stand-bys, my former “house wines” (those nicely drinkable which I buy by the case). In fact, I’ve pretty much eliminated them from the wine rack.

Last month I asked Elway’s sommelier, Todd Rocchio, what he drank at home, what he bought for his own consumption when no one was looking. Elway’s hosts one of the most extensive wine lists in the state and they also enjoy a clientele who can and does pay for extraordinary wine garnered from around the world. You can easily get an $80 bottle on an Elway wine list. Is that what Todd drinks in his easy chair?

“I drink the $20 bottle,” Roccio said. “There’s a lot of good wine in that price point.”

Likewise, Elise Wiggins, Panzano’s executive chef (also originally from Louisiana, by the way) concurred.

“The cost of a good bottle of wine has gone up from $12 to the $24 to $26 range since the economy has hit about five years ago,” she said. “You can get good bubbles and various wines around that price. Zardetto Prosecco comes to mind for bubbles and it’s around the low $20s and Arnes Viette is also a great little white that won’t break the bank.”

So there you have it. The cost of gas might have skyrocketed, college tuition is certainly through the ceiling and who in the hell can possibly afford to completely and comfortably retired by age 60?

The real crisis, my friends, is not what it’s costing us to exist, but what it’s now costing us to take the edge off that costly existence.

One Winning Wine Tasting
Beyond Bubbles: Champagne & Sparkling Wine Tasting
On Thursday, Dec. 15, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., A Bottle Affair will host Beyond Bubbles, a class that surveys different styles of “bubblies,” including Blanc de Blancs, Blanc de Noirs, and Demi-Sec. Attendees will have the chance to compare sparkling wines from different parts of the world and learn a region’s wine and food culture. Local writer, sommelier and consultant Ashley Hausman hosts. Cost is $65. For further information, visit

Weird Wine Trivia
Thomas Jefferson’s salary was $25,000 per year – a princely sum, but the expenses were also great. In 1801 Jefferson spent $6,500 for provisions and groceries, $2,700 for servants (some of whom were liveried), $500 for Lewis’s salary and $3,000 for wine.”

The Manhattan cocktail (whiskey and sweet vermouth) was invented by Winston Churchill’s mother.

The Irish believe that fairies are extremely fond of good wine. The proof of the assertion is that in the olden days royalty would leave a keg of wine out for them at night. Sure enough, it was always gone in the morning. – Irish Folklore

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