Although true in general during times of erratic prices, the art and science of inconspicuous consumption makes really good sense when buying wine. The turn of the 20th century socioeconomist, Thorstein Veblen, coined the phrase ‘conspicuous consumption’ to describe the practice of consuming goods to impress others. We find that doing the opposite in wine buying not only improves quality/cost ratios, if done thoughtfully; it also distributes dollars among deserving winemakers and keeps us from falling into ruts.
The wine guru at an ABC Fine Wines store on Bee Ridge in Sarasota Florida steered us toward the 2020 Sin Ley Alvarinho ($12) from the Minho region of Portugal. This wine has the all of the crisp and clean acid minerality of a Spanish Albariño at a modest price. Compare to a French white Burgundy (Chardonnay) when pairing it with shell fish. He also recommended Spanish red wine that blend French Rhone Valley grapes: the organic 2019 Casa Benasal Elegant ($12) from the Valencia region of Spain (50% Syrah, 30% Monastrell [Spanish Mourvedre], and 20% Garnache). The 2019 Benasal has sold out at the vineyard, but ratings of the 2020 vintage look good. We rate the 2019 as a good buy while it lasts in wine stores. Both the Alvarinho and the Benasal deliver more than expected.
A friend introduced us to the organic 2020 Falerio DOC from Saladini Pilastri in the Marche Region of Italy ($13 at Total Wine). This Trebbiana grape blend stands out when compared to the more popular Pinot Grigio from Italy. It has the citrus and mineral tastes that we look for in a light, white grape wine, and it has a mild yet lingering finish.
Despite cries of woe from conspicuous consumers about spikes in beef, premium gasoline, and imported food prices, we are seeing much the same wine bargains locally and beyond. It may take a more complex search strategy, though, to stock a wine cooler without breaking the bank account.
Ask servers in restaurants and wine consultants in wine shops for a superior wine from an inconspicuous region. People in the wine business enjoy helping customers find the hidden jewels in their cellars. Challenge them to surprise you.
S. W. Hermansen has used his expertise in econometrics, data science and epidemiology to help develop research databases for the Pentagon, the National Institutes of Health, the Department of Agriculture, and Health Resources and Services. He has visited premier vineyards and taste wines from major appellations in California, Oregon, New York State, and internationally from Tuscany and the Piedmont in Italy, the Ribera del Duero in Spain, the Barossa Valley and McLaren Vale in Australia, and the Otego Valley in New Zealand. Currently he splits time between residences in Chevy Chase, Maryland and St. Armand’s Circle in Florida.
Rich Hermansen selected has first wine list for a restaurant shortly after graduating from college with a degree in Mathematics. He has extensive service and management experience in the food and wine industry. Family and friends rate him as their favorite chef, bartender, and wine steward. He lives in Severna Park, Maryland.