Expensive wine

Higher price, better wine, right? Not that simple.

Do not be surprised if your most expensive bottles let you down. Expensive wines can be as much about pretension, posturing and rarity as they are about epic drinkability.

Henri Jayer Richebourg Grand Cru was 2011’s most expensive wine. Someone paid $22,000 for a bottle—about $1,800 a short pour.

Really? The only reason to do that is to say you did that. Few hours later, Grand Cru and Two-Buck Chuck end up in the same porcelain place.

There is another insidious element of big-ticket bottles: you dread opening them. Longer they linger, less you are able to relax and enjoy. You invested big bucks, big years. It takes courage to pull cork and reveal if you scored a wine win or cork screwed yourself. It is almost impossible for the wine to live up to expectations.

Don’t pressure your palate with palatial purchases. Thousands of good wines cost less than $50. Are they a shade less majestic than bottles costing ten times more? Maybe, but who knows? How many $500 bottles did you drink last year?

In legions of blind tests, when tasters don’t know maker or price, average people prefer the less expensive wine or it is a tie. Ultra-refined palates may pick pricey, but that’s not me and probably not you.

For some, price is everything. For the sane rest of us, enjoy a $16 malbec or $12 shiraz or sauv blac or GSM while your preening high-roller friends struggle to pay off credit card debts.

Tasting notes:

• Lindeman’s Bin 50 Shiraz 2011. Cherry candy, plum jam, simple black fruit; smooth; no wonder wine, but delivers well more than its price. $5

• L’Ecole No. 41 Columbia Valley Recess Red 2006. Inky Bordeaux style; smooth, fruit load—cherry, plum, cola; Walla-Walla winner. Since 2009, L’Ecole calls this “Red Wine” instead of “Recess Red.” $20

• La Crema Monterey Chardonnay 2011. Smooth, plump; green apple, pineapple, citrus, melon, spice; OK oak, mucho malo, restrained acidity. $21

Last round: Everyone has to believe in something, so I believe in wine.