Paradox of choice 11-10-2021

You face a wine store’s walls of wines. You need to pick some for upcoming Thanksgiving. There are too many choices. Your head hurts.

There are several solutions. If you trust the wine merchant, name your price range, fare to pair, what you generally like. This is the best solution, but not always available. A quality wine merchant is a rare gem.

Go with what you know. Same old same old. Nothing wrong with that, but nothing adventuresome and exhilarating either.

Blindly pick because you like the bottle shape or the clever name or the shelf talker says this is a 92-point wine, whatever that means. A whole lot of wine gets sold that way.

Overwhelmed with choice, you freeze up. Buy from the bottom shelf—if it isn’t any good, at least you did not spend much money on it.

The dilemma has a name: “The Paradox of Choice.” Barry Schwartz wrote a book about it in 2004. Too many choices makes us unhappy and can lead to shutdown.

In an experiment, a gourmet food store set up 24 samples of high-end jams. Some customers were given opportunity to sample all 24. Others only could sample six. All were promised a discount if they bought a jar.

Result: Both groups sampled around six jams, even those who could have sampled all 24. Customers restricted to six samples bought a jar about one-third of the time. Customers who had unlimited samples purchased only about three percent of the time. Too many choices created anxiety and frustration. Input overload meant people did nothing.

Bedeviled and overwhelmed, our brains often lock up when faced with having to make a great effort to decide. Even when we make a choice, we are likely to regret it. “If only I had picked the other one…”

What to do? It is almost impossible to buy undrinkable wine today, particularly in the $14-plus range. If you can’t secure sage advice, relax and take a stab. In wine, as in much of life, an imperfect decision is superior to no decision.

Tasting notes:

• Craggy Range Sauvignon Blanc Martinborough Te Muna Road 2019: Bright, lithe, juicy, certainly appealing to sauv blanc afficionados. $17-20 Link to my review

• Farm House Vineyards West Texas Farmers Wife Malvasia Bianca 2019: Distinctly soft, easy on the palate. Made with extraordinarily versatile grape. $25

Last round: What’s on the label sells the first time. What’s in the bottle sells the second time.