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Danna’s Wine Scale

For months I have been struggling with how much “bad” wine there is in Italy, and how much people defend it with national pride.

Don’t get me wrong, there is incredible wine in Italy, maybe even the best wines in the world; but 99% of the wine in Italy is drank out of a glass jug filled in the trunk of your car at the winery through a garden hose.  It is THE substitute for drinking water or soda or milk with your meal.  In the USA we often drink ice tea or water or soda or milk with our meals, in Italy you drink “daily” wine.  And 60 million people drink a lot of daily wine.  And have been drinking it since they were small children.  The FUNCTION (or purpose) of 99% of the wine in Italy is not to enhance the meal, but to be the liquid part of it.

There are a significant number of people in Italy who have not drank wine out of a bottle for years, yet they drink wine every day.  You go to the winery each week, fill your jugs with enough wine for the week, stick a stopper in it, and you are “good-to-go” for another week.  And if you do buy your wine at the grocery store, it’s cheap Italian wine which costs between $5 and $10 a bottle.  The US equivalent of box wine, or jug wine.

My problem (and it is MY problem) is that most people believe this is “good” wine.  Good for them to drink in this manner.  However I look to wine to “enhance” the meal; to stand out as something special. When I drink wine with my meal it is a “special” addition and not simply the fluid to wash down my food.  Since it is not “special” I find it to be “bad” wine since it does not give me what I am looking for in wine.

Then I had an epiphany moment the other day.  One of my friends said “what do you expect for 3 euros?”  And all of a sudden I remembered Danna’s wine scale. Danna’s wine scale is an inverted comparison of  wine excellence versus cost.

In Danna’s wine scale 3 euro wine ought to taste like 3 euro wine, and thus is no great bargain.  Likewise $200 bottles of wine ought to taste like $200 bottles of wine, and thus are no great bargain.  What we want is a wine that cost 3 euros and tastes like a $200 bottle of wine.  That is the Holy Grail which we all seek.  And, of course, the worst situation is a $200 bottle of wine, that tastes like a 3 euro bottle of wine.

My problem is that I have been expecting bottles of 3 euro wine to taste better than a 3 euro bottle of wine.  In English, that means I have been expecting box wine and jug wine to taste like fine wines from great wineries.  What was I expecting for 3 euros?

I have tasted truly incredible Italian wines, but in hindsight I paid quite a bit for them.  Using Danna’s wine scale I got what I paid for.  And the daily jug wine that I simply can’t swallow have only been a euro or two and I got what I paid for.  It’s not “bad” wine, it’s cheap wine, and I should expect it to be nothing more than a substitute for the sweet tea I would otherwise drink with my meal.

Some of your know that I recently went to Malta, where the wine costs more than it was worth.  And my recent trip to Sicily the wines were better than they cost.  The conclusion being, in Malta don’t pay much for the wine, because you are not going to get much.  And in Sicily chances are good that you will often get wine better than the cost you paid for it.  The inversion we all look for.

So, if the occasion is Tuesday night, family pizza dinner, and the wine is 3 euros a liter, it’s not “bad” wine; it’s what it is.  And don’t expect it to be anything more. And if the occasion is a special dinner with special friends, leave the 3 euro wine in the bucket, and buy something better.  And if you find that wine that tastes like a $200 bottle of wine, which costs only 3 euros, please contact me immediately!!

Until next time, drink good wine.

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