last case cover

A mixed case offers the pleasures (and pains) of discovery.  (photo for wineandwhiskeyglobe by Jenny Gorman)

This is one of those things that happened two weeks ago that now seems like it’s from a different life.

I had been meaning to stop by my local wine store and pick up a case. I’d been shopping there for more than a year before discovering they offered a 15 percent discount on 12 bottles. That’s a good deal.

And then, rather suddenly, restaurants and hair salons had to close, and the errand took on a kind of urgency.

I asked my favorite clerk how she was doing. She was wearing rubber gloves. “We’re probably going to have to close,” she said, causing me more alarm than I might have expected. Indeed, literally at that moment, the governor of New York was announcing more restrictions on “non-essential” businesses. At that moment, I became sharply aware of the fact that what he and I might deem essential were not necessarily in alignment.

Hauling home a fresh case of wine has always had a way of making me feel prosperous, regardless of the price point of what’s inside. A case means a party. Always having something around to drink. Perhaps a bit of adventure and discovery. A dozen bottles of the same thing allows you to really get to know a wine in different circumstances. A mixed case keeps the romance alive.

I was ruminating on this when a middle-aged woman walked in, announced curtly that “You’re going to have to close,” purchased three bottles of 8-buck prosecco, and hurried out. I had two — no, three thoughts. First, that I should have no trouble socially distancing myself from that person. Second, her visit had been like something out of a sitcom—textbook unpleasantness, right on cue. And finally: I’d better get some wine.

I decided to go the exploratory route: six different bottles, two of each, with the vague goal of uncovering a hidden gem or two for weeknight drinking. I’d spend anywhere between 12 and 20 bucks for each bottle, and hope for the best.

Why do I say “hope”? Well, I wasn’t going to get my hopes up. You can go wrong at any price point but—and in this, I may be carrying an out-of-fashion view—if you spend more, your rate of success IS going to be higher. The notion, postulated here and there, that price has no relation to quality is simply not correct. At least, not most of the time. It presupposes that the wine industry is somehow trying to fool, if not outright swindle you.

It is not. The vast majority of the time, some wines cost more than others because they are in fact harder to make, require more time and energy, or exist on costlier land.

What IS true about the wine industry is that one of its main goals is to get you more in love with wine, so you will drink more wine.

Why spend effort in trying to fool you, when such effort might best be expended in an earnest effort to get you to fall in love? A poker player who does the bulk of her work by bluffing is not going to last long in a tournament. The core game, its basics, takes too much skill. And so it is with winemaking.

But I digress. Below is what I picked up. As I open them, I’ll share my impressions. And I hope you go grab a case of your own, and tell us about it.

1  Fratelli Serio & Battista Borgogno, Nebbiolo di Alba, 2016. $18

2  Adone, Rosso Toscano, 2016. $14

3  Vieux Ferrand, Montagne St. Emilion, 2015. $20

4 Yannick Alleno & Michel Chapoutier Cotes du Rhone, 2017. $15

5 Chateau Rousset- Caillou, Bordeaux Superieur, 2016. $16

6 Los Vascos Cabernet Sauvignon, 2018. $12

Two Italians, three French, and a Chilean I have known for decades. On my way out the door, I decided to grab a pair of LaMarca proseccos. While that fellow customer had been mildly annoying, it didn’t mean she had the wrong idea.

First up, the Nebbiolo. Stay tuned.