Last weekend we had a 2011 DDO La Mancha Tempranillo from Ópera Prima that I picked up for $4.99 at a local grocery. There was nothing spectacular about this wine except it was delicious after enduring an unpleasant tasting of multiple examples of "bottled arrogance" earlier in the week. Fruity, with no detectable oak, enough acidity to complement food, and a reasonable 12.5% alcohol, this wine was everything that so many US wines in this segment fail to be. Even if we set aside the $4.99 shelf price as unsustainable for most wineries, why is it that few US wines costing anywhere up to ten times as much yield so little pleasure compared to wines like this one from Spain?
Earlier in the week, I had the misfortune of attending a tasting where every single wine was flawed. And by "flawed" I don't mean they picked a shade too early or got a little too aggressive with the oak. Every single wine was downright nasty being either oxidized, or had noticeable VA, H2S, mercaptans, or TCA. None of those wines should have been on the market in the first place, much less selling for significantly more than $20 bottle.
Why can it be so hard to find decent yet inexpensive wines from the US? Certainly we make a lot of good, and some great, wines, but we also make a lot of not-so-great-yet-still-expensive wines too. Price has never been an indication of quality for US wines. The critics are little better. Wines that "score well" are only guaranteed to be: (A) Expensive, (B) Hard to find, (C) Not actually any good with dinner. I for one, am tired of feeling like my pocket has been picked every time I open a bottle of wine.
Paradoxically, I think a lot of the reason so few US wines fail in this regard has to do with the fetishizing of wine by so many people in and around the wine industry. Witness the furor that ensued when Costco's head wine buyer opined that, "Wine is just a beverage" Wine is just a beverage. The entire purpose of wine is to be consumed and enjoyed. The first duty of any wine, and therefore any winemaker, is to provide enjoyment in the glass. I didn't herniate three discs in my back bouncing barrels just so my wines could be placed on an altar and worshiped. I make wine to be enjoyed.