Wilfred Van Gorp, PhD, served as professor of Clinical Psychology and Director of Neuropsychology for Columbia University; he also directed the Neuropsychology Assessment Program at Cornell University’s Weill Medical College. In his free time, he enjoys tasting, and examining the finer qualities of, wines.
Many wine aficionados debate the characteristics that make up good versus great wines. The easiest way to distinguish them from each other is the price. Great wines come in small quantities but carry large price tags, especially when it comes to supply and demand for popular vintages. In contrast, good wines offer a balanced taste, usually run no more than $40 per bottle, and are widely available.
Out-of-reach prices—coupled with the difficulty of acquiring great ones when their popularity soars—often make good wines more attractive to consumers, and especially novices. Would you rather pay over $100 a bottle for something you might not enjoy, or choose a more affordable bottle that you would likely enjoy more because the price made a smaller dent on your wallet? Consider also that many great wines might only be considered as such because of their status.
All wine enthusiasts owe it to themselves to try wines from both tiers. Great vintages can be considered an indulgence, while good bottles can serve for any occasion.
As opposed to “crowd pleasers,” wines that nearly any palate can appreciate, truly incredible and more often than not, rare wines come at a premium, due to limited bottling runs, age, or historical value. Although one could easily name a host of incredible wines from France, Italy, Spain, the United States, or any of the world’s other wine-producing regions, I have chosen to spotlight a few examples from a wine-centric dinner party I had the pleasure of attending.
Some guests began with a 2002 F.X. Pichler Smaragd Dürnsteiner Kellerberg Grüner Veltliner from Austria, an assertive white with excellent minerality and a bright finish. Moving on, we opened a 2004 M. Chapoutier L’Ermite from the France’s Rhône Valley, as well as a bottle of 1978 Remoissenet Père & Fils Richebourg. This delectable Burgundian red is 100 percent pinot noir and hails from the Côte de Nuits. Paired wonderfully with the meal, we enjoyed two grand cru Burgundies, a 2001 Jacques-Frédéric Mugnier Musigny, and a 2001 Domaine Comte Georges de Vogue Bonnes-Mares. Another stand out bottle to compliment dinner, the 1989 Haut-Brion truly encapsulated modern Bordeaux style at its best. What distinguishes these wines as “great?” I doubt that any person asked would provide the same answer. Even so, when every element of a wine’s character from nose to finish holds in balance, that wine likely deserves recognition as excellent in every regard.
About the Author:
With nearly three decades of experience in his field, Wilfred Van Gorp, PhD, currently serves as an Adjunct Professor/Faculty at Fordham University, New York Medical College, and Argosy University.