The book rates its wines in terms of price on a scale of one to five stars. One star means it costs less than $40 (or at least it does in England, where the book was written and published), and five stars means it costs more than $270.
I ran through the U.S. prices of every bottle in the book online, typically using wine-searcher.com, which finds distributors around the world who carry a wine and determines the average price of each one. When possible, I searched specifically for the vintage shown in the picture of the wine used in the book.
Admittedly, it was an imperfect system. A wine that was only available in, say, Tokyo, and cost $70 there would presumably cost significantly more for me to snag a bottle.
Still, I was pleasantly surprised to see how many wines on the list cost less than $40. Twenty-nine of them do, which sounded great until I remembered that I have spent more than $40 retail on a bottle of wine only one time in my life.
It was excellent. It had a full-bodied redness with notes of wine.
I still talk about the time I spent $17 on a glass of pinot noir; actually, it was so sublime I spent $34 on two glasses. This was at least 15 years ago, when $17 for a single glass of wine was considered outlandish. It was kind of high for an entire bottle at a store.
And in my world, it still is. When I buy a bottle of wine, which I don’t do that often, I rarely shell out 17 bucks for it. My palate is just not educated enough, and I want to keep it that way. Appreciating wine can be a very expensive hobby.
That bottle of 2010 Chateau Margaux, for instance, will set you back about $1,150. That’s businessman money, not employee money, and that’s not even the top price for a wine in the book. A bottle of Le Chambertin, Domaine Armand Rousseau sells for $2,350.
And a bottle of 2013 La Romanée, Domaine du Comte Liger-Belair — this is a single bottle we are talking about, a mere 750 ml — costs an average of $3,902. Plus tax.
This is a wine I’m supposed to try before I die? It’s more than my car is worth.
That is when I wondered how much it would cost to actually try each of these 101 wines I’m supposed to try before I die.
I did the math. The total is about $26,500. That’s just for liquid that you drink.
I understand that great wine can be transcendent, I really do. That $17 glass of pinot noir I had (or rather, those $17 glasses) was almost like a religious experience. I had never before — or since — had wine that so spectacularly enhanced the flavor of the food I was eating. It was magical.
So I decided to sample one, just one, of the 101 wines I need to try before I drop down dead.
But saying I’m going to do that turns out to be actually harder than doing it. I searched online for all 29 of the specified wines that cost less than $40, and not one is available in the area (though the Tempier Bandol Rosé, which sells for $39.99, is expected to be at Total Wine & More in June).
What I did find for $18 at the Wine & Cheese Place was a bottle of Tio Pepe Palomino Fino sherry, which is not the same thing as the book’s specified Tio Pepe En Rama Fino sherry. But in what the book calls a “pauper substitute,” it says that, if you don’t know Fino sherry, any Tio Pepe is a good place to start.
I’m trying it now — out of a plastic cup, incidentally. It’s quite dry for sherry, yet still a bit fruity and nicely crisp. It has a full-bodied whiteness, with notes of wine. It is light and delicate when served chilled, but frankly, I think I like amontillado sherry better.
That’s one down, one hundred to go.