Here's a strange thing about wine: Great ones are very easy to find. Anyone can track down a bottle of Château Latour online (paying for it is another question). What's not easy to find are great value wines. There are thousands of cheap wines in the world, but "good value" is a slippery concept. Is it objective? Subjective? How situational is it? Is one person's great value another person's overpriced rip-off? There are plenty of variables. And yet, I'm often asked to recommend value wines. The challenge is providing any kind of broadly useful advice. I figured I needed a new approach: What I needed to do was talk to an economist.
That's how I ended up in the F&W Tasting Room with Karl Storchmann and Felix Salmon. Storchmann is a clinical professor of economics at New York University and the managing editor of the Journal of Wine Economics, which publishes articles on abstruse topics like "Hedonic Estimation of Vineyard Sale Prices." Storchmann himself is a pretty down-to-earth guy, though, or at least as down-to-earth as German economics PhDs get. My other expert, Felix Salmon, is a hypersmart English expat who writes widely about business for Reuters, and also, from time to time, about wine.
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I had set up a blind tasting of six Cabernets, ranging in price from $10 to $200 a bottle. And as we got started, I quizzed my wine-loving, money-savvy guests about the idea of value.