Book Review: The Wine Curmudgeons Guide to Cheap Wine

Every wine drinker likes to get good value for his/her money when buying wine but doing so can be confusing and frustrating especially when funds are limiting. Jeff Siegel’s book helps the reader understand how wine is priced and marketed so that readers can learn to find good inexpensive wines on their own. A self proclaimed “wine curmudgeon”, Siegel turns his back on the traditional “experts” and works on the premise that wine doesn’t have to cost a lot of money to be enjoyable.

The author debunks many myths about wine and provides information that makes the reader look at wine buying in a whole different light. He shows that the price of wine is not always a function of quality, that back labels can be the most dishonest part of the wine business, wine pairing with various foods are just suggestions, not mandates, and that wine scores by the experts are only valuable if your palate is like the guy giving the score. According to Siegel, good wine value varies with many factors. For example, some regions like Sicily, Rioja in Spain, and Gascony in France offer the most value for $10. Wines costing less than $12 have more potential for being a good value than wines in any other price category while wines costing between $12 and $18 have low potential for value and are the focus of marketing by the major wine producers. As an aid to wine buying in general, Siegel discusses the difference between sweetness and fruitiness, the value of blends, the importance of terroir (or lack of it), and the cost of real estate in determining the price of wine.

The book is very informative, written in a very entertaining style and you can’t help but have a whole new appreciation for the way wine is priced and marketed after reading it. Don’t expect a list of good cheap wines; it isn’t there because, as the author points out, the list would be quickly outdated. In addition, the author notes, such a list would not help you learn how to select cheap wines on your own, the goal of the book. Siegel is very good with words which makes the book a good read but could be frustrating for the reader intent on finding out how to buy good cheap wines.

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