There are many reasons wine is hard to shop for, but most of them boil down to one simple factor: too many choices. It’s daunting to face crowded wine shelves when all you really want is a decent drink. Unless you’re a wine professional who can extrapolate meaningful flavor distinctions from the cryptic information provided on wine labels, they all look alike. This helps explain why wine has such a big snobbery problem: it’s understandable that name recognition would take on outsize importance when we have little else to go on. We see this in the way certain grapes, like chardonnay and cabernet sauvignon, and famous wine regions from Burgundy to Napa Valley trade on their reputation for superior quality. Some grapes and regions simply are more likely to yield top-notch wines than others. This kind of cachet can extend to vineyards and wineries as well, granting a sort of “blue chip” status to those that have earned the trust of generations of wine drinkers. From a less familiar vintner, a Sonoma County chardonnay would be unlikely to command its premium pricing, even if it featured this wine’s opulent flavors of lemon curd and flan. But when the company in question has managed to maintain its reputation for excellence while producing enough volume to become a steak house staple coast to coast, that’s an accomplishment worthy of a higher price, and well worth sampling when the wine is so deeply discounted.
Ferrari-Carano Chardonnay, Sonoma County, Calif., $19.99 (regularly $27.99; sale price through March 23). PLCB Item #8704.