How to Like Wine
So a new book includes a study in which a wide variety of wine drinkers were given unlabeled glasses of wine and asked to rate them. Overall, they liked the cheaper wine better. Cheap sparkling wine won, in general, over Dom Perignon. Great! say the people who feel a little cowed by all the people who seem to know what they're talking about and who will pay as much for one bottle of wine as some of us pay for a case at Trader Joe's -- and feel it was worth it. Those people are making it all up!
But it turns out those people who truly appreciate and understand wine can tell the difference. Wine professionals in the study did prefer the Dom Perignon. So the conclusion can't be that there is no difference between wines, the conclusion has to be that a lot of us just can't taste it.
It takes some development of your senses to get it. Just like listening to classical music, or learning Chinese. When you first start listening, you can't tell the difference between Mozart and Wagner. If you listen enough, you can tell Mozart from Hayden, then one Mozart symphony from another, then whether you like a particular interpretation, and finally you can identify who's conducting it and who's probably playing bassoon. Chinese goes from babble to a real language that means something. It always did before, you just couldn't hear it. So if you have the inclination, the time, and the money, you can do the same thing with wine. It's a great adventure of the senses. I enjoy every new thing I learn, and I have waaay more I could begin to comprehend.
But you don't have to! It's completely optional. It's a hobby, like collecting vintage jazz or train-spotting. If you don't have much money, it's probably better never to try, and you can be perfectly happy with Charles Shaw Sauvignon Blanc.
Which I think is a win-win proposition. Just make sure you're comfortable at whatever level you're at, and don't let anyone push you into a different one. Don't pretend you like pinot noir over merlot if you can't actually tell the difference, and never, never, let a restaurant snob you into paying more for wine than you can appreciate.