Wine aficionados tend to scoff at cheap, mass-produced bottles–in part because the wine inside is often augmented with various powders, oils, salts and concentrates to make it more palatable to the average drinker. But in her new book, Cork Dork, Bianca Bosker points out that such chemical manipulation has always been part of winemaking. For centuries, even the finest winemakers have added ingredients like egg whites or sulfur dioxide to improve a wine’s flavor and prevent it from spoiling. The fact that mass producers use more manipulation doesn’t make their wine bad, Bosker argues; it raises the bar for all wines. What sommeliers consider “bad” wine, she explains, is “really wine that [tastes] good, at least to large numbers of wine drinkers.” In 2015, for example, Americans spent almost $2 billion on just five brands of mass-market wines: Barefoot, Sutter Home, Woodbridge, Franzia and Yellow Tail.
This appears in the April 03, 2017 issue of TIME.
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