Yes, it would be quite an ego stroke to be congratulated by the clerk for picking out something extraordinary — but I don’t want that, I just want a glass of wine while cooking dinner. I’m not buying the $50 bottle of 2007 Stags’ Leap Cabernet Sauvignon.
He can’t help it; most people (me included) don’t know much about wine. A good liquor store clerk helps the customer not make a mistake — especially if it’s for a special occasion or they’re presenting it as a gift. You don’t want them walking away with something awful.
But wine in America has been elevated to the rarefied strata of class and sophistication — at the expense of ordinary table wine. The Europeans seem to understand this better, that you have the everyday wine and the special wine.
No, I wouldn’t bring a 1.5 liter bottle of Yellow Tail that cost $11 as a housewarming gift, but I’ll certainly quaff it while chopping up garlic.