I've been asked by several people to do a blog recommending wines that are good values. Not surprising, with the economy such as it is. I certainly don't mind recommending specific wines, but what I'd like to do today is go with the old Chinese proverb, "If you give a man a fish....," and suggest some easy ways for you to find your own values. With a few simple guidelines and the courage to leave your comfort zone, you can drink delicious wine every night, without spending more than $15 a bottle. Ready?
- Stay away from California. In the world of wines, California wines, especially good ones, tend to be pricey. While there are plenty of cheap wines from the Golden State, you may have to drink a lot of mediocre ones before finding a great value.
- Read shelf-talkers. Those little pieces of paper hanging from the shelves under the bottles can give you a wealth of information on wines. One thing to watch for: make sure the vintage described on the shelf-talker matches the vintage on the bottle. Occasionally it doesn't; if a previous vintage got a better review than the current one, the shelf talker matching the better review sometimes mysteriously stays up. Whether this is deliberate deception or simple laziness on the retailer's part is up for debate.
- Get to know your wine merchant. Don't be afraid to ask for recommendations. A knowledgeable retailer can help you find just what you are looking for.
- SPAIN - SPAIN - SPAIN. Shall I say it again? Spain. Spanish wines, are, in my opinion, the best bang-for-your-buck wines available. Try a Verdejo from Rueda if you're a Sauvignon Blanc drinker, a Garnacha from Calatayud if you like Syrah, or a Tempranillo from Carinena for an all-around red. Have a Garnacha Rosado on a hot summer day for a yummy porch-pounder. Look for the little-known Mencia from Bierzo in fine wine shops.
- Try Argentina, and table wines from Portugal. Lots of great values come from these countries as well.
- Be cautious when shopping Australia. While oceans of inexpensive wines come from down-under, many are mediocre or worse. Remember, no matter how cheap something is, it is not a value if it's just plain bad. You can get great values from Australia, as long as you do your homework.
- Buy wines rated 85 - 89 points. Getting a score of 90 or above is license to jack up a wine's price by at least 20%. You can find great values just under that mark.
- Be a little bit wine-geeky. Really, it's OK. Take notes when you taste, write down ones you like, ask your friends what they like.
Now, get to your local wine shop!!
P.S. If you're not familiar with the aforementioned Chinese proverb, it is, "If you give a man a fish, you feed him for a day, if you teach him how to fish, you feed him for a lifetime." Now, you are ready to find wine values for a lifetime!