Acker Merrall: Auction Love is in the Air
In yesterday's report, as you'll recall, we tasted a Tuscan red ("Rosso di Toscana") that pushed the edge of our budget limits with a price tag in the upper $20s.
We've got another good Tuscan red today, but this one tips the scales at only $10.
Which raises a serious question for wine lovers, particularly those whose passion for the grape inspires us, at least on occasion, to indulge in more pricey wines: Is there a direct relationship between quality and price? Or to put it even more bluntly, is a $30 wine really three times as good as a $10 wine?
In my opinion, there is some relationship between price and quality - if I buy an expensive wine, I expect it to be better than most, or what's the point of paying more? But the relationship is a loose one with plenty of exceptions, including both high-ticket wines that don't justify the price and, my favorite category, modest wines - like today's featured item - that exceed expectations.
Online wine hobbyists have coined a pseudo-scientific term to denote wines of good value: "Quality-Price Ratio," or "QPR" for short. When I'm buying wine for my own enjoyment - and to feature in these pages - I try to focus, at least most of the time, on this happy niche.
But can "QPR" be quantified? Is it possible to assign an objective rating or score for VALUE, as some of the prominent print-media wine critics do with their controversial 100-point scales for QUALITY?
I've often thought about this over many years of writing about wine but have never come up with a really satisfactory solution. I have long shied away from giving point scores on wines, feeling that tastes vary so widely that it's better simply to describe the wine as I tasted it, with the idea that you can form your own judgement as to whether you would like the wine based on that description.
There's a certain attraction to the idea of being able to pin down a wine's value objectively, offering consumers a clear statement of its quality-price ratio. But I've never seen or been able to come up with a way to accomplish this that is clear and uncomplicated. I'm not interested in a price-value-rating system involving multiple scores and convoluted codes that rival advanced baseball statistics in their complexity.
So today I'm calling on you for advice. If you would like to see a Quality-Price-Value rating added to our reviews (or, for that matter, if you think this is really a bad idea), please let me know. And if you have any bright ideas about a value-rating process or scoring system that's both simple and sensible, let me know that too! The easiest way to reach me with your comments is through our feedback form at http://www.wineloverspage.com/ask_a_question.phtml.
Today's wine is the Monte Antico 1998 Toscano red, a wine that's been a consistent performer in the under-$10 range, although subject to some criticism in past vintages for an unusual amount of variation from one bottle to another. Like yesterday's Ateo, it's simply labeled "Tuscan" because it veers from the strict rules for its region. Unlike Chianti, which it somewhat resembles, it's made 100 percent from Sangiovese grapes, not the traditional blend; and it's aged in part in small oak barrels ("barriques").
Monte Antico 1998 Toscano ($9.99)
Dark ruby. Ripe black-fruit aromas are built on a base of caramel. Tart cherry flavors are fresh if a bit thin; good fresh-fruit acidity and a whiff of dried fruit show in the medium-long finish. U.S. importer: Empson (U.S.A.) Inc., Alexandria, Va. (Feb. 6, 2002)
FOOD MATCH: It makes a fair vegetarian match with a barley orzotto with leeks and carrots: The flavors sing, but the intensity of this acidic red is a bit much for balance; a crisp white might have served even better.
WEB LINK: The importer has a fact sheet on Monte Antico at http://www.empson.com/official-site/cmn/schede/monteant.htm?usa.
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All the wine-tasting reports posted here are consumer-oriented. In order to maintain objectivity and avoid conflicts of interest, I purchase all the wines I rate at my own expense in retail stores and accept no samples, gifts or other gratuities from the wine industry.
Thursday, Feb. 7, 2002
Copyright 2002 by Robin Garr. All rights reserved.