My top wine values of 2005
Every New Year's Day, I go through all my databases of wine-tasting reports, sorting out the best wines and best values and looking for signs of developing trends and issues.
Sadly, particularly from the standpoint of those of us who insist on quality in wine but also seek value, the primary trend that I noticed at the end of 2004 continued unabated in 2005: Prices of good wines continue to rise, and the "floor price" for wines that most enthusiasts would consider acceptable is also going up.
What's at the root of the rising-price trend? It's not as easy to point to a single factor as it was last year when the effects of a couple of years of the strengthening Euro against the U.S. dollar came home to roost at the same time as a world wine "glut" began to abate. I'd guess that we're seeing a combination of the lingering effect of those factors, along with market pressure driven at least in part by popular wine-related movies like Sideways and Mondovino, which lured new consumers into the fine-wine market.
Also, in many cities, including Louisville, where I buy most of my wine for review, we're seeing the entry of new, excellent wine shops that boast interesting inventories and knowledgeable staff but that frankly seek more of an upscale market than the discount trade. There's no question that a significant share of my own wine buying has shifted to these shops, lured by very interesting wines that, unfortunately, run closer to the middle teens and twenties than the single-digit range.
Bargain-hunting readers needn't fear that I'll abandon my commitment to finding the "sweet spot" between quality and affordable values, and I hope we'll never see a time when the under-$10 niche disappears completely. But it's getting more and more difficult to find them, and you have to kiss more and more frogs in order to discover the occasional princess.
My final report on 2005 singles out 62 wines that achieved my top rating for "QPR," the wine-geek term for "Quality-Price Ratio," ranging in price from $8.49 (for an Argentine Malbec) to $47.99 (for a great Bordeaux producer's "second label" in the outstanding 2000 vintage).
Interested in a few statistics? France led the way, both overall and in the budget category, with 21 wines overall - exactly one-third of the total - and nine of the 23 wines under $12. Italy ranked second with 16 value wines (but only 3 under $12), barely edging out California (14 wines) overall; California, however, showed more strength in the low-cost category with six under $12. The rest of the value winners were widely scattered, including Spain (3), Argentina (2), and Australia, Canada, Germany, Lebanon, Madeira and Portugal making the list with 1 entry each.
Broken out by price, we find 11 wines over $25, 28 in the $12-$25 range and 23 under $12, of which, as noted, only a paltry dozen were tagged at less than $10.
Curiously, three of the under-$12 wines come from the same producer, Laurel Glen, with its 2002 and 2003 California "REDS" blend and its excellent 2003 "Terra Rosa" Malbec from Mendoza, Argentina, all $9.99, a glowing testament to winery owner/winemaker Patrick Campbell's lasting commitment to quality and value.
Here are the 23 best-value wines for $12 or less that I tasted during 2005, ranked in order of the actual retail price that I paid. You may click each link to view a more detailed tasting note in our standard "shelf-hanger" format. In virtually all instances, I purchased these wines from retail shops in and around Louisville, Ky. For your shopping convenience, I have added specific links for each wine to the databases at Wine-Searcher.com to help you compare prices and check availability at selected vendors online.
To view the full list of all 62 top-value wines of 2005 in all price ranges, see my just-updated QPR Digest Page,
Wines retailing for $12 or less
Barbadillo non-vintage Oloroso Sherry "Full Dry" (Spain), $11.99. (Find it on Wine-Searcher.com)
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Tasting report: My New Year's Eve wines
Because of the length of this week's Wine Advisor feature, rather than stuffing your mailboxes with still more bytes, I'll refer you to my tasting report in our WineLovers Community if you'd like to read my New Year's Eve report on two rosé sparkling wines - a pink Champagne and a good new Mexico bubbly - and a memorable aged Port, Kopke Colheita 1948. For label photos and details, click to the online forum,
California Wine Club: Send New Year's Cheer!
Need one last gift? You'll uncork plenty of good cheer with a gift from The California Wine Club!
For more than 15 years The California Wine Club has been delivering the best from California's artisan winemakers! Club owners Bruce and Pam Boring hand-select every wine and every wine comes with a 100 percent satisfaction guarantee.
Whether for one month, two months - or twelve months - your gift recipients will experience a true California wine adventure.
Each month includes:
Two bottles of award-winning wine
Send as many months as you choose, or take advantage of special discounts on gifts of 3, 6, 9 and 12 months. Just $32.95/month plus shipping.
Send a gift of 3 months or more and The California Wine Club will send 3 bottles for the price of 2, in the very first shipment.
Happy New Year From The California Wine Club!
This week on WineLoversPage.com
Some highlights of recent articles on WineLoversPage.com that I hope you'll enjoy:
Wine Lovers' Voting Booth
Wine-buying strategy for 2006
Hot topics in our WineLovers' Community
Slightly corked wine
Last Week's Wine Advisor Index
The Wine Advisor's daily edition is usually distributed on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays (and, for those who subscribe, the FoodLetter on Thursdays). Here's the index to last week's columns:
Affordable bubbly (Dec. 30, 2005)
New Year's wine resolutions (Dec. 28, 2005)
Cork fights back (Dec. 26, 2005)
Complete 30 Second Wine Advisor archive:
Wine Advisor FoodLetter: Italian curried oysters (Dec. 29, 2005)
Wine Advisor Foodletter archive:
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Monday, Jan. 2, 2006