This article was published in The 30 Second Wine Advisor on Wednesday, Jan. 2, 2008 and can be found at http://www.wineloverspage.com/wineadvisor2/tswa20080102.php.
Wine Focus - Great value wines
But what exactly constitutes "good value"? For me, a low price is not enough. In order to pass my value test, a wine must not only be affordable in price but exceptional in quality as well.
Although a wine flawed in wine making or fruit is an instant deal-breaker, the mere absence of flaws is not sufficient to catch my attention.
While I might sacrifice exceptional complexity or awe-inspiring intensity in an affordable wine, I think it's fair to expect even a modest wine to show such fundamental criteria as balance, food-friendly acidity, varietal character or regional typicity, and at least a degree of complexity and flavor interest.
In short, low price does not excuse a wine that's poorly made, or wine that's boring.
This are not just academic matters, especially at the chilly dawn of a new year, when many of us have put both our bodies and our wallets on a diet after a season of holiday excess.
To turn the quest for wine value into a community effort, we've declared "Great Value Wines" the topic for January's Wine Focus in our online WineLovers Discussion Group. We'll be spending the month talking about what constitutes value in wine, how to find it, and most important, sharing tips and tasting reports on affordable wines of exceptional value.
For the purposes of this discussion, we're facing reality and setting the cutoff for "affordable" at a rather spendy $15 (or, for those outside the U.S., your local equivalent in Euros, pounds sterling, loonies, Australian or Kiwi dollars or what have you. As noted in Monday's Wine Advisor, My best wine values of 2007, and my just posted The Year's Best Wine Values the realities of the marketplace have pushed the threshold for most good wine well past the $10 mark. Still, the hunt for really good, really inexpensive wine continues, and any tips and tasting notes on single-digit wines of real value will win special applause,
To get things started, I've posted my notes on two recently tasted Côtes-du-Rhône reds that I found for less than $10, a rare achievement for any European wine of quality in the era of the strong Euro and the weak dollar. You'll find my tasting notes below. Tell us about your favorites!
To participate in this month's online tastings, click to Wine Focus in the WineLovers Discussion Group,
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Delas Freres 2005 "Saint-Esprit" Côtes-du-Rhône ($8.99)
Very dark garnet, with a clear reddish-violet edge. Slight black-cherry fruit, rather shy in the nose department. More open flavor, fresh if simple cherry-berry and a distinct note of black pepper that meshes well with snappy acidity and rather chewy tannins. Typical modest Rhône red, appealing if a bit simple, a fine value. U.S. importer: Maisons, Marques & Domaines USA Inc., Oakland, Calif. (Sept. 14, 2007)
FOOD MATCH: Its combination of fruit, pepper and earth made an exceptional pairing with a quick pasta dish inspired by both Italian and Asian flavors, featuring ground lamb (and just a bit of pork belly) with stir-fried onions, red and green bell peppers over spaghetti.
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Georges Duboeuf 2006 "Domaine des Moulins" Côtes-du-Rhône ($9.99)
Georges Duboeuf, the storied "King of Beaujolais," is a bit less well-known for his Rhône bottlings, but this clean, youthful red is a value winner. Very dark garnet with crimson glints, clear at the edge. Raspberry and red-cherry scent, fresh and clean. Fresh cherry-berry fruit and a whiff of subtle earth in good balance on the palate. On the simple side but nicely balanced, a good, fresh expression of basic Côtes-du-Rhône at a price you'll rarely see in the age of the shrinking dollar. U.S. importer: W.J. Deutsch & Sons Ltd., Harrison, N.Y. (Dec. 9, 2007)
FOOD MATCH: Red Côtes-du-Rhône is always a natural with grilled red meat, but this light, fruity model served well with a vegetarian alternative, a curry-scented eggplant and mushroom soup.
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