This article was published in The 30 Second Wine Advisor on Monday, Jan. 5, 2009 and can be found at http://www.wineloverspage.com/wineadvisor2/tswa20090105.php.
My best value wines of 2008
As I do at the end of every year at this time, I've sorted all my wine-tasting reports of the year to reveal the specific wines that I've rated best for both quality and value. These are the wines that showed exceptional value at all price points, earning the admiring moniker that online wine "geeks" call "Quality-Price Ratio" or, for short, "QPR."
Many of the recent trends that we've recorded last year and the year before seemed to continue in 2008: Artisanal, small-farm wineries came under some pressure as international corporations buy up properties and write distribution agreements with producers around the world. The combination of continued warm weather in many wine regions and a perception that the public wants big, fruity, highly alcoholic wines that win high ratings points continues to make "international" wines in this style ever more available.
Curiously, only 51 of the wines I tasted during 2008 made my "honor roll" for top rank in quality and value; this is down from 56 top-QPR wines in 2007 and 60 the year befor that. While this trend isn't large, it's consistent enough to suggest that it's becoming more and more difficult to find wines of true interest at "everyday" price points.
A decade ago it was still easy to find interesting wines at $5; a few years ago the dividing line had risen to $10. Now I find that most of my wines for everyday consumption range from $12 to $20. Will prices continue to rise in the face of a possible global recsssion? The year 2009 should be an interesting time for wine consumers.
Looking more closely at my top quality wines of the year, as noted, 51 made the cut. Ten of those sold for $10 or less, the great value Cave de Montagnac 2006 Picpoul de Pinet marking the low end at $7.99. Surprisingly, I spent over $20 for only two of my top-value wines this year; all the rest fell in the $10 to $20 range.
Sorted by country or region, this year's QPR list includes 17 from perennial winner France, 13 from Italy and - jumping up in the race this year, perhaps because of the dollar's low valuation against the Euro, 13 from the United States (including 11 from California and one each from Oregon and Washington State). Filling out the list were Australia, 3; and one each from Argentina, Austria, New Zealand, Portugal and Spain.
Here are all the top-value wines that I tasted during 2007, 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 most instances, I purchased these wines from retail shops in and around Louisville, Ky.; a few came from California Wine Club or were hand-carried back from New York City, most from the excellent Chambers Street Wines. 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.
Wines retailing for more than $20
Wines retailing from $15 to $20
Kunde Estate 2004 Sonoma Valley Cabernet Sauvignon (California), $18.99. (Find it on Wine-Searcher.com)
Hahn Estates 2006 Central Coast Meritage Red Table Wine (California), $17.99. (Find it on Wine-Searcher.com)
d'Arenberg 2007 "The Hermit Crab" Adelaide Viognier Marsanne (Australia), $16.99. (Find it on Wine-Searcher.com)
Daniel Gehrs 2005 "Unoaked" Santa Barbara County Chardonnay (California), $15. (Find it on Wine-Searcher.com)
Wines retailing for less than $15
Bonterra Vineyards 2006 Mendocino County Zinfandel (California), $14.99. (Find it on Wine-Searcher.com)
Bonterra Vineyards 2006 Mendocino County Cabernet Sauvignon (California), $14.99. (Find it on Wine-Searcher.com)
La Tour Boisée 2006 "Plantation 1905" Vin de Table Rouge (France), $12.99. (Find it on Wine-Searcher.com)
Charles Smith Wines 2006 "Holy Cow" Columbia Valley Chardonnay (Washington State), $12.99. (Find it on Wine-Searcher.com)
Peachy Canyon 2006 "Incredible Red" Paso Robles Zinfandel (California), $11.99. (Find it on Wine-Searcher.com)
Marchesi di Barolo 2006 "Maràia" Barbera Monferrato (Italy), $10.99. (Find it on Wine-Searcher.com)
Cellier des Dauphins 2005 "Prestige" Cotes du Rhone (France), $10.99. (Find it on Wine-Searcher.com)
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Now, here's a look at an outstanding recent offering from Connoisseurs' Series: An outstanding Napa Cabernet from Clos Pegase. Wine maker Paul Hobbs and viticulturist Tom Prentice joined Clos Pegase in 2006, focusing on its Calistoga Vineyard, declaring it "flagship of our super premium sites," expressing a bold goal "to make the best red wine possible." Hommage is among the first fruits of that venture.
Clos Pegase 2004 "Hommage" Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon ($81 retail; $74 per bottle for half or full case orders by Connoisseurs' Series members)
Very dark in color, blackish-purple, with a dark garnet edge. An appealing mix of berries, cherries and a whiff of blackcurrant - plays the melody line over a ground bass of spicy oak. Although it sees a full 19 months in French oak, 85 percent of it new, the wine's first-rate fruit and appropriate extraction keeps the balance in favor of fruit. Flavors follow the nose, big and mouth-filling, nicely balanced by fresh-fruit acidity. Tannins are present but smooth and palatable; the wine's heady 14.7% alcohol is kept well restrained. Overall, an impressive Napa Cabernet, drinking nicely but certainly a candidate for cellaring. It went well with red meat, Kentucky natural free-range lamb from Dreamcatcher Farm. Winery Website: http://www.clospegase.com (Jan. 2, 2009)
FIND THIS WINE ONLINE: Both of these fine wines were included in a recent shipment from Connoisseurs' Series and are available for additional orders by Connoisseurs' Series members. Call 1-800-777-4443 to join or learn more.
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