If that come on is from a guy on the street corner with a dozen Rolex watches on his arm, chances are the bargains are elsewhere – and I don’t mean on his body – this is a family blog after all.
Now since I don’t know anyone who doesn’t love a bargain, and if there are those of you out there who don’t, please stop by the shop – I’ve got some peculiar vodkas I’d like you to take home – today’s topic is going to be about “value” wines.
First of all, let’s define “value.” Value doesn’t necessarily mean inexpensive, and it definitely doesn’t mean cheap. You certainly wouldn’t have called my high school girlfriend a “value.” For my purposes a “value” wine is simply a wine that over-delivers for its price.
Having said that, I should add that we try to make sure every wine at Bin94 is a value wine, but it’s also true that some values are just better than others, because some wines get it so right it’s hard to stop with just one bottle, er, I mean glass.
Before I go any further, I should probably explain how we select the wines we do offer at Bin94. Ingrid, Doreen and I (together or sometimes singly or in pairs) meet with our sales representatives (usually in the store, which is why you’ll sometimes find us drinking wine at the counter – yeah, I know, tough work) and we taste wines from that particular distributor or importer. We take notes about the flavors, body, finish, or whatever strikes us about each wine, and when we’ve finished sampling we compare notes.
Then, based on our tasting notes and the price of the wine we decide if the wine is good enough or interesting enough to offer to you. What we’re looking for with every wine is a “value,” a wine that drinks better than its cost. It sounds simple, but since we’re dealing with something as subjective as smell and taste it’s not always easy to find common ground. I might find a wine to be rich and bold with a complex blend of dark fruit, chocolate and spice, and one of my colleagues might say, “This tastes like my dog’s poop.”
How can two people’s tastes be so divergent? Not to mention the questions that arise about my colleague’s diet. Well, everyone’s tastes are different, and it’s worthwhile to remember that there is no right or wrong with wine.
The most important thing I can tell you about wine is this: The good wine is the one you like. Don’t let outside forces, including snobby wine magazines and smartass wine shop guys tell you what you’re supposed to like and not like. You have to let your own nose and taste buds decide, though having said that, I would encourage you to be adventurous in your own tasting. Try everything, with the possible exception of anything brown at my colleague’s house, and discover for yourself what you like. You’ll develop your own favorites and find wine styles and varietals that you never knew existed. That will only enhance your own sense of enjoyment with both the wines and the foods you eat with them.
I can tell you from experience that there is nothing more satisfying than finding a wine that just makes you go, “Wow,” and then finding out that you don’t have to refinance the house to drink it. Now that’s value.
So, to that end here are a number of selections that represent true “value” wines in that they’re different, won’t break the bank and hopefully will make you say, “Wow, this doesn’t taste at all like dog poop.”
Melini Chianti Riserva ’11 -- You can pay a lot more for a bottle of Chianti, but you won’t find any that are a better “value.” This gorgeous blend of 85% Sangiovese with the balance made up of Cabernet and Merlot is aged for 18 months in French oak and another 3-6 months of bottle age before it comes to market. There is lots of plum and cherry along with a rich spiciness through to the soft and delicious finish. A terrific wine for just
Gobelsburg Grüner Veltliner ’14 – When I was in Vienna I bought some very decent Grüner Veltliners in the supermarket for 3 euros, and even on these shores you can find many perfectly drinkable Grüners for less than 15 bucks. But when we tasted the Gobelsburg we knew we were on to something very special. It starts out a bit lemony with a hint of grassiness, but morphs into a rich and juicy honeydew melon flavor. Perfectly dry, medium bodied and nothing but yummy. All this for a mere
$17.99 -- I’ll take two.
Masi Tupungato Passo Doble ’12 – This wine combines the best of the old and new worlds – Argentine exuberance and Venetian elegance. Masi Tupungato is the Andean outpost of the famous Italian winemakers at Masi. What they’ve done with the Passo Doble is to blend Malbec with Corvina grapes that have been spread out to dry during the winter after their harvest. This is an ancient Veronese method called the “appassimento technique,” and it results in an intense aroma of ripe cherries and sweet spice. The wine is bold, yet the tannins are mellow and the flavors just go on and on long after the bottle’s empty. Isn’t that worth
$12.99 – you bet it is. Oh, and did I mention it’s organic!
Turley Old Vine Zinfandel ’12 – I first tasted this wine at one of my favorite restaurants in Rhinebeck, NY called The Local. When the waiter brought the glass and set it down in front of me I knew I was in for a treat. The concentrated blackberry aromas were wafting seductively from the glass, and the first sip was almost overpoweringly good – notice I said, “almost.” Organically farmed from vines that average 80 years of age along with all natural yeasts create an exceptional wine that is both astonishingly rich and deeply complex. This is a wine that gets better and better in the glass, if it lasts that long. I paid $15 a glass, but you can get the whole bottle for
$34.99. This is a “value” wine by any measure.
L’Eglise Saint-Hilaire ’11 – Wines from Bordeaux in the south of France run the gamut from undrinkable plonk to the grandest of the grand, like Chateau Lafite Rothschild which runs about $1500 a bottle – call in your orders – but in between those two extremes it’s often hard to find a “value” Bordeaux wine. When I first sniffed L’Eglise Saint-Hilaire I thought whatever was in the glass must be pretty, pretty good, and indeed the lovely ripe plum, spice and red fruit flavors didn’t disappoint. But more impressive was the depth and smoothness of the wine. I figured this bottle would be in the 20-30 dollar range, yet here it is for an incredible
$13.99. Not just a “value,” an amazing value.
‘Til next time.