Vin Connections Bargain Wines (June 2003)


Bargain Wines
The Wine PocketList loves a deal, and in today’s market there are many great wines to be had for a song.

As always, our issue theme was inspired by a reader, this time asking about wine prices. We’ve always maintained that a good wine doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg, and in fact, a high price tag doesn’t always translate into a great wine.

But why the disparity between a widely discussed $1.99 brand versus a much ballyhooed $180 Bordeaux? Or more realistically, between a luscious $15 Spanish Tempranillo and a $65 Napa Cab? Not to malign Napa, one of our favorite places on earth, but it does sometimes seem to be tied up in hype.

In this issue, we’re hyping some of our best buys.

Our Worth-It Whites list proves that Riesling doesn’t equal sickly sweet, and sweeter wines don’t necessarily mean dessert. What about a spicy Mьller Thurgau with Asian food? Or a zippy, creamy Albarino with a bowl of clams? Whether sweet or dry, white wines cover a wide range of styles and are incredibly flexible, with food or to sip alone. While oaky Chardonnay’s might have dominated in recent years, we predict a continued branching out for white wine drinkers. This issue’s selection includes a Portugese Albarino, Oregon’s answerto the German Mьller Thurgau varietal, a pair of A-rated $8 wines, and an Idaho Gewьrz.

Like some of the “other whites”, rosй has sported a black eye for several years. But it’s time that American drinkers learn what the French have known for years, rosйs can combine the best of both worlds: crisp and refreshing on a summer day like a white, but with the complexity and tannin of a red. While we found few American rosйs getting reviewed recently, you’ll find an international roster of deals.

And speaking of international, we’re also looking outside the box for some unusual red deals. From Italy’s Umbria to Languedoc, we’ve found you five reds with grades of A- and higher, all for $10 and under.

Finally, for those of you who say it can’t be done, you’ll find a list of five bargain basement Cabernet Sauvignon. Yes we had to venture to Chile, Argentina and Spain, but Washington comes through with a stunning deal and even California makes a showing.

So here’s to drinking well and saving money. Now that’s something we can all get behind!


  • This Month’s Reader Question:
    “What does it cost to produce a bottle of wine, and how much do I have to pay to get a quality product?”
  • This Month’s Wine Pick:
  • This Month’s Quote:
    Words to drink – and live – by


“What does it cost to produce a bottle of wine, and how much do I have to pay to get a quality product?”

Q. “What does it really cost to produce a good bottle of wine, and how much do I have to pay to be assured of a quality product?”
— Jennifer Cherk, San Francisco, California

A. Recent figures show that it can cost about $5 to make a Bordeaux that sells for $50 retail. Hand-raised “garage wines”, first growths, low-yield vineyards and drastic weather years can obviously cost more, and higher-volume wines less.

Grapes can add from $1.40 to $14.00 per bottle, and corks startat a dime and run up to .75 cents. Storage, marketing, overhead and other expenses all add up.

For the story on Napa prices, you also need to figure in the cost of land. Is it the wine drinker’s fault that a Napa acre has been known to go for $300,000? How much gets tacked on to recoup that kind of investment? As with so many things, perception and demand fuel price as well – particularly in this area.

But there are many wineries outside the rarified sphere of Napa and Bordeaux that are producing amazingly good wines. And while these good people also have to wrestle with growing the grapes, buying corks, bottles, French oak barrels, and a host of other operating costs, they’re not usually tacking on such a generous land and prestige fee. So they end up with a wine that costs $36 a case rather than $80 a case to produce, and the savvy consumer gets him or herself a great $12 bottle of wine (or less!). That’s what we call a bargain.

So Jennifer, keep your eyes peeled, and don’t get fooled into thinking that a $50 wine is automatically five times better than a $10 wine, ‘cause it just isn’t so. With a little research (there are over 160 current bargain wine entries on you can drink like a queen on a pauper’s pay.

At the end of the day (or the glass), only one person can say whether a wine is truly worth the price: you.


Worth-It Whites: Higher grades, lower prices.

2001 Albarino, Quinta da Pedra “Alvarinho”
IE: A+$10, Grade A+
2001 Mьller Thurgau, Henry “Umpqua Valley”
IE: B+$9, Grade B+
2001 Vinho Verde, Casa de Vila Verde “Senhorio d’Agras”
IE: A$8, Grade A
2001 Riesling, Ch. Ste. Michelle “Dry Riesling, Columbia Valley”
IE: A-$8, Grade A-
2001 Gewьrztraminer, Saint Chapelle “Dry”
IE: B+$6, Grade B+


2000 Roriz/Merlot, DFJ, “Tinta Roriz-Merlot”
Estremadura, Portugal
IE: A$10, Grade A
2001 Rosй, Vega Sindoa “Nekeas”
Navarra, Spain
IE: B+$6, Grade B+
2001 Rosй, Gaia “14-18th”
Peloponnese, Greece
IE: B+$8, Grade B+
2000 Cabernet Franc Rosй, Peninsula Ridge,
“Niagara Peninsula”
Ontario, Canada
IE: B+$8, Grade B+
2001 Rosй, Dom. de la Mordoree “Tavel”
Rhфne, France
IE: A-$10, Grade A-


1998 Other Reds, Nociano “Rosso IGT”
Umbria, Italy
IE: A-$9, Grade A-
1995 Other Reds, J.P. Vinhos, “J.P. Garrafeira, Palmela”
Terras do Sado, Portugal
IE: A$9, Grade A
2001 Other Reds, Castaсo “Hecula”
Yecla, Spain
IE: A$9, Grade A
2000 Coteaux du Languedoc, Ch.Saint-Martin de la Garrigue
“Cuvйe Tradition”
Languedoc, France
IE: A-$9, Grade A-
2000 Other Reds, Castell del Remei “Gotim Bru”
Costers del Segre, Spain
IE: A$10, Grade A

Cash-Poor Cabs

1999 Cabernet Sauvignon, Norton
Mendoza, Argentina
IE: B+ $8, Grade B+
1998 Cabernet Sauvignon, Condesa de Leganza Crianza
Mancha, Spain
IE: B+$9, Grade B+
1999 Cabernet Sauvignon, Parducci “Mendocino County”
IE: B+$10, Grade B+
2000 Cabernet Sauvignon, Powers
IE: A, A-$10, Grade A
2000 Cabernet Sauvignon, Casa Lapostolle
Rapel Valley, Chile
IE: B+$10, Grade B+

Wine Quote

Words to drink – and live – by

“As far as I am concerned, there are only two types of wine;
those I like and those I don’t.”
The Essential Wine Buff, edited by Jennifer Taylor, 1996.


Understanding our System

Grade: [A-]
Our grades represent a composite score developed using our proprietary system to blend wine quality and scoring information.

Vintage: 1999
This describes both the year of the actual grape harvest as well as the year the wine was made.

Price: $12
The prices quoted in the WPL are the “suggested retail prices” quoted by the wineries and the distributors. Though these are close to what you’d pay at the winery, you’ll often find discounts of 20% and more off these prices at retail.

Individual Evaluations: IE: A, A-, B+
This represents the number of individual reviews and ratings on which the composite grade is based, primarily representing individual reviews in top wine periodicals converted to our scale, and ratings by our tasting panel.

Wine PocketList Exclusive Categories: WPL: BBC, W, S, B
These are four exclusive WPL categories, and many wines rated by the PocketList will fall into one of these special designations.

[W] Widely Available:
These wines typically have bottling of 20,000 cases or more, making them widely available in most regions of the U.S.

[BBC] Top Buy-by-the-Case:
Based on multiple, outstanding reviews and a solid history, these are wines you can purchase by the case to grow your cellar with confidence today, and into the future!

[B] Bargain Wines:
Top-rated wines for $10 or less. Most of these can go head to head with a typical $30 bottle sporting a fancy label . . . and beat it hands down.

[S] Splurge Wines:
For most of us, spending more than $20 on a bottle of wine isn’t something we do lightly. These are wines that, while more expensive, are well worth the price.

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