Vin Connections Bargain Wines (February 2004)


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

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 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. So this month we’re busting the price myth again, with a selection of 20 wines under $15 that you’re bound to find well worth the bucks.

This Month’s Reader Question:
“Do I really have to pay top-dollar to get a decent wine?” (ed. No! Read on…)

This Month’s Wine Pick:
20 Under $15: Proof that great wine doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg!  
Worth-It Whites: Higher grades, lower prices
Que Syrah, Syrah: A Shiraz by any other name…
Passport Reds: Let your cellar do the globe trotting
Cash-Poor Cabs: Typically costly, there are still deals to be found

This Month’s Quote:
The only wine critic that matters…


Looking at the price vs. quality question, once again…

Q. “Is there any way to tell what the quality of a wine is based on the price? Sometimes I’ve paid big bucks for something I didn’t like at all. And I’ve had $8 a bottle wine I liked a lot. Do I really have to pay top-dollar to get a decent wine? ”
— John Carey, Boston, Massachusetts

There is no doubt that quality and price connect to a certain degree. Below a certain price point – in my experience typically under $8 a bottle, (though we have some surprisingly good $5 and $6 “A-” rated wines in this months issue) it’s rare that you find very good or better wines. As a wine maker told me on a recent visit to Napa County in Northern California, “people make mediocre wine from good grapes all the time… but you just can’t make good wine from bad grapes.”

But as prices rise from $15 to $20 a bottle or (in many cases) much more, they begin to reflect that oldest of all economic maxims: the law of supply and demand. The most important ingredients in the decision to change the retail price of a wine are scarcity and prestige. To quote a wine industry insider, “The thing you’re paying for as you move up would be prestige, scarcity and, to some extent, intensity of flavor.” (I’ll just take the flavor, thank you!)

In this issue of VinConnections, you’ll find plenty of high-quality (B+, A-, and a bunch of A!) rated wines in the $8 to $15 range. From once obscure white wines and hefty Syrah’s to an international roster of righteous reds, you’ll find ready proof that when it comes to great wine, high quality and high price simply don’t add up all the time.

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

[Do you have a wine-related question you’d like to ask? If so, contact us and you may see it answered in an upcoming issue!]


20 Under $15: Proof that great wine doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg!

Worth-It Whites: Higher grades, lower prices

2000 Semillon, Peter Lehmann “Barossa Valley”
South Australia
IE: A$10, Grade A
2002 Alvarinho, Quinta da Pedra
Vinho Verde, Portugal
IE: A$14, Grade A
2002 Semillon-Chardonnay, Orlando “Jacob’s Creek”
South Eastern Australia
IE: A-$8, Grade A-
2002 Vouvray, Benoit Gautier
Loire, France
IE: A-$12, Grade A-
2001 Pinot Blanc, Pierre Sparr “Rйserve”
Alsace, France
IE: A-$13, Grade A-

Que Syrah, Syrah: A Shiraz by any other name…

2000 Syrah/Shiraz, Fusee
California, USA
IE: A-$5, Grade A-
2002 Syrah/Shiraz, Delicato
California, USA
IE: A-$6, Grade A-
2000 Syrah/Shiraz, Hardys “Bankside”
South Australia
IE: B+$13, Grade B+
2001 Syrah/Shiraz, Jacob’s Creek “Reserve”
South Australia
IE: B+$13, Grade B+
2000 Syrah/Shiraz, Consilience “Santa Barbara County”
California, USA
IE: B+$14, Grade B+

Passport Reds: Let your cellar do the globe trotting

2002 Malbec, Bodgea Cantena Zapata “Alamos”
IE: A-$11, Grade A-
Sangiovese Castello di Selvole 2001
Tuscany , Italy
IE: A-$12, Grade A-
2002 Malbec/Tempranillo, Santa Sofia “Urban Oak”
Uco Valley, Argentina
IE: B+$9, Grade B+
2002 Cabernet Sauvignon/Shiraz, Buckeley’s
IE: B+$10, Grade B+
2002 Gamay Georges Duboeuf “Julienas”
Beaujolais, France
IE: B+$12, Grade B+

Cash-Poor Cabs: Typically costly, there are still deals to be found

2000 Cabernet Sauvignon, Powers
IE: A, A-$10, Grade A
2001 Cabernet Sauvignon, Twenty Bench “Napa Valley”
Napa Valley, California, USA
IE: A$15, Grade A
2000 Cabernet Sauvignon, Ch. Ste. Michelle
“Columbia Valley”
Columbia Valley, Washington, USA
IE: B+, A-$15, Grade A-
2000 Cabernet Sauvignon, Wynns Coonawarra “Estate,
South Australia
IE: A, B+$15, Grade A-
2002 Cabernet Sauvignon, Mont Gras “Reserva,
Colchagua Valley, Rapel Valley”
Central Valley, Chile
IE: B+$10, Grade B+

Wine Quote

Wondering who the “best” wine critic is for your taste? Just look in the mirror!

“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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