Is It Any Good?

Some of you have been asking for a list of “currently available, reasonably priced wines” that are amazing and easy on the pocketbook.

The wines on the list are not all world class amazing, but they will certainly give you a leg up when you’re shopping at a boutique wine shop or the local Bev Mov.

You might want to also consider reds from Spain or Italy, and whites from France and Germany for high quality and good value.

Maybe I should work at a wine store, because after talking to several wine savy friends, there seemed to be a consensus that “reasonably priced” meant $25.00. According to a recent issue of Los Angeles Times (2-3-09), “Most retailers agree that, in terms of a retail “sweet spot” — the price that regular customers feel most comfortable spending — $25 has become the new $40.

Meanwhile, the new $25 sweet spot is crowded with value. After a string of good vintages in the Beaujolais, Loire and Rhône valleys, even the most modest bottlings from those regions are drinking beautifully. The 2007 vintage in the Piedmont will one day yield some exquisite Barolos and Barbarescos; but the inexpensive Nebbiolos from Alba and the Langhe — not to mention a bumper crop of charming Dolcettos and Barberas — are marvelous right now. In Spain, 2007 wasn’t quite the same quality vintage as in France and Italy, but the values from places like Montsant, Rueda and Bierzo are as strong as ever.

Every retailer I spoke with mentioned the exceptional Malbecs of Argentina, which continue to outperform for their price. Not only do they get better with each vintage, but they also stay inexpensive — almost all of them are under $20.

You might expect smaller retail shops, such as Mission Wines in South Pasadena and the Colorado Wine Co. in Eagle Rock, to be more vulnerable to economic woes, but so far that hasn’t proven to be the case. They may not have the buying power of some of the bigger stores, but with a smaller inventory they can be more nimble with their stock.

And all are doing more with less. “Instead of having three Amarone, I’ve got one, and a much cheaper ripasso-style Valpolicella that drinks like one,” says John Nugent, owner of the Colorado Wine Co. The shelves are far from empty; they’re just filled with less-expensive, more carefully selected wine.
The care that goes into selection is certainly not lost on its clientele, which has a bond with the store that Nugent says has not diminished. “I get people almost every day asking me how the shop is doing,” Nugent says. “They want to know we’re OK; they don’t want to lose the relationship. They don’t want to have to go to Vons for their dinner wine. They’re way past that.”

If you must go over $25.00 the ripasso is a lush seductive wine, great for one of those dinners when romance is in the air.

One tasting note, when drinking, think vegetables and fruit. You remember the taste of those when you eat them, same with wine.

And one last note – this list is good for maybe the next six months to a year. The really good stuff flies off the shelf, and if you find something you really like, go back for more…quickly…

Would love comments as you put this list to the test. It will encourage me (or discourage me) from revising and doing more such lists.