Inasmuch I fancy myself above the fray, I am still irrationally moved by bottle prices and points awarded. Heck, I have written about it in this forum before! For instance, just the other night we had one of our food and wine couples over for a South American “parrillada” (“parrilla” = grill) with all sorts of meats and sausages. At most, the delectable wines we paired were around the $20 price range and who knows if they even had points awarded to them. And guess what? They were delicious and right on point!
There is no question that expensive wines will almost always be well crafted. Notice that I say “well crafted” and not “good”. The latter is what YOU like, and no points critic can tell you what that is…unless, of course, you happen to find a points guy/gal with whom you share a similar palate.
Here is what I think is a foolproof way of picking great values, as defined the most delicious wine and the lowest price possible for a specific region, while obviating any points pollution: look out for producers’ second wines. These are wines, often of the very same blends and varietals, from parts of the property that may not have the best location as defined by sun exposure, elevation, water availability, etc. Sometimes, these wines’ provenance is from vintages when the grapes are “declassified” because they did not attain certain stringent quality expectations. This is like talking about A+ vs. B+; not the best but still pretty great. Moreover, these second wines are often made in order to cleverly market a first wine. How else could you have a “best wine” if you did not have a “second best”? And again, the difference between these wines can just be a matter of grapes that grow a few feet between their respective vine blocks. Remember that in the Old World the appellations are terroir driven and therefore mandate specific delimitations. Consequently, the vines from across the driveway, although technically not within the boundaries of the appellation, are still darn close in quality and character to those that are.
The wines from Hermitage, in the Northern Rhone, are for many the golden standard expression of Syrah. Unfortunately, they can be quite expensive. But if you go to the other side of the hill (Croze-Hermitage) or across the river (Saint Joseph) you will experience fantastic expressions of the grape at a fraction of the price. Also, in France, in what is known as the Right Bank of Bordeaux, you will find the Merlot predominant wines of St. Emilion. They are fabulous but again, pricey. All you must do is to wander due east over the border of the appellation to find the “satellite” appellations of Saint Georges, Montagne, Puisseguin, and Lussac. These are easily available wines that deserve a drink.
In Italy, you can readily find many of these seconds wines as well. To name a few, you have the Nebbiolo based wines of Piemonte that are produced in neighboring areas to Barolo and Barbaresco. The same grape at great prices. If Brunellos are your thing, how about trying some Rosso de Montalcino?
As you have seen, there is no need to be seduced by the points/price siren song. After all, remember that those sirens were most likely visions of manatees.
Stay away from the points-half fish woman who ended up being an expensive-ugly sea mammal and come around those wines that are not mythical and make sense.
Lorenzo, the wine guy
Friends, food, and wine...I'm happy there.