A look at some wine values from Chile, Australia, Spain and California.
By Louis Marmon
Gazette Newspapers March 31, 2010
Underlying every wine purchase is the question: Is this bottle really worth the price? Does some fundamental aspect of the $200 Cristal Champagne make it better than a $15 Spanish sparkler? Maybe to a hip-hop artist, but to most of us, discovering pleasurable wines that cost considerably less is more pleasurable. Fortunately, many of the world’s wine regions still produce reasonably priced wines. Each of the following recommendations costs $15 or less.
Despite some recent tribulations, including drought and over-production, Australia remains an excellent source for value-priced, flavorful wines. Shiraz is an Australian mainstay and the Alice White South Eastern Shiraz 2008 ($8) is a real bargain. Bright blackberry and other dark fruit flavors predominate in this mildly spicy and very pleasing wine with some chocolate and citrus at the finish. The medium-bodied Shoofly Adelaide Shiraz 2007 ($14) is lush with black cherries, licorice and smoky plum notes and a long, rich finish. The d’Arenberg McLaren Vale “The Stump Jump” Shiraz 2008 ($11) is named for the Australian plow invented to deal with the various roots and tree stumps that would otherwise immobilize the draught horse. Pepper and cherry aromas lead into blackberry, plum and red cherry flavors with a complex, anise infused finish.
Also worth trying is one of the blended wines, the floral d’Arenberg McLAren Vale “The Stump Jump” Grenache/Shiraz/Mourvedre ($14) that has delightful earthy raspberry, dark cherry, plum and pepper notes. Another pleasurable blend is the Greg Norman Estates Limestone Coast Shiraz/Cabernet 2007 ($15) that shows spicy blackberry, currant and chocolate along with mint and tobacco at the end.
The recent earthquake had significant impact on the Chilean wine industry, including the country’s largest winemaker, Concha y Toro, which ceased production for a week but is now processing the grapes from the 2010 harvest. Its Vina Cono Sur subsidiary was more damaged and has suspended its logistic and production operations. Until it recovers, search out its most current releases, including the Vina Cono Sur Central Coast Chardonnay 2009 ($10) that exhibits the characteristic Chilean minerality along with apples, peaches, melons and citrus flavors, or the single vineyard lime and peach flavored Vina Cono Sur Vision Sauvignon Blanc 2008.
The Casa Lapostolle facilities were less affected, with a loss of only 5 percent of the reds and almost no Chardonnay. The Casa Lapostolle Rapel Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2007 ($12) is a first-rate example of a Chilean value-priced wine, with coffee and black fruit aromas and blackberry, cherry and currant flavors within a medium-bodied frame.
From Spain, try the barrel fermented, pear, apple and anise flavored Marques de Caceres Antea White 2008 ($12). The Bodegas Borsao Campo de Borja 2008 ($8) has black cherry, strawberry and spicy raspberry notes, while the more floral Bodegas Borsao Garnacha Monte Oton 2008 ($8) exhibits raspberries, cherries and vanilla.
The Liberty School Winery in California’s Paso Robles region was the original source of the Caymus Vineyard’s second label Cabernet Sauvignon. In 1996, the Hope family started its own winery and now the grapes are part of its Treana wine portfolio. The Liberty School Central Coast Chardonnay 2007 ($15) is very good, with green apple, guava, lemon and grapefruit notes. From California’s Sonoma Valley comes the crisp Souverain Sauvignon Blanc Alexander Valley 2008 ($15) that delivers citrus and grassy flavors with a slight spiciness in the ending.