A tour and review of wines from around the world
Sept. 26, 2001
I once knew a politician who said, "All generalizations are no darn good including this one."
Perhaps. But in the world of wine, it is perfectly proper to generalize before you become specific. Since for the past two weeks, we've been writing about wine competition between countries, here are a few generalizations which may help guide you on your next trip to your favorite package store.
The Wines of France: Yes, Bordeaux and Burgundy continue to produce outstanding wines. The problem is they have become snobbishly pricey, far above the average pocketbook. Look for French wines from the Rhone area, the Loire Valley or the Languedoc. These are lovely wines at reasonable prices. And if you have a hankering to try a white burgundy instead of your usual chardonnay, buy a Macon-Village. Their wines are bargains.
The Wines of California: These wines continue to gain popularity because they have something for everyone. California produces very fine wines in the $10-20 range but, for those with deep pockets, the $100 per bottle wines are also available.
One of the developing problems with California wines is the Napa Valley has done a better job of selling itself to the consumer than other parts of the state. Sonoma County is home to some great wines at generally lower prices as is Amador County. Give them a try as well.
The Wines of Australia: This Johnny-come-lately in the world of wine has really shaken up the American market. Australian wines are marvelous (there's that generalization again) and true bargains. Australian shiraz wines are big and rich, their cabernet is extremely competitive worldwide and their chardonnays keep getting better and better. They are the hottest wines on today's market.
The Wines of Spain: As we proved in a recent tasting, Spanish wines have gone from jug wines to wines of distinction. Here again value to dollar is superb. The most common comment at the tasting was "How can they produce quality like this for $14?" Their whites are still not at that level but many of the reds are superb.
The Wines of Chile: This country is the next Australia. They have worked very hard upgrading their product and with success. Walnut Crest consistently wins our tastings of wines under $10 and the Conchoy Toro wines are really great values. Yes, this country still produces a lot of junk wines but those mentioned above and several others are an omen of things to come.
The Wines of South Africa: They made a real attempt 10 years ago or so to convince the American consumer of their value and fell on their faces.
The quality they promised just wasn't in the bottle. Within the last two years they have tried again. I still don't think the quality is in the bottle. You can buy better for less.
The Wines of Washington and Oregon: Some of the best best pinot noir comes from that area as do a number of outstanding merlots. My favorite winery from that area is Columbia Crest. Their merlot may be the best inexpensive wine from that grape on the market and their chardonnays are excellent. Washington and Oregon wines are recommended.
The Wines of the East Coast: They try in and around Long Island and that overall area, but they just haven't made it. Drinkable, perhaps, but far behind the wines of the west coast.
The Wines of Italy: This country produces a quarter of the world's wines but in America they made their reputation by putting cheap not-very-good wines in wicker baskets so you could shove a candle in the mouth of the bottle and be romantic. Italy is producing some great wines, not just chiantis but barolos and barbarescos and barberas. Their problem is they have priced themselves out of the everyday market. You can still get some good values in chiantis. Antinori wines are an example, but the barolos, one of my favorite wines, have become very expensive indeed.
There are other wine-producing countries of note. Portugal's dessert wines are by and large the world's best. Germany has fallen out of favor with the American wine buyer, who seems to prefer the white zinfandels to the green apple, slightly sweet taste of German wines.
You'll have the opportunity to taste American wines against wines from Chile, Australia and France during Friday night's America vs. the World tasting at Northwood Country Club. It starts at 6:30 p.m. If you have not made a reservation, please call 482-0930 and do so.