Top wines not always available in local stores
Dec. 19, 2001
Wine Spectator, the country's most influential wine magazine, has just published its list of the top 100 wines released in 2001; and it's not good news for Mississippi wine lovers.
This evaluation is based on four standards: quality, value, availability and something they call excitement, whatever that may be.
Certain restaurateurs and package store owners around the state have often complained the state's system of being the only warehouse from which they can buy works against the discriminating wine buyer. If the state doesn't handle it, then you can't get it in Mississippi.
Neither you nor I are going to be affected by this top 100 list. These are hardly what you might call affordable wines. But there are several which are available in this state and we'll get to those in a minute.
First, let's look at what the Wine Spectator calls its Top 10. Remember these are not 2001 vintage wines or even 2000 or 1999. They are wines released in 2001 and may have been bottled several years before they were released.
No. 1: Tenuta Dell'Ornellaia 1998 from Tuscany in Italy. Price $110 per bottle. Rated 96 on a 100 point scale. Don't be surprised if you've never heard of it. Neither have I.
No. 2: Chateau Cheval-Blanc 1998 from Bordeaux. Price $190. Rating 98. Cheval-Blanc has always been regarded as one of the world's greatest wines. Pricey but great. This listing is, therefore, no surprise.
No. 3: Viader 1998 from California's Napa Valley. Price $65. Rating 95. Not listed by the state warehouse.
No. 4: Avignonesi 1997. Another Tuscany wine from Italy. Price $40. Rating 96. This is a Riserva that has only been made twice before, 1990 and 1993.
No. 5: Chateau Canon-La Gaffeliere 1998. Another well-know Bordeaux wine. Price $52. Rating 95. Again, not listed by the state.
No. 6: Antinori 1998. Yet a third Tuscany wine in the top 10. Price $65. Rating 95. Do not confuse this wines with the Antinori's that are commonly found in local package stores for far less money. This winery makes many different wines under their label, each priced according to the quality in the bottle. You won't see this one on local racks.
No. 7: Pio Cesare. From the great 1997 vintage in the Piedmont section of Italy. Price $58 Rating 95. Not available in Mississippi.
No. 8: Alain Graillot 1999. A French Cros-Hermitage from the Rhone. Price $19. Rating 93. At this price I'd love to taste one but I'd have to buy it out-of-state.
No. 9: Chateau Smith-Haute-Lafitte 1998. From Bordeaux, another familiar name. Price $36. Rating 94. Availability? Sorry.
No. 10: E. Guigal 1998. From the Rhone Valley in France. Price $38. Rating 93. Like so many others Guigal makes various levels of quality but I can find none on the state list.
Remember, these are "coming out" prices. With the publicity of the Top 10 list, you can be certain they will be substantially higher when they hit the package stores in New Orleans.
Now that we've discussed what you can't have, here are a few that you can. Chateau Ste. Michelle Chardonnay Columbia Valley Cold Creek Vineyard 1999. It is rated number 16 on the list. Price $28. Rating 93. Look only for the Cold Creek Vineyard. Ste. Michelle makes other chardonnays but not of the quality level found in their Cold Creek. The Cold Creek name will be on the label.
Number 24: Landmark Overlook Chardonnay Sonoma-Santa Barbara-Monterey Counties Overlook. Price $25. Rating 92. I have recommended this wine many times. Landmark produces two different chardonnays. Both are outstanding. You cannot go wrong with either. This is their better one but the other, which sells for about $22, is also lovely.
Number 40: Columbia Crest Chardonnay Columbia Valley Grand Estates. Price $11. Rating 91. As far as I'm concerned, the best value on the list. I've never had a bad bottle of Columbia Crest, chardonnay, merlot or any of their other wines. This one is typical of top quality for a lower dollar.
There are other wines on the list available in our state: the St. Supery 1997 Cabernet, for example, a Napa Valley wine which sells for about $22 and is ranked the 45th best wine released this year. Very nice, indeed.
Space does not permit naming others but I'm presently reviewing the Wine Spectator's choices with the state list and will let you know the names of others you might wish to try.
However, those already named represent excellent value for your wine dollar. Check them out. If your favorite package store doesn't have them they can order them for you. We believe you'll be pleased.
Stan Torgerson, a longtime resident of Meridian, writes a weekly wine column for The Meridian Star.