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Reviewing the good, the bad and the ugly wines of 2001

By Staff
Jan. 2, 2002
Let's look back at the best and worst wine news of 2001.
Best news of the year:
More and more good medium priced wines are appearing on the market.
Chilean wines have vastly improved and Australian wines continue to represent outstanding value for the money. Add to that the emergence of wonderful new Spanish wines and 2002 will offer many more choices at fair prices for people who do their homework.
Worst news of the year:
While the new wines will offer better selection at fair prices, many of the makers of your old favorites are ignoring the market trend. They seem to believe they have developed a following and price will count very little.
It is astounding to look at the state warehouse monthly catalog and see the price increases. Most are being made for no real reason other than "what the market will bear." That's why research has never been more important.
Best overall wine tasted in 2001:
Please remember we're talking about affordable wines. I'm not talking about such wines as the 1970 BV Private Reserve given me by my friend Sela Ward which is both unavailable and unaffordable to the average wine lover.
Nor am I talking about the Cigar zinfandel which is absolutely not for sale in Mississippi but happily is in New Orleans. Even with its funny name, Cigar red zinfandel is wonderful.
Here are some of the best wines we tasted last year that were both available in our state and under $40. The first is Clarendon Grenache which we discovered at our Australian wine tasting. We later tasted the Clarendon Cabernet and it was also outstanding. These Australian wines are rich, well balanced and packed with so much flavor. It's about $40.
Another is Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc. This is the best sauvignon we tasted last year and possibly the best we have ever tasted. The good news is it is priced at only about $20. The bad news is it's on allocation and very hard to come by. The new vintage should be out soon. Get yourself on your favorite package store's list. It won't be available long.
Rosemount Cabernet Sauvignon is another Australian wine. We're not talking about their black label which is still a great value for the dollar. This is the white label Rosemount Coonawarra Valley cabernet. At about $23, it can match or exceed most California cabernets in that same price class.
Also consider Landmark Overlook chardonnay. Year after year, it is rated in the top 25 wines produced. The good news, it is readily available in Meridian. The bad news, the price is steadily climbing. Once available for under $20, it is now up to about $24. But it is still very much worth the money.
Best wine tasting of the year.
Beyond a doubt, the Australian wine tasting last summer. It featured Patrick O'Byrne, Australia's ambassador for fine wine who came to Meridian especially for our tasting. He was charming and witty and the wines were wonderful. A true highlight of the past season.
Most surprising wine tasting
The Spanish tasting. What I and our attendees expected is not what we got. We thought we would taste some nice Spanish wines, pleasant but not exciting. Instead the distributor himself attended and lectured and the wines were wonderful and, strange as this may sound, totally underpriced. The Capcanes wines, particularly their 1997 Tarragona, were marvelous and the Vega Sauco Reserva Toro Tinto 1995 was sheer pleasure in a bottle. These are $15 to $20 wines and, I'm pleased to say, since that tasting they are selling briskly in our city.
Most disappointing tasting
A private tasting conducted on under $10 wines. There is not much quality being offered at $6 and up, regardless of the television commercials. The best was Walnut Crest from Chile which I do recommend. It has balance, flavor and is well made. Regardless of the grape being tasted, cabernet sauvignon, merlot or chardonnay, the majority of our tasting group preferred the Walnut Crest.
Other Wines Worth Mentioning:
The Meridian wines, which are actually from California, are excellent and fine values. You can't go wrong on these inexpensive wines. On the subject of low prices and high quality, Rosemount's chardonnay, golden in color and smooth in taste is hard to beat for a more inexpensive wine.
Any of the Dry Creek wines are well made, even if they are a little pricey. Greg Norman's cabernet/merlot blend is a big seller in Meridian and it should be. The same is true of its chardonnay. Both are highly recommended.
Last week in New Orleans, I tasted his newest wine, not yet available in Mississippi. It is the Greg Norman shiraz and it was priced at $11.99. It was the best value I tasted all weekend and can hardly wait for it to be available in our state. Also recommended are the Murphy-Goode wines, particularly their fume blanc. But top to bottom, the best flavor to value wines are the Columbia Crest from the state of Washington. Their merlot is undoubtedly the best value on that market. Their cabernet is an award winner as is their chardonnay. If I were to name a winery of the year, and of course I'm about to, it would be Columbia Crest.
Happy New Year to you all and remember, life is too short to drink bad wine.