The constant changing world of wine

By By Stan Torgerson / wine columnist
Dec. 3, 2003
I once knew a politician who would say, "All generalizations are no darn good including this one."
Right or wrong, and most of the time I believe he was right, the world of wine is constantly changing and here are a few generalizations you may wish to remember on your next trip to a favorite wine retailer.
Ridge: We don't see much of their California-produced wine in Mississippi, but you can buy it every day and everywhere in New Orleans. I have never tasted a Ridge wine that I did not think was superb and worth every dollar charged. Their Ridge Geyserville is one of the true values on the market at about $30 per bottle. Their zinfandels sell in the $20s and from top to bottom there are none better. Now they're out with a $17 bottle that may be their best value yet, although not their best wine. This is what consistent quality is all about.
Columbia Crest: Their wines are from Oregon and are generally priced under $15. No one makes a better merlot in that price range and their cabernet and chardonnay are equally fine wines at a bargain price.
Karly: They produce four zinfandels in California and every one is superb. Their Warrior Fires is an exceptional bottle of wine, everything a zinfandel is supposed to be but rarely is, full bodied, peppery, an unforgettable experience. Karly's Sadie Upton is richer, not as spicy but still a lovely bottle. Both are in the $24 class. Buck's Ten Point is down a step at about $18, but it would be hard to beat in that price range. Karly's Pokerville is an amazing bargain at $13, juicy, packed with flavor, but not one of the overpowering zins.
Rosemount: An Australian wine that in its single grape wines, the shiraz or the cabernet, are great buys for under $12. Their blends, however, the cabernet/merlot or the shiraz/cabernet are vastly inferior to their single grape wines. Buy the first ones mentioned. Leave the second ones alone.
Greg Norman: The famed golfer lends his name to various Australian varietals and every one is a winner, as was its producer.
Meridian: Produced in Northern California these wines at about $10 are worth that and more. If your pocketbook lends itself to everyday drinking wines, these are highly recommended.
Santa Rita: From Chile they market wines labeled "Reserve" and others from the same grape without the reserve designation. Always buy the reserve. It will cost about $2 more but the difference is day and night. They're bargains anyway. Santa Rita's reserve cabernet is about $13, or even less, and it has both structure and depth of flavor. Why pay less and get less?
A bargain white: The Macon Village from France. A white burgundy with an everyday price. Highly recommended.
Overall best bargains: If you like to experiment, and I do, the wines of Australia and Spain are remarkable bargains. Australia has established a toehold in the American market and Spain is trying hard to do the same. Between $12 and $20 no one gives more quality for the money than wine producers in these two countries.
Overall worst bargains: Most French red wines from Bordeaux are so badly overpriced that I haven't purchased a bottle in years. They simply aren't worth their outrageous prices which can range from $75 to $400. Italy has had three outstanding vintages in the last six and, as a result, their prices have risen dramatically. They, like the wines from Bordeaux, are way overpriced and you can do better buying some California, Australian and Spanish wines for much less money.
Most overrated American producer: Robert Mondavi who persists in trying to make wines in the French style when Americans have gone to bigger, richer and younger wines. Mondavi's Coastal label may be the most overpriced wine sold in this country today. Don't let the master's name on the bottle fool you. He once made great wines. He doesn't anymore.
Best American sparkling wine for Christmas: Roederer's Anderson Valley. At $22, it is as good or better than any sparkler being made in California today.
Worst sparkling wine: Andre's. So bad I won't even try to review it.
Country that's coming on, New Zealand: Their sauvignon blancs are as good as any sauvignon being produced elsewhere in the world and their Cloudy Bay label may be the best I have ever tasted if you can find it.
The same politician mentioned above also said, "I've never heard a generalization with which I could not agree," For true wine lovers the above opinions may be challenged but they're mine. I'm a bit hard headed so don't try to change them.