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Wine competition good for everyone

By By Stan Torgerson / wine columnist
April 21, 2004
I'm convinced that competition among wineries in California, Australia and Chile is putting more and more extremely drinkable wines on America's tables at very reasonable prices.
Notice, I did not mention French or Italian wines. They are still living in the past. Their wines, in the main, are made for storing away and their prices have gotten to the take-it-or-leave-it stage. Admittedly I do store some wines but currently none of them are the overpriced French Bordeaux or burgundies or, much as I love them, the big Italian borolos.
The average consumer does not lay away any. He doesn't have adequate long term cellaring facilities that will keep the wines under 60 degrees while they stay in the bottle during the years necessary for them to mature. What he or she buys at 5:30 p.m. is on the dinner table at 7 p.m. American, Australian and Chilean producers know it and create tasty wines you can drink immediately.
Why am I critical of the French and Italian prices? Simply because many of the wines are lovely but not worth 10 to 20 times more than the wines from these three other countries.
I thought about that the other day when my eldest grandson brought over a Parducci California Syrah purchased at a local package store for his father and me to taste. It was in the neighborhood of $11 and it was lovely. The spicy flavor associated with syrah was full-bodied, nice fruit backed by rich flavors. It was obviously young because the finish seemed a bit light to me but all in all for $11 it was hard to beat. It was good enough that my grandson went back the next day and bought the last 10 bottles on the shelf for his personal collection.
This wasn't a wine to hold, even though it will improve over the next five years. He does have space in my cellar so storage conditions will be excellent. But it is, and was, a wine to enjoy now and during those five years without any thought of keeping it until 2024. And that, my friends, is today's market whether the French and Italians know it or not. Most people and their wines no longer grow old together.
I went to my Mississippi wine catalog to see how many more of those lovely syrahs are available in our state for under $15. There are more than you might believe.
I own a number of bottles of RH Phillips EXP Syrah. I own them because they are wonderful drinking and they are under $15. I first discovered the wine in New Orleans, tasted it, loved it and ordered some in Meridian. It is not a classic. It never was intended to be. It is a truly fine everyday drinking wine you can open for sipping or with a meal and know that your guests are likely to say, "This wine is very nice. What is it?"
Another in that same category is California's McDowell Estate Syrah Reserve. This is a bit more expensive, usually about $17, but it is so rich and so flavorful it is worth the tiny bit more.
Australian syrahs, which they call shiraz, are equally great value for the money. I have advised many times to buy the Rosemount shiraz. I don't like it blended with cabernet or merlot but the pure shiraz itself is a true bargain.
We recently served a Greg Norman shiraz at our wine and cheese tasting and the audience loved it. That's about $16. Again, stay away from the blends. Norman's pure shiraz is worth the extra dollar or two.
The low end Chilean wines can be so-so. But when you get into the over $10 category, you'll discover great value for your money. The Santa Rita reserve wines represent real quality for only a few dollars.
Let me put it this way: If your pockets are deep enough, it is perfectly OK for you to be a wine snob. But don't believe for a minute there aren't many dynamite wines on today's market for $10 to $18 because there are. I'll keep looking and bring them to your attention
The April 29 wine tasting featuring Garth Cobb winemaker of the famous Karly wines is nearing a sellout status. Cobb is flying to Meridian especially for our tasting since his zinfandels, Pokerville, Buck's Ten Point, Sadie Upton and especially Warrior Fires are so immensely popular in our city.
He will talk about how they are made, why they were named as they are, answer questions and sign bottles if you wish. This is a rare opportunity to meet one of America's premier young winemakers. The price of the tasting is only $25. Make your reservation by calling 482-0930 or send your check made out to Wines Unlimited to Post Office Box 5223, Meridian, MS 39302.
The tasting is scheduled for Northwood Country Club and begins at 6:30 p.m. You do not have to be a member of Northwood to attend. The public is invited but reservations are required in order that we know how much wine to have on hand for the number of guests attending.