Although 2014 is well underway, it almost seems like the holidays were just yesterday, and hopefully your new year’s resolutions, or at least some of them, have stayed their course. I feel that wine, for me, and possibly many of you, will continue to be an important element of our daily lifestyles, and it can continue to be so, with some tips that can help you stretch your hard earned dollars and even make your wine education a more exciting experience, as new regions, grapes and styles are begging to be discovered. By following a few simple steps, you will not need to worry about sacrificing quality or drinking pleasure over price. There are terrific wines out there, many of which deliver immense flavor, complexity and memorable wine experiences. Here are some savvy wine buying tips that will have you shopping like a pro.
Small Production is Big News: Don’t settle for second best, even with price points in mind. Search out, explore and ask for wines made from smaller yields, where quality reigns over quantity, because when it comes to this matter, there is no exception to the rule: The world’s best wines will always come from vines that are pruned to yield fewer grapes, or vineyards that naturally produce less fruit, usually from old age. This in turn creates compelling wines, packed with more flavor, intensity and overall higher richness and complexity. These are qualities any wine lover would be incredibly happy to find next time you pop the cork.
Explore New Regions and Varietals: There are some incredibly exciting grape varietals and regions all over the map that deliver wines of exceptional quality at exceptional prices. Try a few wines from these Regions/Grapes below and prepare to be pleasantly surprised:
U.S.A.: Pinot Noir/Willamette Valley, Merlot/Walla Walla, Ice Wine/Washington, Riesling/Finger Lakes, Syrah/Pas
France: Savagnin/Jura, Cabernet Franc/Loire Valley, Gewurztraminer/Alsace, Grenache/Corsica, Sparkling/Savoie, Mourvedre/Bandol
Portugal: Touriga Nacional/Douro, Verdelho/Vinho Verde, Loureiro/Minho
Spain: Mencia/Bierzo, Graciano/Rioja, Monastrell/Jumilla, Godello/Valdeorras
Italy: Aglianico/Campania, Chardonnay/Piedmont, Sparkling/Franciacorta, Gaglioppo/Calabria
South America: Torrontes/Salta, Bonarda/Mendoza, Pinot Noir/Chile
Other: Grenache & Syrah/Bekka Valley (Lebanon) Pinotage/South Africa
Read The Back Label: While the front label on a wine is imperative for identifying the most important characteristics inside the bottle: vintage, producer, region or grape, you will be greatly rewarded if you pay close attention to the importer listed (for imports) on the back label or the ultra-informative labeling from domestic producers such as Calera and Ridge Vineyards.
Here is a shortlist of dedicated, passionate importers that represent some of the finest wines in the marketplace, in no particular order: Stacole/Country Vintner, Winesellers, Vineyard Brands, Kermit Lynch, Robert Kacher, Rosenthal, Dalla Terra, Eric Solomon, Jorge Ordonez, Louis Dressner, Weygandt-Metzler, Becky Wasserman, Augustan and Vine Connections.
Learning about a wine, while studying the region, winemaking philosophy or grape varietal is one of the most rewarding experiences I can recollect, so go out, explore and see why many studies show that people who enjoy wine live happier lives. There are many great, incredible wines out there to discover and I am sure that many of them will reward you beyond their monetary value.