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Where The Wine Bargains Are

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By Malcolm Jolley

Things have changed. The money's gone, and the world wine market has changed. Sooner or later this will translate into cheaper wine. And the inflation of simple table wine, what retails for under $20, should come back to Earth. But, where will the best value come from? Hard to say, of course. But here's a quick view of where I see good value. Look for these regions at your local liquor store.

The harder they come, the harder they fall. No boats rose as high with the tide as les bateaux francaises. Look to Bordeaux for bargains on the hot, but undersold, year 2006. Lesser Bordeaux are creeping back under $20 for this vintage, which is very forgiving for all of the Southwest: don't forget Bordeaux's neighbour Bergerac, or Cahors and Madiran if you can put a few bottles down. Some of the lesser, Villages Burgundies also seem to be coming down, but there's less pickings there. Where there will be more value is in the Southern Rhone (and I tip my hat to Jancis Robinson for pointing this out recently), I think this extends into Provence too. Again, there are 2006's coming on line that are showing well, and the 2005's I wish I could say the same about the Languedoc, but in the under $20 range quality can be so variable there - at least in what is exported to North America, that I'm not ready to pronounce it as a generally good deal.

I have nothing against Ripasso, per se, but surely the Northern Italians can now make a few well drunk vini for under $20 that aren't made from raisins? Not sure yet. But in the middle, I think Chianti will come back down to terra firma. The Tuscans (and the Piedmontese, of course) rode two great waves of inflation in the preceding ten years or so: the uptick in red wine consumption combined with the popularity of Italian food, and the favourable conversion of the lira to the euro. Pretty soon Antinori's basic Chianti Classico went from around $10 to $30. Is it really that much better in 15 years? Anyway, from Central Italy down the boot, where things are getting exciting anyway, I expect t be drinking a lot of Italian in the next few months.

Spain and Portugal
The vintners in these countries have been offering excellent value in the last five years anyway, so (apart from a few thin and overly acidic Albarinos that were priced over $20 - not that I'm naming names) no news should be good news on that shelf.

This is the one to watch. Unlike everyone else, these winemakers don't rely on exports. Still, a recessionary move from wine to beer might - maybe, you never really know, it could happen - mean a few good values percolating up. We'll see. And while we're wishing: perhaps we'll see more Californians under 14% ABV: more wine, less headache, please.

Bleak there, I worry. There's the drought as well as the world wine market collapse. Small producers may cut back and concentrate on the domestic market and/or Britain. On the other hand, Australia is really good at huge winemaking conglomerates that actually make great boutique-like wines. They can probably realise cost savings and keep their margins while passing some cost savings. I'm thinking of brands like Penfold's which go from $15 to $300. The stuff around $20-$30 might get more aggressively priced.

South America
I have tried this Fuzion drink and it made me afraid. A year ago it looked like we were going to start getting the better wines from Chile and Argentina. Now, I worry that they'll bunker down and export as much under $10 as they can. I am not sure of the value there - I expect a lot of very high alcohol woody-sweet syrup. (Please prove me wrong.)

New Zealand
No idea if they'll be affected by the credit crunch or not. I'm hard pressed to think of a lot of over inflated Kiwi wines, so their price point may well remain where it is. Might not see as many premium wines, which would be a pity.


My Fave bargain wine areas are:

Portugal; when made in an old world style, otherwise go the New world!

Spain: Ditto as well a chabnce to try Perfectly aged selections. 5-6 yrs old when they make it here. Yeah!

Argentina; the LCBO was asked to offer new lower prices so they did, after refusing these same wines for years. check out the white Torrontes (WOW what a new great white). and the Cabs are elegant.

Italy; well chosen wines can be striking deals! Non Classico Chianti's, older southern reds, and lesser known regions and grapes they almost always rock!

California; from 15-25$ on non Cabernet's and Chards. Syrah and Pinot Noir and Grenache are usually the deals here.

heh Greece and BC and southern France as well. deals abound!
Post Reply By Glenn on 1/22/2009 4:59:12 PM

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