No Bad Wine
I'm inspired this week by a beautiful red Burgundy called Rue de Perle. It is an elegant wine from one of the world's most prestigious (and expensive) appellations, and it's only $13 (see review below).
In Burgundy's system of classifications, this is a Bourgogne, the lowest level, and hence, the cheapest. Grand Cru, Premier Cru and Villages wines from Burgundy are far more expensive. Some of the Grand Cru reds easily top $1,000 a bottle.
The Rue de Perle Bourgogne Rouge is a reminder that excellent wines do exist at the lower rungs of the classification ladder in France and elsewhere in Europe, where a wine classification typically dictates the price. Bourgogne is just one example. In the Rhone Valley, where wines from Chateauneuf-du-Pape, Hermitage, Cote Rotie, Gigondas and other prestigious wine villages run $50 and up in price, lesser villages in the southern Rhone, such as Rasteau and Vacqueyras, produce exceptional wines that generally retail for $20 or less.
Rasteau specializes in grenache and is the poor man's Gigondas. Vacqueyras is a mix of red grapes from the southern Rhone and has been called the poor man's Chateauneuf-du-Pape.
I have long held that delicious wines at modest prices are necessary to maintain a vibrant wine culture. A bottle of wine with the evening meal is an admirable goal, but who can afford to do that over 365 days at $50 (or more) a pop?
When you have an urge to drink old world, want good wine and don't want to spend a fortune, AOC Bourgogne and the Rhone Valley are a good place to start. Spain's Rioja region also inspires, with excellent, inexpensive crianzas. You can also find some beautiful wines from Italy's Chianti Classico region for well below $20 a bottle.
The point is that even with a limited budget, there is absolutely no reason to drink bad wine if you only know where to look.
Wines are rated on a 100-point scale. Wines are chosen for review because they represent outstanding quality or value, and the scores are simply a measure of this reviewer's enthusiasm for the recommended wine.
Rue de Perle 2017 Bourgogne Rouge, Bourgogne AOC, France ($12.99) -- On first impression, this pinot noir appears light in color and delicate on the palate. With a bit of aeration, it begins to open and reveal serious depth and bright aromas of cherry and raspberry. Showing firm acidity at this stage, it will likely deliver even more evidence of depth of fruit as the acid softens. At the price, it's a steal and certainly a red Burgundy that you could cellar for a few years with good results. Rating: 93.
Flora Springs 2019 Soliloquy, Napa Valley ($50) -- The evolution of Soliloquy is now complete. What was for many years one of the Napa Valley's finest sauvignon blancs is now one of the valley's finest white wine blends. Oh, it still says sauvignon blanc (delicious white peach) on the palate, but the now-eclectic blend also includes chardonnay and the aromatic Italian white grape malvasia. The result is a white with layered complexity, apple and floral notes, and a judicious splash of wood spice. And the balance is brilliant. Rating: 96.
Lyndenhurst 2017 Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley ($85) -- Suffice it to say Spottswoode's second label would make the first team at most other wineries. The 2017 is a powerhouse that begs for additional time in the cellar, offering a dynamic reward down the road upon reaching full maturity. Not that you couldn't enjoy this wine tonight, but decanting would be highly recommended in the event you just can't wait. You can count on the usual suspects: rich dark fruits, hints of baking spice and impressive structure that assures a bright future. Rating: 95.
Schramsberg 2016 Blanc de Noirs, North Coast ($43) -- Once upon a time, Schramsberg was the shining beacon for any U.S. winery considering sparkling wine production. It still is, though others have stepped up as examples as well. If done right, sparkling wine production is time-consuming and expensive. It seems Schramsberg spares no expense. The 2016 Blanc de Noirs exhibits the nuance of age often absent from New World sparklers, with subtle notes of maturity and the richness that only develops in bubbly over time. This vintage of Schramsberg's Blanc de Noirs shows hints of red fruits, baked apple and stone fruits; impressive palate length; and a fine, persistent mousse. Rating: 93.
Follow Robert on Twitter at @wineguru. To find out more about Robert Whitley and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.