Thursday, May 15, 2014

The New Value Wines

By Liza B. Zimmerman

While the economy is recovering, somewhat, wine spending for everyday drinking may never go back to the go-go levels of the 1980s. Whereas a Tuesday night, pizza wine might have once cost $20 to $25 dollars, now everyone is looking for the next best sensation for $15 or under: maybe even $8.99 a bottle on a good day.

Few regions of the world provide as much value as many of those in Portugal. From crisp, acidic whites from the north to the slightly fizzy but totally quaffable Vinho Verde, the country’s whites pair well with a range of foods. They are also great sipping wines for front porches and poolside on hot days. Portugal’s reds, particularly from the Douro, up the ante in quality at a fantastic price point. The Doural red, a blend of indigenous varietals, is a standout at the under $10 price point and Esporão is also a great producer. White Port is also a fun summer drink on the rocks, or mix it up in a cocktail. It is rarely seen in the States and is the light, less formal cousin to the region’s vaunted, red fortified wines.

Spain’s Tempranillos and Grenache-based wines, from a handful of regions, also represent great value.Navarra and a handful of crisp Albariño are still value priced.Their often lush fruit structure is jammy and appealing and they pair very well with simple, grilled foods and meat. The country also produces great rowdy rosés from

Last but not least, Sicily is home to great wines at superb prices. Many are made from native varietals and this island excels at blends. Volcanic soils and cool breezes tend to give this region’s wines great balance and sometimes bracing acidity. Experiment with grapes such as Nerello Mascalese and Inzolia, Grecanico and Catarratto and you won’t be disappointed.

The Southern Hemisphere
Chile has fought an uphill marketing battle with its neighbor Argentina. The country has no famous meat culture or gaucho legends on which to waive its marketing banner. However wow do these guys know how to make wine. However Chile is blessed by incredibly diverse, and often cool, growing conditions that contribute to appealing food-friendly acidity in the wine. The Sauvignon Blancs are classic, well-balanced wines made in many regions. I also love the red blends and single varietals of almost every type besides Pinot Noir.

South African winemakers are emerging from many decades of relative political isolation and doing so in grand style. Many of this country’s red blends are stunning, particularly those with a touch of Syrah, which grows so well in many regions of this country. Rupert & Rothschild’s “Classique,” is a $20 wine that tastes like it costs $50. It is elegant, supple and worthy of aging. I hand carried a half case of this wine back from Cape Town before it was readily available on the U.S. market. Vergelegen is another top producer whose blends drink like significantly more costly wines. Don’t miss some of South Africa’s bright Sauvignon Blancs and its Chenin Blancs if you like a touch of sweetness in your wines.

Cheers from DrinkUpNY!

Liza Zimmerman has been writing and consulting about wine and food for two decades. She is principal of the San Francisco-based Liza the Wine Chick wine writing, education and consulting firm. She has worked on staff and freelance at national magazines such as Wine Enthusiast, The Magazine of La Cucina Italiana, Wine Spectator, Where SF and the Examiner. She currently contributes to Cheers, Wine Business Monthly and the Examiner, among others.

Zimmerman focuses on demystifying wine and transforming it into a tool for business and networking for companies all over the country. Past clients include Genentech, Roche and IBM.

She has visited all the world’s major wine regions and is one of select few in the U.S. to hold the Diploma of Wine & Spirits (D.W.S.), the three-year precursor to the Master of Wine.

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