Monday, March 30, 2015

Where are the Next Great Values?

By Liza B. Zimmerman


Land costs have become so prohibitive in parts of California, and other places in the world, that is often hard to find a well-priced bottle of wine. For better values I always advise that consumers look to regions where land and labor costs are lower. My two current favorites are Chile and Portugal.

Argentina on a marketing level has always been better at defining its signature style: gauchos, high fashion, big steaks and Malbec. Chile never had a legendary cuisine nor did it have a particular style of winemaking or varietal focus. What has been a disadvantage for producers is clearly a plus for the buyer, as Chilean wines offer amazing value. The climate conditions also vary widely in the country, which is another plus for the wine industry.

Casa Lapostolle remains a top-notch producer with great wines in the under-$15 category. It is also a beautiful place to visit. This country's signature grape is Carmenere, and its smoky and meaty taste profile make it well worth seeking out. It also tends to cost less as it doesn't have international recognition and consumers can worry about how to pronounce all the accents in its name!

Dreaming of Portugal
This Iberian coastal paradise has just woken up from a long slumber. When Port producers and grape growers decided to put aside part of their production for non-fortified wines they changed the fine-wine profile of the country. Dry reds, and whites, from the Douro, are among the country's best and some are fairly well priced.

When you start dipping into the lesser-known appellations like Lisboa--the growing region outside of the capital city--and the cool, green Northern areas, you can enjoy some fantastic wines. Vinho Verde has great style, signature fizz and pairs splendidly with seafood (and an afternoon on the front porch).

The Doural Red is a flavor-packed wine. Other regions to keep an eye on include the Dão and hot, tannic and rowdy Alentejo. White Port, if you like a hint of sweetness, is also delicious as an aperitif and is fun as a cocktail ingredient with a touch of tonic.

Other Areas to Look For
Argentina is making some top-of-the-line Malbecs, with fresh fruit and tar-like (yes in a good way) flavors that allow them to pair so well with steak (and lamb and other grilled delicacies). The country's Torrontés grapes are also being used in fizzy, simple and refreshing whites.

South Africa is another country to keep an eye on. Apartheid shut the winemakers off from the rest of the world for so long they are just coming into their own and benchmarking their products against the best in the world. The Bordeaux blends are stunning in this country--I would take them without the addition of Pinotage--as are the Sauvignon Blancs. Indaba, Mulderbosch and Warwick are all very consistent producers who make some deli

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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