The Wine Enthusiast and the Greatness of CA Bargain Wine

Boglesb Who doesn't love a good list? I love lists. I love listing.

A great little list was recently released in the form of THE WINE ENTHUSIAST'S 100 BEST BUYS OF 2011. What we are talking about here are the best value wines the reviewers came across over the past 12 months.

Curious about the breakdown?

BY COLOR (and type)
Red Wines: 51
White Wines: 41
Sparkling: 3
Rose: 3
Sparkling: 1

California: 22
France: 12
Portugal: 10
Spain: 9
Chile: 9
Washington: 7
Argentina: 7
Italy: 7
Australia: 6
South Africa: 3
Oregon: 3
Austria: 2
Greece: 1
New Zealand: 1
Germany: 1

For the record, the Wine Enthusiast's #1 Best Buy was the 2010 Pacific Rim Riesling (Columbia Valley, WA).

Now, I find this list very interesting in light of what Dr. Vino has to say today about the apparant "dearth of Camhughes California wines under $12" that are recommendable. Dr. Vino is drawing attention to the fact that in the Sunday NY Times, no California wines were listed in a spread showing wine expert's best wine bargains. Dr. Vino (Tyler Colman) suggests the reason the NY Times panel of experts didn't identify any CA wines was because so few CA wines at $12 and under are "Estate Grown", but rather, as Tyler puts it, "often assembled from far-flung vineyards in steel tanks so large they could double as nuclear silos."

The hypothesis is that the Somms and others that helped create the NY Times list of bargain wines like to push "estate" wines and not "corporate" or "Nuclear Silo" wines.

I think Tyler is probably right about this. That is probably the reason that no CA wines show up on the NY Times list.

Now, I believe everyone is entitled to their opinion and prejudice. But the thing is this, anyone who works in the wine industry and watches the American wine industry in particular (Like th Wine Enthusiast folks) know for a fact that California makes great wines under $12 and under $15. And anyone unwilling to admit this either doesn't have a good knowledge of CA wines or doesn't care to have a good knowledge of CA wines. And like I said, everyone is entitled to their prejudice.

Delicato But there is one more thing. It's very unlikely that any of the folks who helped create the NY List of Bargain wines that Dr. Vino points to could identify a "Nuclear Silo" wine if they had to taste them blind. Of course, they'd likely, these experts, to be unable to identify the country of origin of most wines, let alone the ones they recommended as good bargains.

If I sound like I'm defending CA wine, then your reading comprehension is outstanding.

The Wine Enthusiast's 100 Top Best Buys list is not definitive. It's based on the wines tasted by Wine Enthusiast reviewers and is determined primarily on a Price/Quality ratio. However, I just want to point out that the list has 22 CALIFORNIA WINES ON IT!!!

7 Responses

  1. Charlie Olken - October 5, 2011

    Nothing the NYT says about CA wines has any validity anymore. The spiritual divide between East Coast views and West Coast wines is as wide today as it was when I first started writing over three decades ago.
    There was a time when that divide diminished in size, but one need only look at Asimov’s latest comments about CA Cab Sauv to realize that he and his posse have stopped liking CA wine and have nothing good to say about it.
    East Coast folk simply do not care about CA at this point, and that is OK with me. Tyler Coleman had a blog entry like his latest about the lack of CA bargains a few years ago and was proven wrong.
    Today, most of us who know better simply ignore the East Coast bias that exists. His comments about silos is pure nonsense. He simply brands all CA wines with the same brush because neither he nor Asimov are tasting enough of them and thus they know not where they speak. So they rely on their shameful generalizations to put down every wine in sight–or in this case, those not in their sight because they are not looking.

  2. John Skupny - October 5, 2011

    Regarding the NYT mag piece, first consider the author first – second it seemed like a ‘who could outgeek whom’ no Chile, no New Zeland, no Aussie, no Argentina!…. I loved Pascaline Lepeltier’s totally american selection – Ravine Keuka Village – 2010 – Finger Lakes – New York, pretty gutsy for a gal from the Loire Valley!

  3. ss - October 5, 2011

    If you like the Bogle Sauvignon Blanc you’ll love the Petite Sirah. Big,bold and luscious.

  4. Steve Heimoff - October 6, 2011

    Unfortunately the New York wine elitists have been bashing California wines since Day One. Very hard to figure out why. Maybe it’s jealousy. Whenever you heard a NY wine snob criticizing California wine, you can disregard it as untrue.

  5. Rick Kushman - October 6, 2011

    It might be less NY elitism – though there is surely some of that — and more long-standing East Coast blindness. As a newspaper columnist who’s covered media for years, as well as wine and food, I’ve seen the same force through almost every subject. NY can’t help but see NY as the center of the universe, which is why national sports magazines and shows cover the NY Knicks or, worse, the New Jersey Nets, like they’re national teams. And when trends start in the West, as they often do, in fashion or technology or food and wine, the Eastern instinct is to treat them as, look, how cute, our little brother or sister built a tree fort.
    There’s also a purely commercial factor built in, and I’m certainly not accusing Eric or anyone of doing this willfully. But the operations of East Coast business and media for decades have evolved around not acknowledging that pretty much anything in California could be as good as anything in NY (in the wine world, NY translates to Europe, because NY is closer), because that makes them less important, thus less valuable. So there’s an almost default outlook ingrained over decades that says, this is from California, prove to me it’s any good.

  6. Donn - October 6, 2011

    There are a lot of Calif. wines that are bland. But there are a huge number of Calif. wine. Many are not bland, many are quite good for the $12er. So, there are plenty to pick from that cost $12 or less but sell all their production without going near NYC. Sorry, NY.

  7. David Boyer - October 13, 2011

    By design Better Wine Guide tasted through over 2000 ‘bargain, grocery store wines’ and when I say Better Wine Guide, I mean me. My background is that of fine wine and it was a remarkably challenging exercise but eye-opening. I tasted all of them blind for obvious reasons.
    Some of these really blew me away not only for their QPR but also their aromatics and flavor profiles. I also put some of my favorites in front of MS candidates, who immediately got upset, nearly inimical, because they could not distinguish the vintage, region, or even the varietal. We need to get real because like it or not, this is what America is buying and over 80% of these under $25 wines I tasted are from California. Like I said, my eyes were opened to the fact that these wines may not express terroir, but some of them do drink very well. To me, these are ‘gateway wines’ to better wines in the future for many consumers.
    It’s not my cup of tea so to speak, but I can certainly understand the appeal to America consumers.
    David Boyer

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