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Kissing the Frogs

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<img src="http://forums.egullet.org/uploads/1162390163/gallery_29805_1195_5941.jpg" hspace="8" align="left">by Craig Camp

• 2005 Petrus: $3000 a bottle

• 2003 Château Margaux: $460.00 a bottle

• 2002 Domaine de la Romanee Conti, La Tache: $1300 a bottle

• 2003 Pegau Châteaunuef du Pape, Cuvée de Capo: $500 a bottle.

Let’s face it, when we think of French wine, we think expensive, elegant, sophisticated and chic. They are the wines you drink at Daniel in Manhattan while wearing the latest from Paris. Unfortunately for the French, only a small percentage of the wines they make fall into this elite category, and the vast majority of the wines they make are unknown and ignored by American consumers.

The world’s most famous and expensive wines are French. French wines are the only wines truly sought after by collectors. While pretenders like Screaming Eagle cause feeding frenzies with American collectors, it’s only the elite French producers that really whip both American and international collectors into a lather.

Certainly no one would argue anymore that the French have a monopoly on great wine. While bruised a bit by the worldwide explosion of interesting, well-made wines, the elite French wine juggernaut rolls on. Evidence of this is the massive coverage of the futures offering of the acclaimed 2005 Bordeaux vintage, which has been a focus of the wine media for months. In fact, a good vintage in Bordeaux still has such an impact that those vintages become great vintages for all regions in the mind of the consumer; even those wine regions with weather, vines and geography that have nothing to do with Bordeaux bask in the reflected glory of great Bordeaux vintages.

As great and historically important as the most famous French wines are, the most exciting thing about French wine is not the bottles for those with trust funds and Ferraris, but the fact that the French are making the best wine values in the world. They simply cannot be beat in the under-$20 a bottle range for making wines that still offer character, personality, and, most of all terroir -- that unique sense of place that makes a wine distinct and exciting to drink.

I’ll repeat that: the best wine values in the market today are almost all French. It’s not the new world that offers wine bargains: Australian wines should actually be singular not plural, as they’re all the same jammy syrup with different labels. California wine is personality-free industrial wine produced from the same UC Davis oak-chip recipe; South American wines are thin, flavorless and produced from hopelessly over-cropped vineyards. Only their European neighbors Italy and Spain offer the French any real competition in this under-$20 category.

Ironically, as good as the French (with a lot of help from the British) were at marketing their wines over the past centuries, today they don’t seem able to sell their way out of a brown paper bag. They’ve been blasted out of the value end of the wine market by a bunch of New World wines with cute animals on their labels and snappy names that are easy to remember. This is not to say the French are blameless for this situation -- all that junky wine with varietal labels from the Languedoc that flooded the market in the ‘90s convinced a lot of consumers to look elsewhere for everyday wines.

The French Appellation Contrôlée (controlled place-name) system of wine regulations established the structure that allowed French wines to dominate the market for so many years. These regulations established minimum standards for how a wine was grown and made before it could be sold with a particular name. These names were based on place above all else. The varietal was important and precisely controlled. For example, a red Burgundy must be 100% pinot noir, and a Sancerre must be 100% sauvignon blanc. You won’t see those names on the label, but their regulation is far more stringent than varietal labeling as used in the New World. For example, a winemaker in California has to use only 75% pinot noir to use the name. While the best California producers would never do that to their pampered pinot noir, you can bet few under $20 are not blended with other, less noble, varietals.

While I love this commitment to place and individual personality in winemaking, the plethora of wine names this has created made a marketing nightmare for the French. Should they give up and change over to naming a wine for the grapes instead of the land? I hope they don’t, and considering the French attitude about all things French I think the names will stay the same. This means that consumers who want to drink good wine at good prices will have to do some homework.

There are so many wonderful French wines out there -- the Loire Valley alone is so packed with wine best-buys that to try to keep track of only them can seem daunting. Muscadet shines as the best white wine value in the world right now. Sancerre/Pouilly Fume neighbors Quincy and Menetou-Salon produce stunning, racy sauvignon blancs. The cabernet franc wines from Chinon and Bourgueil are incredibly fragrant and seductive. The list of values from throughout France is endless, with stunning wines coming from Beaujolais, the Rhône, Provence, Lanquedoc-Roussillon and the southwest. Many of these wines come from grapes you have never heard of, but should have -- like tannat, manseng, cot, picpoul and poulsard.

Such an extensive list of new words and places can be more intimidating than inspirational, and can make that giant stacking of Yellow Tail at the grocery store look tempting. However, as a few importers are willing do to the work required to not only find such wines, and to hand-sell them, instead of memorizing The Oxford Companion to Wine, just learning the names of these brave few is enough to begin rescuing your palate from the industrial wine that has lulled it into a nap. A quick poll of the patients at Wine Therapy came up with a list of key importers to search out for French wine bargains:

<blockquote>• Louis/Dressner

• Kermit Lynch

• Weygandt/Metzler

• Neal Rosenthal

• Robert Chadderdon

• Charles Neal</blockquote>You’ll find their names on the back label, which means all you have to do is pick up that bottle with the strange name and turn it around to see if it’s something worth trying. That’s not too much work, is it?

<div align="center">+ + +</div>

Craig Camp is author of The Wine Camp Blog and makes wine in Oregon.

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Below are some great examples of French wine bargains from my recent tasting notes:

Muscadet, Climat, Château de la Fessardièe, Alex Sauvion, 2004

It’s almost getting boring to write about excellent Muscadet, but it may well be the most exciting white wine region around these days. Not that there are so many great producers, but now there are literally dozens of top notch wines being imported by small importers dedicated to quality and these wines are without a doubt the best values in white wine available in the market today.

This wine is no exception with a refined balance between its firm, mineral-laden fruity-ness and its bright acidity. Just lovely and only about $12 a bottle. Delicious now, but this fine wine will improve for the next several years.

Coteaux du Languedoc, Grange Phillippe, 2003

There are so many great French bargains these days it’s hard to keep up. Such wines are a major embarrassment to the American wine industry. How can they sell wines at this price that taste so good with the Euro is so much stronger than the dollar.

Here is a big, deep fruity wine with real flavor and complexity for $11 a bottle. Give me a break, why can’t we do this in the USA? A blend of 70% syrah, 20% grenache and 10% mourvedre, if anybody made a wine of such quality in the USA it would cost $40 a bottle.

Bourgueil, Trinch!, Catherine & Pierre Breton, 2004

A candidate for great house wine of the year, I dare you to find a domestic wine that tastes this good for under $13. Almost explosively fruity and clean with an acidity that dares your saliva glands to keep up this wine is food friendly perfection. A great combination of juicy ripe fruit and balance. Yes, you can be deeply fruity without being overweight. Buy cases.

Cour Cheverny, Le Petit Chambord, Domaine Francois Cazin, 2002

Pungently mineral and firm and almost demanding food, this is a really lovely wine. Lean and mean, but with just enough fruit, every sip demand yet another. Not surprisingly, this is a Louis/Dressner selection, who else would bring in such an obscure Loire appellation. We can be glad they did as this wine is a steal at around $12. Buy, buy, buy! Made from 100% Romorantin, a rare varietal to say the least.

Picpoul de Pinet, Coteaux du Languedoc, Saint Peyre, 2005

Here is a zesty, refreshing delight that will match your best seafood and provide the perfect clean, acid driven foil for deep fried fish. Absolutly mouthwatering and fresh. IT COST’S $8.75!!!

Muscadet Sèvre et Maine sur lie, Domaine de l'Ecu, Expression de Granite, Domaine Guy Boussard, 2001

Current winner of the longest name wine award this year, you’ll think the name is short when you taste this wonderful wine. Still a baby, it will develop and expand for many years. A lighting bolt of a wine that in all its leanness still explodes on the palate. Concentrated mineral essence with a delicate balance. A beauty that costs all of 16 bucks. Amazing.

2004 Beaujolais, L’Ancien, Vielles Vignes, Terres Dorees from Jean-Paul Brun.

Just writing about this wine makes me salivate. It’s not big. It’s not powerful. It’s not pointy. It is simply delicious. No juicy-fruity Duboeuf here, but a wine with a strangely powerful delicacy. The bouquet entices not attacks and on the palate it dances, challenging your palate to follow its lead - if you have the time and inclination. Considering the under $15 price tag, a wine that can lead your senses in so many directions is a staggering bargain.


Edited by Craig Camp (log)

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Craig -- I'm glad you wrote this. Despite my innate enthusiasm for for the Home Team and this American wines, I've long been disappointed at how mid-priced Yank wines stand up to their French counterparts. A Few years ago, it was even better, as I recall, with good Cru Bourgeois Bordeaux and village level Cotes du Rhone often available in the $10 range.

A question: since I've spent time in Languedoc (and read often of the plight of their winegrowers), it's becoe an inexpensive and sentimental favorite. Unfortunately, the quality varies greatly. In addition to the obvious advice -- the list of importers you provided, looking for AOC wines, avoiding Red Bicyclette :wink: -- is there anything else I should look for when hunting bargains in the South of France?


I'm on the pavement

Thinking about the government.

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An excellent piece. Yes, for a very good wine in the under $20 price range, it's almost impossible to beat the French.

When I was home in Canada, I was trying to find a good wine to take with Thai-style food out on the deck. The obvious one was a Gewurtztraminer. I went through about five over-priced BC wines (I have to wave the flag a bit when I'm home) and then tried an Alsatian Pfaffenheim Gewurtz that was in the fridge.

About $15 and one of the best wines I've ever had with Asian food. Lots of nose, big flavour...this is what it should be.

I had my nephew buy a couple of cases to lay in for my next trip back to Vancouver. He's advised me it's just been voted one of the best wines available for under $20.

Figures.

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Busboy,

As an interesting comment on Languedoc, they've got the marketing down perfect. I forget the brand, but they've gone to exporting......boxed wines! (shocked silence). This is selling very well in Phnom Penh, where you have real climate problems with the cafes. But by going this route, almost every place you stop in on Sisowath Quay, if they're offering wine by the glass, odds are it'll be a Languedoc. They've pretty much locked down the bar market.

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Why is it that one can't simply extol the many virtues of say French wine without denigrating wines from say the US or Australia or South America?

Why is the world of wine divided into separate and waring camps of Old World vs New World?

Why not just "one world"?

The tactic often employed is to establish a lowest common denominator and utilize it to make a point. Not fair.

Lumping entire wine producing nations into broad categories just doesn't work anymore. The fact is everyone has their industrial wine and their artisanal wines.

Their large scale producers and their small.

The styles are diverse.

The truth is, the so called Old World (let's just agree it's Europe we are talking about for goodness sake) has been challenged by many emerging wine producing countries over the last fifty years or so. They are not the only kids on the block anymore. This has caused an upheaval as they attempt to hold onto their share of the market. They have been forced to look in the mirror so to speak. How they grow grapes and produce and sell wine (not just to the world but to themselves) is being reviewed.

The New World has also been learning from the Europeans. The wines produced have been steadily improving due, in no small part, to many lessons learned from practices developed and honed by Europe over hundreds of years.

Unfortunately, the angst, the fears and the anger on the part of Old World proponents has created an us vs them atmosphere. The new world folks are often guilty of some gloating over marketing conquests.

Each can, and is, learning from the other in the quest to reach consumers.

In the end, touting French wines (or anyone's wines) by only looking at the virtues at the expense of New World wines by oversimplifying and stereo typing half truths etc is IMOP a failed argument.

It shouldn't be an argument at all.

So the debate within France (europe) over viticulture and viniculture and marketing is a healthy and necessary one. Their interest in the New World is clear and smart--their wine makers learn here (as we learn there) working at domestic operations and they have invested in wine making here. Just as there has always been foreign investment and influence in European wine making.

Oddly, I find that often the most angry and vociferous proponents of the Old World wines are New World folks (and the Brits). People who really should bone up via the Oxford Companion.

So can't one talk about the good things offered in French wines without running down other countries efforts?

Wouldn't it be better to discuss French wine honestly--the good and the bad with an eye toward helping consumers?

Rather than--French wine is soo good and new world wine is crap!

To be honest, I believe it is this attitude that turns consumers off and is a large part of the problem the French face in marketing and selling their wines today.

They will wrestle with their AOC system and change or improve it--the very fact that one is often recommended to look for the importers name as a guideline indicates a real problem with the AOC system. I believe the French will work it out!

There are many fine wines coming over here from, say, the Languedoc and people should try them they have enough nice attributes to stand on their own. selling them based on the fact that they are not Yellowtail is a pretty weak argument.

I know I don't buy it!

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John-

I don't see any serious attempts at slagging off New World wines... There are a few sweeping generalizations, e.g. thin South American wines and the UC Davis oak chip recipe crack, but they are peripheral to the gist of the article, namely that French wines are performing better at the value price point than wines from anywhere else.

If you feel the need to defend the honor of new world wines, why not do so in a way that benefits everybody... name some comparably priced new world competitors to the French wines that Craig listed for us. That way we the readers get to try them side by side (if we so choose and can purchase them in our local vicinity) and draw our own conclusions. Better yet, tell us where in the new world has the best price to quality ratio, like Craig did for us by pointing out the value he perceives in the Muscadets out there now.


Edited by cdh (log)

Christopher D. Holst aka "cdh"

Learn to brew beer with my eGCI course

Chris Holst, Attorney-at-Lunch

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Why is it that one can't simply extol the many virtues of say French wine without denigrating wines from say the US or Australia or South America?

[snip]

Rather than--French wine is soo good and new world wine is crap!

To be honest, I believe it is this attitude that turns consumers off and is a large part of the problem the French face in marketing and selling their wines today.

In principle I agree with you, but amongst my peer group (the 20 and 30-somethings) in this country at the very least, there is a growing view that unless you're paying serious bucks, it's the French wines that are crap. Somehow, this is slowly but surely being taken as gospel, and reports of 2005 Bordeaux futures don't help much. Many people aren't even aware that France has some great inexpensive wines which will handily compete with the New World for price, and equal or better it for quality. The "snob value" of French wines is never questioned, it's the quality and price of everyday drinking stuff that needs to be hammered home.

I very much enjoyed the above article.

Si

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At this time examples of distinctive new world wines in the under $20 category are few and far between. This does not mean they do not exist, just that there are not very many of them and they are crowded into the same few slots. For example Australia is driven by shiraz and nearly every producer has one. Same goes for the USA with cabernet and merlot. There is just much more diversity in Europe and that makes for more interesting choices.

A big issue in new world wine making is the economics involved, most under $20 wines from the USA, Australia and South America that are generally available in the market are produced by a small group of corporate wineries using many different labels on basically the same wines produced in industrial quantities. I am always struck by the wine sections of American grocery stores as they offer dozens and dozens of chardonnay, shiraz or cabernet labels that offer only different labels, not different wines. The same goes for chain restaurants like Fridays that list four chardonnays by the glass that are indistinguishable from each other.

The small family wine estates that produce excellent, reasonably priced wines that reflect the character of their vineyards so common in France or Italy finds it hard to exist in the American three tier system. A small French producer has the entire European Union as their market, while a small American producer has to do back flips to sell in the next state. This is a tremendous economic advantage for the European producer and is helping fuel the explosion of top quality, small producers from lesser known regions whose wines sell at very competitive prices. When it comes to the Australians, I think they're smart enough to keep their best buys at home and send their mass industrial production to the Americans and British.

At least the small French producer has champions out there like Joe Dressner, Peter Weygandt, Kermit Lynch and and others who are will to go out there and do the work (and paperwork) it takes to get these wines to the consumer. Who is going to do that for a small new world producer making a few thousand cases of interesting grenache or gamay?

There are heroes out there in Australia, South America, South Africa and the USA who are doing their best to make outstanding wines from distinctive vineyards at reasonable prices, but the market does little to encourage others to join them. Until this system changes, it is unlikely that there will be an explosion great wines in the $20 category from new world producers.


Edited by Craig Camp (log)

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Craig -- I'm glad you wrote this.  Despite my innate enthusiasm for for the Home Team and this American wines, I've long been disappointed at how mid-priced Yank wines stand up to their French counterparts.  A Few years ago, it was even better, as I recall, with good Cru Bourgeois Bordeaux and village level Cotes du Rhone often available in the $10 range.

A question: since I've spent time in Languedoc (and read often of the plight of their winegrowers), it's becoe an inexpensive and sentimental favorite. Unfortunately, the quality varies greatly.  In addition to the obvious advice -- the list of importers you provided, looking for AOC wines, avoiding Red Bicyclette  :wink: -- is there anything else I should look for when hunting bargains in the South of France?

What often makes so many of these wines so fascinating to drink it that they come from old vines. Old vines just have the potential to make wines wine more nuance and complexity. If you find producers that combine old vines with a passion to make something special you'll find interesting wine to drink. These are the things the best importers look for too.

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Why is it that one can't simply extol the many virtues of say French wine without denigrating wines from say the US or Australia or South America?

[snip]

Rather than--French wine is soo good and new world wine is crap!

To be honest, I believe it is this attitude that turns consumers off and is a large part of the problem the French face in marketing and selling their wines today.

In principle I agree with you, but amongst my peer group (the 20 and 30-somethings) in this country at the very least, there is a growing view that unless you're paying serious bucks, it's the French wines that are crap. Somehow, this is slowly but surely being taken as gospel, and reports of 2005 Bordeaux futures don't help much. Many people aren't even aware that France has some great inexpensive wines which will handily compete with the New World for price, and equal or better it for quality. The "snob value" of French wines is never questioned, it's the quality and price of everyday drinking stuff that needs to be hammered home.

I very much enjoyed the above article.

Si

I think this is very much an issue for French wines and I often hear the comment that "I'd love to know more about French wines, but they're just too expensive." I saw one young blogger comment that he would probably start drinking French wines in his forties when he could afford them. The French obviously have to work on their marketing.

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Why is it that one can't simply extol the many virtues of say French wine without denigrating wines from say the US or Australia or South America?

Because they deserve it? :blink:

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A few more bargains from my notes:

Bourgueil, Domaine le la Chanteleuserie, Cuvée Beauvais, 2004

Brilliant ruby, with seductive fresh picked cherry aromas highlighted by fresh mint. A totally charming wine that slides effortlessly across the palate kicking your saliva glands into high gear in the process. Drink this pretty wine up young and slightly cool on a warm summer evening.

Cairanne, Cotes du Rhone Villages, Domaine Cros de Romet, Alain Boisson, 2004

Brilliant ruby, with an explosion of fruit on the nose. Not that kind of fake, contrived extraction you see so often these days, but a clean, brilliant ripe fruit with an underlying zest of acidity. Just plain delicious. Drink over the next couple of years.

Chinon, La Croix Boissée, Bernard Baudry, 2000

Light ruby with a touch of garnet. The spicy, herbal, minty nose broadens into refined bitter cherry and cranberry fruit. The lean flavors expand to involve every niche of your palate starting with a lively minty-ness that leads to bittersweet cherry. The long finish makes your mouth water with fresh acidity and spiced dark fruit flavors. A great food wine defined. Even better the next day.

Château La Rogue, Pic Saint Loup, Coteaux du Languedoc, 2003

Pic Saint Loup is probably a tough sell. It’s a shame for in the under $20 category red Lanquedoc wines still offer some of the best value you can find. Full rich fruit flavors mix on the palate and nose with tar and black licorice to make for a really interesting drink and a bargain at $16. A great wine for summer cook outs.

Lirac, Château de Ségriès, Henri de Lanzac, 2004

I thought this was a wonderful wine and a bargain. The kind of wine you can drink in gulps with grilled sausages that still delivers something to spice the meal and interest the mind. Well balanced with bright fresh fruit that offers good complexity and a good backbone, this is exactly the kind of wine that serious wine aficionados buy by the case for everyday meals and barbecue parties. Very nice stuff at a very nice price.

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John-

I don't see any serious attempts at slagging off New World wines... There are a few sweeping generalizations, e.g. thin South American wines and the UC Davis oak chip recipe crack, but they are peripheral to the gist of the article, namely that French wines are performing better at the value price point than wines from anywhere else.

If you feel the need to defend the honor of new world wines, why not do so in a way that benefits everybody... name some comparably priced new world competitors to the French wines that Craig listed for us.  That way we the readers get to try them side by side (if we so choose and can purchase them in our local vicinity) and draw our own conclusions.  Better yet, tell us where in the new world has the best price to quality ratio, like Craig did for us by pointing out the value he perceives in the Muscadets out there now.

That's my point. Sweeping generalizations.

I am not defending the honor of new world wines.(I don't need to)

I am pointing out that some people just seem to need to denigrate the perceived competition (with sweeping generalization and stereotypes) in order to promote something.

They are peripheral to the issue so is the fact that the French (among others) have long sold poor wines at not value pricing based on vague concepts of place and terms like elegant.

A possible reason for their difficulties in selling some wines now.

I didn't originally bring this up because I do believe that Craig's mission to tout some truly fine and good value wines is a noble one.

It is not what he is doing it is how he is doing it that rankles me.

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...by the by - I just found a nice blog dedicated only to wines under $20. Here is the link:

http://goodwineunder20.blogspot.com/index.html

Nice site!

I notice one featured wine on the current page is the O'Reillys" Chardonnay from Oregon.

also lots of New World wines recommended (not many French)

:wink:

Really, I think pointing up some nice wines at good value is a great idea. Introducing folks to wines from the Languedoc and the Loire is definitely a good idea.

The hyperbole is really over the top though and you don't need to slag the competition.

One problem worth noting though is the reason there is so much press over the 2005 Bordeaux vintage is that weather is a huge factor in colder climate wines from places like the Loire.

Also its not all good all the time. I have had some sancerres that would take the enamel off your teeth and some Chinons that were really rose's masquerading as hearty reds!

all in all though--when things go right for the French they really do produce some incredible wines--at all price points.

By the way the wines of Catherine Breton are special as of late.--good values too.

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...by the by - I just found a nice blog dedicated only to wines under $20. Here is the link:

http://goodwineunder20.blogspot.com/index.html

Nice site!

I notice one featured wine on the current page is the O'Reillys" Chardonnay from Oregon.

also lots of New World wines recommended (not many French)

:wink:

He does live in LA!


Edited by Craig Camp (log)

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...

The small family wine estates that produce excellent, reasonably priced wines that reflect the character of their vineyards so common in France or Italy finds it hard to exist in the American three tier system. A small French producer has the entire European Union as their market, while a small American producer has to do back flips to sell in the next state. This is a tremendous economic advantage for the European producer and is helping fuel the explosion of top quality, small producers from lesser known regions whose wines sell at very competitive prices. When it comes to the Australians, I think they're smart enough to keep their best buys at home and send their mass industrial production to the Americans and British.

At least the small French producer has champions out there like Joe Dressner, Peter Weygandt, Kermit Lynch and and others who are will to go out there and do the work (and paperwork) it takes to get these wines to the consumer. Who is going to do that for a small new world producer making a few thousand cases of interesting grenache or gamay?

...

Thank you for an interesting and very informatiive article and discussion, Craig. For people that live in Philly, NYC, Delaware and NJ they also have some great champions of this sort--The Moore Brothers. They also include Italy and Germany in their sourcing pool, but it is their passion to bring in distinctive wines from small, artisanal European wineries at a good price point. The wines are wonderful values.

The location near Philly anyways, carries few US wines. One winery whose wine they carry a bit is Storrs Winery in Santa Cruz. I visit their wine tasting room quite a bit out here. They are a small-ish producer that makes wines from an intereresting variety of grapes. The wines are a little more expensive now compared to the great value they were 5 or more years ago, but they are still reasonable.


"Under the dusty almond trees, ... stalls were set up which sold banana liquor, rolls, blood puddings, chopped fried meat, meat pies, sausage, yucca breads, crullers, buns, corn breads, puff pastes, longanizas, tripes, coconut nougats, rum toddies, along with all sorts of trifles, gewgaws, trinkets, and knickknacks, and cockfights and lottery tickets."

-- Gabriel Garcia Marquez, 1962 "Big Mama's Funeral"

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oh my goodness, that photo of the frog in the wineglass is something else!! it just works on so many different levels.

if that's an original, it should be entered in a photo competition somewhere.

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Craig, I wish you'd keep your opinions to yourself!

Or, just explain to people why CA wines are the best in the world, the best tasting, the best values, just the BEST!

Or, just point out that La Tache may be okay, but anything from France for less than $1300 a bottle is made with inferior techniques and not worth its cork.

Yup, I just CRAVE those CA whites with low acid, high sugar, and flavor, oh, the flavors! "The elegance, the finesse, the balance, the complexity, the delicacy, the subtlety, the flavors of cherry, pineapple, peach, pear, apple, is it, could it be, the one, the only, Del Monte fruit cocktail? 'No' you say? Almost as good, CA Chardonnay!"


What would be the right food and wine to go with

R. Strauss's 'Ein Heldenleben'?

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this thread is ridiculous. talk about ridiculous sweeping generalizations.

i can think of many many great american wines under $20.

it's almost impossible to find great french wine under $20 in bordeaux, burgundy, alsace, or rhone. there are tons, yes, but it takes hard work.

most beaujolais are crap. most cote du rhone are crap. but there are some really wonderful ones out there. and muscadet? are you nuts? talk about all wines that taste the same....most muscadet tastes the same. That's why they are all $12.

the same goes for american chardonnay, pinot noir, syrahs, zinfandels, merlots, etc. if you look, you will find it.

i think without arguement its safe to say the BEST bargains in the world RIGHT NOW are spain, portugal, south america, and southern france.

but there are bargains from every country and every grape if you know where to look.

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Where good value wines are concerned I believe that you can find them in all countries. They may not be as well known as the Icon wines but they are there for the adventureous taster to find. If it is excellent value you want then come to South Africa and try a wide range of great value wines at almost every price point. Good value does not only exist at the lowest prices but you will find the local price to quality ratio very difficult to beat anywhere else in the world.

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...talk about ridiculous sweeping generalizations.

it's almost impossible to find great french wine under $20 in bordeaux, burgundy, alsace, or rhone

most beaujolais are crap.  most cote du rhone are crap.  but there are some really wonderful ones out there.  and muscadet? are you nuts? 

Yes, I see your point about sweeping generalizations. :rolleyes:


Edited by Craig Camp (log)

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Now you have 'let the cat out of the bag' and explained that can get good, or great, wines from France, Italy, and Spain for less than $20 a bottle and don't have to buy inferior imitations for several times more from CA, etc. Right! In my facetious response, with parody and irony, I intended humor and regret for your telling the 'secrets'!

But, there can be more detail.

When I started with wines, I concentrated on [1] French white Burgundy, i.e., Pouilly this and that, Meusault, Macon Blanc, [2] French red Burgundy, i.e., the Cote d'Or from a little south of Beaune to a little south of Dijon, and [3] the red Bordeaux wines, e.g., from the Haut-Medoc. Each bottle varied, but for each of [1]-[3], right away I said "That is French" [1]-[3] as was the case. White Burgundy, red Burgundy, Haut-Medoc (or at least Bordeaux!) -- no question.

However, when I tried wines from CA, the Chardonnay was nothing like [1], the Pinot Noir was nothing like [2], and the Cabernet Sauvignon was nothing like [3]. E.g., I saw French white Burgundy as crisp (some acid), dry (low sugar), and clean (nice delicate flavors, nicely balanced, no off flavors) and great for a dinner first course, but I saw CA Chardonnay as flat (low acid), sweet (high sugar), and a mess (strong flavors from every fruit in botany and more, wildly out of balance).

Question: What the heck is going on here? Are the differences between the CA wines and the French wines I mentioned from the same grapes [A] deliberate efforts by the CA vintners, really about the best approximation of the French versions it is possible to do with those three grape varieties in CA, or [C] something else?

In particular, there is too much uniformity: For something analogous, once for a musician friend I played a few seconds of a record and right away he said with high contempt "Hollywood movie music". He was correct! Well, I believe my experience was, for these wines, France or CA right away, no question.

For the sugar in the CA Chardonnay, I have to guess that the main reason is just that the CA vintners are CONVINCED that the US wine buyers like Coke, Pepsi, and Welch's grape juice so much that they will insist on sweet wine no matter what. But what about the other differences?

E.g, for the French reds I mentioned, after 20 minutes exposed to oxygen, the aromas commonly become something astounding. I got some similar reactions from many reds from northern Italy. But I didn't get such reactions from the CA Pinot Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon wines. What's wrong?

Is the problem that the US Davis program doesn't know how to make wines like the French versions or just that the vintners use the freedom they have to make something different?

One point: At times I have bought Chardonnay from Chile. It's not the same as the French versions, but it's closer than the CA versions!

For another question, since you are now growing wine in Oregon, are you starting with Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, or Cabernet Sauvignon and doing well approximating the French versions [1], [2], or [3]? If not, why not? If so, how?


What would be the right food and wine to go with

R. Strauss's 'Ein Heldenleben'?

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As a wine lover on a budget, I'm always open to trying anything new, regardless of its provenance. It has been a fun trip around the world. Occasionally it brings me back to the US but it seems like a long time since I found anything I would classify as a good value in my typical $10-16 price range (Last example would be CA zins, but now they've gotten pricey too). Like others here, I find myself in France and Italy more often than not these days. This past summer, I also discovered muscadets, which became my default house white. Where have they been all these years and how had I missed them?

Although I can troll the isles in the wine shop like anyone else, I have become very reliant on knowledgeable local wine merchants who go to the trouble of identifying and purchasing these wines. It is probably a lot safer to sell the known varietals and wineries. When they start finding the equivalent domestic bargains, I'll happily purchase them.

By coincidence, last night I tried my first bourgueil, the Domaine le la Chanteleuserie mentioned above. I will be stocking up on that one.



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