Interesting piece in the Globe this week on how to look for value wines. The focus was on finding cheaper alternatives that deliver better value i.e. Chilean Cabernet instead of Bordeaux, Beaujolais instead of Burgundy, etc.
I agree in general with the idea, but would add an important point. If you don’t factor in the style of wine you like, you won’t necessary appreciate the value you are supposed to be getting for your money.
Case in point is the comparison the article made between substituting Italian Primitivo for California Zinfandel. The first is way cheaper than the latter ($10 – $15 a bottle), but it is also a completely different tasting wine. The reason Zin lovers are loyal to their wine is because of what it tastes like, and who can blame them? Blackberries, liqueur, a touch of brambles, no oak and smooth, smooth, smooth — often with an alcoholic kick to it. Primitivo, on the other hand, may be the same kind of grape but you don’t get that flavour profile (at least in my experience). Instead, it tends to be more rustic, with earthy, peppery flavours and aromas and less body/more chunkiness. Great value, but not the same wine at all.
The other obvious example is Cabernet Sauvignon. The “Chile for Bordeaux” substitution works because both make wine the same way — more on the herbal, woody side of the spectrum. If that is your style, the value proposition works great. But if you like California, Aussie and some BC Cabs, watch out — the style couldn’t be more different, as these are lush, fruit laden and lovingly cloaked in vanilla (can you tell my preference?).
So the lesson is be careful where you go looking for value. It is out there, but make sure you factor in the style you like best, otherwise you may find yourself wishing you had paid more!