Wine writers like to give out awards. Sometimes, those awards are for wines that win comparative taste tests, a dubious proposition in many ways. Other times, it’s simply the best wine a writer has tasted all year. Perhaps I am naive, but I give out awards for different reasons, much to the consternation of some.
I recently choose a Tannat from Brazil as my wine of the year, not because it was the best wine I tasted all year, but rather because it was the one wine that changed my view of wine most significantly this year. Likewise, I chose a winery of the year that doesn’t make the most expensive or most highly rated wines that I’ve tasted all year, though they do come close. Instead, I based my choice on factors that included the wines themselves, the quality and the price, as well as outside factors like respect for the consumer and the vineyards from which the wines come.
So now, I am sitting down to select my wine region of the year, and before I reveal too much, I want to lay out my criteria. They are fairly simple, the region should offer the consumer major bang for the buck. It should also offer something unique and something that is likely to enjoy broad appeal. Broad appeal is a loose term that includes both good pricing as well as easy to appreciate styles.
This year’s region of the year fulfills all of that criteria. It’s a region that should be on everybody’s radar as it is producing excellent white, red and rosé wines that range from value priced to fairly expensive. While much of the region is somewhat challenging to farm, prices are held down by the wide range of cooperative wineries that dominate the region, complemented as they are by an increasing number of private operations.
While prices are rarely rock bottom for the wines from this region, they also rarely tip much above $50 a bottle, putting the vast majority of wines produced well within the reach of the average consumer. Of course price alone doesn’t yield value, there has to be a certain level of quality in place as well. Frankly, it’s hard to argue with the quality of these wines.
The majority of the wines are produced in a slightly modern style, though there are examples of both high extract fruit bombs and lighter-bodied, more elegant old school styles produced here. To a certain extent, that is due to the varieties grown as some are better suited to a lighter touch and others are able to handle a more assertive winemaking style.
So, there is a bit of something for everyone there. Let’s take a look at what I mean by a bit of something for everybody. By there I mean…