Syrah has long been the black sheep of the California wine family, but that hasn’t prevented some producers from continuing to focus on it. One of the reasons that domestic Syrah has had some problems gaining traction with consumers may be the wide range of styles it can be produced in. The trick is to stop looking for a California style, and go find the producers you like. For Syrah there are very few that can touch Edmunds St. John, whose Syrah is decidedly Old World in style, and more savory than opulent. Complex and balanced, this wine drinks well young, yet ages remarkably well.
Italy produces more great values than any other country, and Chianti is the Italian wine that springs to mind when I think of value. Castellare is one of my favorite producers, with wines that preserve the lovely austerity of Sangiovese’s structure, while somehow wrapping it up in a rich yet transparent blanket of luxuriously ripe fruit. The 2009 Il Poggiale is a classic in the making, a wine to buy by the case!
Wines with obvious residual sugar are becoming more common as they become more popular, but they are difficult to do well. Huet, Vouvray’s star producer, carries on an ancient tradition in Vouvray of producing sweet, off-dry wines that are remarkably complex, elegant and age worthy. If you haven’t experienced one before, I suggest you run out and try some for yourself. I am particularly partial to the demi sec style which has enough sweetness to be round and generous, balancing the natural acidity of Chenin Blanc perfectly without relegating the wine to the cheese board.
California Cabernet is a tough place to find killer values these days, and if you’re looking in Napa, fuhgettaboutit! Of course there are exceptions to every rule, and Ritchie Creek is one of those exceptions. A small producer whose Cabernet Sauvignon is an old school classic, Ritchie Creek has mostly stayed under the radar due to tiny production and ardent fans. Every so often some bottles pop up, but for the most part these wines sell out quickly and get consumed rather than re-sold. This is a winery worth searching for because you just can’t find values like this anymore.
Rioja is of course a region chock full of great wine values. Take for example the wines of Hermanos Pecina, traditionally styled Riojas that can compete with the finest producers. These are wines that are silky, complex and elegant, as well as being a great deal, but they are attracting their fair share of attention so I expect to see some modest price increases soon for their wines. Get them now; you’ll be able to tell your friends that you’ve followed them from the start!