Wine Talk

Snooth User: amyabt

true to varietal recommendations

Posted by amyabt, Feb 28, 2010.

Hey there - As a young wine drinker (22 yrs. old) I am still new to the wine world. I want to acquire as much wine knowledge as possible, and all of my mentors have pushed me down the same path, taste, taste, taste! Therefore I am at the point where I find it imperative that I begin to develop my pallet. What I am looking for are lower priced wines ($10-25) that are true to their varietal. I want to get to know many varieties in their truest sense before I begin delving more into the terroir and winemaking contributions, though I understand these will be present as well. If you have any suggestions, I would love to hear them. Also, if you have a personal favorite, or even a suggestion from one of your own beginner wines, I would love to have that recommendation as well.

Amy Abt

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Reply by ONUMello, Feb 28, 2010.

I'm 23 and was in a similar boat 1-2 years ago. A few personal favorite wineries that produce very good wines in that price point and are true to their varietal (in my opinion) include
Bogle (CA)
Hogue (WA)
Chateau Ste Michelle (WA)
Also be sure to look internationally: Alamos from Argentina makes decent torrontes/malbec that are widely available, I've rarely had a bad grenache/tempranillo from Spain, and there are hundreds of different varietals from Italy, too many to begin to list.
Something else you may find helpful is picking up a copy of Wine Spectator or Wine Enthusiast and reading tasting notes to become familiar with aspects of each varietal (or watching WineLibraryTV online). Feel free to DM me for more suggestions or when you are looking forward to progressing to terroir/blends (which I'm doing now!) Good luck, it's a fun journey!

Reply by AdamJefferson, Feb 28, 2010.

Since we're on the subject of age, I have kids the ages of Amy and Onu; nuff said about that. Just a suggestion, try a varietal you want to get familiar with, and try some wines made with that grape from different places. Malbecs, for instance, are nice, not too pricy, and differ quite a bit between France and Argentina. Same for Syrah/shiraz, and Chardonnay, even within subregions of France or California.

A fun way to get started is to find one of the on-line merchants that has a good inventory in stock, set a budget, get and order filled, and have a little tasting. If you're going to do that make sure the merchant actually has the stock or you can spend quite a bit of time waiting for the order to fill.


Reply by WVTIM, Feb 28, 2010.

I have spent a lot of time looking for the best wine values for my wine list and have a few suggestions for you. I agree with ONUMello on the Bogle, one of the best values in a Cabernet on the market and very true to the grape. Another suggestion is Penfold's Koonunga Hill Shiraz/Cab, reasonable and enjoyable. In a sparkling wine, Cristalino Brut is great for the money. When talking whites I think that Calf. Chardonnays are the most wretched wine I have every had, but an unoaked chardonnay that I really like is 4 Vines Naked Chardonnay. To push your price margin a little bit try Row 11 Vinas Three Pinot Noir, The winemaker only makes Pinot Noir. Another big hit for me this past summer was "B" Side Cabernet, I brought in a case thinking it would last from June to December, It was gone in 2 weeks. Everyone wanted to buy my stock because they didn't know where else they could get it. This is a Bourdeaux style from "the other side" of Napa Valley. One last suggestion is Cycles Gladiator Cabernet. Made by Hahn Vineyards it is very smooth with medium tannin and very affordable. Keep us abreast of how your journey is going, Enjoy!!

Reply by GregT, Feb 28, 2010.

Hi Amy and welcome!

Might I offer another suggestion?

It's good to learn whatever you can. But the more I taste the more I believe that it's not that easy, and perhaps it's not even possible, to define a "true" flavor profile for a variety.

The idea of looking at specific varieties is very much an American approach. In Bordeaux, it is illegal to name the varieties on the bottle, so how do you ever know what a "true" cabernet sauvignon taste is like? There, you will mostly be tasting blends of the cab family. Some are siblings, some are parent/child, but varietal labeling is American or a "new world" approach.

We get used to cabernet sauvignon from the West Coast of the US and such, but the flavors aren't necessarily any more true to the grape than they'd be from anywhere else. So you must keep in mind that if you try a number of them, you're learning what cab sauv tastes like from that area. If you try a light-bodied 12 pct alcohol cab with no oak treatment, it's outside the realm of cabs that most people have tasted in their lives and they wouldn't recognize it, but the fact is, it's every bit as true to the variety as any other version. Maybe more so.

Same happens with pinot noir. Is the "true" expression of the grape the one you get in New Zealand's Marlborough region, or in parts of Burgundy or something like Brian Loring's CA version? Actually they're all identifiable once you taste them enough, but you'd never know they're the same grape unless someone told you. Yet they're all true expressions of the grape.

Try it. Get an inexpensive Burgundy by Jadot. Then try something like Sherwood or Palliser or Oyster Bay from New Zealand. Then get one from CA - Gallo actually had some decent cheap ones like MacMurray Ranch or Anapamu. Beaulieu Vineyard, or BV, makes a number of wines and they're all pretty good versions of what happens in Napa or CA. None is necessarily more or less "true".

Ditto chardonnay.

And don't limit yourself to the US or west coast. How do you find good sangiovese? There is some - Luna, I think Palmina, Leonetti and others, but you need to try Rosso di Montalcino and various versions from Italy, and why not Argentina or Australia too?

One problem people have is that they try one from one area and then decide that's the "correct" version. So people who call themselves "purists", which is a code word for close-minded, might scoff at tempranillo from Australia or Washington, or nebbiolo from New Zealand or Argentina, because those won't taste like they do in Spain or Italy. And because they don't taste the same, one simply has to make an arbitrary decision as to which is actually the "true" version. In fact, they all are, whether or not they taste anything like each other.

In the end, I think it's simply impossible to taste and understand every grape because there are thousands and Americans only talk about a few dozen. So my suggestion is not to limit your search to benchmark wines that tell you what a grape is supposed to taste like. Instead, also look for good wines that are representative of a winery, an area, a style, etc. You can learn what graciano tastes like in a specific region. But very few people in the world bottle it on it's own and you're unlikely to come across it that way. However, there is something somehow that distinguishes many wines from Rioja, and you can learn that, rather than the varieties in the blend.

Here's another thread on a related subject:

Happy hunting!

PS - pallet is what they load the boxes on, palate is what's in your mouth!

Reply by JKent, Feb 28, 2010.

Read, read, read and taste many wines.
Find a wine store that has a deep inventory, and ask questions.

Reply by uhlenbe, Feb 28, 2010.


I've recently started to dive deeper into wines. Just this weekend I was "fumbling" my way through UFS in Peoria IL and got to speak with the Wine & Spirits mgr "Melvin". He took about 20 minutes out of his day and helped me narrow my search. I love deep red wines but am susceptible to headaches from the "sulfites" or "tannins", I'm not sure which, but I find the Calif & French wines kill me. I am also in search of wines in the $8-15 range.

Yeah taste, taste, taste, but moral of the story, find a knowlegable person in the business and quiz them. To date I am fond of the Australian, Chilean and South African wines (Aus: Penfolds, Jacobs Creek, Lindelmans, Littel Penguin....Chilean: Santa Rita Reserva - the manilla colored label ones....South African: Glen Carlou - 2005 Grand Reserve specifically).

Figure out which flavors you like and search out a local expert who is willing to take the time to work with you. You can find some really good wines in your price range...and note, even if you find a winery you like, the years and varieties will vary. Test one, and if you really like it stock up!

Good luck in your quest...Brian

Reply by schellbe, Mar 1, 2010.

I'd like to second Greg T's sugeestion of trying a varietal from different regions and styles. Some personal suggestions along this line: Pinot Noir...Jadot Pinot Noir (France), Elk Cove PN (OR), Matua (NZ), Lucas & Lewellen PN (CA), and Fleur de California. These last two are quite a contrast. All are widely available (even in Wyoming!). For Riesling, try Ch St Michelle (WA), and Alsatian (Trimbach), Austrian, and California (perhaps Fetzer or Jekyl). And be sure to compare a CA Chardonnay (lots of them) with a French Pouilly-Fuisee or Macon or Bourgogne Blanc. These are also quite a contrast.

There are many other examples for other varietals. Remember too, that Cabernet based wines are often blended with Merlot, Cab Franc and other varieties. This is common practice around the world now.

Reply by amyabt, Mar 2, 2010.

Hey all - Thanks a lot for the great recommendations! I am very eager and excited to start trying your suggestions. And a special thanks to Greg T for the detailed message, with great advice for novices like myself.


Reply by amour, Mar 21, 2010.

I am so late with a response to you...a sweet young lady...I imagine!

Good luck  and  of  course...BIG WELCOME FROM US ALL AT SNOOTH!

True to form and very fairly priced, in my humble opinion, is..

a sweet white from FRANCE.......slightly sweet... at $10. U.S.


very desirable...oh! so refreshing indeed!

Reply by amour, Mar 24, 2010.

Here  is  a  TEXTBOOK  example  of  NOBLE ROT  late harvest Riesling (GERMANY)

2007 Delheim Edelspatz NOBLE  Late Harvest

(SINGLE VINEYARD) Rhine Riesling.

Reply by duncan 906, Mar 24, 2010.

You could go to a show where someone who knows what they are doing is running tastings or seminar and then you could taste different wines back to back.On the other hand you could also,each time you are served a glass of wine,make a mental note of what it is,what it tasted like and whether you liked it or not and then possibly look it up on google.The other point to remember,which Greg has touched apon,is that the taste of a wine is not only about the grape variety employed.French winegrowers are very fond of the word 'terroir'meaning soil and microclimate.Back in January I went to 'The 'France Show' in London.One of the exhibitors was a French winemaker called Eric Morin who had several of his wines for us showgoers to taste.One was a Chirouble and one a Morgon and both are Beaujolis,they are vinified in the same manner, and  made with the Gamay grape but taste quite different.He had actually brought a bowl of soil from each vineyard to the show to explain why.Although his Morgon vineyard is only a couple of miles from his vineyard in Chirouble the soil is completely different.I bought two bottles of each and two bottles of his sparkling rose.(Cremant de Beaujolis)

Reply by amour, Mar 24, 2010.

I do remember my days of the shows at OLYMPIA.

I attended a lot of wine seminars there, including ones on terroir.

Tasted good wines too.

There are often subtle and complex differences between two wines

made in the same way, from the same grapes, fom neighbouring


The differences in flavour and bouquet are mainly due to the make-up of the soil. and also the sub-soil, more importantly, and also the balance of minerals. Drainage and aspect also impact in the total disposition of moisture and heat retention. 

(The richness and extract of fine wines come from the sub-soil, as the roots of mature vines thrust deeply.)

Reply by amour, Apr 1, 2010.

A true to form 100% CHENIN BLANC is :

Coteaux du Layon Selection des Grains Nobles 2008

From Phillippe Delesvaux  in the Loire (he  is  biodynamic)


Reply by dmcker, Apr 1, 2010.

So Amour, if you're going to be introducing wines (and you throw a lot of names out there), you should explain in some detail why and how they are good, preferably via tasting notes, if you want both credibility and to provide us with useful info. In this instance, keeping to the theme by the original poster, just how do they evidence 'true' chenin blanc varietal character? And if you haven't actually drunk them, it would be better to say so....

Reply by amour, Apr 1, 2010.

Most of us already know that the Chenin Blanc is one of the most versatile grapes there is.

However, whatever the style it is going to show that honeyed beauty, that sometimes sharp and always zesty acidity, but along with its floral aspect it is heaven....

I had the 2004 and found it to be as good as a good Sauterne,

not cloying....a medium finish and worthy of another glass!

Reply by amour, Apr 1, 2010.

Any more questions, your Honour?

Reply by amour, Apr 2, 2010.

Someone just reminded me of yet another wine with typical muscat characteristics. (baked raisins, walnuts, honey)

It is from a winery which I have already written about...Klein Constantia....

South Africa....

The wine is available in London and I did not check it out as yet for the US, but I will, and I will post details, should I find any.

It is blended from red and white Muscat, the grapes are left to raisin on the vines, then spend 18 months in French oak...then the wine is released 5 years after harvest.

The name is:

Groot Constantia Grand Constance (375 ml)

It comes in a black gift box.

Reply by redsfortherestofus, Apr 2, 2010.

Hi Amy!  I just wanted to second ONUMello's suggestion on Bogle.  I'm particularly fond of their Petite Sirah, and at $11 it's a real value. 

Reply by dmcker, Apr 2, 2010.

Have you had the SA wine, Amour? If so, some tasting notes? If not, why the recommendation? There are so many wines out there in any class you throw up recommendations for, and it would be good to be able to qualify the level of info you are trying to present....

Reply by amour, Apr 2, 2010.

I have had Klein Constantia  wines but not the Groot Constantia Grand Constance.

I am not good at tasting notes.

I write tasting notes to suit myself!

I am a poet and a wine-lover and a member of Snooth,

I am not Jancis and I am not trying to be!

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