Wine Talk

Snooth User: Gregory Dal Piaz

What is the best wine value in the market today? Time to branch out!

Posted by Gregory Dal Piaz, Dec 1, 2008.

With our troubled times I very frequently asked “Where are the values?” While the world is awash in both inexpensive swill and expensive fine wine the trick, more important today than ever, is to find the wines that skirt the edges of both: those inexpensive fine wines.

While I know that $30 for a bottle of wine is not an inconsequential amount I think it remains an affordable luxury for many people. There are certainly many wines that even at $30 are woefully over-priced, but one of the real joys of drinking wine is discovering the gems under $30 that perform like more expensive wines.

I have written before about the premium people pay for the ageability of fine wine. We, as people who cellar wine, expect great things to occur in the bottle while our wines age. Sometime these things happen, sometimes not, but we certainly pay a premium for wines that are expected to age well.

So when looking for values we have two options, we can look for wines that will age well and yet are undervalued, or we can look for wines that deliver more immediate appeal and thus are overlooked by many with the collector’s mentality.

One way to approach this problem is to identify the great wines of the world and then see what an alternative or two might look like. A brief rundown might look something like this.

Instead of Bordeaux - try Chinon
Instead of Burgundy - try Cru Beaujolais
Instead of Hermitage, Cote Rotie or Cornas - try St. Joseph
Instead of Chateauneuf du Pape - try wines from the Languedoc-Roussillon

Instead of Barolo - try Nebbiolo d’Alba
Instead of Brunello di Montalcino - try Vino Nobile di Montepulciano
Instead of Super Tuscans - try Chianti Classico Riserva

Instead of Napa Cabernet - try Paso Robles Cabernet

On the other hand a few great value wines really have to be assessed on their own, though it would be easy to recommend them to specific groups. These wines may have more immediate appeal, though most will age well for up to a decade anyway, and are great wines from, for the most part, lesser known regions

From France:

From Italy:
Nero d’Avola:

From California:
Rhone Rangers:
Petit Sirah:

And from the emerging wine markets:

Carmenere from Chile:
Tannat from Uruguay:
Shiraz from Australia:

And of course,
Malbec from Argentina:
which we recently tasted:

Enough ideas for today? I would think so, and while this is just a list to get you thinking about how broad the world of wine realty is it is, unfortunately, just a list. Fear not though as I am starting to plan tastings for these groups and will be posting notes on some of the real super stars here really soon!


Reply by MReff, Dec 3, 2008.

I was going to say Greg, Where is South America?? Obviously this is a good thread. People should start to focus on the other regions of the world at least until the price adjusts itself. One place Greg forgot to mention is Spain. Fantastic QPR's there.

Reply by Gregory Dal Piaz, Dec 3, 2008.

Spain? Where's that?

No really, M is right, great values in spain, hell virtually all of Sapin is great value wine, and Portugal too. But sometimes I get tired of hunting for links so I wrapped things up early and hoped no one was gonna call me out on it

Reply by Robert Dallas Gray, Dec 3, 2008.

2nd on all of those, and Cahors and Gaillac in France, Negroamaro from Italy, and in terms of sparkling, there are loads of great Champagne-a-likes coming from the Antipodes -- Tasmania especially. Jansz and Clover Hill are great names to look out for. And Green Point, made by Chandon from a blend of Champagne varieties in the cooler Oz climates, is amazing value.

Reply by MReff, Dec 4, 2008.

Wow Tasmania is growing, next you will tell me that South Africa and Arizona are growing. hahahhaaa

Reply by dirkwdeyoung, Jan 12, 2010.

This is a really great article, which should be reactualized annually.

Reply by dmcker, Jan 12, 2010.

Should also add 'instead of Hermitage, Cote Rotie or further south, St. Joseph in the northern Rhone'.

Rieslings from Germany, sherries (both dry and sweet) from Spain and ports from Portugal are also sources of excellent value for price, all the way across the board. In the way of more dessert wines, marsalas from Sicily can be excellent value, though there is a wide range of quality....

Reply by napagirl68, Jan 13, 2010.

Thanks for this... it is a great resource! I love this site, btw :-)

I wanted to throw something out there... probably not available to everyone across the country or around the world. Here in California, where there are a plethora of wineries, many are in financial trouble. Since the subject of this thread was finding value, I thought I'd mention some ways that I have found great wine at great discounts.

Becoming a wine club member at your fav winery is a great way to be included on discounted specials (not just the wine club discount). I recently got a wonderful zinfandel, that was originally priced at ~20 (and worth it), for $5.99. I bought a case. The winemaker's wife told me that they had to move it out since they had so much other stock, and needed revenue. I was concerned that it had gone "past its prime" and had undergone secondary fermentation. This was not the case at all... the wine was perfect. I even shared some at a local restaurant with the people at the table next to us! You do have to be careful.. I have seen wineries out here that have discounted a wine getting ready to "go", or one that has had a known lot problem with being corked. I know this sounds kooky, but what I typically do with a deeply discounted wine I am interested in (if they cannot or will not let you taste it) is to buy one bottle, take it out to the car, open it, taste it, and go back in to buy a case or two if it is good! Just keep in mind that certain varietals are limited in how long you can keep them, so buy quantities accordingly.....

Another thing that is going on out here is that discount grocery stores that used to have the most awful wine ever, are getting some really good wine in... oftentimes at 50% off! I was talking to a friend who owns a wine shop out here, and he is hurting bad. I was telling him of another shop that just emailed that they were closing... he actually brought up the fact that these discount stores were getting PHENOMENAL wines in that they have never seen before. It is killing him, I am sorry to say. Some examples of my recent finds at a discount grocery store: 2003 Juslyn Estate Napa Cab Sauv.- $29.99 (if you search on the web, the cheapest bottle you can find is over $65). It is a great cab, IMO. Another example is the 2006 Imagine Chalk Hill Vineyard chardonnay.. most places retail at $20, got it for $9.99. I have a few other examples.. but just wanted to mention this as a source for deals. I am thinking that this may be more of a California thing because of the sheer number of wineries out here?

Being a wine lover, and one who likes to support my local boutique wineries, I have mixed feelings on this. Although we all love a deal, I hate to see these small, independent wineries having to sell off stock, and cozy local wine shops going under :-(

Reply by dmcker, Jan 13, 2010.

It's happening all around, napagirl, not only in California. One of the very best boutique wineshops in Tokyo, that had been cutting edge for more than 30 years went under this past year, and I hear such stories all the time from here in Japan, the States, and elsewhere. What this means is that most personalized service with real human contact will continue to disappear, and the only comparable level of knowledge immediately available to us will be, at least in the near to medium future, boutique wine suppliers on the Internet. You'll need to trust the taste of staffers at Klwines, Bpwines, Rarewineco, etc., etc. and hopefully create a dialog via email with them. Not quite the same thing, is it?

Trends towards 'efficiency', leveraged business aggregation, and other Americanized business administration techniques that have been progressing for decades and have been given massive steroid shots from the Net are a trend that is *very* hard to resist. Grow and buy local is far more humane in so many ways, but will not be an easy row to hoe...

Reply by napagirl68, Jan 13, 2010.

Yes, dmcker.. so sad. you're correct- not at all quite the same thing! I am an advocate of eating/drinking locally. I frequent farmer's markets year round and try to eat what is in season. I visit my local boutique wineries and buy what tastes great, although it may not be "inexpensive". My biggest nightmare is that all purchasing of food, wine, clothing, home decor, will be reduced to big box stores like.... I can barely say the word... WALMART.... uuugghh!!!!

Reply by Gantt Hickman, Jan 13, 2010.

You have many great suggestions. Some I will definitely try. My opinion though is that the Chianti Classico is one of the best bang for your bucks out there.

Reply by VegasOenophile, Jan 13, 2010.

I agree with all those replacements. There are also great, Napa-worthy cabs from Washington and Chile. EVen some from Australia, but the ones from there are still a bit pricey to be of really good quality. Keep the suggestions coming though! It's always nice to find a good substitute that you can get two bottles or more for the price of the one original you'd consider drinking.

Reply by chadrich, Jan 13, 2010.

As always, I'm a proponent of the somewhat lesser-known grapes. If you can find one you like (then find enough of it to buy), you can often get in at a lower price point. Greg mentions a couple above that I'd probably consider to be on this list (Lagrein, Tannat) and I'd add a few like Mencia, Godello, Cortese and Gruner Veltliner. Of course the risk is that the world gradually discovers your secret and your bargain pricing erodes. But then you have the fun of finding a replacement, and you can claim yourself to have been a trend-setter!

Reply by Gregory Dal Piaz, Jan 13, 2010.

I'm with Gantt, Chianti, and to a lesser extent Rossos di Montalcino and Montepulciano, offer some of the best bang for the buck out there.

There are wines, though the overall quality is a bit spotty, and the ongoing closeout disaster in California offers some surprising deals, Havens reserve Merlot for 414 delivered for example.

All in all it's a decent time to be a wine enthusiast if one doesn't have to have the top 10% of wines out there.

Reply by amour, Jan 13, 2010.

But that does not exclude me from replying...or , does it ?...ooops!

I support the idea of buying local as well. NOT EXCLUSIVELY LOCAL THOUGH.

Since spending more time in the United States of America, I have tried to purchase AMERICAN MADE WINES.

I do love CAKEBREAD Winery very much at times.

Reply by amour, Jan 13, 2010.


You would never believe how much pleasure I derived from an inexpensive CARMEN
from CHILE....I have laid some down.

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