The Wine Blog

Choosing Great Wines With So Many Choices

November 12, 2012

The wine pool grows as US beats France and Italy in worldwide wine consumption; How to choose with so many choices?

The United States is home to an unprecedented quantity and quality of wine values and the pool continues to grow. Why?

Well, for one, wine consumption in the US is en fuego. A resurgence of wine consumption in the millennium ultimately led to the United States passing France in 2010 for the percentage of wine consumed in the world. According to a study, the U.S. wine market is expected to reach $33.5 billion in sales by 2013. In short, the US leads the WORLD in wine consumption and continues to grow, while in France, Italy and Germany (#2, #3 and #4 on the list) are in decline.

As a result, wineries want their products HERE. Producers from all over the world prioritize the US market for product launches and allocations. This makes for a large pool of wine and fierce competition, which ultimately translates into overall better quality wines at lower prices.

This is obviously great for consumers, but it can also make finding a wine you love a daunting task. Where to begin with so many choices? There is an abundance of reasonably priced, interesting, handcrafted wine in the market. Here are a few quick tips on finding cool wines and good values from around the world:

Explore funky regions and varieties.

For example, Spanish whites, although difficult to pronounce, are often floral, aromatic, with tons of minerality that wouldcommand a pretty penny if from somewhere else.There are also some amazing wines coming out of the French Languedoc. Several areas have been approved for Grand Cru status and hence have a strong incentive to make the finest wine they can, often using local grape varieties – look for wines coming from Corbières Boutenac, Minervois La Livinière, Pic Saint Loup, La Clape, and Limoux.

Give a passé region a second chance.

Wake up and smell the Shiraz, America! You loooooved Australian wines six years ago. And now, you just walk on by those cute little critter labels.

True, our mates down undah went astray there for a while, but they have been trying to win you back by doing the right thing and focusing on good wine again.  You’ve just been ignoring them. And with the stellar 2010 vintage being released in a few months, it might be time to give them another looksee.A bonus tip: go for the higher end – it will still be a good deal and the juice is bound to be exponentially more impressive. Also, if you like crisp whites, take some time to explore Aussie Riesling from the Clare and Eden Valleys. It’s incredibly DRY, crisp and complex – lime, petrol, slate – and ages amazingly as well.

Think cheap and trade up.

Being known for value wine is a blessing and a curse.  Everybody wants you, but your good stuff tends to get overshadowed and undervalued by your reputation for being cheap.

Case in point, wines from Argentina and Chile. Many of their vineyards were planted close to 200 years ago. Entry-level wines are often made with 50 year-old vines and because of their high altitude; they are often naturally organic and even biodynamic.

They have all of the elements to make some of the most beautiful wines in the world, and they do! However the higher-end offerings from these regions often go overlooked and don’t command the price they arguably should. As a result, $30 goes REALLY far in the South American wine section.

For lighter reds, Beaujolais is a magnificent place to trade up.  Beaujolais has 10 Grand Cru regions that produce thoughtfully crafted, naturally made, elegant wines with significant complexity and even age ability. They offer some of the best quality-to-price ratios in the wine world.

Think expensive and trade down.

You like Champagne? Try a Cremant de Bourgogne – same grape blend as Champagne, regions are quite close to one another and at the end of the day not THAT dissimilar, and it is in the best interest of those producing Cremant de Bourgogne to make it as similar to Champagne as possible.

You like Brunello? Try a Vino Nobile di Montepulciano. Both are made with Sangiovese Grosso and regions are about 30 minutes away from each other in southern Tuscany. They both age well, though Vino Nobile is often more approachable in its younger years.

Buy what YOU love

The bittersweet reality of having so many wines in the market is that choosing a wine you’ll love without trying it first can be a real gamble.  Recommendations are plentiful, but they are all too often based on someone else’s opinion.

That said, if you don’t like the wine, it is not an amazing value no matter what the price, rating, or recommendation.  The only way to truly find a good value is to buy what YOU love.