Thursday, December 13, 2007

2007 Top 20 Wines Under $20

If you read wine magazines or the wine columns in newspapers, you cannot move without hitting a "Top ??? Wines of 2007" list right about now. These lists are the darlings of those who generate them, sell wine because of them, and buy wine after reading them. I mean, who doesn't like to know/sell/serve the #1 wine in the galaxy? Setting aside the fact that it will cost you just under $1000 dollars to buy one bottle of each of the top 10 wines in this year's Wine Spectator list, the fact that by the time the lists are printed and shopping frenzy begins many of the wines are long gone from the market, and that these lists can manipulate the marketplace in strange ways, you need to ask just how important it is to you that you are drinking a "top" wine anyway? Erika, on her blog Strumerika, asked this question a few weeks ago, and it's worth repeating here. (image of Wine Spectator's logo for the Top 100 Wines of 2007)

What's on these lists? Tina Caputo, in an article that appeared two days ago on Wines and Vines, did a side-by-side comparison of two popular lists and discovered that there were some striking similarities between the Wine Spectator top 100 wines of 2007, and the Wine Enthusiast top 100 wines of 2007. The same five countries dominated both lists: US, France, Italy, Australia, and Spain. The average price for a bottle on either list was between $40 and $50 (WS, $42; WE, $47). And, in a testament to the variability of personal taste, the #1 wine on one list doesn't even appear among the top 100 wines on the other list.

The fine folks at both magazines taste a lot of wines--a lot more than I do--in a given year before making their assessments. Over at Spectator they taste more than 15000 wines, and at Enthusiast they taste more than 10000. At GWU$20, I've only tasted about 500 wines this year, and most of them were from the US, France, and Italy. It hardly seems like enough to make any sort of statement, but just for fun I've generated my very own "2007 Top 20 Wines Under $20."

How did I do this? I looked over all my tasting notes from the year, and figured out which ones had the right combination of excellence, value, availability and "excitement" (which is one of the criteria for both the WS and WE lists). I stuck rigorously to the under $20 mark, which meant some very good $20-$25 wines were left out. I made one exception in terms of availability and included a Portuguese red not available in the US because it was SO good and this way you can lobby your wine store for it. In true "top list" fashion, only the rank, name, and price are included here. Want more information? You can read my full review by clicking on "GWU$20 Review," or read the reviews of a wider cross-section of drinkers including me by clicking on "CellarTracker reviews." Clicking on the wine's name will take you to a list of merchants who stock the wine today, not necessarily where I bought the wine. Prices indicated here are what I paid for the wine; as ever, your costs may vary.

To add to the nuckle-biting tension, I've put them in reverse order. Can you stand it? If not, scroll down.

20. 2003 Treana White Mer Soleil Vineyard ($14.99) GWU$20 Review. Cellar Tracker Reviews.

19. 2003 Anglim Syrah Fralich Vineyard ($20) GWU$20 Review. Cellar Tracker Reviews.

18. 2005 Four Vines Chardonnay Naked ($12) GWU$20 Review. Cellar Tracker Reviews.

17. 2005 Champalou Vouvray ($14.99) GWU$20 Review. Cellar Tracker Reviews.

16. 2005 Te Karainga Sauvignon Blanc ($12.99) GWU$20 Review. Cellar Tracker Reviews.

15. 2004 Dry Creek Vineyard Zinfandel Heritage ($14) GWU$20 Review. Cellar Tracker Reviews.

14. 2005 Beckmen Vineyards Cuvee Le Bec ($16) GWU$20 Review. Cellar Tracker Reviews.

13. 2004 Domaine Larochette-Manciat Pouilly-Vinzelles Les Longeays ($15.99) GWU$20 Review. Cellar Tracker Reviews.

12. 2004 Toad Hollow Merlot Reserve Richard McDowell Vineyard ($19.99) GWU$20 Review. Cellar Tracker Reviews.

11. 2003 Herdade do Meio Alentejano Garrafeira (not available in US) No GWU$20 Review. Cellar Tracker Reviews.

10. 2004 Chateau Falfas Bordeaux ($19.99) No GWU$20 Review. Cellar Tracker Reviews.

9. NV Soligo Prosecco Brut ($15.99) GWU$20 Review. Cellar Tracker Reviews.

8. 2006 Handley Pinot Noir Rose ($18) No GWU$20 Review. Cellar Tracker Reviews.

7. 2003 Chateau Coupe-Roses Minervois Cuvee Vignals ($16) GWU$20 Review. Cellar Tracker Reviews.

6. 2005 Sineann Gewurztraminer Resonance Vineyard ($19.99) GWU$20 Review. Cellar Tracker Reviews.

5. 2006 Bodega Renacer Malbec Punto Final ($13.99) GWU$20 Review. Cellar Tracker Reviews.

4. 2004 Sandoval Cabernet Sauvignon ($12.99) GWU$20 Review. Cellar Tracker Reviews.

3. Cameron Hughes Lot 25 Carneros Sparkling Wine ($20) GWU$20 Review. Cellar Tracker Reviews.

2. 2000 Royal Tokaji Tokaji Aszu 5 Puttonyos Red Label ($20) No GWU$20 Review. Cellar Tracker Reviews.

1. 2004 Escafeld Petit Verdot, $19.95 GWU$20 Review. Cellar Tracker Reviews.

One of the most striking things about this list is that you won't find most of them included in any other lists. Still, they are excellent, good value, and exciting wines to drink with your favorite meal. While we're at it, what was the best wine you had this year? Leave your suggestion in the comments section before you leave!


Velvet Fog said...

I've enjoyed the Beckmen Cuvee and the Four Vines Chard. They are both as advertised. Cheap, and awesome.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the link and the bit of PR ;) Neat pick with a Petit Verdot as your number one.

I had the Sebastiani Cherry Block Cabernet a couple of months ago at a dinner and it absolutely blew me away. The richness, depth and concentration of fruit was unparalleled. Not an every day wine by any means but a real treat.

Anonymous said...

Great post, as usual. I haven't had any on your list, so there's lots to look forward to. My favorite under $20 wine this year was the 2005 Domaine La Garrigue Côtes du Rhône Cuvée Romaine at $9.99. It was bold, complex, spicy, delicious. Sadly, I only bought 2 bottles. After drinking one, I would have bought a case to drink a bottle every six months, but every shop I checked was sold out.

Anonymous said...

Just off the top of my head, under $20: Hayman & Hill Chardonnay (for white) and Carr Cabernet Sauvignon for red. Will have to think about this further.

Anonymous said...

Erm, that last comment was me! For some reason the word verification is showing as my nickname.
- Carol

Joe said...

5 Puttonyos? I've been meaning to try that one.

Dr. Debs said...

Hi, Velvet Fog. This is not the first time our palates have coincided, but thanks for letting me and others know that I'm not crazy with these recommendations. Try out some of the others if you get a chance and let me know what you think. I'll add the Sebastiani, the Dom. La Garrigue, Hayman and Hill, and Carr to my to-do list for 2008. And Joe, that 5 Puttonyos is a classic expression of the furmint--gobs of orange marmalade. If you like tokaji I think you'll like this.

Anonymous said...

Nice Post Dr Debs
I think of the 20 you listed I have had wines from 3 of the wineries and as compared to the Spectator List, I can afford to try the other 17 you mention. I posted a week or so ago about the funny fact that #13 was a 100pt score and #1 was not, I just thought it was funny.
Take Care
Anything Wine

Jeff said...

I checked Cellar Tracker to see what wine I rated highest this year and saw that I had a tie - one white and one red. The 2002 Domaine Lignères Corbières Cabanon de Pascal Montagne d'Alaric was a terrific red I had from the Languedoc. My tasting note read, "This wine has the most beautiful earthiness I've ever smelled in a wine. It also includes raspberries and then some secondary aromas that have developed with bottle age. The fruit on the palate can't be described as anything but delicious. It's smooth, almost elegant, and shows a lot of 'aged' flavors. The finish is extremely long. This is the best wine I've had in a long time." My favorite white was a 2005 Alfred Merkelbach Ürziger Würzgarten Riesling Spätlese. My note says, "At first the nose was primarily apricots, peaches and slate but an hour later the petrol really came out. Two hours later the nose really came together and was complex and beautiful. The palate has weight but is as light as a feather and it is silky smooth. This has such beautiful balance and integration that I can’t wait to watch it evolve – I’ve got five more bottles."

The best part of it all is that as I read what I wrote at the time, I can still recall the taste. I love that about wine.

Escafeld Vineyard Diary said...

Thanks so much and here's to a very Merry Christmas!

Anonymous said...

Hey, Doc, the Royal Tokaji 2000 is a great wine but the SPR is $32. Where did you find it for $20?

Dr. Debs said...

Elsbeth, you are entirely welcome. And thanks to you and yours who made such a glorious, affordable, wine.

Fred, I kid you not: it was $20 at the Novato, CA Costco in February 2007 when I purchased it. I saw your review of it recently, and left a comment, but it got eaten!