‘E’ Wine of the Week
By Bruce Cochran
For more than 20 years, I taught a continuing education course on how to find wine bargains. This week, we’ll discuss some of my all time best strategies for finding wines whose quality exceeds their price.
Next week is E Wine issue 300, which means that same number of weeks for the weekly wine ‘mini lessons’ and recommendations.
Try a new wine this week!
California Karma Cabernet Sauvingon
While there are always price increases and decreases concomitant with supply and demand in any given year, there are also “timeless strategies” for finding wines whose quality exceeds price. My top three timeless strategies include:
1) Find where a great wine is made, and look next door. I’ve found many times that an area next to a famous wine region can be nearly as good and a lot cheaper since it’s not famous. You can see this in parts of Tuscany like Maremma, satellite appellations of Bordeaux and the Rhone in France, and Lake County in northern California. There are many others.
2) Look for grape varieties or blends that are less known. With this strategy you have to be nimble and current in your information, as trends change. If you can catch a wine right before it becomes popular, or later after too many people begin to make it because of its popularity, you can find some of the wine world’s best wines at the best times to buy them. I think about New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc 10 years ago and today, and Argentine Malbec five or six years ago and today.
3) Second labels. Sometimes a winery finds itself with some wine that’s not quite good enough for the main label, yet too good to sell off to the bulk market. Sometimes it’s from a relatively young vineyard, or maybe there were weather related issues. Bottling it under a different name can be a good idea. Since the name isn’t widely known it tends to have a lower price.
Many wineries employ this strategy, but not every year and not in the same amounts every year, so the best way to find these bargain bottlings is to ask your local wine merchant.
And sometimes a winemaker will begin a side project, taking advantage of a good grape supply to produce a new wine.
I recently purchased 50 cases of a California cabernet sauvignon from Paso Robles, made by the same winemaker as Vina Robles, one of my best wineries. It’s called “California Karma” and this excellent Paso Robles Cabernet Sauvignon sells for just $13 to $14 a bottle.