Many wines in $15 price range can be good value

February 3, 2014

Recently I read that true French Cassis was available in the USA. I fondly remembered its use in a lamb demi-glace infused with the lovely flavor of black currants. Barbara and I had enjoyed this gustatory delight during a trip to Dijon, France, more than 30 years ago. Try as I did, I never was able to capture that remarkable complement with the Crème de Cassis available here. However, once I was able to latch onto a bottle of Gabriel Boudier Crème de Cassis Dijon for $30, it all came together. Folks, this is far superior to the insipid, sugar-laced trash your friendly local bar guy or gal is forced to add to your Kir Royale, provided by clueless purveyors that regard Bols or Marie Brizard as the "ne plus ultra” of cordials. Don’t get me wrong; both are fine, reputable companies, the Fords or Chevys of the cordials world. If you are into a Silver Cloud, take a ride with Boudier. BTW, for those who enjoy cooking and want to find great fruit juice concentrate, look up For terrific extracts, try

Here’s a map locating most U.S. breweries. I thought it a cool idea put together by Rachel Tepper, who credits Pop Chart Lab:

An old pal from my kiddie wrestling days stopped Barbara in the store, asking why I didn’t write up more wine in the $15 range. Although I do review that range occasionally, it is so common that most of the best of them have been reviewed to death. I decided to write about wines in that range that are “the road less traveled” in an effort to expand horizons without breaking the bank. Concha y Toro provides us with a plethora of wonderful reds in this range.

The Gran Reserva Serie Riberas comes in Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Malbec, Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon. The Malbec 2011 pours a gorgeous, deep, dark purple. The bouquet was slightly closed but opened with time and a bit of warmth to black cherry and plum with hints of tobacco.

The 2013 SB was very well received, garnering 92 points. Loads of grapefruit up front, and it finishes with bright acidity and grassy melon. For those who wish to compare values, try alongside Oyster Bay Marlborough $14, which I think is more appealing. Straw-colored, the Marlborough opens to a lime, lemon zest and passionfruit bouquet. Crisp and refreshing with powerful tropical fruit flavors reinforcing the passionfruit nose. I think the entire Serie Riberas collection is good value. As with all wines they are vintage specific, so looking on Wine Searcher or Cellar Tracker is always worth your while.

On another tack, I’d like to recommend a terrific article by Charles Passy, writing in the Jan. 27, 2014 Marketwatch, titled “Why wine ratings have nothing to do with price,” blogged Oct. 29, 2013.

Yeah, I know, I’m really behind on my reading. Anyhow, Passy writes a good hand; I referred you to him last year on Skinnygirls, “Diet wine leaves more room for cheese.” The wine rating article concerns Wine Spectator’s Wine Experience and some candid comments from Tom Matthews, who claims he shops for wine in the $15 range. Matthews says his target bottles are usually rated 87-89 points because “they tend to be good values.” Another point made by Passy is that many varietal wines are given short shrift by writers because there is little audience for them, citing Tokaji as an example. I tend to agree here. Many writers name the wine Tokay as a sop to the less or uninformed, and more’s the pity. My favorite take-away from the article: “A wine may be worthy of a 95-plus score, but if it costs $200, is it as ‘good’ as an 88-point wine that costs $15?” You, my faithful readers, know that I am careful to add price points or QPR to my recommendations where warranted, because like you and Mr. Matthews, I buy my wine with hard-earned dollars. There is something appealing about a case of 88-pointers compared to a $200 bottle. Proper cellaring and the ability to evaluate at top of the list.

Finally, please check out this old ad. I just realized that I had a lot of links in this article, but this is definitely worth your time. We’ve come a long way baby: Don’t you dare go here until you have finished the paper, ads and all. NSA will be watching and reporting on you.