Wine ratings and price points both count

March 31, 2014

Any opinions on women’s emancipation after reading this quote, drop me an email: "A woman should never be seen eating or drinking, unless it be lobster salad and Champagne, the only true feminine and becoming viands,” wrote Scottish poet Lord Byron. Read “She Walks in Beauty” to get a glimpse of the turn-of-the-18th-century plight of women of means. “You’ve come a long way, ladies!”

Many asked about the latest on Tempranillo. Recently I sampled Bodegas Aster Finca el Otero Ribera del Duero 2009, WS 92 and Jose Penin 94. Slightly balsamic nose gives way to cherry and licorice flavors with mineral notes riding a balanced fruit, firm tannin and acid frame. Drink 2014-20. This wine came on at $48 but due to a decline in the Euro and the more severe problems with the Spanish economy, this lovely can be found for less than $20 or $17 if buying a case.

Rich wrote, “What is the score range you use?” Although it may vary from reviewer to critic, I prefer: 95-100 = exceptional; 90-94 = excellent; 80-89 very good; 70-79 acceptable; under 60 not recommended. Generally 50 percent of the wine I sample falls between 86 and 91 points. I usually add price points because, in the final analyses, those reading my advice would prefer to know that three cases of 93-point La Follette Sonoma Coast Sangiacomo Vineyard 2009 Pinot Noir priced under $450 to one case of Vincent Girardin Charmes Chambertin Grand Cru 2008, 92 points, for $1,404/case, deserves 2 price points. Or 95.

The only way to get a read on experts or critics is to sample their recommendations and learn whose description most closely matches your own tastes. Always remember, when it comes to comestibles, your opinion is more valuable than anyone else's.  Baloots smell awful and look worse, and the best Beluga caviar is just ugly, salty, frog’s-egg-looking goop to many people.

No amount of expert opinion and tasting will resolve that favorably for them.

Haven’t written of Gewurztraminer in ages. Sadly, aficionados are few and far between. Too bad in today’s environment of Indian, fusion, Asian, sushi and Central American cuisine, because it goes so well with all of them with their rich, spice-laden profiles. I found one from the North Fork of Long Island, N.Y. Winemaker Mark Frey does a wonderful job with most of the estate-bottled, Alsatian varietal wines he produces at Lenz Vineyard and Winery. The 2009 Gewurz opens with a rose petal, pineapple, black tea and honeysuckle bouquet. More pineapple on the rich palate that is highlighted by hints of jasmine, lychee, ginger and pie spices. Finishes long, dry and clean. A great food wine for $18. McD 89 points.

Bodega Norton Malbec Reserva Lujan de Cuyo 2011 is on sale. It was chosen No. 36 on WS 2013 top 100.

This is the second year in a row. It was awarded 92 points. Smart shoppers will be able to locate cases under $150. The 2008 and 2009 were rated 90 points.

So, extra-smart shoppers will try to find a vertical of three each 2008-11 for a very reasonable price, less than $180, and still allow your trusty local broker to make a reasonable profit.

These are old vine and aged in French oak. It is difficult to see how Riccitelli, the winemaker since 1992 and WS winemaker of the year in 2013, can produce this quality at these prices. Look for raspberry, mocha, ganache, mesquite and plum riding silky tannins to a creamy finish. Norton’s Malbec Reserva will give you five or six years on the shelf, so try them, then buy what you can afford of the 2010 and 2011. I’m guessing the 2012 will follow.

The next label up at Norton is Privada.

The 2008 and '09, 94 points, are going for low $20s. I don’t think they are worth it, but many think they are a steal. One caveat from me, I don’t really care much for Malbec. While that shouldn’t cloud my judgment, I’m guessing it does.

La Chateau Bienfaisance Saint-Emilion Grand Cru 2008, 90-92 points, just flashed on my screen at $23/bottle with free shipping on a case, down from $420/case. This is a great buy for dinner wine.

Looks like I’m over my word limit. Enjoy your week!

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