The Best Wine Values of 2012

* A version of this column originally ran in the on-line edition of the Knoxville News Sentinel.

One of my favorite columns to write each year is a recap of the best wine values. 2012 had its fair share of remarkable values, due in large part to the influx of new and original domestic blends. Although there were quite a few leading the charge, one red blend really stood out. And as always, Europe continued to export extraordinary values geared more towards food lovers. Sit back and enjoy, for these are the best your dollar could buy in 2012.

Best French Value
The Grand Veneur Reserve Cote du Rhone by Alain Jaume is an amazingly rich wine with inky, crimson hues. Its bouquet shows off a dichotomy of rustic aromas and dried cherries, backed up by pomegranate tastes and a decadent finish. What a fabulous food wine!

Best Spanish Value
Ahhh, if only our market could get more Jorge Ordonez wines and get them regularly. It’s not just the wine that’s missing the boat ride over. This Spanish importer represents some of the best values that all of Europe has to offer. The 2010 El Chaparral by Vega Sindoa is Garnacha at its best, diverse and complex in aromas, easily enjoyable and inspiring in flavor. This wine is all about the fruit forward style. Runner up: 2009 Evohe Garnacha

Best Red Blend Value
What Ste. Michelle Wine Estates does for Washington in producing varietally correct, affordable wines, Bogle Vineyards does the same for California. And although Washington State led the charge years ago with early introductions of red blends, the release of the 2010 Bogle Essential Red proves that getting into the game a little later can make for a better game plan. Runner up: Concannon Crimson & Clover

Best Rosé Value
Any consumer would be fortunate to find this French Rosé still shelved at their favorite wine shop, let alone any of the fine Rosés from the 2011 vintage. The Hecht & Bannier Languedoc-Roussillon Rosé had a lot of stiff competition this year, including Oregon’s latest venture with the Acrobat Rosé. But its amazing blood orange color and raspberry/ strawberry fruit punched a whole lot of would be contenders down the rankings. Runner up: 2011 Michel Chapoutier Les Vigne Bila Haut Rosé

Best Zinfandel Value
Earlier in August, I blogged that the 2010 DeLoach Russian River Valley Zinfandel was the new “it” wine. There may not have been a ton to go around but this spicy tongue enticer was a summertime BBQ’s best friend. Runner-up: 2009 Brazin Lodi Zinfandel

Best Chilean & Best Sauvignon Blanc Value
With more grapefruit, lime and tropical expressions than a banana republic, it’s no wonder that the 2011 Leyda Sauvignon Blanc took home two “Best Of” awards. Sauvignon Blanc Runner-up: 2010 Vavasour from New Zealand

Best Italian Value
It’s done it again. This isn’t the first time that a southern Italian co-op topped the charts. The 2009 Colosi Rosso is easy drinking Nero d’Avola from Sicily. Runner-up: 2009 Masi Chianti Riserva

Best Cabernet Value – 2009 Milbrant Traditions Cabernet. Runner-up: 2009 Columbia Crest H3 Cabernet

Best Austrian Value – 2011 Wimmer Gruner Veltliner

Best Merlot Value – 2008 Santa Ema Merlot

Best Malbec Value – 2009 Trapiche Broquel from Argentina

Best Chardonnay Value – 2010 Four Vines from Santa Barbara

Best Sparkling Value – Lamarca Prosecco Brut NV and Cupcake Prosecco NV

Sassy Sauvignon Blanc is all about the grapefruit

Napa Valley’s most notorious cult winery, Screaming Eagle, just released its whopping 600-bottle production of Sauvignon Blanc through its preferred customer list. Normally this wouldn’t be news, except for the fact that the release price was a staggering $250 per bottle. What makes this story more ridiculous is that some of those customers were able to re-sell the same bottle for upwards of ten times the original asking price.

And if that weren’t enough to get a circus magnate screaming “sucker,” then the fact that the wine is a Sauvignon Blanc (an abundant white grape that’s easy to vinify and not the most noble of keepsakes) should be. Regardless of the inclination of some consumers to overpay for certain wines, Sauvignon Blanc shouldn’t be one of those.

Sauvignon Blanc-based wines have universally become associated with the essence and flavor of grapefruit. Although it is planted and made into crisp, refreshing wines from California to France to New Zealand, Sauvignon Blanc holds true to this expressive citrus character despite its globetrotting presence.

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