The Grapevine

What Your Wine Shop Customers Are Reading – Wine Spectator 10/31/14

September 25th, 2014

The new Wine Spectator just landed in our inbox and I have to admit, I’m a bit excited! Not my usual reaction to WS, but this month the Loire gets a cover mention: France’s Loire Valley: Food-Friendly Values. [level-members]

Alas, the Loire isn’t the star of the cover, or the issue. That’s Italy, Sicily in particular, along with Tuscany and Umbria.

The Cheese column is a nice look at how to explore the cheese world with something of a plan in place. It includes a nice sidebar on how to talk to your cheesemonger. Great news for wine shop owners, since damn few wines don’t show themselves off to best advantage with a well-matched cheese.

The Spirits column focuses on bourbon and the Kentucky Bourbon Trail. ( If you’re in the area… or have clients who like to pair travel with their wine and booze interests …

Flaccianello, from Fontodi winery in Panzano, gets the Retrospective treatment, with scores and prices running back to 1981. Back then the wine scored a 76; it hasn’t been below 90 in the past decade and only twice below that magic mark in the past 20 years. At $120 for the current release, your audience is likely to be limited, but don’t be surprised to find a curious, deep-pocketed few.

Savvy Shopper section gives us the following: Castillo di Ama’s Chianti Classico San Lorenzo Gran Selezione 2010 is highly recommended at 95 points and $52. Alain Voge Cornas les Veilles Vignes 2011 is $85, scores 95 points, and is Collectible. Elk Cove’s Pinot Noir Willamette Valleye 2012 is a 90-point Smart Buy at $29. And the Best Value pick o’ the issue is the 87-point Castle Rock Sauvignon Blanc Mendocino County 2013. It is $10.

James Laube’s column is again a bright spot. His discussion of the two extreme ends of the wine spectrum in terms of price and perceived value is fantastic. Basically, he asks whether Screaming Eagle, the cult cab that sells for $850 a bottle, and “Two Buck Chuck,” the mass market wine that sells for $2 in California and $3 elsewhere, make sense. Both do, in his estimation. And I think he’s right. (And I can’t say I’m not eager to try them both, but I’m not sure either should be the focus of anyone’s wine exploration.

The article on Italy includes long lists of notable wines from Sicily, Tuscany and Umbria. The Sicilian list includes more than 30 red wines at 90 points or above ranging in price from $22 to $100, with most in the $30-$70 range. Labels include COS, Passopisciaro, Cusumano, Girolamo Russo, Ariana Occhipinti, and Spadafora, all with multiple entries. Whites were a shorter list, with about 10 90-point bottlings ranging in price from $30 to $69. COS is on this list, as well.

Tuscany has a shorter, dearer list of top reds: 10 wines all at 95 or above and ranging from $50 to $625. Top values are interesting in that prices are much friendlier for the 90-93 point wines. Castello Di Volpaia tops the list, Tommasi is right behind, followed by Avignonesi, Nozzole, Antinori, and others.

Umbrian wines are surprisingly expensive given their less-widely-known reputation. WS identifies 9 wines at 90 points or better. Prices range from $38 to $100.

Loire coverage is titled, “Challenges in the Loire” and includes this quote from a winemaker. “The 2012 vintage was one rich in lessons and will serve as a reference for years to come.” Hmm. The vintage is rated in the mid 80s across the region, but James Molesworth still finds no shortage of wines above 90 points. Prices range from $17 to $110 with most ranging in the $20 to $50 range. [/level-members]