A Cheat Sheet for Grownups

Our guide to good values in wine can help you drink well for less money.

Charge up your Blackberries, iPhones and other Web-capable portable devices: The “Best Buy Cheat Sheet” (page 38) is an excellent tool for your next round of wine shopping. Go to www.winemag.com/bbcheatsheet, download the list and you’ll be fully equipped to identify wine values in wine shops and restaurants.

The Cheat Sheet presents the names of the producers whose wines have most consistently earned Best Buy designations from our tasting panelists—wines whose scores are high in relation to their retail prices. It’s a terrific guide, by region, to the brands and varieties you can stock up on for everyday drinking or entertaining. With wedding season around the corner, parents of the bride or groom (as the host of the rehearsal dinner) will find names worth pursuing.

When our editors were researching the list, going methodically through the database, they found something interesting: There was a sort of ebb and flow to producers’ release of value wines. For a year or two, a given producer might market several wines earning that high-score-low-price designation, and then for five years, nothing. Still producing wines, but not ones meriting that distinction.

You would think that once a given winery had established production facilities, stable vineyard sources and inventory control, the wines would roll out in a very consistent manner: certain level of quality, certain pricing. But you factor in agriculture, the role of pitiless Mother Nature, and an ebb and flow is almost guaranteed. And then factor in the even more pitiless world economy, and it becomes a roller coaster ride, every vintage. Which is why this industry fascinates me almost as much as wine itself, in its almost infinite variability.

Also in this issue you’ll find Michael Schachner’s report on Argentina’s thriving wine industry (page 32), with recommendations for Malbecs—talk about ebb and flow, Malbec is arguably the hottest red wine variety on the American market. But the portfolio in Argentina is diversified, and you’ll find Bonarda-based wines and Cabernet-based blends also. Paul Gregutt expands Oregon’s portfolio with his report on the wines being produced there beyond Pinot Noir (page 42). And we have Risa Wyatt’s story profiling 10 “undiscovered” wine regions—regions that are not commonly identified with wine, or regions whose wines are familiar but the regions themselves are not often visited. Either way, explore and enjoy.

Published on February 14, 2011