That’s not to say that it’s a buyer’s guide for value wine drinkers. The average release price ticked up $2 to $46 per bottle, and wines costing $20 or less took only 28 spots on this year’s Top 100 (and only one in the Top 30). Yet that’s a significant improvement over 2011, when only 12 affordable wines made the list and 10 percent of the anointed wines had triple-digit price tags.
(Some of our favorites from the 2010 list, like the Bodegas LAN Rioja Crianza 2006, are still widely available for bargain prices, so it’s worth revisiting the columns from 2010 and 2011).
Of the 28 wines on the 2012 list with a release price of $20 or less, only seven of those are listed under $15 a bottle, a somewhat more realistic a threshold for everyday drinking for the rest of us. And not all of them are available locally.
Among the familiar reds are Michele Chiarlo Barbera d’Asti Superiore Le Orme 2009 from Italy’s Asti region and Côtes du Roussillon-Villages Les Vignes de Bila-Haut 2010, from Michel Chapoutier, one of the most highly regarded winemakers in France.
Barbera d'Asti le Orme is consistently good and a bargain at its customary price of between $13 and $15 a bottle, but it’s available for just $11.99 at Total Wine stores in Virginia, $12.99 at Total Wine in Maryland. And for at least one more day it’s on sale at Mongtomery County Liquor stores for just $11.49 a bottle (regularly $13.69).
“Sweet blackberry, plum and pomegranate fruit is fresh and vibrant as this red unfolds across the palate,” wrote Bruce Sanderson in the September 30 issue of Spectator. “Hints of flowers and spices intermingle, but this is more about the juicy fruit. Drink now through 2018.”
We bought Chapoutier Les Vignes de Bila-Haut 2010 by the case back in June, when wine shops all over town were putting it on sale – and subsequently running out (see This 94-point French red bargain won’t last). You can still find it on the shelves at Rodman’s or Potomac Wine & Spirits in DC or Finewine.com in Gaithersburg, though the 2010 vintage that earned 94 points from influential critic Robert Parker and the No. 38 spot on the Spectator Top 100 might be hard to find. The vintage on shelves could be 2009 or 2011, yet this is another remarkably consistent wine that should not disappoint regardless of the vintage at its typical price of $13 to $15 a bottle.
“This lithe, powerful red offers concentrated cherry, plum tart and blackberry flavors that feature plenty of spicy notes,” wrote Spectator's Kim Marcus of the 2010 vintage, scoring it 90 points. “A dark chocolate accent lingers on the firm, moderately tannic finish. Best from 2014 through 2018.”
“This juicy red shows crushed red fruit flavors that are supple and lively,” he said of the 2009 vintage. “Damson plum and violet notes fill the finish.”
“Blueberry in fresh and distilled form; fennel and licorice; almond and cherry pit; crushed stone and peat entertain nose and palate, with glyceral richness helping to ameliorate the considerable grain of tannin, and leading to a finish of satisfying length,” wrote David Schildknecht of the 2009 vintage in the June 2011 issue of Wine Advocate, scoring the wine 89 points. He added (presumably for those of us who couldn't begin to decipher those tasting notes):“This excellent value should drink well for at least the next 2-3 years.”
We’ll highlight a few of the more obscure bargains hidden in the Spectator Top 100 next week. But until then, you can keep your eyes peeled for these familiar labels.
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