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  1. #1
    Senior Member AFKitchenknivesguy's Avatar
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    Wine...Where to Start?!

    I've always been pretty knowledgeable of the food world, with one exception: wine. I was in a wine store today talking to the clerk, and although he was helpful I found him to be stretching in some of my questions. One of the main questions I had for him was, at what price point do you find the rate of diminishing returns with wine? I understand a $500 wine will likely be much better than a $25 one. But is a $75 one much better than a $25 one? Putting country origin, styles, grapes, and such out of play, what are some fairly readily available wines do you suggest? Up to this point, i've been a drink what I like guy but I would like to spread my wings. Snobs are welcome!
    Jason

  2. #2
    Senior Member EdipisReks's Avatar
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    the only way to become knowledgable about wine is to drink a lot of wine. a lot. a $500 bottle is not all that likely to be better than a $75, btw, at least when it comes to French wine. hype is a thing.

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    There are some wines that are CLEARLY in another class even to the uneducated pallet. Unfortunately, most of the time, they are in another price class. The trick is finding the really good ones that are still cheap. When people first rediscovered Malbecs, some of the really good Argentine ones could be had for $10 a bottle or less. Not so much now and I think that the quality has slipped a little since they got hot, much like the quality of some cigars slipped in the early to mid 90's when the demand for them exploded. With that said, with some careful shopping, $75 can get you a pretty damn good wine from places like California. it used to get you the second tier wines from French vineyards. like Forts de Latour which were damn fine, but I am not sure about that now, especially with what they are asking for the first growth stuff..

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    I would say that over $100 definitely has diminishing returns, but it probably starts well benenth that. One of the good things that came out of the recession was the way over the top wine snobbery that was going on changed into most people seeking better value as almost everyone dropped a price range or two. People that would drink $80-100 bottles on a regular basis lowered to $50, and so on. A lot more people looking for the good $10-25 bottles of wine. I normally stay in the $15-30 range, though I am very cyclical on how often I drink.

  5. #5
    Das HandleMeister apicius9's Avatar
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    I will leave specific recommendations to others, I have been out of the wine game for too long. And, of course, there are no fixed rules. But I always refused to spend more than $100 for a single bottle of wine and only made very few exceptions to that - only one of which was worth it without any doubt (Chateau d'Yquem 1990 half bottle). You can clearly find excellent wines in the $20-30 range, beyond that, enjoyment clearly correlates with experience IMHO. You will also develop preferences with experience. This can become a whole new obsession, so be careful I always found it most helpful to focus on one area for a while and drink a range of different ones, like Spanish reds in a certain price range from different regions or different grapes from the same region etc. At least I learned that way what my general preferences are. A $500 burgundy is wasted on me, I just don't understand or like pinots enough.

    To come back to the ROI, I always found the curve to flatten out considerably before I got to $100. Of course, most Bordeaux drinkers will laugh at me But for $100 you almost get a decent bottle of Single Malt

    Stefan

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    Senior Member AFKitchenknivesguy's Avatar
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    Ironically I lived near the Rhein river and wine country for three years in Germany in my early twenties. I was just too young to appreciate the wonderful wines. I did live in Bitburg and could see the Bitburger factory from my apartment.
    Jason

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    LOL. I was in Germany for about 6 months back in the 80's and never tried the wine. Too busy trying as much of the beer as I could.
    Quote Originally Posted by AFKitchenknivesguy View Post
    Ironically I lived near the Rhein river and wine country for three years in Germany in my early twenties. I was just too young to appreciate the wonderful wines. I did live in Bitburg and could see the Bitburger factory from my apartment.

  8. #8
    I'm getting back in the wine game now - been out of it for a few years. But I still feel the same way as before - wherever your price point is, finding good wine is just a matter of diligence, it just requires more at the low end, and less as you go up in price.

    However, I will also say that it totally depends on the wine you're looking for. I don't think you can not look at where the wine comes from, etc. to say that there's a universal price point where there's diminishing returns.

    Over the past few years, from what I observed, it was really difficult to find basic, decent French wines for under $15 because of the strength of the Euro. I completely quit trying to buy reasonably priced Bordeauxs because of this. So, I would say with French wines, and especially Champagne, where the number of bottles available under $30 is extremely limited (excluding sale prices), your ROI or where you start seeing diminishing returns might be higher than, say, German Rieslings, where I've found a number of really excellent drinking wines for under $30.

    But, for example, a friend (who works for a wine store) pointed me to the J. Lassalle Preference NV Champagne. It's $29.99 and it's a killer deal. I would rather buy a case of this stuff, than 3 - 6 bottles of some higher end Champagnes.

    I've always also tended to focus on good years; you'll have to hunt more for better wines in off years. Getting to recommendations, for Alsatian wines, I would still recommend recommend the big players like Zind-Humbrecht, Hugel, Schlumberger, Schoffit. They're consistent in quality and stylistically. For Pinot Noirs, eh - go with a good maker's lower wines. I've been buying Williams-Selyem because I'm on their list and their lower priced wines are in the $40 range and are excellent, if you can find them. I don't drink many Cabernet Sauvignons anymore, or Chardonnays for that matter.

    Just off the top of my head, these are wines I've always liked that are reasonable: Bogle Phantom, Allegrini Palazzo Della Torre (haven't had this in a while but it was always consistent), Macrostie Chardonnay (again, haven't had this in a while, but always consistent), Domaine J. Laurens Cremant de Limoux (sparkling wine). If you want to take a step up to the $30-$50 range, I can recommend Delamotte NV Brut Champagne, the aforementioned J. Lassalle, vintage Laurent-Perrier Champagne and Louis Roederer Champagne in good years, Pierre Gimmonet NV Blanc de Blancs Champagne, Miura Pisoni Vineyard Pinot Noir, anything of Linne Calodo that you can find in this price range (the maker is my friend, but I stand by his wines - they're consistently really good), Newton Unfiltered Chardonnay, Williams Selyem Pinot Noirs (again, if you can find them). (Yeah, I like Champagne. I tend to prefer foods that happen to match well with Champagne; for the occasional beef or lamb, I'll definitely drink reds.)

    Stylistically, I like balanced wines, so these may not necessarily be your cup of tea. But, like Stefan pointed out - you can buy a lot of other nice stuff for $100.

    Good luck!
    Michael
    "Don't you know who he is?"

  9. #9
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    I think you should always be able to get a superb/outstanding wine in the $45-60 range if you look properly -- but of course it is very possible to find mediocre wine in this price range if you stray down the wrong path. And excellent wines in the $25-45 range are many and the easiest to find. But frankly, value hunting for wines in the $15-25 range is the most fun of all I think.

    With that said, I rarely get my wines from physical wine stores or take their recommendations. In most wine stores, I don't find the sales staff that knowledgeable and the sales people will usually recommend wines they have tried -- but in bigger stores that may only be 10-20% of the bottles on offer (if that) and even then they will not have tried them in every vintage. So you are basically filtering your wine selection through a particular person's taste who may have only tried one in ten bottles in the store. That's a pretty limiting experience IMO and more often than not leads to mediocre wine.

    Of course, there are some great stores out there too that are truly gems, and you can learn a lot from them and drink some great wine, but I find them fewer and fewer these days. As wine has exploded in the US, there is more crap wine knowledge than good advice out there. I order 90% of my wine online where I can sort, search, and filter wines in a way that matches my taste. There are even some wine stores that update their inventory hourly and let you download it in excel. Then you set up the filters and go to town on a treasure hunt. I love those places. I also order a good portion of my wine directly from wineries. Find a really good producer in your price range and try their selection of wines for a couple of years. I find it is a great way to try wines.

    Now back to my Duckhorn split

    k.
    "In Japan they don't call it Japanese food, they just call it food." -- Children's Hospital Quote

  10. #10
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    We've had some fun hunting for great wines at Trader Joe's. Well, maybe "great" isn't the right word. More like "totally worth the money and maybe then some" wines. Should be findable (provided you have a TJ's that does wine) and very affordable.

    Current favorites:
    Tribunal Red
    Liberte Cabernet Sauvignon
    Liberte Pinot Noir
    Sauvignon Republic Marlboro Sauvignon Blanc

    Plenty of great wines for more money, but as drinky said, the fun part is finding the great ones for low prices.

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