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Wine Spectator's Global Values: A Few Observations

So I finally got around to perusing the latest issue of Wine Spectator that recently landed on my doorstep. This particular issue is focused on value wines, including a list of the top 150 best values from around the world. Wine Spectator defines a value wine as scoring higher than 85 on their 100 point scale and costing less than $15 a bottle.

Reading through this list, which is broken into Reds and Whites, several things struck me:

1. Fully 50% of the top 75 red values (38 in total) are from Australia. Australia is definitely a region that is in its golden years. The Aussies have been cranking out fantastic wines for nearly 2 decades, but some of the recent wines I've had from Down Under are definitely better than any I've ever tasted. And of course, one of the great things about many of these wines is that they are free of NLPS (Napa Label Price Syndrome -- which adds $15 to $20 to any mediocre wine's price tag).

I have to wonder, though, whether the folks at Wine Spectator are a little bit starry eyed about Oz, to the detriment of other wine regions, who barely made a dent in the list of 75 top red values. Spain had a paltry representation with 4 wines on the list, and Italy got shafted with only 2 wines listed. While I believe that the top Italian wines are very overpriced these days, I can't believe the editors couldn't find more than 2 that would merit a mention.

2. France only had 10 wines in the top 75 global red values, and 11 in the top 75 global white values. Sure the big chateaus are beyond the reach of most ordinary consumers, but last time I checked, there were literally thousands of lesser cru and negociant wines that were a damn sight better than most American wines in a similar price range.

The only thing I can conclude is that the Spectator folks don't bother to look very hard past the first growths and big names.

3. What happened to Oregon? Ok guys, I understand not including California in the "Global" category, especially if in the same issue you are going to highlight 50 "great" California reds under $20 and do a feature on California Sauvignon Blancs (never mind that this means you are completely failing to consider any other whites from California). But if you are going to include Washington State as part of the "global" reach, where the heck is Oregon? This was a major omission and if I was an Oregon winemaker, I would be pissed.

OK.OK. You caught me exaggerating. There was ONE Oregon wine in there. That makes everything better.

4. Only one wine from Germany and none from Alsace? Sigh. See above rant about Oregon. Now I know in the fine print of the magazine says that its readership is primarily in the USA and so it therefore "prefers to review wines that are widely available there and merit wide interest for [our] readership," but c'mon.

5. Why is the highest score in a list of the 150 best value wines in the world only a 91? I refuse to believe that a magazine with dozens of staffers and wine tasters employed full time to taste thousands of wines a year can't find one that at least hits 95. I can only chalk this up to lack of imagination or if I was being paranoid, elitism and snobbery. Now don't get me wrong, I don't expect to find a 100 point wine for twenty bucks anywhere, but ultimately, a rating system which basically requires a wine to have a $40 price tag to break through the 94 point barrier, frankly stinks.

There. I feel better already.

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Required Reading for Wine Lovers

The Oxford Companion to Wine by Jancis Robinson Wine Grapes The World Atlas of Wine by Hugh Johnson to cork or not to cork by George Taber reading between the vines by Terry Theise adventures on the wine route by Kermit Lynch Love By the Glass by Dorothy Gaiter & John Brecher Noble Rot by William Echikson The Science of Wine by Jamie Goode The Judgement of Paris by George Taber The Wine Bible by Karen MacNeil The Botanist and the Vintner by Christy Campbell The Emperor of Wine by Elin McCoy The Taste of Wine by Emile Peynaud