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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.

Comments (6)

08.26.04 at 5:02 PM

I've often noticed that their "value" wines have a hard time cresting the low 90s. In fact, they often seem to be below 90. If you read their description of how they score wines, it's hard to believe they judge it based on price, but one does have to wonder.

It's worth noting that a lot of European wines might go over $15 because of the deflated dollar; I know my annual purchase of 2-3 cases of German wine is going to be fairly painful this year.

Alder wrote:
08.26.04 at 9:54 PM

Exchange rates are certainly something to take into consideration -- I hadn't thought of that, and it certainly would help with an emphasis on Australia.

Ryan wrote:
08.27.04 at 7:48 AM

All great points. I'm of the beliefe at the moment that Spectator is all googly-eyed of Aussies right now. Almost to the point where I think they're scoring some a bit too high but that a personal thing I suppose.

Rarely has WS given Oregon (or even Washington State for that matter) much exposure. sigh.

I canceled my subscription to WS and now just buy it from the news stand if they're headlines entice me. They've lost a lot of credibility in my opinion as they're all the place with reviews and tend to favor only the big names. They can't be ignored though since everyone listens to what they say... which sucks. I wish another publication would give them a run for their money and get them to re-think their focus and efforts.

vistor wrote:
08.27.04 at 9:31 AM

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.

I agree wholeheartedly.
Pricewise, I find Californian wine significantly more expensive than comparable French wines, even when buying each locally. On my first trip to California after reaching drinking age, I was quite excited at the prospect of trying out a range of wines at reasonable prices. No luck there; I found it difficult to find anything decent around the 10-12 dollar mark. By contrast, the general quality of a bottle of French wine bought in France for, say, 10 euro, never ceases to amaze me. And yes, there are literally thousands to try.

HugeJ wrote:
08.27.04 at 3:24 PM

"I can only chalk this up to lack of imagination or if I was being paranoid, elitism and snobbery."

Its snobbery, plain and simple.

WS sucks, there's more and better wine info online without having to wade through pages of ads for luxury products and wines (Woodbridge) that nobody who reads the magazine actually buy.


Jeanne wrote:
10.07.04 at 10:02 AM

I have to agree *siiiiiigh* - only one from Germany and none from Alsace :-( Two of my favourite and highly underrated regions.

I must say though that possibly the "value for money" criterion is where they fall short. ALthough my husband and I both love German and Alsace wines, I find them relatively expensive here in the UK (apart, of course, from Black Tower, Blue Nun & Piesporter... but we won't go there!) - I guess the law of supply and demand dictates that the less popular they are here, the higher the prices will stay, the less popular they are doomed to remain. It's a vicious circle.

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