Making Wine Understandable

Wine Consultant to Sarasota, Tampa, Naples, Florida and Boston, Ma plus Best Wine Advice Blog

Best Wine Advice Blog provided by Rick's Wine Consultancy LLC, Sarasota, Florida 34238

Best Wine Advice Blog


Become a  Wine Expert with just 10 Minutes of Study of Wine Aromas!
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An easy method that gets you started on the road to being able to talk intelligently about wine and wine aromas.

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Is your wine aging or aged
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What you need to know about aging of wine before you buy with advice to made sure you made the right choice.

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Which White Wine is Sweet or Dry
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A review of the principal white wine varietals of the world and which are dry and which are sweet. The interplay of weather and grape varieties, wine laws and winemakers in producing wine..

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Merlot Comparison:  Blackstone Select Merlot 2016 against Bogle Vineyards Merlot 2016
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Blackstone Merlot compared to Bogle Merlot including their rating on Rick's Value Score

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An American in the Bordeaux Wine Trade
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Commercial differences between Bordeaux and California, Why Bordeaux is more regulated at the upper levels of wine than California all from an American working in Bordeaux

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Who is Rick


(Did anyone notice I resorted to a car jack to slowly decant a 6 Liter bottle of 1981 Charles Lefranc Monterey Cabernet at my daughter's day after the wedding party?  The wine was made one year only and won the rematch of the Paris Competition in 1986)

Who is Rick? I have always been a “wine guy”.  My first attempt at wine making was at 14 years old. I did not have money and resources. I tried to make wine from the Concord grapes hanging from a backyard fence. I used plywood to duplicate “barrel aging”. The results were awful. I thereby learned the first lesson of wine: that there are no magic or cheap shortcuts to wine quality. More than most things in life, with wine, you tend to truly get what you pay for. The purpose of the website is to cut down the degree to which people overpay for or unknowingly abuse wine and to point towards the occasional bargain.

After pursuing a successful career in Europe as an academic in a British University, when I returned to America with a French wife, I decided to follow my first love, wine. Through it all, including in academe, I continued my home winemaking making anything from Cotes du Rhone to orange and raisin dessert wine. I have worked for wineries and been employed in every aspect of the industry:  retail (Kappy's Liquors of Boston) and wholesale (McKesson, Branded Liquors and Martignetti Cos of New England).   I worked for small wineries and large wineries (Kendall-Jackson, Almaden, Fetzer-Bonterra etc,) importers and exporters including the time spent in Bordeaux as the export director of a major negociant at the time, AQA.   (I discuss my experiences in Bordeaux in my Best Wine Advice Blog).  I was at different times a Wine Manager for a wholesaler and a General Manager of a wholesaler, and was a representative and manager for winery sales for California and imported brands.  My intention is to pass on to you, in shortened form, what I learned over those 35+ years of experience in the wine business.  I don't have any agenda in giving my advice such as working for a store or a magazine that accepts advertising.   I have written articles for publications such as Cruising WorldThe Wizard of Wines. I work only on your behalf.


For those of you in the business

Most businesses have a need for ideas to control the cost and quality of inventory.  This is especially true in the wine business. I can certainly help you with successful ideas there.  

If an on or off premise retailer, you can avail yourself of my services to help to choose wine for a retail store or simply to organize your store to maximize sales and profits. I also write or analyze restaurant wine lists that accomplish what you intend from an image, sales and profit perspective.   I have a particular talent for tasting a wine and knowing how much longer it has "to live" under various conditions.  I would love to give you an analysis of your inventory.  It is helpful to have someone to focus on your inventory and give realistic solutions on moving through dead items or about to die items.

if you are a supplier, I would love to represent your brand and would be very flexible about what form that representation would take.

If you are a wholesaler, I can pretty much contribute to every facet of your business. Try me.


For the general public

I do wine tastings, wine lectures to your group, and other sorts of wine consulting like helping you to build a wine collection or advising on storage..


Contact me by email at ricksmwu@gmail.com: interested parties in engaging my services only, please. I spend much of my time in the Sarasota, Florida area.  The rest of the time I am in New England and Ontario, Canada. The intention of this website is to provide beginning knowledge that most other sites don't -- not to answer general wine questions by email.  Hopefully you will be intrigued enough to be curious about my services. At the moment I earn nothing from this site.   Thank you.

This time I did not have time to start from scratch so I started with grape juice and finished the wine with oak spirals!


I am also into cooking 

Basic Wine Tips


Basic wine tips for beginners


Sediment -- Be aware that older, more honestly or naturally made wines, throw a sediment the older the wine is.   Usually in 10 years and definitely in 15 years in reds and about 25 years in whites,  you should see a sediment growing at the bottom of the bottle and collecting in the area they call the punt.  It is why the older the wine, the more carefully you have to handle it.  With age, all the tannins, sulfites and other harsh things to fall out of the wine.  It is one reason, the older the wine, the better it tastes  .... to a point!   Wine is like everything, it rises to an optimum point and then it inevitably declines.  (See Aging in the tab marked Other Rules of Wine).    

Sulfites -- Sulfites are a natural product of fermentation.  Therefore, they are found in wine, yogurt, beer, vinegar etc.  If you get headaches, it may not be sulfites but imbibing wines that are too young or wines that are too cheap! (Reference my comments above).  At any rate, sulfites are measured in parts per million and generally a low sulfite wine will be around 35 PPM.  American regulations require that American produced wine be 10ppm or less to be labeled sulfite-free.  However, since sulfite levels fall off with age and the wine is tested at time of bottling .... well....you be the judge of what you can tolerate and afford!

Reserveratrol, Reserveratrol, Reserveratrol? -- It is my "Marcia, Marcia, Marcia" moment from the wine business. Reserveratrol belongs to a class of compounds called polyphenols (anti-oxidants) which are present in wines. Yes, they are good for you but there is debate about how much is present in a glass or two, or how much good that glass or two will do in the grand scheme of things.  There are claims you would have to drink a barrel or two to have any appreciative impact.  I discovered reserveratrol in the mid eighties.  A health expert who spoke at a national sales meeting in the 90's "pooh poohed" my question about reserveratrol which implied the compound had health benefits.  At one point it was given as an explanation for The French Paradox: how the French lived so long despite and diet heavy in fats and lack of exercise.  I leave it to you to decide but I must add I have never heard any one claim it is bad for you!  

Tannin,  Ketones  and other Young Stuff -- Just as all  things young tend to greater aggression and strength than the aged, certain young wines based on grapes full of tannin, such as the Cabernet Sauvignon grape from Bordeaux,  will repeat this pattern .   Tannin, for example, is found in vegetative matter and gives young wine, and strong tea for that matter, a puckering astringency you sense at the back of your palate.   This tannin, along with ketones, color pigments and other things from the grape skins and seeds can dissipate and/or drop into the sediment with age, but when the wine is young, they remain for you to drink.  They also contribute to dehydration, so beware of youth...  but they fall away with age!

Water and Wine --  A good rule of thumb, especially when drinking young wine, is to have a glass of water for every glass of wine you consume.  Dehydration minimally could  lead to a headache the day after!

White versus Red Wine -- Generally, white dehydrates less than red due to the more powerful elements coming out of the skins of red grapes.  The exception to this is a sweet wine such as Sauternes since its heavy sugar content further dehydrates.  Keep in mind, however,  that a cheap white, with lots of residual sugar/fructose to hide the quality, will likely be more trouble to your body than a quality, aged red.  Just as some restaurants add sugar to avoid cooking a tomato sauce all day to "sweeten" it,  there is a similar quality shortcut in winemaking in leaving behind a lot of grape sugar!  Again, excluding well made, intentionally sweet, late harvest wines such as Sauternes, the rule is that the drier the wine, the better the bottle.  

White before Red?  You may drink white before red with little peril but watch out for white after drinking red  (regarding beer, the rule is never wine before beer but many tolerate beer before wine).

Wine and Dehydration
People often ask me "How do you tell a good from a bad wine?' I reply, "The next day!" Good wine should not give you a headache if you exercise care. Anything which dehydrates apparently increases some people's tendency to such things as headaches or a feeling of seasickness and all alcoholic beverages dehydrate. Absolutely avoid foods and beverages that put your stomach on edge and increase a tendency to dehydration. Below are certain generalizations about wine which you may follow to help avoid problems.



Other Rules of Wine


Other Rules of Wine
Hopefully, most eyes will see the picture to the right as brick red with browning edges eventually heading to red brown!  (See explanation below)


Other Rules of Wine

Aging
    This is one of the more complicated topics of wine but I will make some summary judgments for you. These are the most general of rules.  When I say you can keep 5 years, for example, I am using the vintage date as a starting point. And when I say you can keep it more time, that assumes proper storage at 52-55 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • If the wine costs less than $12.00 a bottle, it was meant to be drunk that night.
  • If it costs between $12.00 and $20.00 a bottle, you can drink it that night or keep it (52 to 55 degrees F) for up to 5 years to 10 years additional depending on the grape used.  
  • If it costs between $20.00 to $30.00 and is white, you can drink it that night or keep it (52 to 55 degrees F) for up to 5 years. If red, you can drink that night or for 10 to 15 additional years.
  • If it costs over $30.00 a bottle and is white, you can drink it that night or keep it for minimally an additional 10 years.  If red, you can drink that night or for minimally an additional 15 years.
Additional note is that wine corks generally deteriorate from 25 years and older

Travel
     Wine reacts to travel, whether that be travelling home from the store or travelling from another country on a container ship.  Some general rules are reds react more that whites and the older the wine, the greater need for rest.  
     Say you just bought a 20 year old red at a store.   Two questions have to enter in you mind.  Where has it been for those 20 years before you thought of buying it (in temperature controlled storage for most of those 20 years or on the retail shelf at room temperature)?  Second, if I do decide to buy it, in taking it home, will it be sufficiently agitated in the car to not need repose?  That is one reason why wine for tonight's consumption, generally, you would do well to buy it young.  We use a term in the wine business  called bottle sickness which describes this condition about after a month of bottling.  A variation is when you agitate it too much.  It is like seasickness in humans.  There is nothing wrong with the wine.  It just needs to rest up from its travels.

Corks
     You can tell how long the winemaker things the wine will last by the cork used. The shorter the cork, the shorter the life expectancy of the wine.  Beaujolais or fighting varietal for ten bucks a bottle?  Short cork.   Fine Napa Cabernet Sauvignon or fine Bordeaux?  Long cork.    
     Store the bottle on its side to keep the cork moist so that it maintains a good seal.  Under $15 a bottle, some wineries are using other methods of sealing like screw caps and artificial cork.  The results so far seem positive but you notice under $15 a bottle wines are not meant to be kept a long time.  The jury is still out on the over $15 a bottle.  See me again in 30 years.
The other night I went to a wine tasting and pointed out that one wine was corked. Roughly 4% of wines from California have this issue to various degrees (similar problems exists wine from outside California). I knew what the problem was and insisted they open a second bottle of the same wine which everyone liked! Classic corked wines have a stinky, musty smell of old gym socks. There are varying degrees of "corkiness". If you suspect the wine is corked, stop right there and don't continue to drink the wine. If you only have drunk a small amount, take the wine back to the store for a new bottle. It is hard to go back (or ballsy), if you have drunk the bottle down.


Storage
Constant 52-55 degrees Fahrenheit  and 80% humidity is optimum.  The warmer or to a lesser extent the colder the wine gets, the shorter the lifespan.  Never, for example, keep it for six months above 75 degrees, stored upright, drying out the cork. All three factors are bad for the wine. You are really taking a chance and the more expensive the wine, unfortunately the more likely the damage.  
Avoid sunlight in storing wine.
Don't buy wine that has spent a long time in a store which turns the air conditioning off at night.  The worst thing for wine is a constant fluctuation in temperature.  If you buy it from a store with wine racks, at least  take a bottle from the bottom of a rack, closer to the floor where it is cooler.
Wine is subject to all the laws of physics so that the warmer to temperature, the more it is affected by temperature -- any chemical reaction increases with heat.
If you are in Sarasota area, a modern facility in every way for storing wine at a reasonable price has opened up that is run by super nice people off of Fruitville Road called Cellar Fifty -Five. Check it out!

If you live in an area with basements or cellars, you have some options which are not as expensive as building a full fledged wine cellar.  If the walls and floor are exposed concrete or stone,  8 feet below the ground you will notice the temperature should be 45 -55 degrees, not allowing for heat produced by pipes, your central heating system etc.   If you protect that area from the aforementioned  heat sources, you will find it is the correct temperature for storing wine.   Find a corner where two sides are exposed concrete walls and also you will have the concrete floor giving off coolness.   Lay cement blocks (you don't even have to mortar them) to construct the 3rd and 4th walls of your little space.  All that you will need then is a top cover (you can use anything which has insulating value like Styrofoam) and  there you have it.  Make the space appropriate to the number of bottles in your wine collection.  If you have more than a few dozen good bottles, you have to do a little more than I suggest but this gives you a beginning idea.  The principle is you want to conserve the natural cold of the cellar.  You want to spend your money on wine, not wine storage.

Color
The color of a wine is generally an indication of how "fresh" it is in the bottle.  It is a sign of how advanced in the aging process it is (oxidized) and you can usually tell if the wine is gone without tasting it.  The following is the color change a wine undergoes over time.  This chart is produced without examples of the color because I cannot be sure of the veracity with which it will rendered by your browser.   Sorry.
  
    Reds    from purple to brown 
      Purple
      Ruby red
      Red
      Brick red   (this is the danger point for reds
      Red brown
      Brown

   Whites   from Pale yellow green to Brown
     Pale yellow green
     Straw yellow
     Yellow gold
     Gold
     Old gold
     Yellow brown
     Maderized
     Brown

Sugar Levels vs Alcohol


Sugar Levels vs Alcohol is an old wine making debate. The grape inherently has a certain amount of sugar that the winemaker can ferment and turn into alcohol through the action of yeast. The longer the fermentation goes on, the lower the sugar and the greater the alcohol. Wine making styles, both individual and regional, further complicate generalizations.  Depending on the grape variety, where it was grown (receiving more or less sun), how long it was left on the vine etc etc etc.  There are a myriad of factors at play making the process very interesting and very complicated.  A wine maker is dealing with more variables than a chef and there is more on the line with every decision they make.  A chef gambles one meal at a time;  the winemaker is playing with the whole "house" every day.  Plus this stress goes on continuously throughout the year as they are involved in such decisions as the trellising used and whether to severely prune to let in more sun or less depending on the weather and so on.  At first in sounded so romantic and then I looked at the salaries versus the levels of stress.  It did not compute?  I digress. But the most important decision for sugar levels in the grapes at harvest is when to pick the grapes ...that is a gamble the more capricious the weather of your region.  Bordeaux, for example, has found ways to adjust the wine if they had edgy weather but it is frankly in that regard generally a bit easier to make wine tn California.


Helping Mother Nature

Wines also are made sweeter through the addition of sugars.   Sometimes it is because the grapes in a bad year beg for it.  Sometimes the public having been now accustomed to the modern diet, demands that sweetness.   The French allow winemakers to add, in a bad year, measured amounts of even sucrose.  California does not allow that but allows the addition of fructose (fruit sugar)  generally even to create a flavor profile.  Same difference?


Brix as an Expression of Potential Alcohol

One way to express the potential alcohol in a wine is a measurement called degrees brix. It looks at the grams of sugar, both glucose and fructose, contained in 100 grams of the total juice. Then you multiply the brix times a factor of .55 - .60 (generally .60 is used for white wines fermented at colder temperatures) and you arrive at the potential alcohol of the wine. For example, in 2013 the average brix of chardonnays harvested in California was 23.8 degrees. Since most Chardonnay today is cold fermented, we have .60 x 23.8 or 14.28 % potential alcohol. That doesn’t mean that the winemaker is going to make a wine with 14.28% but he could. The price he pays is that he has to ferment to total dryness. This is how our same chart would look for whites by varietal by potential sweetness in the grape.



Examples of Brix for Some White Wine Varieties

For the year 2013, California state averages,  a  Chenin Blanc was potentially the driest and Viognier was potentially the sweetest grape.

Varietal

Brix

Chenin Blanc

20.1

Riesling

21.9

Malvasia

21.4

Semillon

22.1

Pinot Gris/Pinot Grigio

22.5

Sauvignon Blanc/Fume Blanc

23.0

Gewurztraminer

23.6

Chardonnay

23.8

Viognier

25.4


By Wine Varietal


By Wine Varietal


With American and other "New World" wines, the varietal name comes first and then comes the appellation(locality).  

       If you know where something comes from, you know the thing?.... Sort of like your parents wanting to know about the other kids parents of the person you are dating?  Once you know where the wine comes from, the more specific the location, the more you can pinpoint the location on a map, not only you will know everything about the grapes used, wine making practices, how it should taste  etc. also the more the wine will cost you.  Europeans used to drink the local wine and that kind of system was fine when you have to know a small number of local appellations for a similarly small number of local dishes which go with these wines.   This system is not well adapted to the modern world which is more  pluralistic and international tastes.   At one distributor I worked for in Massachusetts we carried 12,000 wines from all over the world.  

A total neophyte could cope with the varietal names.  It took study to understand the appellation or  Old World system   Going varietal was a great boon to the New World. It was a great marketing move by New World Wineries.  Is it easier to market thousand of brands from many entire countries as simply as chardonnay than as  Meursault, Puligny-Montrachet or Chassagne-Montrachet, small places in a very limited production in Cotes-de-Beaune France which is, you guessed it, chardonnay.  The snob factor, however, in knowing  European wines is hard to resist?


With European wines the appellation (locality) is more important and the varietal second --whether a varietal or a percentage of a varietal is either allowed or not depends on the rule for that appellation (locality).  

This  appellation based system is better for people like me with an academic bent.  It is like the old system of classification with index cards that every American child was taught to organize their thoughts, and then some.  Think of classifying wine like   I.France     I.A Bordeaux    I.A.1.Medoc      1.A .1.a Margaux     Going back to chardonnnay from Puligny-Monrachet mentioned above, we would have France, then Burgundy, then Cotes-de-Beaune , then Puligny-Monrachet then there is the further classification of wines from that region into hierarchies of different levels based on the actual vineyards: Premier Grand Crus, Seconds Grands Crus  and Troisiemes Grands Crus.  In other words, the "government" guarantees that if you use a certain appellation on the level, you will abide by the rules of that appellation, but I digress.


To help you decide, here are some common varietals :  


Body/“Mouthfeel” of the More Common Varietals – Lighter to Heavier

These are broadest of generalizations but at least it is a frame of reference for beginners.  This is especially true if the wine is under $12.00 a bottle retail.  Semillon, for example, is totally different if you are talking about an expensive French Sauternes. This is only a sketch to start building your wine knowledge.

Whites         Lighter to Heavier

  1. Riesling                            Less Body
  2. Pinot Gris/Pinot Grigio
  3. Sauvignon Blanc/Fume Blanc
  4. Chardonnay
  5. Semillon
  6. Malvasia
  7. Chenin Blanc
  8. Viognier
  9. Gewurtraminer             More Body


Pink

  1. White Zinfandel
  2. White Merlot
  3. White Cabernet


Red       Lighter to Heavier

  1. Beaujolais (Gamay)   Less Body
  2. Pinot Noir
  3. Cabernet Franc
  4. Sangiovese
  5. Merlot
  6. Cabernet Sauvignon
  7. Barbera
  8. Zinfandel
  9. Aglianco
  10. Nebbiolo
  11. Syrah/Shiraz
  12. Mourvedre
  13. Petite Syrah
  14. Malbec                     More Body



By Appellation


By Appellation By Appellation
By Appellation


Simple rule by appellation stated again:   American wines are principally controlled  by varietal name whereas European wines by their place of origin or appellation. This means that American wines, by way of example,  marketed with the name of a varietal, like chardonnay,  minimally have to have 75% of that varietal in the bottle.    European wines tell you where the wine is from prominently on the label and must meet all the rules of that location.  These rules are less strict the more general the appellation.  The "older" and more experienced that, for example California, becomes with the fact that the same grape grown different locations produce different flavors, the more with time these generalizations mute over time.  You can refer to my blog comments about this very issue.  

Granted, a general rule for wines, both American and European, is that the more specific the location down to a specific vineyard, the more expensive the wine. Examples would be California vs the more specific Napa Valley a place within California or Bordeaux vs the more specific Margaux, a place within Bordeaux. You would never see Languedoc command the prices of Pauillac in Bordeaux but it is entirely feasible for one county in California to try to vie with another.

Sticking with chardonnnay from Puligny-Monrachet in Burgundy mentioned in the preceding web page, there is also the classification of wines from that region into hierachies of different levels based on the actual vineyards: Premier Grand Crus, Seconds Grands Crus and Troisiemes Grands Crus.  There is a hierarchy institutionalized into law for how good the wine is.  No such thing exists in the New World.  The New World is, as I say, a marketer's dream.

Let's use the example of Puligny-Montrachet, Troisiemes Grand Cru, Le Champ Canet.  Understand that the wine could pretend to any of these appellations I am about to give but unless there is some flaw that makes it necessary to have a lower appellation, for economic reasons you would obviously take the higher to which you are entitled.  The difference in price is enormous.
  1. French table wine
  2. Burgundy wine
  3. Cotes-de-Beaune 
  4. Meursault
  5. Meursault Le Champ Canet
Say you are a person who made a wine from Le Champ Canet and you made a little more than that very specific appellation allows?  You would have to sell the excess to be part of a more generic Meursault blend.   With a New World Winery, to play with over production you play with your reputation; the Old World seems to follow a different route hoping to let it not reach that level because once someone transgresses against the appellation, it is no longer a game involving just their personal wine. 





grapewh.gif (1067 bytes) White Wines  Acidity and Alcohol
 (Higher levels of either, especially acidity, tends to aid longevity)  High alcohol wines that are young, highly fruity and low in acids (due to either special fermentations that lower acids such as malolactic fermentation or not being fermented to dryness leaving behind fruit sugars) are the young wines the modern public seems to prefer. These wines are more difficult to store than wines which are higher in acids.
On the chart below, "H" signifies higher, "M" is medium and "L" tends to lower: remember...these are broad, relative generalizations.
For alcohol, typically Low = 9 - 11% , Medium = 11 - 12.5% and High = 12.5 - 14%

I. The Family of Wines Based Upon Chardonnay Grapes
OriginAlcoholAcidityYears for Best Drinking

---
AustraliaM / HL / M2 to 4
ChileM / HL / M2 to 4
California---
MendocinoM / HM / H3 to 5
NapaHL / M2 to 5
SonomaM / HL / M2 to 5
Santa BarbaraM / HL / M2 to 5
France---
La Bourgogne (Burgundy) La Côte de Beaune---
(Puligny, Montrachet, Meursault etc.)L/MM / H3 to 15
La Basse Bourgogne (Chablis)L/MH3 to 15
Chalonnais - Mâconnais (Pouilly, Fuissé, Mâcon)L/MM / H 3 to 5
LanguedocM/HL/M2 to 4

  to be continued..........

Ricks Picks


"Life is too short to drink badly made wine"

Each time I encounter  a "find", I will notify you via Rick's Picks.  More as a way for you to think like a savvy buyer than to imagine you might find the exact same wine at the exact or lower price than I found it.  You probably will not discover exactly the same thing, but it will give you a good idea of what to look for in a wine and how to screen out the bad from the good: the strategies of finding a good wine at a good price.  

I have developed a rating system which calculates on a 100 point scale. It ranks how good a buy the wine is at the time of tasting. I call it Rick's Value Score.  This includes marks for appearance, varietal aromas, vinous aromas, bouquet , mouthfeel,, lack of off flavors, finish, and remaining life expectancy.

Why, you ask, did I bother to create this method of evaluating wine when perfectly good systems already exist such as Wine Spectator's 100 point scale? Simple, the Wine Spectator scale is useful for them but I wanted a cleaner system that was not so opaque to the beginning consumer.


For example, in their February, 2019 issue, they summarize the results of 15,017 tastings. 3% received a rating of 95 to 100, 43% a score between 90 to 94, 47% between 85 to 89, 6% between 80 and 84 and below 80, less than 1%. In other words, it offers all the diversity of wine they tasted summarized in a 20 point difference.  There is no underlying map of how they arrive at these scores. For the beginner, I felt it would be much more useful to have a  scale that reflects more like a bell curve and less like grade inflation. 




Guigal Crozes-Hermitage 2015

I was really worried that this excellent drinking wine would not score so well on Rick's Value Score. I was concerned that when you added the 10 categories up, it would come up short. Having represented this wine as a wholesaler for many years, I still buy it today as the go to wine for those times I want to treat myself to a very good but not bank account emptying experience that is guaranteed to please.  I wondered if the Value Score would hold. I was not disappointed. 
Rich without being unctuous, clear, ripe syrah flavors shone through. Firm mouth feel and a backlayer of tannin with aromas of blackberry that fills the glass. At 13.5 % it has a agility that wines higher in alcohol are often missing: this is more a halfback than a fullback if you catch the analogy. The excess of alcohol in those wines often dominate and you taste little else. 
The wine should improve for 10 more years.  (Tasted in 2019)  The wine scored on  Rick's Value Score a 90

(My friend Lloyd would add that the vintage was a winemaker's dream and that the vineyards are terraced so the vines do not get a lot of water.which bolsters concentration. Marcel and his son Philippe are totally dedicated to quality.)


Recently tasted below--- Coppola Claret, Kirkland Russian River Pinot and  Montecillo Riserva Rioja

)

  Coppola 2015 Black Label Claret

To be frank I was expecting more from this wine. I worked in Bordeaux and created a Claret style wine for the Oxbridge Faculty Unions. Claret is a marketing term for the old style British Bordeaux Blend: in this case it adds the term Cabernet Sauvignon because at least 75% of the grapes are of that variety. There is a small amount of Petite Sirah which is not a Bordeaux varietal and I assume they added it to give the wine a little more body and depth? The rest is Petit Verdot. It is 13.5 % alcohol. I am behind in vintages since it is 2015 and now it is May 2019. I would expect a wine that costs over $15.00 to show a greater ability to age than this wine shows. Maybe I got an off bottle or one that was badly stored? Heck, it happens.

The wine manifested blackberry and cassis flavors as the marketing blurb says when first opened but lost them within six hours. It was a pleasant medium body blend but I suspect it would have been more supple if it had some merlot? Whatever the case, I would recommend drinking up and for the first six hours, you have a very drinkable Cabernet Blend.  (Tasted in 2019)  The wine scored an 86 on  Rick's Value Score.


Kirkland Russian River Valley, Sonoma County Pinot Noir 2017


Any time you try a wine where the company doesn't own the vineyards, you have to add an additional level of caution. Kirkland is the Costco generic brand which is sometimes a great value when they hit the jackpot and are selling very good juice at a very good price and sometimes ....  Since they don't own vineyards, you might like the wine the first time and not so much the next.   Anyway, Russian River Pinots are generally pricey but they, in my estimation, are some of the best from California.  They are not as big, jammy and high in alcohol as the ones from southern California.  The wine is very approachable.  It is on the lighter, more burgundian style. The alcohol was still a reasonable 13.9% and the flavors are pleasant,  sort of bing cherry and red raspberry that screams, "Hey, I will taste great with with anything else in the store other than strong meats like lamb or beef."  (Tasted in 2019)  The wine scored an 88 on the Rick's Value Score.



Montecillo  Reserva, 2010  Rioja   

So here I was, minding my own business in a local big box store, when I stumbled upon a pallet of this wine.  It was marked, $10.79 and with the instant $2.00 coupon, $8.79.  My first thought was something has to be wrong with the wine.  Good year, already aged for you, and it was a reserve.  Normally you would expect to pay $18-$20 for the wine.   Someone wanted to move through this wine quickly. Picked up a bottle and it was 13.5% alcohol.  (Meaning it would go with food).  So I bought a bottle to taste.  Went home and immediately came back and bought a case.

The wine color was still red with no evidence of browning so it still has at least 3-5 years of life in it with good storage.  It was elegant and smooth on the palate with just enough grip or tannins to still prove interesting.  The bright fruit was muted by the oak.  It still was good several days after opening stored in the fridge which is generally a good sign that it still has life.  (Tasted in 2019)  Wine Spectator got this one right and rated it 90 out of 100. The wine scored an 91 on  Rick's Value Score.







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