Listed below is the complete collection of Value Vino reviews and recommendations from Ron Bechtol. Enjoy.
Budding oenophiles on a budget are frequently frustrated by their inability to experience the Big Label bottles. Never fear: It's common practice in France for chateaux and estates, whose output is strictly limited by law, to use any excess production - even from first-growth vineyards - in less prestigious bottlings...
Gris is the new noir
"Pinot Noir is a notoriously degenerate vine variety, prone to mutate at the drop of a gene," claims wine authority Jancis Robinson. One of those degenerate mutations is pinot gris (pinot grigio in Italian), a grape that is fast becoming one of the most popular whites in California and has already surpassed chardonnay in Oregon...
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Great wines for under $15
Reviews and recommendations from Ron Bechtol
Old world wines
Due to cultural changes and stricter laws on driving while having overly appreciated vin ordinaire, the French wine industry hasn't been doing well on its home turf lately. Freedom-fried Americans might say they deserve it, but get over it, y'all: The French taught us what we know, and now we're returning the favor...
Wot noble rot, Cupid!
Many people, when they've learned a little about wine, immediately dismiss anything sweet as unworthy of their newfound expertise. But there's a whole world of sweet wines with richly deserved pedigrees. One race-horse grape frequently used is the muscat, in either its black, orange, or white manifestations...
Zinfandels with zip
Somebody had to do it. Three of us recently tasted 59 Zinfandels in preparation for the 15th annual ZinDin at Grey Moss Inn on January 20. The event began as a protest against the alleged evils of white Zinfandel, and since then, wine lovers have witnessed a resurgence in the popularity and quality of California's unique contribution to the world of red wine...
"My only regret in life is that I did not drink more Champagne," once quipped the granddaddy of all economists, John Maynard Keynes. Realizing that economics and economy don't necessarily mix (he was talking about big-C Champagne, in any case), we are nevertheless going to take his confession as the excuse to investigate bargain bubblies for the holidays. Let there be no regrets...
For that most American of feasts, Thanksgiving, wine wonks often pick pinot noir. And with reason: Pinots are the flip-floppers of the wine world, with an uncanny ability to bridge the gap between bland turkey and outrageous cranberry sauce...
All screwed up
Some Australasian winemakers have had it. "Corks are a basket case," says one. "I am f--king pissed off with corks," says another. "There is no greater piss-off in life than to open a wine that cost triple figures to find that it's corked." The mold known as 2,4,6, trichloroanisole (TCA) that grows in cork under certain conditions and causes that ineffable, old-sweat-sock aroma among other taints, is the culprit, and it's leading many winemakers to consider abandoning the cork as a wine closure altogether. But what of the romance, the ritual, of popping a cork, you ask..?
You can never relax your guard. While many of us were getting our wine-sniffing noses out of joint over screw-cap closures, premium bag-in-a-box wines were making a stealth entry into the market. Had we been paying attention to the Aussies, where such packaging accounts for more than 50 percent of domestic sales, we might have seen this coming. And we might also have been more susceptible to the virtues of a system that recognizes a fact of wine buying in the U.S.: More than 95 percent of wine purchased here is consumed within 24 hours of leaving the store...
Are you blushing?
Most Texans have never cottoned much to rosés. I'd like to think this has something to do with the abominable pink plonk produced recently as white zinfandel, but I suspect it rather has to do with the color: Red necks and pink wines just don't mix. We're missing a great thing, especially during the summer. Rosés are as refreshing as a run through a sprinkler and as flexible with food as their more highly regarded red cousins...
California here we come
Seems that everybody wants to be a winemaker these days, and nowhere is the rush to fame and glory more frantic than in the snazzy Sonoma and Napa Zip codes. Fallen-away bankers, lawyers, airplane pilots ... they're all there. Keith Rutz, a former fashion industry exec, is one of those dreamers. He purchased property in the much-acclaimed Russian River Valley in 1978, but it wasn't until 1990 that he decided to respond seriously to the bug that had bitten him during buying trips to France. The first thing he did was dig a 5,000-square-foot cave...
South African Sweethearts
South Africa has a wine tradition dating back 350 years and a political history, as a modern country of only 10. It's only in this last decade that we, in this country, have begun to discover what the South Africans have known all along: They produce some extraordinarily appealing wines - at very appealing prices...
Chilean growers and winemakers account for much of the popularity of their country's exported wine, but the French and the Americans, recognizing an opportunity when they see it, have also been influential. Ed Flaherty of Vina Errazuriz is one of the quality-minded entrepreneurs to have made his way south...
One of the first serious wines with a cork that I ever tasted was the Spanish Marques de Riscal; it always seemed to be on sale at the liquor store beneath my apartment at 107th and Broadway in Manhattan. I like to think we have both improved since then. Certainly El Marques has matured nicely as a brand, as has the Spanish wine industry in general...
Welcome to Value Vino, a monthly column for both wannabe wine lovers and "already aficionados" with an irreverent streak. For starters, we'll peg the value cap at $15, but don't be surprised if we exceed that on occasion; $19.99 stunners (and above) won't be shunned if they offer bang for the buck. And at the other end of the spectrum, a good box wine - assuming we find one - would also be discussed seriously. Let us know what you'd like to have investigated, and we'll do the heavy glass-lifting for you, such is our dedication...