A new idea for this blog: Compare a really expensive wine with a more moderately priced one of the same type, and try to explain the price difference. Do we really get what we pay for? Let me know in the comments if you like this type of comparison.
Tonight’s wines, pulled more or less randomly from my unsolicited samples downstairs (all of which survived the earthquake), were the Pine Ridge “Fortis” 2005 red blend from Napa Valley, which retailed for about $140, and the Clos de los Siete 2008 from Mendoza, Argentina, a wine fashioned by famed winemaker Michel Rolland and selling for about $20. So right there you have the first comparison – you could buy seven bottles of the Clos de los Siete for every one of the Fortis.
The Fortis is a blend of traditional Bordeaux grape varieties, according to Pine Ridge’s website. Although, I should probably note that for some reason the website does not list the 2005 under current releases or library wines – this suggests that they’ve sold out of it, gave away too many samples to wine writers, or were so unhappy with it that they don’t want to admit they ever made it. I doubt the latter explanation, because the wine tonight was quite good – oaky, with aromas of wood, black currant and eucalyptus, and a soft, velvety finish that ended finally with a hint of ripe sweetness. There was a flash of high alcohol (the label lists a relatively modest 14.3%) and a pruney flavor on the mid-palate that suggested overripeness. But we expect Napa wines to be overripe these days, and this one was not particularly unbalanced.
The Clos de los Siete, on the other hand, is a malbec-based Bordeaux blend, with some syrah included for good measure. It is more upfront and fruity (and of course younger) than the Fortis, with intense fruit and spice, nicely balanced with the oak treatment.
My initial preference was for the Clos de los Siete, if only because it is obviously the better value. But upon sober reflection (ha!) the Fortis was clearly the better wine – it had more complexity, a much longer finish that held our interest while we tasted. Was it seven times better than the Siete? No way.
And what does value have to do with it when a wine costs $140? I’ll never pay that much, even in a restaurant, except under extreme duress. But some people can afford to pay $140 for a bottle of wine, and for them the Fortis might be just fine. It certainly is a nice wine, aimed at a very limited market. For now, I’ll take my seven of Siete.
Better value vs better wine – it was ever thus.
I love this theme, Dave, and will add this to our blog today. This sort of comparison really helps to bring more people under the wine tent by making it okay to pick the $20 bottle at the restaurant (“will the waiter think I’m just cheap?”) vs. the $50 (“hey, Dave says it’s okay!”).
I can see you building a whole movement around this…next you could do, say, caviars, then maybe cars, then work your way into comparing cruises, vacation villas…the world’s your oyster!
Cruises? Um, no, I don’t think so! But thanks for the thought!
Man, I tasted through a few Clos de los 7 vintages when I visited there in March, and I wasn’t impressed with those generally and didn’t find them to be great value. Wonder what the heck I am missing, since I seem to be the only one with this opinion! 🙂
Not necessarily – the last one I tasted (a previous vintage) was awful; it had so much brett that we couldn’t drink it. This one last night though, was pretty good. Not as good as the Fortis, but much cheaper too.
Dave, who ever thought a Michel Rolland wine would be a value?
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Hi everyone! I think this project is more complex than it first appears. There are good wines and not-so-good wines at every price point. I’m not sure what one can conclude from totally random comparisons.
I was at a Chardonnay blind tasting recently: two decent VA wines, one non-characteristic Chablis, and one really poor CA example. The moderator (at least while I was there) gave no explanation of the stylistic differences one could expect (malo, no malo; oak v steel, etc.) and didn’t give any insight as to what a “good” Chardonnay consists of.
Of course, everyone should drink what they like, but I for one think more education is good for people in the business and for consumers.
Great theme, there is a world of great wine in the $20+ that is as good as it gets. Expensive wines seem to meet another need in the marketplace. It’s like hunting for trophy game or for pleasure. Not everyone can access nor necessarily wants to access the big trophies, right?
@Wine Curmudgeon – That seems like a good question, but isn’t 90% of all New World red wine now created with the consulting help of Michel Rolland?
That may be a SLIGHT exaggeration!
It only seems like 90 percent. What really happens is that Rolland does 5 percent, and everyone else hires Enolgoix or a similar company to break down the Rolland wine, and they copy it.
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