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.