A group of outstanding South Florida sommeliers got together in the beverage lab at Johnson & Wales University February 12 and performed a wonderful service for us wine lovers: they tasted over a hundred wines to find 23 that they consider quality wines at a value price. And now, we can all go shopping for some terrific bottles!
Most wine competitions evaluate wines on several types of quality, but price is almost never one of them. Whether it’s a good value or not is generally not a concern of the judges. They will determine quality, and leave it up to the consumer to decide if the wine is a good value. If the consumer can find the wine of course – quantity produced is also not generally among the criteria for competition success. But, as a consumer, I’m often left wondering what good it does to get a recommendation to buy a wine that was made in minute quantities and that I have almost no chance of finding!
At Best in Glass, we ask the judges – all sommeliers or restaurant wine consultants – whether they would add a wine to their “by the glass” list, and price is one of the criteria on which they evaluate a wine. If it’s too expensive, they won’t be able to sell it and so they won’t put it on their list. If a wine is high quality but doesn’t offer good value, the judges generally gave it a silver medal, reserving the gold medal for wines that offered both quality and a good price.
We released the results of the judging, and you can see all the gold medal winners.
I was able to taste most of these wines after the judging and I salute our sommeliers for doing an excellent job in finding some terrific wines that even a novice wine lover will appreciate (or at least can afford in order to see if they like it!). I was asked to pick out a white, a rosé and a red from the gold medal list to recommend, which means there are 20 wonderful wines I’ll have to wait to comment on.
So, among my favorite white wines was the delicious 2016 Sonoma Coast pinot gris from MacMurray Ranch. Retailing for about $15, this is a delicious white wine that has the crispness that lets it match well with food and the luscious texture that makes it enjoyable on its own.
My pick for a rosé is from Chilean producer Keen who makes wine in country’s the up and coming Maule Valley. This has such a beautiful, almost delicate color it’s hard to believe it’s made from cabernet sauvignon, but the judges loved its bright fruitiness, crisp acidity and lovely nectarine and watermelon aromas and flavor. You can pick it up for about $17.
And for a red I’m going a bit offbeat and picking a wine you may never have encountered before. It’s from a grape called dornfelder, a cross of two other varieties that is a fairly recent creation – it was first planted in 1979. This is a popular grape in Germany, where cool climate growing regions mean there is much more white wine than red. The dornfelder from Weingut Seck is a little spicy, with flavors of plum, blackberry and cherry – there are some nice herbal and floral notes that make this both appealing and different from many other red grape varieties. I think the sommeliers loved it partly because it’s an unusual variety they can offer and talk about. After all, what sommelier wants to offer another merlot or pinot noir when they can provide something unique? You can pick it up for $28 a bottle retail.
Next time, I’ll add some more wines to the list, and in the meantime don’t forget to look over the list of gold medal winners and make plans to taste some of them soon! I know several, including the Dornfelder, are already available at Uvaggio Wine Bar in Coral Gables – ask for Amanda, who was one of the sommelier judges!