Occasional Wines (Wine resolutions)

author/source: Tom Oetinger

Tom Oetinger - Wine ResolutionsMany of us have moved beyond that annual ritual of New Year’s resolutions. The truth of the matter is that major changes in behavior for most of us are probably not in the cards.  That being said, there is no reason all of us can’t tinker a little bit around the edges.  With this in mind, I offer you three wine resolutions for 2021.

Resolution #1:  SPEND A LITTLE MORE FOR WINE.  The majority of wine consumers spend about $10.00 per 750 ml bottle.  Ten dollars will usually get what I charitably refer to as ‘industrial wine’:  wine that is made in immense quantities, using bulk grapes and subjected to significant manipulation by the winemakers.  Better wine through chemistry on such a large scale often produces a reliable if unremarkable product.  While there are a number of solid wines at this price point, they tend to be one-dimensional; rarely displaying any complexity, vintage variation, or typicity.  If you find that you fall within this spending category, resolve to occasionally spend a little more: say $15 - $18.  This extra five to eight dollars can get you a wine that will offer enhanced aromas and flavors, better mouthfeel, and longer finish.  BUT, you will have to do a little homework:  peruse a few wine reviews, identify value regions, and most importantly, consult a knowledgeable retailer.  By asking a few simple questions, such as: “what do you like in a wine?” and “How much are you looking to spend?” a wine steward can direct you to several good options.  Bottom line – Life is short, spend a little more.

Tom Oetinger Favorite Wine of 2020Resolution #2:  SPEND A LITTLE LESS FOR WINE.  I love well-made wine and am willing to open my wallet for worthwhile bottles.  But since my wine budget does have its limits I’d rather not pay a lot of money for good wine if I don’t have to.  When I want to give my checkbook a rest I look to wine value regions around the world.  Argentina, Australia, Chile, South Africa, Portugal, and Spain all have a reputation for producing excellent wine at value price points.  In France, there are a number of areas where one can find great deals; seek out wines from the Alsace, Jura, and Languedoc.  Here in the States look toward Washington state, as well as Lake County, Lodi & the Santa Lucia Highlands in California.  Once again, you have to do your homework and don’t expect that eight bucks at your local retail store is going to get you much, no matter what region you choose.  Also, just because a region is known for high prices that doesn’t mean that great values can’t be found within their borders.  The fact is you’ll just have to look a little harder. Most of us have a little time on our hands; consider it a treasure hunt.  Bottom line – Be a savvy shopper.

Resolution #3:  GO OUT TO DINNER.  Many of my clients ask me about my favorite wine.  My stock answer is that it usually depends on the meal that I’m planning to pair it with.  Absolutely nothing complements a good meal better than a great wine.  There are countless restaurants around the country with solid wine lists and while it is a fact that you will spend more for wine in a restaurant setting, a well-chosen bottle definitely enhances a meal. There are several strategies for selecting the best, budget-friendly bottle on a restaurant wine list, although none are all encompassing. I would suggest just two: Order wine by the bottle, not the glass as you will get a fresher and superior product. Secondly, choose something that sounds interesting to you; maybe a bottle that you’ve heard about or a variety that you’ve never tried before. Bottom line – 2020 was a tough year for everyone. When possible, do yourself and your local restaurants a favor: Splurge on a great meal.

I close this month’s article with my personal 2020 wine of the year.  This was a difficult choice as I have had the pleasure of sampling literally hundreds of wines over the last year.  Prior to looking back, I did come up with a few criteria:  The wine has to be broadly available; possess great complexity, balance and typify the grape varietal or blend, and finally, not be outrageously priced.  This year’s selection is the 2017 Dei, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano.  This wine is complex and savory, possessing rich, full flavors of red fruits, with hints of sage and dark, baker’s chocolate.  It has wonderful aromas and is deftly balanced.  Like most well-structured Italian reds it shows best with a meal. If you enjoy a good Chianti this 90% Sangiovese blend from Tuscany is an excellent alternative.

Happy New Year!