Monday, April 21, 2014

No brainers for choosing new world wines

A friend of mine asked me "I've bought a Chilean Maipo Shiraz for £4 do you think it will be nice?".


To start with, you should never spend only £4 on a bottle of wine if you care about taste. Even if the supermarket says its RRP is £8, it is still only worth £4. My advice is to spend at least £7 on a bottle of wine. Think about all the factors that are involved in getting the wine to you, by the time money has been spent on bottling, shipping, marketing, distribution and taxes, there is little money left to pay the guy to actually make your wine. In a £5 bottle of wine, you are only getting about 20p of wine. For 20p how much is he going to care what actually goes into the bottle? See an earlier post on this here:

Regardless of the price, a low cost shiraz from Chile is unlikely to be great. Chile is best known for its Merlot/ Carmenere, and well-known normally means they know what they are doing. For good value wines at low price points it makes sense to go for the varietals that are best known. Maipo specifically is actually better known for its Carmenere.

NB. Merlot and Carmenere are not the same grape, but many Merlot vines were planted later to be found some were Carmenere, but many producers still call their wine Merlot.

Also, Maipo is more of a gamble as a region in Chile as it is a flat valley and has some good sites and some less good sites. It would therefore be more reliable to choose a Chilean wine from a region that produces more consistently good wines, such as Colchagua or Casablanca.

It is also worthy to note, the more specific the region is on the label, the more likely it is to be better wine, e.g. Wine of Chile < Central Valley < Maipo. So if you see a label with "Wine of [country]" you should keep looking. Another one to watch out for is "Wine of South Eastern Australia" this is a cover-all label to say any grapes from anywhere could have been used, and it would be better to find "South Australia" or better still "Barossa".

New World is easy to find good value wines at £7-8 (except USA), so here are my no-brainers for the new world. If you find these in your price range,  buy without worry:

Chile Merlot / Carmenere (specifically from Rapel / Cachapoal / Colchagua)
Chile Sauvignon Blanc or Chardonnay (specifically from Casablanca)
Argentina Malbec (from Mendoza)
South Africa Pinotage
South Africa Chenin Blanc
Uruguay Tannat
Australia Shiraz (from South Australia / Barossa)
Australia Cabernet Sauvignon (from Coonawarra)
Australia Riesling (from Clare Valley or Eden Valley)
New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc (from Marlborough)

There are better wines than listed above, but these will provide options at cheaper price points. I haven't included wines from USA, because they tend to export very basic wines and very good wines, so if you're looking for a good value wine at a low price point I would avoid USA. Although I will mention my very favourite wine at the moment is Ramey Russian River chardonnay, but at around £30, it doesn't get near this list. If you want something close to it, you could try a Californian chardonnay from Monterey or Santa Barbara.

Make a comment on this post if you would like me to write a blog on no-brainers for the old world, and remember to include your @handle if you want me to let you know when its up.

Hope this helps!

1 comment:

  1. oh this is useful - thanks Soma! I will take a photo for the next time I am in a bottle-O! Katherine