There’s more to think about when deciding if you want to buy a wine than simply comparing the scores and prices. Whether you use five stars to rate wine, pick a number from 1 to 10 or employ Wine Spectator’s 100-point scale, the numbers only tell you part of the story. Sometimes the words we use to describe style and character matter more than the score.
Balancing score against price is a great way to home in on the wines that deliver the best value. Some like to call that QPR, playing quality (Q, the score) against price (P) in a ratio (R) that rewards high-scoring, low-priced wines.
That’s fine as far as it goes, but consider two wines I reviewed that appeared in last week’s Wine Spectator Insider. Both are 2006 Cabernet Sauvignons from Januik, the Washington winery I wrote about recently in my blog. Both rated 92 points. The Columbia Valley bottling, at $30, delivers plenty of stylish flavor on a firm frame. The Champoux Vineyard bottling, at $50, veers toward mineral flavors and has a plush texture. On sheer quality, weighing the pluses and minuses, I reckoned them even, but they would deliver different experiences. Is that extra minerality and plush texture more your style? Then the extra $20 might be worth it.
An even more dramatic example involves two Rhône wines reviewed by my colleague James Molesworth: Perrin & Fils Gigondas Vieilles Vignes 2006 (92, $84) and Jean-Louis Chave Sélection St.-Joseph Offerus 2006 (91, $29). On QPR, it looks like a no-brainer. But Molesworth describes the Chave as bright, racy and pure, while the Perrin has flavors of hoisin sauce and mesquite and silky tannins. Which style floats your boat? If you’re not into tart, racy wines, you might be disappointed in that St.-Joseph.
When I wrote recently about "who cares?" wines—those that get ratings in the middle of the pack and either have high price tags or limited availability—I mentioned in passing that the wines that get me excited have something that sets them apart. Often it’s a good price for the quality, but it could just as easily be a distinctive character or style. Something promising from an unheralded area or a Pinot Noir with great finesse may be worth a second look regardless of price. As a taster, I want to keep those wines in the mix. They have something going for them, so I don’t relegate them to the "who cares?" heap.
Richard Scholtz — Austin, TX — May 20, 2009 4:48pm ET
Michael Bonanno — May 20, 2009 5:34pm ET
Richard Robertson — May 20, 2009 7:20pm ET
Fred Brown — May 20, 2009 8:58pm ET
Troy Peterson — Burbank, CA — May 21, 2009 4:07pm ET
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