March 2011 - Second Tuesday

For every new wine discovery I make there's typically a dog or three.  Professional wine tasting is a dirty job, but someone's got to do it so that you don't have to.

For my International Wine Cellar publication, I spend nearly four months a year on the road, in the cellars.  My colleague Josh Raynolds and IWC contributors in Europe similarly spend a lot of time underground.  Usually we visit individual wineries and taste one-on-one with the winemaker: the visits are time-consuming but to my mind the best way to get inside a wine.  Occasionally we do group tastings as well, in order to sample wines we might otherwise miss, and this can make for a really grueling session.

One time I showed up for a group tasting of To-Remain-Nameless Valley wines where I had been led to believe there would be about 75 samples waiting for me; in fact there were close to 200.  I hunkered down for an all-day tongue-lashing.  In the end, though, it wasn't the marathon I feared.  I didn't need to swirl and spit my way through many of the wines on the table because one sniff was enough to tell me that a scary percentage of them had serious flaws - high volatile acidity, crude oakiness, oxidative aromas.

Figure that those 200 bottles staring me down are not unlike the myriad choices in front of you at your favorite wine shop.  How can you really know what's in a bottle before you pop the cork.  Market competition has grown so fierce that there's more well-made wine on the retail shelves than ever before, but let's face it, the odds are still against you.

That's why consumers seek out critics they can trust, particularly when they're venturing into unfamiliar territory for their purchases.  You don't need a wine pro if you know just what you want, but if, on the other hand, you're open to new flavor and aroma sensations and prefer trying something different rather than sticking with old favorites, we can tell you which wines to avoid and which to sample - in tasting notes that are (we hope) specific, comprehensive, and written in Actual English.  If we're doing our job, we give you sufficient data to select wines you're likely to get a kick out of.  We describe, you decide.

Here are some of our favorite recent finds, all of them excellent values in their price ranges.