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Choosing a Good Red Wine

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Choosing a Good Red Wine

Postby Bwis53 » Wed May 16, 2012 9:21 pm

I'm old and I've had all kinds of alcohol. I hadn't had any wine at all since 2007. I remember the last red wine I drank was a really tasty Shiraz. I've tried two Shiraz and they bite. I tried a couple Beaujolais and they also bite. Tried a Chianti, same thing. I spend about $10. more or less. I just don't remember wine having that bity-peppery quality to it. My Korbel Extra Smooth Brandy never lets me down. I had an oatmeal stout at Weary Traveler that was extremely tasty. Are my expectations unrealistic?
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Re: Choosing a Good Red Wine

Postby fennel » Wed May 16, 2012 10:31 pm

At $10, yep. Wines tend to be pricey in Wisconsin, since the laws governing distribution consider all alcoholic beverages as generic commodities. Retailers can't distribute and vice-versa. The result is, you get what you get and competition is practically nil.
(BTW, a $10 Chianti is pretty much a guaranteed recipe for pain, these days – but that would be so anywhere ... the U.S., Italy, etc.)

The best you can do is to go someplace like the Cork N' Bottle where they have a handle on what good wine can be and what reasonable wine ought to cost.

And remember, what you consider good wine at the point when you're just beginning to explore the options may change radically over time. It depends on whether you're drinking the wine by itself, drinking the wine with food, and of course, what kind of food you're drinking it with.

A wine that "bites," for example could be too acidic or tannic to drink on it's own, but might be sublime alongside the right food. Or it may just be over-fermented bilge water.

Probably the most important thing to understand is that price and quality are very loosely coupled. For that reason, if you shop at a grocery store or wine mega-mart, you will usually get the least bang for the buck. The converse, on the other hand, doesn't guarantee good value. There are plenty of small-volume wine retailers who don't know or care much about wine, who let their stock fester in inhospitable conditions, and who seeminlgy price their bottles with magic wands.
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Re: Choosing a Good Red Wine

Postby Meade » Thu May 17, 2012 8:22 am

I'm old too. I like Black Box Cabernet Sauvignon. "Rich aromas of dark fruit complemented by a deep, lush body. The finish is soft and long with lingering notes of berry". In other words, it doesn't bite. You can get it at Copp's. A small box contains 3 - 5.6oz servings for about $5.
Please drink responsibly.
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Re: Non-wine snob reply (No offense, really)

Postby chainsawcurtis » Thu May 17, 2012 8:49 am

Back in the early eighties when I was still living in Ithaca, NY I was playing bass in a Chicago style blues band. The harmonica player, John Binder, had a day job as a district salesman for a wine importer based in NYC. John knew his wines, he'd been to Europe to tour the wine regions (his nick-name was Jacques Bondot), was a great cook and outstanding harmonica player.

I used ask him occasionally to recommend a good $5 bottle to bring to a house party or try to impress a woman and he'd always come up with something that, to my taste buds, was excellent. Now, a five dollar bottle of wine in nineteen-eighty-two would be, what? Somewhere between $15 and $20, let's say considering inflation. You can probably grab a bottle of any type, color, whatever in that price range in Woody's and it'll be pretty good. Just do it once a week and keep track of what you like or don't.

In between apartment leases Jacques shared a room in the house I'd rented for a few months and he would bring home sample bottles on a fairly regular basis. One day he brought home a case of Paisano four-liter jugs. I knew what it was because I worked in a pizza restaurant in Collegetown and that was the house wine.

"John - Paisano?" I says.

And he's says, "It's the best table wine in America. If you were living in a farmhouse in France you would go down to the local vineyard and get a jug of something almost exactly like this to take home for dinner."

And we proceeded to throw together dinner and drink a bunch. I have had it on-hand all the time since then and it's hard to beat ten bucks a gallon for wine. And, maybe I'm just a lush, but I've tried the "Marcus James" brand varieties in Woodman's (under $3) and I think Jacques would approve of them. Plastic cork and all.
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Re: Choosing a Good Red Wine

Postby TheBookPolice » Thu May 17, 2012 8:55 am

I'm partial to Bodegas LAN Crianza, a nice tempranillo at the low end (or just below, if you find a good price) of chainsawcurtis' golden range. Available at Woodman's and most Steve's.
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Re: Choosing a Good Red Wine

Postby rabble » Thu May 17, 2012 8:57 am

Jenifer St market has racks and racks of wine, with the scores from various wine snob magazines on a lot of them.

My wife is a Wollersheim subscriber so I haven't tried many of them but I've picked up a Merlot or two that I've been happy with. And every time I check out, somebody in the line has a couple bottles.

I've never read a review of their selection so I have no idea how well stocked they are. But damn they've got a huge selection.
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Re: Choosing a Good Red Wine

Postby Crockett » Thu May 17, 2012 9:01 am

There's nothing wrong with Costco's selection.
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Re: Choosing a Good Red Wine

Postby Detritus » Thu May 17, 2012 9:54 am

I have a half-dozen bottles of Marcus James Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot cellared right now. For a $3 bottle of wine they are excellent. No, they don't compare to the $25 estate-bottled French whatever I gave my Mom last Sunday, but they stand up very well to wines in the $8-10 range. One thing, though: some of the bottles have vintage years on the labels, some do not. For a white that's probably not so important, but for a red you want to know how old it is. A lot of reds hit their peak around year 6; some remain there for quite a while, others decline rapidly. If you had bad experiences with reds, maybe they were too young?

Also, some years are better than others, and this is reflected in the price as they age. A 2008 Kenwood Cab was in the $8-10 range back then. Now, as it has become clear that was a good year for that wine, the price is heading toward $30. The moral of the story is: if you find a bottle you like, go back and get a few more to lay down your own cellar.
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Re: Choosing a Good Red Wine

Postby Athena » Thu May 17, 2012 10:03 am

Steve's has wine tastings every week and they'll have sales almost every week. Sign up for their email list and they'll send an email with the various sales and tastings at their stores. I've certainly had good wines for less than $20 there. I don't drink wine very often and I'm not terribly good at figuring out what a wine will taste like from a description which is why I appreciate tastings and the people at Steve's have been very good at recommending wines in my price range.
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Re: Choosing a Good Red Wine

Postby fennel » Thu May 17, 2012 10:07 am

Wine ratings, at best, reflect whether the wine was relatively good before it was rated. A good rating inflates the price and so reduces the relative value.

I'd like to see ratings tied to price. So an 85 rating for a $12 bottle would translate to a 57 rating when the price is raised to $18.
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Re: Choosing a Good Red Wine

Postby Endo Rockstar » Thu May 17, 2012 10:41 am

There's a new tasty Shiraz at Cork'n'bottle called Shoo-Fly. Nice well balanced Australian. I like it for the price, I think it retails around 11.99.

I had it at one of CNB's weekly Saturday wine tastings.

Give her a try,

Dan Motor
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Re: Choosing a Good Red Wine

Postby Henry Vilas » Thu May 17, 2012 11:55 am

For most wines, it costs about five bucks (or less) to bottle. The price at retail sometimes reflects quality.
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Re: Choosing a Good Red Wine

Postby gargantua » Thu May 17, 2012 11:57 am

It may well be the particular type of red you're trying. I seldom pay more than $12 for a bottle, but those tend to go to pinot noirs, merlots, and malbecs, which tend to be a bit easier on the palette than the usual chianti, cab, or shiraz.
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Re: Choosing a Good Red Wine

Postby kimm » Thu May 17, 2012 12:05 pm

Wine is such a subjective thing. I think maybe you should avoid wines that have high tannins and fewer "dry" varieties. A Tempranillo or Malbec might be your style, or a blended red "table wine" with a high percentage of merlot or grenache.
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Re: Choosing a Good Red Wine

Postby swoon_queen » Thu May 17, 2012 12:13 pm

Bwis53 wrote:I've tried two Shiraz and they bite. I tried a couple Beaujolais and they also bite. Tried a Chianti, same thing. I spend about $10. more or less.

I've really enjoyed the Gnarly Head Old Vine Zin, which runs about 9.99 a bottle at Jeni St. Market. I like Smoking Loon Syrah, which is about ten bucks also. If you're looking for a fuller bodied red without the whole 'bity-peppery' thing (which I totally understand; I wonder if our tastes are similar) I would try a Petite Syrah, a red Zinfandel/Primitivo, or maybe a Cab/Shiraz blend. I do enjoy certain cabernets though many are too dry and/or tannic for me. J. Lohr Seven Oaks Cabernet is one that is consistently good, but a little more pricey. For a good buy, I also like some of the red blends out there- Coppola's Rosso, Big House Red in a big ol' box, or Apothic Red or Ravenswood Vintner's Blend on the higher $ side.
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