Here with a Loaf of Bread beneath the Bough,
A Flask of Wine, a Book of Verse—and Thou
Beside me singing in the Wilderness—
And Wilderness is Paradise enow.
—The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam
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About This Site
What This Site Is and Is Not
This is not a place where one or a very few persons deliver their individual opinions about particular wines. Rather, it is a place where those interested in finding and enjoying interesting and satisfying wines can be saved the tedium of extensively combing the internet for such discussions and evaluations, because we have done that for you. There are almost literally countless web pages with some discussion of this or that wine type, or—more commonly—just some one specimen of a type; many such pages are very useful so far as they go, but interested readers soon realize that they will have to look at an awful lot of such pages to get a broad perspective on that wine type, and get past possibly idiosyncratic individual opinions.
While this site has quite a few general discussions that we hope are of interest and utility to those interested in wine, the core here is the set of pages on the many individual wine varieties that you see listed in the column to the left on this (and every) page. Each such individual page has some brief background on its grape (where it originated, what general sort of wine it makes, and so on), then quotations from several reasonably authoritative sources on the general nature and quality of the wines that grape makes, and finally—the crux—a modest list of suggested particular wines from that grape for anyone wanting to try that type and know that they are sampling wines that a broad consensus of regular wine writers—ranging from top professionals to amateur (but serious) wine bloggers—has found to be of good or better quality. We assembled those lists by tedious, time-consuming research; really, the sort of thing you would probably do yourself if you wanted to find out about, say, Assyrtiko wines. We basically save you that tedium and time.
(The descriptive quotations we present are extracts from fuller articles, and we very much hope that our readers will follow out the links we provide to the original sources of the quotations to see them in context and to get more information than fits in an extract.)
For some types (say, for example, Cabernet Sauvignon or Chardonnay), practically every non-teetotaller in the western world will have some idea what the wines taste like; but even there, if you have not delved deep, you may have missed some reasonably priced specimens of good quality, and perhaps we can help with those. But we also want to help you explore.
The list at the left is not by any means every wine grape we could discover (there are an estimated 1,368 types in reasonably regular production around the world); our list is only the ones that by general expert consensus are at least capable of making high-quality wines, which totals to between ten and eleven dozen. The roughly three dozen types that are widely felt capable of wine of the very highest quality are in boldface in the list.
(A few of the wine types listed are actually just alternative names, as with, for example, Grenache and Garnacha, and there is only one actual page for that grape. Even so, we have only dealt with very common synonyms: most wine grapes have huge numbers of confusing—and often overlapping—synonyms around the world, or even in the same region. Each of our wine-type pages lists many such synonyms.)
Curiously, of those ten to eleven dozen premium grapes, probably only one dozen are really widely planted, vinified, and drunk worldwide: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Sauvignon Blanc, Semillion, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Syrah, Chenin Blanc, Gewürztraminer, Muscat, and Riesling—the first two-thirds of that dozen being the classic French varieties (of Bordeaux, Burgundy, the Rhône, and the Loire). The nine to ten dozen other varieties, however worthy of attention, have smaller plantings and often only local fame. That is another reason for this site: to help you find your way to excellent wine types that you might not be familiar with, not a few of which are also excellent bargains. (Though a few are the reverse: very pricey, at least in the U.S., owing to their scarcity here.) While there remain a few still-obscure types being revived that may well be capable of making fine wines (and we hope to add those in time), the list we present should offer sufficient possibilities for even the most avid seeker after variety in wines.
About the Wine Lists
Our guiding principle in examining wine reviews, tastings, and discussions has been to identify good wines that someone who makes wine a regular part of their life can plausibly afford. While it is pleasant to occasionally open a $40 or $50 bottle of wine, few indeed of us can afford to do so several times a week, week in and week out. Thus, we have restricted our focus here to wines available at retail for no more than $20, with many quite a bit less (though for each variety we mention one or a few "splurge" wines for those special occasions when cost is secondary).
(An interesting article, aptly entitled "Who Buys Wine Over $20?" appeared in Wine Searcher's "Wine News" for February 6, 2014.)
Please understand that we are not claiming that we have listed all good wines of a given type available for under $20; for some popular wine types, there might be hundreds or even thousands. What we do believe is that we have presented for each type a menu of bottlings each of which is widely considered among the best of its type at that price point, and which in sum are an excellent representation of their particular grape. We have also screened by availability, using a couple of popular wine-search sites (1000 Corks and Wine Searcher); there seemed no point in listing wines, however good, either unavailable or only available from a very, very few retailers (though for a very few varieties, to make a nontrivial list we have had to include some relatively scarce bottlings).
When you come to look at the individual pages, you will find the lists headed as "Some to Try", not "Buy These" or anything of that sort. We expect, and recommend, that you do some further homework on any listed wines in which you are interested. If that seems to contradict what we have said about why this site exists, it really doesn't. We have pointed you at a select few, and that in itself is the huge saving in time and tedium. Each listing is a click-on link to all the retail offerings for that wine as presented by 1000 Corks or by Wine Searcher (whichever list seemed more useful—though you can and should check both for a wine you are considering).
Finding and buying wines usually involves a lot more than just assembling a list of interesting wines: there are all sorts of practical issues needing consideration, notably shipping costs. For a fuller discussion of wine-search sites and of buying considerations in general, please visit our page on Buying Wine.
While we recommend that you further check out any listed wine that sounds interesting, we have tried to help there, too. For each wine, we show a good many samples of what reviewers have said about it. Granted, most of those comments will be positive, often ecstatic. That is chiefly because few serious wine reviewers write notably negative reviews of wines: they write up what they have liked. Also, recall, these are all supposed to be at least pretty good wines, so published negative notes about them should be (and are) few. Nonetheless, as you will see, where we did find negatives, we nonetheless included them, because we want to be as fair and representative as we can in portraying the wines we suggest.
(We do not explicitly show the source of each quotation we include, because we feel that would over-complicate the lists; but each is headed by a mark (♦) that is a click-on link to the web page containing the full source material for the quotation, and we heartily recommend that you follow out those links for any wine of possible interest, to see the context and get the full source write-up.)
We have used no quotations from sources that make or sell wines: each is from a supposedly disinterested reviewer. Often the linked source page will be that of a retailer—but that is only because several important sources—notably the Wine Advocate, the Wine Spectator, and the International Wine Cellar—are not available on line except by subscription, so third parties, meaning retailers, are the only open source of their review texts. No link to a particular retailer as a source for a quotation should be taken as any endorsement of that retailer; they are just text sources for those independent reviews.
If you are a first-time visitor here, we suggest that before jumping into the individual-grape pages, you look in on our pages of Generalities About Wine, as linked in the upper left of this (and every) page. Even if you are a veteran wine drinker, you just might find something of interest there; and for those just starting out on their voyage into the world of wine, we hope it will be quite helpful. And, again, don't overlook the discussion of the practicalities of buying wine.
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