Wine Notes – Thrill of the Chase
I’ve come to learn that the hobby of finding and enjoying fine wine is really a full-contact sport. It’s all about drinking the good stuff. I go to tastings regularly and bring home “test” bottles, and then the wife and I determine if it’s something special. If it passes (most do not), I return to the store and purchase a case to put in the wine cellar.
This all takes some discipline and a good amount of effort, but my system works well, and we enjoy lots of good wine at home at reasonable prices. Still, I’ve often thought about how it would be so much easier if I had a source to help me find these “best buys.” So, a while back I bought a subscription to Wine Spectator.
I’m a little embarrassed to say that the magazines had been piling up — until a recent issue caught my eye. It contained Wine Spectator’s Top 100 list of 2015. This is the industry standard of wine rankings, and since I know all the best wine stores in the area, I figured I’d easily find several of these top wines of 2015 and then tell you where to buy them. What a joke that turned out to be.
Almost every retailer I spoke to had something negative to say about the list. From what I learned, it seems the list is published after most of the wines have been sold and distributed, so retailers can’t always get them. Also, as soon at the Top 100 comes out, the prices of the wines go up, so they don’t reflect the prices mentioned on the list. Another complaint I heard was the sucpicion that large wine corporations can influence the rankings. Retailers seem truly frustrated by the list because they often don’t have and can’t get No. 56 (or whatever) when folks like me come in and ask for it.
Still, I went to at least six stores and asked what they did have. The best stores had as many as three or four of the 100 listed; some had only one or two. I also reached out to one store that’s known to have one of the best selections in Greater Boston, but the wine snob on duty didn’t want to be bothered divulging what they actually had on hand unless this magazine would provide the store with free advertising. Needless to say, I won’t be returning to Waltham anytime soon.
I did come across one selection on the list that Chuck Palazzolo, owner of Lucia’s Bodega in Windham, N.H., expects to have in stock for the near future. Called Aalto, this outstanding 2012 Spanish wine made from 100 percent old-vine tempranillo grapes from the Ribera del Duero region ranked No. 6 on the list. This wine spent 20 months in oak, bringing out complex dark berry flavors not always found in younger tempranillo wines. But at $59.99 a bottle, this wine should be special.
All of the wines that make Wine Spectator’s list are great. They all have ratings of 90-plus points and truly represent some of the best wines available each year. Problem is, it isn’t necessarily the shortcut solution everyone is seeking in their quest for a “good” wine. As I found out, it’s just not that simple, and it never will be.
Part of the fun in tasting wine from unknown regions and unknown makers is finding the gems before they make the big list. Each vintage brings new wines and lots of surprises, so there is a never-ending source of enjoyment.
Lucia’s Bodega: Windham, N.H. / (603) 421-9463 / LuciasBodega.com