By Alfonso Sanchez

The Wine Spectator issue of December 2014-January 2015, lists the Top 100 Best Values of 2104 defined as wines costing $20 or less and rated with 87 points or higher. Remember that wines rated 85 to 89 points are considered very good, those rated 90 to 95 are outstanding and above 95 are classic or exceptional. There are no wines rated above 92 points on the 100 Best Values list.

A quick inspection of the Top 100 Values shows a few remarkable features. The table below summarizes the representation of Top Values by region, by rating score group and by average price.

Region No. of wines 90 pts. or higher Avg. price 87-89 points Avg, price
California 19 2 19.00 17 16.00
Washington/Oregon 10 7 15.00 3 13.70
France 21 6 19.70 15 14.00
Italy 19 5 17.40 14 13.00
Spain-Portugal 11 8 15.40 3 13.00
Argentina-Chile 10 5 17.40 5 13.40
Australia -New Zealand 10 7 15.80 3 15.00

California, France and Italy represent 69 percent of the list. Nothing unlikely or surprising given the volume of production and the large numbers of wineries in these countries. However it is remarkable that a big proportion (7 out of 10) of the wines listed from Washington-Oregon, Spain- Portugal and Australia-NZ are rated 90 points or higher and priced at around $15, compared with $19 for California, $20 for France and $17 for Italy. I do not know whether this could be taken as indicative of the quality to price ratio for different regions but probably it is worthwhile paying close attention to the first three regions mentioned. Portugal in particular is coming up with excellent wines at very affordable prices.

It looks that all regions price their wines in the range of 87 to 89 points at about $13 with the exception of California and Australia-NZ that are 25 percent more expensive ($16). This again probably cannot be taken as representative of the pricing strategies in these regions but might indicate that where there are large markets for that level of quality (the sweet market point), producers can charge a bit more.

Another section of this WS issue lists the Top 100 Wines that includes the highest rated wines regardless of their price. There are some salient points here:

• The costlier wine on the list is the Ornellaia Bolgheri Superiore 2011 from Tuscany (no, it is not a Sangiovese but a Boudreaux-type blend) at $240, and ranked 65 on the list with 96 pts. The least expensive is the Bodegas Montecillo Rioja, Viña Cumbrero Crianza 2010, ranked 62 and priced at $10 with 90 points. The number one on the list is the Dow’s Vintage Port 2011 from Portugal with 99 points at $82.
• There are 33 Value wines (rated 90 points or higher and costing less than $20) on the top 100 list. However, not all the TOP 100 Value Wines (the first list discussed above) rated 90 or higher are on the Top 100 wines. Probably the rating criteria is somewhat different for both lists but the WS does not explain the discrepancy.
• Finally on the Top 100 Wines list there are 19 from Italy, and California each, followed by 14 from France. The new world (Americas, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa) is represented with 45 wines of which there are 4 from Argentina and 6 from Chile. This is drastic reduction from 2013 when the new world had 61 wines on the list. You draw your conclusions.

Overall it is nice to know that one can still drink pretty good wines at reasonable prices and that it is important to look at those regions that can offer the best quality-price ratios. The remaining problem is whether a 90 points cabernet from California is as good as a 90 points from France at about the same prices. And this is very subjective.

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