Read an Excerpt
Although enjoying a good glass of wine is easy, all the types, costs, and confusing labels can make shopping for a bottle pretty hard. For the typical wine consumer, buying guidance–in the form of critics’ 100-point scores and elaborate tasting reports of rare and exclusive bottlings–isn’t much help. That is why I wrote Andrea Robinson’s Wine Buying Guide for Everyone. It is your road map to the real world of wine buying–from restaurants and hotels to supermarkets, price clubs, wine shops, and Web sites. Here is what you’ll find inside:
This guide showcases more than 700 of the most popular and available wines on the market. That includes everything from supermarket stalwarts to trade-up labels to superpremium “restaurant” brands (with plenty of boutique pedigree but without the you can’t-get-it frustration). Putting it plainly, if the wine is in your favorite neighborhood shops and eateries, at your supermarket or Costco, Olive Garden or Walt Disney World, Marriott or Carnival Cruises, JetBlue airlines or wine.com, it’s probably in this book.
Wine Reviews from the Trenches
I am indebted to the many consumers and wine pros who helped assess, for each of the wines in this book,
what really matters to buyers at the point of purchase– taste and value for the money. For each wine, you’ll also see their real-world reactions, as well as my impressions of how the wine stacks up in its grape or style category and in the marketplace overall. My tasters also contributed write-in candidates to the list of wines, and I’ve included those that received the highest number of positive mentions and have decent availability. There’s also space in each listing for your notes, so you can keep track of the wines you try. (I hope you’ll share your impressions with me for the next edition–read on to see how.)
Other Helpful Buying Tools in the Guide
Throughout the Guide, I’ve included simple tools to address just about every major wine buying question I’ve ever been asked. They are
Most Popular Lists–A quick reference to the top-performing wines in each grape or style category.
Andrea’s Kitchen Fridge Survivorª and Kitchen Countertop Survivorª grades–“How long will a wine keep after it’s opened?” Having heard this question more than any other from my restaurant customers and wine students, I decided several years ago that it was time to find out, so I started putting every wine I taste professionally to the “fridge/countertop test.” The resulting report card should help both home wine drinkers and restaurateurs who pour wine by the glass make the most of the leftovers, by simply re-corking and storing red wine on the kitchen countertop and storing re-corked sparkling, white, and pink wines in the fridge.
Andrea’s Best Bets–This is the book’s “search engine” of instant recommendations for every common wine occasion and buying dilemma, from Thanksgiving wines to restaurant wine list best bets, party-crowd pleasers, blue chip bottles to impress the client, and more.
Wine List Decoder–This handy cross-reference chart will help you crack the code of different wine list terms, so you can quickly and easily find the styles you like.
Great Wine Made Simple Mini-Course–Mini-lessons covering wine styles, label terms, glassware, buying wine in stores and restaurants, and other housekeeping details to simplify buying and serving wine, so you can focus on enjoying it.
I had been in the restaurant wine business for more than a decade before I wrote my first book, Great Wine Made Simple. Having studied like crazy to pass the Master Sommelier exam (the hardest wine test you can imagine), I knew there were lots of great books out there. So why another? Because as I worked training waiters and budding sommeliers, I began to see that in practice those books weren’t much help. Wine, like food, golf, the saxophone, and so many other sensory pursuits, is something you learn not by studying but by doing. So Great Wine Made Simple teaches wine not through memorization but the way I learned it–through tasting. It works, and it’s fun, whether you are just a dabbler or a committed wine geek.
Similarly, I intend this guide to fill a gap. Most people around the country buy wine based on price and convenience. And whether it’s restaurant guests, viewers of my Simply Wine and Pairings shows on Fine Living network, or visitors to www.andreawine.com, they all have the same questions: What are the good, cheap wines? And which wines are really worth the splurge? This buying guide is the first to answer those questions realistically, featuring wines and tastes in the broad marketplace, along with plenty of shrewd pro advice to help you make the most of every wine purchase. Food is one major way to do that, so as a professionally trained cook I’ve also included lots of pairing pointers.
WHAT'S NEW IN THIS YEAR'S GUIDE
First, lots more wines! My Web site’s (www.andreawine.com) Tasting Panel has now rated literally thousands of wines, and culling that list for really worthy selections to include in the Guide resulted in hundreds of new additions with impressive taste and value reviews. One note: The new additions are not included in the Most Popular rankings because they’re so new to the book (but they’ll be eligible next year if they continue to perform well with the panel). I hope you’ll log on to www.andreawine.com, join the Tasting Panel, and contribute your reviews–it’s free, and a great way to keep track of your tasting notes. While you’re there you can check out my new interactive wine-tasting DVD, Andrea’s Complete Wine Course for Everyone, and my new wine club of rare but great-value wines, the A-Listª.
Another new feature in this year’s Guide is what’s not included. Specifically, I decided not to waste space on wine reviews for big-selling wines that are underperforming in terms of quality versus the competition. Consequently, I had to delete quite a few entries from several well-known wine brands, including Beringer Founders’ Estate, Meridian, Robert Mondavi Private Selection, Woodbridge, and Yellow Tail, among others. I taste the wines in this important value category all the time and have observed quality declines in many of the varietals to the point at which I cannot recommend them, especially because there are so many more worthy alternatives at the same price. Now for the trends.
Sauvignon Blanc and Riesling Rising
Wow! These two wonderful white grapes were already on the upswing in last year’s Guide but now they are just on fire. I couldn’t be happier, because they both have such distinctive characters and great acidity, making them super food partners. If you check out the Most Popular table rankings, you will see that in particular Rieslings from Germany and Sauvignon Blancs from New Zealand have really caught the public’s attention.
The Critter Craze Continues . . . and Morphs
In the last two years, so-called critter labels, with a cute or funky animal on the label and often a story, came on strong with big marketing budgets to capture some of the excitement (and market share) around the Aussie Yellow Tail brand. A few of them were successful, but many lacked the quality and flavor needed to create brand loyalty. Those that I think are worthy of your attention–namely Monkey Bay, HRM Rex Goliath, The Little Penguin, and Three Blind Moose, made the Guide. Otherwise I didn’t bother, and you shouldn’t either. A few wineries evolved the critter phenomenon into a hip and unusual (but not animal) label design, again with a story or a marketing aura designed to position the wine as a lifestyle statement. The brand Twin Fin is the best of these and most of their varietals made the book because they’re excellent for the price.
Prices Are Dropping
Yay! Competition has put downward pressure on prices across the board and depending on the market, many wineries are programming extra discounts to try to get your attention. As such I encourage you to shop around for your favorite wines. I think global competition and some large crops in recent harvests will continue to keep prices in check.
From the Trade Paperback edition.