Panels find bargains in bottles for wine fans

January 03, 2007|By Joe Gray | Joe Gray,CHICAGO TRIBUNE

Who doesn't love a bargain?

When it comes to wine, that universal feeling intensifies because so much of it can be so expensive, and sometimes disappointing.

Fortunately, the Beverage Tasting Institute, an independent product-tasting company based in Chicago, holds something called "World Value Wine Challenge" each year.

Wines submitted by producers are tasted blind by panels of judges drawn from the wine industry, according to Jerald O'Kennard, director of the BTI. O'Kennard heads and participates in the panels, which this year tasted 400 wines over the course of three weeks. O'Kennard said that one of the best parts of such a grueling regime is finding the gems.

"You get a $10 bottle of wine that tastes like a $20 bottle," he said. "That's always something to talk about."

BTI sends the reviews to the suppliers, who then might use the information to promote their wines. The listings also go to some wine and spirits industry or hospitality industry publications and are posted on BTI's Web site. The rankings have an effect on what restaurants put on their wine lists.

But we thought you might like to see some of the lists yourself. The following are two categories in the middle of the value range covered in the tasting. (Note: "NV" means no vintage. All wines were less than $20: other designations listed are awards also given by the panelists). For more, go online to

Joe Gray writes for the Chicago Tribune.

Top 13 wines from $10 to $15

2004 Hahn Estates Syrah, Central Coast, "Best U.S. Syrah"

NV Pindar Pythagoras, North Fork of Long Island, N.Y., "Best U.S. Red Blend"

2004 Hahn Estates Cabernet Sauvignon, Central Coast, "Best U.S. Cabernet Sauvignon"

2003 Care Wines Crianza, Cariqena, Spain

2003 Tsiakkas Cabernet Sauvignon, Pitsilia Mountains (Cyprus)

2003 Fire Station Red Shiraz, California

2004 Calina Alcance, Merlot, Maule Valley, "Best Chilean Merlot"

2004 La Playa Claret Block Selection Reserve, Colchagua Valley, "Best Chilean Red Blend"

2005 Vietti Moscato d'Asti (Italy), "Best International Sparkling Wine"

NV Gruet Demi-Sec, New Mexico, "Best U.S. Sparkling Wine"

2005 Masi Masianco, Pinot Grigio, Pinot Grigio delle Venezie, "Best Italian Pinot Grigio"

2005 HaGafen Riesling, Potter Valley (Calif.), "Best US Riesling" (kosher)

2005 Wakefield Promised Land Unwooded Chardonnay, "Best Australian White Wine"


NV Commandaria Alasia Lemesos (Cyprus), "Exceptional Value"

2005 Care Wines Syrah-Tempranillo-Garnacha, Cariqena, "Best Spanish Red Wine" and "Exceptional Value"

2004 Woodbridge Cabernet Sauvignon, California, "Exceptional Value"

2005 Cycle's Gladiator Merlot, Central Coast, "Exceptional Value"

NV Lynfred Vin De City Red, American, "Exceptional Value"

2004 Quara Malbec, Cafayate Valley, "Best Argentinean Red"

2003 First Rains Cabernet Sauvignon, Western Cape, "Best South African Red"

2005 Domino de Nogara Ribera del Duero, Spain

2004 Quara Torrontes, Cafayate Valley (Argentina), "Exceptional Value"

NV Biltmore Estate Sauvignon Blanc, North Carolina, "Best U.S. Sauvignon Blanc"

2005 Woodbridge Riesling, Mosel, "Exceptional Value"

(These wines should be widely available except for some of the imported bottlings and those from North Carolina and New York; check larger wine stores for those.)

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