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by Fred McMillin
for May 2003

Wine

 

Budget-Friendly
Merlot and Chardonnay
(What Region Makes the Best?)

 

Prologue

"Value-priced wines from outside California offer high quality and distinctive flavors."
        —Kim Marcus, Wine Spectator

 

A 24-Bottle Answer

So we lined up affordable Merlot and Chardonnay wines from France, Australia, Chile, Argentina and Washington State (15 bottles) to be tasted with nine California versions. Here are the top twelve. The best is listed last. That is, the further you read, the better the bottle.

 

The Winning Regions

Rank   Region   Price   Year   The Wine
12th   Other   $11   2001   AUSTRALIA, Black Opal Chardonnay, Importer: Beringer Blass
11th   Other   $10   2001   AUSTRALIA, Reynolds Vineyards Merlot, Importer: Trinchero
10th   California   $24   1999   Sattui Napa Valley Merlot
9th   Other   $8   2001   AUSTRALIA, Alice White Merlot, Importer: Canandaigua
8th   California   $14   1999   Meridian Edna Valley Reserve Chardonnay
7th   Other   $8   2001   CHILE, Calina Reserve, Chardonnay, Importer: Kendall-Jackson
6th   Other   $16   1998   WASHINGTON, Sagelands Winery Merlot, Columbia Valley
5th   California   $18   1999   Beaulieu Napa Valley Merlot
4th   Other   $10   1999   ARGENTINA, Rincon Privado Merlot, Importer: Gaucho
3rd   Other   $9   2001   FRANCE, B&G Macon-Villages Tradition Chardonnay
2nd   California   $17   2000   Kenwood Sonoma County Merlot
 

And Number One!

 
1st   California   $13   1999   Fetzer new Five Rivers Ranch Merlot, Central Coast
 

So What's The Best Region?

The Case for California: Five of the nine California wines made the list (56%) while only seven of the 15 outsider wines (47%) made the list. More important, the two best wines were from the Golden State.

The Case for Other Regions: Other regions landed seven places on the list, to California's five. Furthermore, the average cost of the seven was $10, while the California average was $17. The outsiders give you more bang for the buck.

Conclusion: Under $10 I buy an import; over $10 it's California.

 
 
About the Writer

Fred McMillin, a veteran wine writer, has taught wine history for 30 years on three continents. For information about the wine courses he teaches every month at either San Francisco State University or San Francisco City College (Fort Mason Division), please fax him at (415) 567-4468.

 


 

 
 

This page created May 2003

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