Bargain Hunting

E Wine of the Week

Bruce Cochran

Hello Everyone,

This week we’re bargain hunting, sharing my tips from a class I taught for 20 years under the names “Best Wines Under $10” and “Finding Wine Bargains.”

I’ll see a couple hundred of you at the big Riverfest Wine Tasting, “Art on the River,” a benefit for the Thea Foundation from 5 to 7 p.m. April 18 at the Little Rock River Market’s west pavilion. For more details, visit under the “Attractions” button. Look for Wine Tasting Event conducted by Bruce Cochran. There will be 30 wines from 18 wineries and foods to match from area restaurants and caterers. This will be a fine learning event.

Try a new wine this week!


Bargain Hunting

Back when I taught continuing-ed wine classes at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, I developed a short course on how to find wine bargains. Some strategies were based on current market conditions, others were more or less timeless. Below are three of my favorites that I still use today.

1. Look for grape varieties or blends that are less well known than the most popular varieties. Examples of good, but often overlooked, varieties include: Torrontes (Argentina, white), Petite Sirah, Gewuztraminer, Barbera, Tempranillo, Zinfandel, Mediterranean varieties, mainly Syrah, Mourvedre — that’s Monastrell in Spain — and Grenache.

2. Find a famous wine region, then look next door. Often you can find wines that, while not quite as good as their illustrious neighbors, are a lot less expensive. One example is France’s Rhone Valley, especially Crozes-Hermitage, next to the famous Hermitage, as well as St. Joseph and Cornas. Another example there is Gigondas, near Chateauneuf du Pape. These are sometimes called satellite appellations.

3. Look for second labels. This has been popular among savvy bargain hunters for a long time. A winery may bottle only the best barrels under its regular name, while the worst are sold off to bulk bottlers. Sometimes they will have some wine that is too good for the bulk market, but not quite good enough for the expensive regular label. Maybe it’s from younger vines, maybe it ages in less expensive, used barrels. This “middle” or “second” wine will wear a different label and sell at a lower price. This has become more popular in California in recent years as an alternative to further price cuts on expensive wines.

Wooden Valley Riesling

Of the three listed above, I think number two might be my favorite. It works best in Europe, but this past winter I found one in California. Right next door to Napa Valley’s famous Carneros District — the southern end of the valley that’s cooled by Pacific breezes from an offshoot of San Francisco Bay — is a small valley that is cooled by those same breezes. This makes is great for Riesling grapes. It’s separated from Carneros by some low hills and shares the same climate. It’s called Suisun Valley (pronounced sue-soon), and a family named Lanza has grown grapes and made wine there for generations.

The winery is so small that they sell most of their wine locally, but I brought some of their fine Riesling to Arkansas. Wooden Valley is their winery’s name, and Wooden Valley Riesling is available in Arkansas for around $13.99 a bottle. As a long time Riesling fan I like this appley, off dry bottling a lot.

Bruce Cochran has traveled to every major wine region on four continents. A 30-year veteran of the wine trade, he taught continuing education wine classes for 26 years at colleges throughout Arkansas.t some manners into impolite society” was released by McGraw-Hill in 2009.

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