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Good Wines Under $15

By Leo Bueno

Ten-point wine rating systems are terribly important in the wine business. Wine makers would kill for a couple of extra rating points from well-known publications, particularly if those points bump their wines into a higher psychological tier, like the 90+ point level. Although the merits, or lack of, of those assessment systems is beyond the scope of this column, one negative aspect is worth brief mention: a single number does not convey enough information to allow a thoughtful wine consumer to make a decision on whether to purchase a wine.

In this space I have consciously chosen to not use a point system, preferring to stick with the information delivered by, hopefully precise, use of the Queen's English (even if she sometimes talks in Latin….

Today I am changing the practice a bit: I have developed the OenoVisual graphic wine description system, the purpose of which is to quickly and accurately convey in graphic form a quantified impression of several wine attributes.

No, I am not doing away with verbal descriptions altogether; I am simply going to use a new tool to convey information about some of the wines. I will continue to feature only wines that are worth drinking. Just like life is too short to drink bad wine, it is similarly too short to write about or graphically assess bad wine.

I will greatly appreciate your feedback (to about the OenoVisual approach.

2002 Chateau Pesquie Les Terraces Cotes du Ventoux (Rhone) $13
Wolfe's Wine Shoppe
Medium-deep color. I had to shake the glass a bit to coax this wine to show a nose of pleasant cooking spices (like an onion and garlic sofrito), cinnamon and aromatic spices. Tannins are light, coupled with medium acidity, resulting in a crisp mouth feel from a light body and delivering a short finish. This is a wine that I drank, not simply tasted. The tannins accumulated on the palate in proportion to consumed volume.

2002 Pavilion Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon
Here's one for the California "fruit-forward" crowd. Fairly deep color. Spice and berry nose with a hint of clove [I actually popped open a clove spice jar and compared scents] and some floral hints. The tannins did not accumulate. Quick finish. This is a "formula" wine, reminiscent of solid value Cabernets from McMannis and Rex Goliath (the one with the big rooster on the label); this is, as the winery asserts, a wine "styled for everyday drinking enjoyment". Probably will hold up a day or two in the refrigerator after opening (but I did not test this hypothesis). Did not get boring until I developed a buzz, at which point I stopped drinking. Paired well with a ham steak.

2003 Cotes du Luberon (Provence) $13
Wolfe's Wine Shoppe
These notes come from drinking the wine first after having a spicy vegetarian dinner and later with rotisserie chicken and garden salad with a vinaigrette dressing Itpaired well with both. Transluscent light color, like a medium-dark Pinot Noir. Subdued nose. Some candy and cherry on the tongue reminiscent of Gamay (Beaujolais). Mild tannins. Low acidity, but well balanced. Tasted at room temperature, but probably would improve a tad a couple of degrees lower.

2004 Barnard Griffin White Riesling Columbia Valley (Washington) $11
Berries To Wine
The OenoVisual graphic says it all.

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