Tuesday, April 18, 2006

7 Effective Habits of Highly Successful GUZZLER Locaters

'Guzzler' (pronounced in Australia, the place where a name with two syllables is almost too much trouble, as 'guz-luh') is a term my friends and family use to denote a wine that drinks well but is inexpensive. But where and how can you find such wines? Do they really exist? Yes they do and they are not as hard to find as you might imagine.

One of the greatest thrills you can get is when you find a wine for under $15 that drinks as well as a $30 - $40 bottleof wine. Wine is seductive! Guzzlers, for me, used to be all under $10. Now they are under $15. This is partly because I think my palate is changing the more I am drinking wine, in that it is becoming more ‘educated’ and more selective. It is also somewhat partly due to inflation.

Nowadays, it seems that I can appreciate the differences between wines of various values, more than I used to be able to. At least this is the case with Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinot Noir. When I first started drinking I couldn’t tell, or more accurately appreciate, any difference between a $10 or $40 bottle of wine. Maybe you have felt the same way?

In many ways I am still like that with white wines. I am hopeless with them and maybe this is why I stick to reds. I don’t mind Chardonnay and love a good Semillon or Riesling. Sauvignon Blanc is OK and a Gewürztraminer is not bad as well. I can tell a bad Chardonnay or Semillon but I couldn’t appreciate the difference between a $20 bottle of Chardonnay and a $50 bottle.

Much of the reason I stick to reds is because as I said in In the Beginning is that I believe there are basically two types of wine – ones you like and ones you don’t. I REALLY like reds so I tend to stick to them.

Does any of this sound familiar to you??

So how can we find guzzlers – red or white – that we can enjoy. Here are some of the ways that I use.

1. Wine Companion or other wine publications
Just because I am an amateur doesn’t mean that I don’t value the opinion of experts. In fact the reverse is true. I have mentioned Australian Wine Companion 2006 (by James Halliday) in several earlier blogs (Halliday J., 2005 ‘Australian Wine Companion : Bestselling Guide to Australian Wines’, HarperCollins, Sydney) Dymocks Books

There are other wine guides besides the Australian Wine Companion however I have only ever really used this one. It, and the others, is updated annually to incorporate new wineries and wines tasted and bring in new tasting notes on recently released vintages.

I find the Companion an invaluable guide to the wines and wineries and the various wine regions, however it does have its limitations. You will often purchase a bottle of wine and look for it in the guide only to find that the vintage you have hasn’t been tasted or there are no notes for it. However, if the book contained notes on every vintage on every wine it would be too big and never ready for print.

The 2006 Australian Wine Companion rates 5957 wines and also gives great guzzler hints. On pages 35 and 36 it lists Ten of the Best Value Whites and Reds under $10 and the same for between $10 - $15. It provides a guide to their price and Halliday’s rating (out of 100). In his systems his top two rankings are as follows:

94-100 = Outstanding: Wines of the highest quality; usually with a distinguished pedigree.
90-93 = Highly recommended. Wines of great quality, style and character, worthy of a place in any cellar.

Even if we look at these top two rankings he gives a good number of wines to choose from, which in Halliday’s view are great ‘Guzzlers’:

Whites ranking at 90/100 or more and less than $15:
90/100 = 2004 Dominion Vinus Sauvignon Blanc Semillon $8.95
90/100 = 2004 Angove’s Long Row Sauvignon Blanc $9.99
90/100 = 2004 Zilzie Buloke Reserve Chardonnay $9.99
91/100 = 2004 Yalumba Y Series Viognier $11.95
92/100 = 2002 Byrne & Smith Ardent Estates Margaret River Chardonnay $12
93/100 = 2003 Allison Valley Semillon Sauvignon Blanc $10
93/100 = 2004 Willow Bridge Estate Sauvignon Blanc Semillon $14.50
93/100 = 2004 Mount Trio Vineyard Great Southern Sauvignon Blanc $14.90
93/100 = 2004 Sticks Chardonnay $14.99
93/100 = 2004 Marribrook Frankland River Semillon Sauvignon Blanc $15
94/100 = 2004 Braydon Estate Home Paddock Hunter Valley Semillon $12.50
94/100 = 2002 Cleveland Macedon Chardonnay $15
94/100 = 2003 Patrick T The Caves Vineyard Riesling $15

Reds ranking at 90/100 or more and less than $15:
90/100 = 2003 Water Wheel Memsie Shiraz Cabernet Malbec $12
90/100 = 2003 Red Hill Estate Bimaris Pinot Noir $14
90/100 = 2002 Trentham Estate Merlot $14.50
90/100 = 2003 Rouge Homme Cabernet Sauvignon $14.99
90/100 = 2003 Judds Warby Range Estate Durif $15
91/100 = 2001 Moondah Brook Cabernet Sauvignon $13
91/100 = 2004 Yarra Brook Estate Yarra Valley Shiraz $13.75
91/100 = 2003 Cuttaway Hill Estate Southern Highlands Merlot $15
91/100 = 2003 McCrae Mist Mornington Peninsula Shiraz $15
92/100 = 2002 Casella Yellow Tail cabernet Sauvignon $9.99
92/100 = 2003 The Long Flat Wine Co Yarra Valley Pinot Noir $9.99
92/100 = 2003 Hardy’s Oomoo McLaren Vale Shiraz $13

As you can see there is significant variety at the highest quality under $15. The wines listed above are a great starting point for ‘guzzlers’

Additionally, there are a myriad of other wine commentators, reviewers, magazines, Wine Societies, newsletters etc that are out there on the internet and are found by simple searches. The best ones cost money to subscribe to and using one quite comprehensive guide like the Companion is a simple and good –place to begin.

2. Subscribe to email and snail mail wine retailer newsletters.
Subscribing to various wine retailers monthly newsletters is a great way to find ‘guzzlers’. I get regular monthly newsletters from Vintage Cellars, The Grape and Quinns just to name three. It is the only junk mail I enjoy getting and makes great loo-time reading.

I tend to read the snail mail brochures more than the emailed ones. I usually only seem to get the chance to skim the first one or two wines in the email before I get distracted by something else, however I will always take a quick peek as it can really be worth it.

I recently was able to snaffle up two cases of 2004 Maglieri McLaren Vale Shiraz at $10 per bottle. The 2002 Maglieri was rated by Halliday at 90/100. The 2004 is not quite as good but still well worth more than $10 per bottle. The special only lasted one day and despite ordering straight away (within minutes of receiving the email) it had already sold out in NSW. Luckily I come from Queensland!

Another good approach is to join a Wine Society. I joined the Wine Society a few years ago. Why? I can’t recall! I think it may have been while I was scouring the net and I sent a question to the Wine Society and they answered it and then offered me a membership at special rates. The Wine Society often has their own special wines made for them by producers and is occasionally able to obtain wines at special prices. It is also good value for being adventurous! See 6. below. The Wine Society also runs courses and events and provides some recipes to try with certain wines. Check them out at Wine Society

3. Scan specials in newspapers and internet
Keep your eye on weekend newspapers for large liquor stores advertising specials. Regularly scan internet sites of retailers for specials eg:

Dan Murphy’s,
Vintage Cellars,
Wine Society,
The Grape,
Liqour Superstore,

4. Browse the specials aisles
While you’re out picking up your beer or wine always scan the specials aisle for anything that takes your interest. You may see nothing you know but there may be one or two that spark your interest.

This is probably the least successful of the 7 tips but sometimes the most enjoyable and you get to browse. As a bloke, most of the time I hate shopping but I can spend hours in a good wine store.

5. Don’t knock back cleanskins
Try the odd cleanskin – you will be glad you did! Make sure when you buy a cleanskin you try it that night or next day (ie ASAP), so that if you really like it you can return quickly and buy more before it is sold out or is moved from where you last found it. See my blog on Cleanskins

Cleanskins come about from a variety of sources. For many reasons a producer or retailer may need to liquidate some stock to reduce overheads or just to ‘clear the channels’. These are often sold as ‘cleanskins’. These cleanskins are usually sold at a generous reduction in retail price. Oftentimes you cannot find out what the particular wine is other than its region and it variety. This is so that the same wine that may also be on the shelves at full retail isn’t disadvantaged or the reputation of the wine or winemaker diminished by the great reduction in price.

6. Be adventurous
Don’t just keep on buying the wines you know and like. Try new ones regularly. You don’t have to buy dozens, just buy one and try it. Try creating a new meal to go with it and have some fun - see my blog on Lamb & Wine

There are also various wine clubs or groups you can join eg. NSW Wine Society, Vintage Cellars, as well as ones attached to the Qantas Club, various credit cards, and other membership rewards groups. These provide a great way of forcing you to become adventurous and try new wines. I have a small standing order with the NSW Wine Society. Every six months they send me a mixed dozen of red wines. They choose them and average them to a certain value. Every six months I receive a little surprise at the office when the case turns up. Most of the wines they choose I have never tried before. Whilst I have had one or two ‘duds’, most are perfectly acceptable and I have even had more than a few ‘crackers’.

7. Find others with similar interests and tastes and compare notes
One of the most helpful things I have found is to have friends around you that have similar tastes and interests to you in wine. You can each try new wines and share your notes with your friends. Over a few short years my wine network has grown, but the core ones remain the same. My key wine-buddies are Rob (brother in law) Phil and Russ (brothers) Lynton (one of my best mates). These are people who often call me when they spot a great special, a good wine auction, or have just tried a new but fantastic wine. I am often doing the same in return. It’s good fun!

These key people are also the ones I share my wine with the most. I have discovered that your best wines you tend to save for the times when you are with the people you value the most. The wine is more enjoyable when you share it with ones you care about! I don’t believe good wine is meant to be drunk alone.


Anonymous Red B igot said...

You left off an important one: Visit the Red Bigot Red Buyers Guide regularly!

10:07 AM  

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