Given Gut Check's
never-ending quest for obsession with great wine values, we figured it'd be a good idea to check in from time to time with local merchants. They pick a wine they consider to be an excellent values, and we get our drank on and talk about it. The goal is to identify wines that 1) offer bang for buck, and 2) we can actually afford to purchase.
Location: The Wine & Cheese Place (7435 Forsyth Blvd, Clayton; 314-727-8788) Hours: 9 a.m.-7 p.m. Mon.-Sat. Expert: Aaron Zwicker, wine buyer Wine: 2007 Commanderie de la Bargemone Coteaux d'Aix en Provence rouge Price: $10 (sale price)
Aaron Zwicker paced the aisles of the Wine & Cheese Place for quite some time before pulling a 2007 Commanderie de la Bargemone off the rack.
"Dan Kravitz at Hand Picked Selections is recognized as a leader in value-priced wines, and the Commanderie has been one of our staples at the store for as long as we've worked with Dan," Zwicker says by way of introduction. "He knows all the producers he works with and brings to the States some really great value wines."
Bargemone's main stock-in-trade is its rosé, and the Wine & Cheese Place stocks plenty of that Provençal treat. But the wine Zwicker wants us to try is a red -- half grenache and one-quarter each syrah and cabernet sauvignon. The result is a medium-bodied wine with plenty of fruit flavor balanced by spice notes and tannins. Foodwise, given the bottle's south-of-France roots, Zwicker suggests pairing it with Mediterranean flavors.
The vintage, Zwicker says, is another selling point.
"Other than 2002 and to some extent 2008, there have been a lot of great vintages in the south of France, 2007 being the most pristine in terms of Mother Nature taking care of everything," he says. "In a lot of ways, you had to try to make bad wine in the south of France in 2007."
Before we headed home with our purchase, Zwicker imparts one final drop of wisdom, especially useful for those like Gut Check who are on the hunt for wine values.
"A lot of times I tell people, 'Look at the back of the label. Look for someone like Hand Picked Selections, rather than the front of the label," he says. "You aren't necessarily going to know the producer, but if you know the importer and know that they're spot-on, what you're going to get is a really good bottle of wine. The back of the label is as important as the front when you're looking for really good value, especially from southern France."
Along with Hand Picked Selections, Zwicker recommends United Estates, Kermit Lynch and Peter Wygand as importers with great value wines in their portfolios.