All tastings reported in the Buying Guide are performed blind. Typically, products are tasted in peer-group flights of from 5-8 samples. Reviewers may know general information about a flight to provide context—vintage, variety or appellation—but never the producer or retail price of any given selection. When possible, products considered flawed or uncustomary are retasted.
*Products deemed unacceptable (receving a rating below 80 points) are not reviewed.
The Pinnacle of quality
A great achievement
Often good value; well recommended
Suitable for everyday consumption, often good value
Can be employed
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Discover New Regions for Rhône-style Red Blend
Much larger in scale than Burgundy is the Rhône Valley wine region. The Rhône Valley in France is one of the larger quality-wine-producing regions in the world, allowing plantings of 22 different grape varieties. From the powerful highs of Châteauneuf-du-Pape, through the dense elegance of the Syrah-based wines from appellations like Côte-Rôtie and Hermitage, this is predominantly red-wine country. The continental climate and the steep, granitic and schistose slopes of the Northern Rhône shape the Syrah-dominant reds of the prestigious Hermitage AOP and Côte-Rôtie AOP. These meaty, spicy and complex wines are some of the highest priced and top rated Rhône-style red blend ratings. And while red production rules here, the white wines of the region deserve mention too: The Condrieu AOP offers beautiful wines based on the floral and exotic Viognier grape, while the Marsanne and Roussanne varieties are…
Stretching 250 miles south from the San Francisco Bay to Santa Barbara County is the Central Coast Wine Region, a coastal sprawl responsible for about 15% of California’s total wine production. In the northern parts of the Central Coast, Chardonnay tends to dominate the plantings, with Pinot Noir, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon also playing significant roles. The cool, maritime-influenced climate along with the fertile and gravely soil contribute to Chardonnay’s crisp acidity and citrus flavors, and the extended growing season yields concentrated Merlot and Cabernet. Some of the top northern Central Coast AVAs include, Santa Lucia Highlands, Santa Cruz Mountains and Monterey. South of Monterey, the Paso Robles AVA has garnered fame for its wines produced from Rhône varieties, Cabernet and Zinfandel. At the southern end of the Central Coast, Santa Barbara County (made famous as the backdrop for the…
In the south, the hot, sun-drenched vineyards of the Languedoc and Roussillon wine regions don’t just produce loads of inexpensive wine under the Pays d’Oc umbrella. Some AOCs, such as Corbières, Minervois, Coteaux du Languedoc and Côtes de Roussillon offer a magic mix of great value, history and fascinating herbal (garrigue) and fruity flavors.A new hierarchy has recently been agreed upon for Languedoc appellations, with AOC Languedoc wines at the bottom of the pyramid, followed by Grands Vins de Languedoc (such as Saint-Chinian and Faugères) and finally the Grand Crus du Languedoc (such as Pic Saint Loup and La Clape).A veritable alphabet soup of grape varieties are grown, with the most common being Syrah, Carignan, Mourvèdre, Grenache and Cinsault. Search our Languedoc-Roussillon wine guide’s hundreds of Languedoc-Roussillon wine reviews for more details on individual wines and for our comprehensive database…