Wine critics dedicate most of their time to investigating and tasting rare, small production, high-class – and therefore expensive – wines. While these labels account for no more than 10 percent of worldwide wine sales, they receive more than 70 percent of critics’ attention.
Wine Spectator, one of the leading wine magazines in the United States, justifies this stance, noting that “there are so many interesting wines that get 87+ points that we simply have no space to publish tasting notes about wines with lower ratings.”
The average consumer, however, doesn’t drink wines costing US$50 or more on a daily basis, and needs some guidance in the lower price segment. Wines rating 80/100 can be very acceptable and, in fact, most of the world’s low-price wines fall into the 80-86/100 points brackets.
In Mexico consumers will find a huge offering in the low-price segment (50-200 pesos), mostly from the bigger imported brands originating in Chile, Argentina, the United States and Spain. Mexican wines occupy the lion’s share of the market in volume (approximately 30 percent) but are not widely presented in this price segment, due to high internal taxes and production costs.
Here are some guidelines to follow when choosing “generic” wines in the lower price category:
- As a rule, Chile is the number one choice for varietal wines in terms of price/quality ratio. Do not hesitate to take a Chilean Cabernet or Merlot or any other “standard” varietal. Concha & Toro’s Casillero del Diablo is an exemplary Cabernet that has more accolades than any other wine in this price category (170 pesos in most wine shops and supermarkets across the country).
- European wines at the same price point as Chilean ones will be “thinner” and less interesting, due to substantially higher production costs. Some exceptions can be found, mostly from the Spanish Rueda DO (Verdejo variety) and Castilla La Mancha.
- Argentinean wine is still a Russian roulette. But for the summer, the reasonably priced Argentinean Torrontes is the best choice if you like aromatic whites to go with spicy Asian cuisines or sushi.
- Many large brands add sugar before bottling to their entry level wines. The sugar softens the taste and makes the drink more attractive for wine newbies. The problem is that Mexican wine legislation is very “loose” and doesn’t require sugar content (or level of dryness) indication on the labels. I personally consider this practice as an ethical issue with the consumer – nowadays when nearly everyone counts calories and sits on diets, these wineries “shove” some undeclared sugar in your drink. Not that one will get instantly fatter with 7 to 10 grams of sugar per liter – the soft drinks we consume usually contain 5 to 10 times more carbohydrates – it’s not fair not to put it on the label. Brands like the U.S. Barefoot, Chile’s Concha y Toro, Mexico’s Monte Xanic and La Redonda practice these additions (mostly for white and rosé wines, but some reds get their “portion” too).