Don’t fear, regular visitors. That’s not one bottle of wine, but the result of a recent Wine Curmudgeon shopping expedition — 13 bottles, only two of which cost more than $16. And there wasn’t a stinker in the bunch.
The occasion for this spree? A chance to shop at Spec’s, probably the best liquor retailer in Texas. Spec’s doesn’t have any stores in Dallas, but I was in Austin for a wedding and Spec’s has several stores there. So that gave me a chance to check out Spec’s vast inventory (at 80,000 square feet, it’s bigger than most grocery stores) and its very competitive pricing. I was not disappointed.
More, after the jump:
Spec’s truly is impressive. There were the usual suspects, plus really expensive wine ($800 for Chateau Haut Brion, a Bordeaux first growth), plenty of regional wine (I saw Texas, New Mexico, Louisiana and New York), and the odds and ends that I don’t see much elsewhere, like aligote from Burgundy.
But what I liked best was the $10 wine — lots and lots of $10 wine. When I go on a shopping expedition like this, the first thing I look at is the cheap wine. Usually, retailers like Spec’s offer better prices because they do so much volume, and they’ll have a bigger selection (if only to fill all those shelves).
I struck cheap wine pay dirt almost immediately with Chateau Bonnet Blanc, a French white blend that is a long-time favorite. It’s clean and crisp (green apples and some lemon?), a perfect every night for dinner bottle of wine. But it has been priced out of that range in Dallas, where it goes for as much as $16. But Spec’s had the 2008 vintage for $10 a bottle, and I bought the last two. That’s a key when you’re shopping like this — if you find a wine you like at a great price, buy as much of it as you can.
And that wasn’t the only Chateau Bonnet good news. Spec’s had the rose, which I almost never see, also for $10. So I scooped up two bottles (one of which, chilled in a hotel ice bucket, didn’t survive the afternoon).
More good news came when I saw La Vigne D’Argent, another French white blend that I don’t see often enough in Dallas, also $10. It’s a little more simple than the Bonnet, but that’s not a criticism. I bought two bottles, and should have bought more.
Although I can get Segura Viudas cava in Dallas, Spec’s had the rose for $7, which is practically giving it away. Another steal, for $15, was the Juv y Camps Cava Reserva de la Familia 2005. It’s incredible wine, with all sorts of cava earthiness and minerality and a bit of green apple fruit. That is has aged this well speaks volumes about its quality, since cava is not known for getting old gracefully.
How did I decide on the Juve y Camps? That’s another key to shopping for wine, which is that if you don’t know the wine, what do you know about the producer or the region? I knew Juve y Camps, so the wine was worth taking a chance on. That was also the approach for Cuvee Cep d’or 2010, a $10 rose from Provence. Even though I had never heard of the wine or the producer, that it came from Provence — home to some of the best rose in the world — was enough. And it was one of the best roses I’ve ever tasted.
Less impressive were two French wines, an aligote from Michel Lafarge ($16) and Ch teau Tour Coutelin ($20), a left-bank Bordeaux red blend. Nothing was really wrong with them, but neither really delivered value. My guess is that each is significantly less expensive in France, and that they suffered from the weak dollar and the inflated prices afflicting wines from Bordeaux and Burgundy.
Still, no reason to complain. I got my $200 worth out of these wines, and I haven’t tasted a couple yet, including a 2000 white Burgundy from Domaine Bzikiot ($45). Hopefully, Spec’s will open a store in Dallas (it’s rumored, anyway), and I can do this again.