Just six wines entered the 2020 $10 Hall of Fame, and it’s probably going to get worse
Remember how distraught I was about last year’s $10 Hall of Fame? I’m even more distraught this year; compiling the 2020 $10 Hall of Fame was an exercise in misery — and that’s even before I started worrying about tariff-induced price increases.
Just six wines entered the Hall, five dropped out, and none of the new wines were roses or from California. My notes contained so few “HoF 2020” notations that I went through almost all the wines I drank last year, just to make sure I didn’t miss anything.
How did we get to this point? Premiumization, of course, as well as the dumbing down of what’s left of wine costing less than $15. Big Wine, Big Retail, and all the rest are convinced that if they make wine taste less wine-like by adding sweetness, fake oak flavors, and purple grape juice concentrate, they’ll convince people who don’t drink wine to drink it. Which, as White Claw demonstrated, doesn’t really work.
Availability, always a problem, got worse last year thanks to wholesaler consolidation. There are too many wines and not enough distributors, and the distributors that remain are so big that they prefer Big Wine products. Since most of the most interesting cheap wines are from smaller, niche producers, they can’t find a distributor (or suffer a small one with little clout) and disappear from shelves.
Meanwhile, the Trump Administration’s proposed 100 percent tariff would double the price of European wine, which means there would be almost no $10 wine worth drinking or writing about. If that happens, the 2020 $10 Hall of Fame might well be the last one.
Some good news
The six wines that entered the Hall are top-notch, as good as anything I’ve tasted in 20-some years of wine drinking. That includes the 2020 Cheap Wine of the Year, Le Coeur de la Reine Gamay; the return of the Gascon classic, Domaine Tariquet; the stunning Portuguese red and white Herdade do Esporão Alandra; the 1-liter Azul y Garanza tempranillo; and the French white blend, Little James Basket Press.
The complete 2020 $10 Wine Hall of Fame is here. You can also find it at the Hall of Fame link at the top of the page. The Hall’s selection process and eligibility rules are here. I considered wines that cost as much as $13 or $14 to take into account price creep and regional pricing differences.
You’ll be able to print the Hall as either a text file or a PDF. Look for the printer icon on the upper right hand corner of the post.
The 2020 $10 Hall of Fame will appear on the blog on Jan. 10; the 2020 Cheap Wine of the Year on Jan. 9.
Thanks to everyone who left comments and sent emails with suggestions for the Hall of Fame. This year’s Hall has been among the most difficult ever to compile — not just because of the continuing decline in quality cheap wine, but because the tariff has wreaked havoc with price and availability.
8 wines entered the 2019 $10 Hall of Fame, but long-time standbys like Bogle and Segura Viudas dropped out
The Wine Curmudgeon never thought he would write these words: Three of my all-time favorites, wines I’ve been drinking for more than 20 years, weren’t good enough to make the 2019 $10 Hall of Fame.
Bogle’s reds (excepting the pinot noir), plus the Segura Viudas and Cristalino cavas were a shell of what they have been; none were included in this year’s hall, the 13th annual. The former were noticeably and unpleasantly sweet, and not nearly as well made as Bogle’s sweet Essential Red. The cavas tasted more like Italian Proseccos than Spanish sparkling wine, soft and sweetish and devoid of cava’s crispness.
And that was just the beginning of the bad news:
• More than a dozen wines dropped out, including two other standbys: The Gascon white blends that have been in the hall for most of its history, and the Dry Creek fume blanc. The best Gascon, Domaine du Tariquet, lost its importer and isn’t for sale in the U.S. anymore, while the Dry Creek tasted bitter and harsh, something else I never thought I would write.
• Higher prices continued to wreak havoc. The Chateau Bonnett red, white and rose, which cost $6 in Europe, can cost three times that much in the U.S. I left the wines in the hall because I can still find them for $10 or $12 in Dallas, but this may be the last year I can include them. Because, frankly, they’re not worth $16 or $18.
• The decline in quality was marked. The venerable Pine Ridge chenin blanc viognier, which was once Hall of Fame quality for $10, today costs as much as $16 or $17 and isn’t worth it, either — awkward, unbalanced, and touched up with residual sugar. Consistency has become a problem, too. A wine could taste the way it’s supposed to one time, and completely different the next. This points to shortcuts in winemaking, as well as use of less expensive and inferior grapes.
• Availability continues to get worse; witness the Tariquet. Meanwhile, distributor consolidation means wineries that produce 200,000 or 300,00 cases — once enough to rank among the biggest in the country — aren’t big enough to find a national distributor. Hence, they will only be sold in parts of the country. That almost happened to McManis, another Hall of Fame standby, in 2018.
I wrote last year “this may be the last Hall of Fame for a long while where this many wines are good enough to earn induction. The quality at $10, and even $15 or $18, isn’t there, sacrificed for ‘smoothness,’ the chance to upsell consumers to equally inferior wine, and a resurgence in cute labels and marketing trickery.”
I take no pleasure in being right.
The $10 Wine Hall of Fame 2019 is here. You can also find it at the Hall of Fame link at the top of the page. The Hall’s selection process and eligibility rules are here. I considered wines that cost as much as $12 or $13 to take into account price creep and regional pricing differences.
You’ll be able to print the Hall as either a text file or a PDF. Look for the icon on the upper right hand corner of the post.
The 2019 $10 Hall of Fame will appear on the blog on Jan. 4.
Thanks to everyone who left comments and sent emails with wines to add to the 2019 Hall of Fame. I wanted to include several of them, but availability reared its ugly head. Almost all of your wines aren’t sold in most of the country. Case in point: I haven’t seen a current vintage of the Pacific Rim dry riesling in Dallas in years.
And it didn’t help that several wineries and distributors failed to respond to my queries about where to find their wines. That’s both disappointing but not surprising.
Finally, about half the suggestions were private label wines sold by just one retailer or with limited distribution on the west coast. Hence, they aren’t eligible. Complete eligibility rules are here. Also, don’t be upset if your favorite grocery store wine didn’t make the Hall. The wines I pick aren’t just easy to drink or easy to find; they’re the best of the best. That’s the point of the Hall, after all.
13 wines entered the 2018 $10 Hall of Fame, but there is bad news for cheap wine on the horizon
Do not look at the 13 wines that entered the 2018 $10 Hall of Fame as a sign that all is well with cheap wine. Rather, this year’s Hall class may be the last great moment for cheap wine before we enter the dark ages of middling quality and overpriced wine.
Look past the total, and details were ominous:
• Six wines dropped out, one more than 2017, and price creep reared its ugly head. The venerable Pine Ridge chenin blanc viognier, which has been in the Hall for a decade, can cost as much as $15 now. And it’s just not worth $15.
• Just three California wines that aren’t McManis or Bogle in the Hall. That speaks volumes about how difficult it is to find quality cheap wine from California, thanks to exorbitant land prices and that most producers can’t afford to make cheap wine that’s worth buying.
• The induction total was boosted by five roses, which says more about the quality of rose than it does about cheap wine. Take out the roses, and we had a very ordinary year.
• Availability got worse this year, and it is going to get even worse. The wine business increasingly revolves around the biggest retailers like grocery stores, national chains, and the like, and the biggest retailers only want wine from the biggest producers. And most great cheap wine doesn’t come from the biggest producers.
• The weak dollar, which has lost most of its value from this time last year, will eventually force an increase in imported wine prices — and most of the value is in imported wine.
In other words, this may be the last Hall of Fame for a long while where this many wines are good enough to earn induction. The quality at $10, and even $15 or $18, isn’t there, sacrificed for “smoothness,” the chance to upsell consumers to equally inferior wine, and a resurgence in cute labels and marketing trickery.
So celebrate while we can. The $10 Wine Hall of Fame 2018, and my annual assessment on the state of cheap wine, is here. You can also find it at the Hall of Fame link at the top of the page. The Hall’s selection process and eligibility rules are here. This year, I considered wines that cost as much as $12 or $13 to take into account price creep and regional pricing differences.
Again this year, you’ll be able to print the Hall as either a text file or a PDF. Look for the icon on the upper right hand corner of the post.