Tale of two wines

On the one hand, at $65, Flora Springs Trilogy 2004, a Bordeaux-style red blend. On the other, Solaz Shiraz Tempranillo 2004, about $8. Which offers more bang for the buck?

This is not as silly a question as it sounds. The price value ratio isn’t considered nearly enough in assessing wine. That’s one of the problems with scores, which don’t allow for quality based on price. No one is arguing that the Flora Springs isn’t a well-made wine, because it is. It was a bit young, and to my mind had too much acid (though not everyone who tasted this with me agreed). But it was, save for the acid, integrated and  complex, full of lots of dark Napa fruit and even some cocoa. It wasn’t especially subtle, but this kind of wine isn’t supposed to be.

The question, then: Is it eight times better than the Solaz? The answer is no.

Spain’s Solaz line — there is also a tempranillo-cabernet blend, a white, and a rose — is one of the great values in the world. In this wine, the shiraz gives it some heft, but it’s nowhere near as big or over the top as an Australian shiraz (though it was 14 percent alcohol, which seemed high). It’s balanced and easy to drink, an excellent accompaniment to pot roast, mashed potatoes and smothered corn on a cold December night.

Did it have as much depth as the Flora Springs? Nope. Was it as “good” as the Flora Springs, as the Wine Magazines measure good? Nope. Is it a better value? Yes.

And that should be the question wine drinkers ask, not “How much can I spend?” or “What kind of score did it get?” Is the Flora Springs overpriced? To quote the respected Robert Whitley: “The price, while not inexpensive, is a bargain compared to other Napa Valley reds of equal quality.” Again, this is not a criticism of the Flora Springs as much as it is of the way wines are priced, especially in Napa. Too many producers pick a price, and then make a wine to match it.

Would I give the Solaz as a gift to an experienced wine drinker? Probably not. That’s what the Flora Springs and its ilk are for. But I would serve the Solaz blind to that wine drinker for dinner, ask them to guess how much it cost.

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