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Wine Road Archives

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​​The saying goes that most wine journeys begin or end in Bordeaux. Certainly it is full of storied estates...some of which are now priced out of the means of most mortals. But there are Bordeaux estates making great wine at prices that have not (yet) gone stratospheric. Chateau Smith Haut Lafitte and Chateau Pontet-Canet are two estates whose dramatic improvement since the early1990s has catapulted them into the front ranks while their prices have remained within the reach of most of us. Whether that will continue now that they have each received 100-point scores remains to be seen. But there are other estates on the rise...and in a vintage like 2009, which saw such consistent ripening, there are wines from lesser known and unknown estates whose value will exceed the price.

South Africa

The Cape Winelands are a stunning place to visit for a variety of reasons...spectacular beauty and the chance to discover wonderful wines are just two of them. The wine scene in South Africa is dynamic as new wineries are emerging daily and quality is dramatically increasing. Those wines are not yet as widely appreciated--or as widely availablle--in the US as they should be. I was particularly struck by the number of excellent mid-priced wines I tasted. Jean Smit at Boekenhoutskloof is making wonderful bold, expressive cab and syrah in the $40-$50 price range. And Hamilton Russell's pinot and chardonnay are excellent for $25-$35.

Barossa Valley

​​Australia's Barossa Valley contains some of the oldest vines in the world. This grenache bush vine at Turkey Flat is among the very oldest at about 150 years. The combination of warm, friendly Australian hosts and warm, spicy Australian wines makes the Barossa a great place for wine lovers to visit. One mild warning might be in order. Those friendly Australians really like to share that big, spicy wine. I did figure out that they were curious to see how much the Yank could drink. I just figured it out a touch too late.

Willamette Valley

In a little over 30 years, the wine industry in Oregon's Willamette Valley has gone from fledgling to world class.  Pinot noir is certainly the signature grape--and it is now competing with Burgundy at a price that humans can afford.  Obviously, given my name (Brooks) I have a particular affinity for Brooks Wine...and for the story of Jimi Brooks who had a great vision of what a family-owned biodynamic winery could be, but tragically died  young before it could be fully realized.  But beyond all that, I respect and enjoy the outstanding wine...and those who are carrying on the dream.


Chile's vibrant wine industry is growing and reinventing itself as it does  Once known for  value wine, Chile is now producing an increasing range of outstanding wines...some from well-financed large operations such as Casa Lapostolle's Clos Apalta, whose beautiful barrel-lined tasting room is shown here.  Others come from small estates, such as Antiyal, where a talented winemaker and his wife produce superb carmenere-based wines and blends...wines that beautifully represent those people and that place.  I was reaching for a term to describe their unique wines...a friend said:  "I call those wines that have soul."

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