How to pick a great bottle at a great price? Use our lessons from the 2013 Sunset International Wine Competition
You’ve filled your shopping cart with the building blocks for dinner, then make a flying pass down the wine aisle for a couple
of bottles to wow your friends. But which ones? Few of us have a wineshop clerk on speed dial, so we’re left eyeballing the
shelves wondering if the $28 Chardonnay from the Russian River Valley is really better than the $18 bottle from Monterey.
What about the $42 Sangiovese from Washington versus the $22 Chianti Classico? Sans hard evidence, we pick our price and reach
for the prettiest label.
But Sunset has a better way. The Sunset International Wine Competition gathered 50 of the most experienced wine pros in the West—winemakers, sommeliers, journalists, teachers—to rate nearly 3,000 wines. In our blind tasting, the field was level: Judges knew variety, region, and vintage, but not price. Meaning $12 bottles faced off anonymously with their more expensive counterparts—and sometimes scored better.
Go to sunset.com/2013medals to find the entire list of award-winning wines. And read on to learn some of the most compelling lessons from the 2013 competition—and how to get more bang for your wine-buying buck.
No disrespect for the most-drunk wine in the United States (many Chards won medals), but the varieties that really caught
our judges’ fancy included Grenache Blanc, Riesling, Viognier, Picpoul Blanc …
Oregon’s chilly midsection produces a delicate style of Pinot that made a powerful impression.
If you find yourself without a cheat sheet in the wine aisle, know that you can trust these West Coast brands to deliver high-quality,
affordable bottles across their portfolios.
Argentina’s signature grape is surging—bottles from that country and a growing number from our own vineyards are crowding
market shelves. But quality varies wildly and price is no guide. These nine deliver.
Debate raged: Must all sparklers mimic the minerally character of Champagne to earn a medal? “Why should they?” argued a judge
who used to make Champagne. “These are great wines.”
Our judges soldiered through veritable oceans of solid Cabernet and Pinot Noir to get to their real entertainment—the knockout
alternatives to the West’s marquee reds.
Remember when we discovered Chianti, Pinot Grigio, and Prosecco? Now it’s Tempranillo, Garnacha, and Albariño from Spain—and
increasingly from California, Southern Oregon, and Washington.
Winemakers crafting avant-garde mash-ups—putting Cabernet and Zinfandel in the same bottle, for instance—are blending for
quality (not just using up excess juice).
Many wines count on sticker shock to deliver a marketing message. (A $100 bottle has to be good, right?) Without the ability
to flash their price in our blind judging, the expensive wines rode on merit alone. These bottles earned exceptional scores.
If you’ve slogged through enough cheap wine to think, If I can afford it, I won’t like it, you’ve been buying the wrong bottles.
You can give your weeknight sipping a serious upgrade with this list of supermarket stars unearthed by our judges. Here are
our imported bottle picks: