Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Wine Blogging Wednesday #32 Showdown: Regular VS Reserve

REVIEWS STILL COMING IN! BE SURE TO KEEP CHECKING BACK. Welcome readers, bloggers, and wine lovers of all kinds. Welcome to The Wine Cask Blog. PB, NW and I (Billy) are happy to have you here.

This month for Wine Blogging Wednesday #32 we selected a showdown challenge pitting the "regular" wines against the "reserve" selections of the same varietal or blend and same vintage. The goal is to help the rest of us determine if the reserve is "really" worth the extra money.

The reviews from around the wine blogosphere have been coming in fast and furious. Late additions will be added on to the bottom of the post so keep scrolling each time you come back! Without further ado here is the roundup:

We'll start right here at home. PB from The Wine Cask Blog selected a the 2003 Banfi Chianti Classico and Clasico Reserva to review. Affordably priced at $11 and $15 dollars for the regular and reserve (respectfully) he blind tested them with the Mrs one evening. He found that he preferred the regular over the reserve but admitted that the reserve had more complexity. Was it $4 more complexity? Click the link to read more.

Moving on to Wino Sapien (the First to get his review in) Edward comes in with (eek) only half a review as the "reserve" wine is still in transit. Wino Sapien reviewed Ata Rangi Crimson 2005 from New Zealand. This would be the "regular" portion of his still unfinished WBW review pair. At $35 it is reasonable but until his ship comes in, we'll not know if the Senior Ata Rangi is worth the extra bling. Keep checking Wino Sapien to find out.

Next we have the showdown from Huevos con Vino (LOVE THAT NAME!). HcV tasted the 2003 Domaine Drouhin "Classique" and "Laurène" Pinot Noirs for us. In pursuit of the ultimate distraction-free-zone, HcV took his bottles out to a cabin in the middle of the woods on an island. This is someone who takes this challenge seriously! The Classique is the "regular" and the "Laurène" is the "reserve for our comparison purposes. Pricewise, these are not inexpensive wines. They can come in around $50 and $65 respectively. HcV has a fun to read description of the tasting amidst nature. In the end, it comes down to levels of complexity. While HcV finds the Classique wonderful and immediately accessible, the Laurène is found to be deeper, more complex. Is it worth it? Click over to Huevos con Vino to read the whole thing and find out.

Third Coast Wine is where we turn next. Razmaspaz from Chicago found a deal on the Estate Grown 2005 Kendall-Jackson Chardonnay and Grand Reserve Chardonnay. The KJ Chard came in at about $12 and the Grand Reserve at about $14. Third Coast Wine found that it wasn't so much the complexity that dictated the difference in the showdown, and neither was it the expectation of more or less oak in the Chardonnay. Rather it came down to subtlety and value. Razmaspaz liked the reserve better, especially for the rather minuscule price difference. Take a trip over to the Third Coast Wineto read the details.

Joe from Joe's Wine has our next review and he selected to compare the 2001 Chateau Montus against the 2001 Chateau Montus Cuvee Prestige. In Canadian dollars these came in at about $32 and $54 respectably. A significant price swing. Is the value there? The Structure? The Complexity? You'd need to click over to read the entire review. Joe ultimately comes down on the side of the "regular" offering but more because the Prestige ("reserve") may simply not be ready just yet. Joe itches for a future showdown so bookmark Joe's Wine and check back every once in a while to see when the Prestige comes into its own.

Wine Girl from the My Wine Education blog has a great showdown with two Chilean wines from the Cono Sur winery. The selections were the Cono Sur 2005 Merlot and the Cono Sur Visión 2005 Merlot. The Visión is the "reserve" of the pair. The wine was ordered online and was quite accessibly priced at about $8 and $11 respectively. MWE found that the differences in flavoring and structure for two similarly priced wines was significant. While the regular was tasting as vegetal, MWE liked the earthiness and jamminess of the reserve. In the end, the Visión was worth the extra $3. Not a bad bit of reviewing there! See My Wine Education for more.

Interlude: The point of it all. Marketing is all around us. Wineries have basically a small label with which to woo new buyers and unfamiliar patrons. Sometimes that "reserve" (or similar) label will sway us, but is it *really* worth it? As you can see, sometimes it is. Sometimes it's worth the extra bucks, other times, it's not. The point is that word of mouth or blogging the reviews gives us all at least an initial take on the differences between the regulars and the reserves. Ok, keep reading for more...

Wine Outlook is next up. Farley blind reviewed and enlisted the help of some customer-guinea pigs to review the 2003 Thomas Fogarty Chardonnay and the 2003 Thomas Fogarty Reserve Chardonnay. Wine Outlook's analysis of the wines, why they were selected, and how they were made is expert. Nice work. So how did the wines stack up? The regular is priced at about $26 and the reserve at about $38. The grapes are from the same four vineyards in the same region. This showdown really showcases the difference in winemaking. Farley and *her* customers decided that the regular is solid, ready to drink, and pleasing. An all around good wine. Not overpriced, not value priced. Just plain good. But the difference in the winemaking between the regular and the reserve is quite amazing to read. You'll need to check it out. All in all there were about twice as many who preferred the reserve to the regular. Thanks to Wine Outlook for getting a gaggle to guzzle!

Israeli Wine Direct - the blog about wine from Israel has our next showdown. The wines come from the Recanati winery in Israel. The wines are the Recanati Merlot 2005 and the Recanati Reserve Merlot 2002. Richard blind tested these for us. Though guessing which was the regular and which was the reserve incorrectly, IWD liked the reserve better. The regular is reviewed as a decent table wine and the reserve comes in more fruit - forward with a nicer smokey finish. The regular merlot came in at about $12 and the reserve came in at about $22. A non-trivial difference. It should be noted that IWD reviewed a regular and reserve from separate vintages (years) and that, perhaps even more than the labeling, can make the difference. So we'll call the jury still out on these two wines from Israel. Still an engaging review from Israeli Wine Direct. Click through to check them out!

Back in the states we go to Brooklynguy's Wine and Food Blog. Brooklynguy takes on a number of 2004 wines from the Loire Valley in France and made by Bernard Baudry. This is a very fascinating post that does a really good job of demystifying the French labeling which transcends the simpler regular / reserve dichotomy. Brooklynguy decides to compare the Cuvee Domaine, a mid level at about $15 or so to the Les Grezeaux a one step below the top level that comes in at about $25. All in all this was a great read about how a good winemaker with typically good wines can just have an off year. While the LG came in as "better" Brooklynguy ends up recommending that we wait for the 2005 vintages! But that's what this is all about isn't it! Point us to the "good stuff!" Thanks Brooklynguy! Be sure to check out Brooklynguy's Wine and Food blog!

Vinilicious blog has the next WBW Showdown posting. Though they selected two different vintages, we'll let it pass. The excuses are fun to read! So Vinilicious selected the 2004 Grati Fattoria di Vetrice Chianti Rufina and 2003 Grati Villa di Vetrice Chianti Rufina Riserva. The regular chianti came in at about $11 and the Riserva at about $15. So what does $4 buy? The opinions come from Bryan and Liz (as well as the parents during Easter Dinner). So we get reviews at 4 for 1. COOL! Ultimately, the Riserva won but only by being the not-worst. Not a very ringing endoresement. No worries though. There are lots of other chianti's out there! The posting was quite fun to read. You just have to head over to Vinilicious for yourself.

On to the CorkDork's selections. After a nice introduction to the wines of Domaine du Pégau and Laurence Féraud and Mark Fincham in particular, CorkDork posts a showdown for the following: The 2004 Plume Bleue is the regular wine and 2004 Plan Pégau the reserve. The Plume Bleue came in around $8 and the Plan Pégau at about $17. CorkDork likes BOTH wines though points out that the Plume Bleue is quite a good value especially when going against Austrailian Syrah. The Plan Pégau is more complex, more Rhone-ish and has more character. To this reader, the wines aren't so much competing as designed for different events/moods/meals. And there's another beauty of this kind of a review showdown. Sometimes both wines are winners - even if value priced!. Check out CorkDork's blog for the in depth behind the scenes as well as some cool pictures of Laurence Féraud.

The Good Doktor Weingolb has our next entry. FYI: WBW # 33 will be on Doktor Weingolb's blog so keep checking for announcements and information! Despite different bottle appearances and labels, the sibling wines from Hillebrand Estates Winery were selected. The showdown is between Hillebrand's Harvest Cabernet-Merlot vs. Trius Red 2004. The Hillebrand Harvest Cab Merlot is the "regular" and is about $10-15 while the Trius is a touch more at about $20. It was the Trius that was preferred though the other was not bad as a table wine. But this sentence says it all, "...For as little as $5 more, you are getting a lot more elegance". Be sure to check Doktor Weingolb for the details as well as info on the next WBW!

Amy from The Second Glass posts next with a showdown of biblical proportions: Battle of the Malbecs. The David of the showdown is priced at about $10 and is the Altos Los Hormigas 2006 Malbec. The Goliath of the pair is priced at about $25 and is the Altos Los Hormigas 2005 Reserve Malbec. While the Altos Las Hormigas Malbecs are not from the same year, we'll still let them join in the fun. The Second Glass reviewers had fun with this review and also enlisted the help of some wine-regulars a one of their local haunts. The result? TSG says it best, "...The reserve is the Goldilocks, and the everyday is the three bears." I'm still trying to wrap my head around that one. You should click through to read the entire post and then leave a comment here if you figure it out! At least remember to keep a regular tab open for The Second Glass.

The blog with the longest name is next: ~ Through The Walla Walla Grape Vine ~ blog, a name I'll not type again, brazenly breaks the rules but keeps the spirit of the sport with her post comparing Forgeron Cellar's popular Red Table Wine and Forgeron's proprietor's blended reserve, Vinfinity. The Red Table Wine (our regular) is priced at about $16 and ~TTWWGV~ blog calls it a great value. The Vinfinity is about $46. It should be noted too that the Red Table Wine is a non-vintage wine and the Vinfinity tasted was the '02. ~TTWWGV~ notes that the Red Table Wine is intended to be open and consumed now, casually. The Vinfinity, a bit more, shall we say, intentionally. ~TTWWGV~ indicates that there are clearly elegance and quality differentiators between the regular and reserves as well. But that what you intend to do with the wine is as big a determinor of which wine to buy as price or "quality". Good advice that. Check out ~TTWWGV~ blog for more.

From Washington State to Ohio we go. Cincinnati Wine Warehouse has the next post. Jens, who runs a wine shop and wareshouse in that area has selected Simi Winery Chardonnay as the subject of our WBW showdown. There is a very nice history of the winery and the family that ran/runs it. The wines selected are the 2005 Simi Winery, Sonoma County Chardonnay at about $15 and the 2004 Simi Winery, Russian River Reserve Chardonnay at about $27. Once again the theme of the purpose of the wine emerges as a key determinor of value. CWW Blog suggests that the regular is the right choice for a party and the reserve is the better pick for an elegant evening. Neither is bad, but value is found in intent. Pop on over to Cincinnati Wine Warehouse for more.

Garry from Tales of a Sommelier weighs in on Argentinian Malbec with a showdown between a regular and reserve from Nieto Senetiner, the first is the entry level Santa Isabel, the other is the Reserva Malbec. The Santa Isabel is an '06 and the Reserva is an '04 so there is some difference to be inferred directly from the different vintages. Nevertheless, we continue. Tales of a Sommelier is based in the UK, so prices in his blog as listed in GBP. That being said, the Santa Isabel he pegs at about £18 and the Reserva at about £24. Like many of the other bloggers this WBW, Garry finds a liking for both the standard and reserves he reviews and places a premium on intent when determining worth or value of the wine. Party and entertaining gets the Santa Isabel (the regular) and fine dining gets the Reserva. Take a spin over to Tales of a Sommelier to read more.

Catherine from Purple Liquid decides her showdown will be between two Merryvale Vineyards Cabs. The "regular" is a 1999 Merryvale Cabernet Sauvignon that was about $21 and the reserve is a 1999 Merryvale Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon that ran about $30. So there's a nice spread in the price that most of us would notice when making a purchasing decision online or in the store. Catherine blind tests the wines and, while finding them both good, the reserve comes out ahead for its better structure and deeper complexity. In the evaluation of Purple Liquid, the extra $9 for the reserve is nine dollars well spent. Check out Purple Liquid for more.

Lenn Thompson, the one behind the madness that is Wine Blogging Wednesday and to whom all the praise for the concept and the community should go, and to whom none of my novice errors or pronoun choices should be ascribed, is weighing in with a doozy! In fact it's a twosey doozy as Len compares not one but two pairs of wines from his neck of the globe, New York. The first is a white pair. Lenn sets up a regular and a reserve chardonnay from Treleaven Wines 2005. The regular of the pair is set at about $13 and the reserve at about $17.
The results? You should read the review for the full details but the net is that for the extra four bills, the richness and build of the "reserve" is worth it. What about the second pair? Lenn goes with Wolffer Estate's 2001 Merlots. While they have an entry level merlot, it was unavailable, so Lenndevours compared the reserve merlot set at around $17 to the estate selection merlot set at around $35. Think of them as "super-regular" and "super-reserve". Lenn likes the food-versatility and flavorfulness of the $17 "reserve". However the $35 estate selection is rich and full and round and just that much bigger. When it comes down to it, is it worth the splurge when the lower priced wine is actually quite nice? Click through to Lenndevours to find out.

The reviews keep coming in. Now we move to Winecast and a pair of 2003 California Zinfandel. Winecast sets up the showdown between the "regular" Rancho Zabaco, Zinfandel, “Sonoma Heritage Vines”, Dry Creek Valley and the "reserve" Rancho Zabaco, Zinfandel, “Sonoma Reserve”, Dry Creek Valley. Both of these should be quite available to most of our US readers. The pricing on the regular is about $15 and the reserve will come in at about $22. So what about the review? Winecast does a very nice job of contextualizing the reviews and analysis up front. When it comes down to it the regular wins this dual on value and structure. Not that the reserve is bad, but if you can save $7 on a bottle why not? Truth be told, you should really head over to Winecast and read the whole thing.

Late Arrival Culinary Fool gets her entry in. The showdown: Shingleback 2003 Shiraz and the Shingleback 2002 D-Block Reserve Shiraz. Both of these Australian wines are 100% shiraz. The "regular" can be found for about $15 on sale and the reserve comes in around $40-50. This sets up a nice distinction between the wines at least from an expectation based on price point. Culinary Fool has a good writeup on both wines and you should head over there for the details. The results are interesting. While the hefty price difference in the reserve is substantial, Culinary Fool thinks it's worth it and that the regular line is value priced at around $15. Again, we see a theme of the "regular" being great for everyday quaffing or bringing to a party with the reserve set as an elegant "special time" wine. Make sure to check out Culinary Fool for more.

Additional reviews keep coming in and we're happy to post them. Check out this next review by the folks over at Box Wines. They selected something that we should all be able to find within 15 minutes of where we are right now: Jacob’s Creek Shiraz 2003 & Jacob’s Creek Reserve Shiraz 2003. The Regular will run you all of about $6 and the reserve will run you about $12. I loved this review. It took on economics, hypothetical dinner parties with hypothetical guests, grilling, and starving artists and did so with aplomb. Without a doubt the showdown has the $12 reserve as the better wine. But Box Wines has to go throw in a wrench with this question: If you were on your way to a party with exactly $12 in your pocket, should you get one bottle of the reserve or two of the regular? You'll need to click over to Box Wines to find out.

Another late posting here, though not of their fault as the entry got caught in my G-Mail spam filter (yeah, I'm blaming this on the technology). The Red Wine with Fish blog has a nice write up of a blind test of a regular and a superior Heymann-Lowenstein Riesling. The showdown was between the 2005 Heymann-Lowenstein Schieferterrassen and the 2005 Heymann-Lowenstein Rottgen. The former is the "regular" and the latter is the "reserve" or superior wine. Moderately priced at about $25 for the regular and $45 for the reserve these are fine candidates for the blind testing the folks at RWwF performed for our little test. The reserve was the definite winner but it is noted that the regular is not to be scoffed at. As I read it, the regular wine has more rough edges than the superior. The crafting of the wine appears to set these apart. But you should read through and be the judge of it as well. Definitely keep checking back to Red Wine with Fish for some great write-ups.

I will keep posting reviews as they come in to my email. Remember, if you want to be included in the write up, send your submissions to serona -at- gmail -dot- com.



jens at cincinnati wine said...

That was fast! Great topic. Nothing else would have got me to open two bottles of Chardonnay today!

jens at cincinnati wine

huevosconvino said...

Terrific summary! Excellent work, very enjoyable to read...*)

Catie said...

Thanks for hosting, you are doing a great job.!

That chick at "Through The Walla Walla Grape Vine" is either a brazen hussy for breaking the rules or drinking too much of the good grape. Forgive her.

Farley said...

Great job. Fast and interesting. But if I may point out, I'm Farley and not a 'he.' And don't feel bad: you're not the first nor probably the last to make that mistake!

Billy said...

*DANG* My apologies Farley. I *do* try to be careful about that. The "his" slipped through. Corrected above.

Joe said...

a tremendous host! Nice topic, and nice review. Where's your review? ;) Cheers!

Daniel said...

Hmmm. Not sure why my post didn't get posted. I e-mailed it to you twice, once on Tuesday and once on Wednesday. I wonder if your spam-catcher is eating it. Anyway, my posting is at