I guess I should have expected a little backlash when I stated in last month’s post that people should never purchase wine from a grocery store. Although I stand by that advice, I’m certainly willing to admit that there are exceptions to every rule, especially in the wine world. A friend who works as a regional wine buyer for Whole Foods Market contacted me and was eager to prove that the wines they sell are indeed one such exception.
Being a specialty gourmet market, I fully expected Whole Foods to carry wines that are above and beyond your typical grocery store offerings. The more interesting question for me, however, was whether or not they could marry quality with value. So, I asked my friend to pull two whites and two reds under $20 off the shelves for us to taste together. Here’s what she picked out:
2008 Biokult Grüner Veltiner, Austria – $8.99 – A lovely little GruVee made from organically grown grapes tasting of lime and grapefruit with hints of something more tropical, some herbaceous notes and just a suggestion of the varietal signature white pepper. An absolute stunner at this price and a perfect match for cold vegetable dishes like spring rolls and salads.
2005 Beckmen Vineyards “Le Bec Blanc,” Santa Ynez Valley – $17.99 – A white Rhône blend (Roussanne 57%, Marsanne 30%, Grenache Blanc 13%), this is very full bodied with stone fruit, buttered toast and lots of new oak. While not exactly my speed, I’d recommend this to Chardonnay drinkers who like the big oaky stuff, as it should be able to simultaneously please and expand such palates.
2008 Borsao Red Wine, Campo de Borja, Spain – $8.99 – From famed importer Jorge Ordoñez (if you like this one, keep your eye out for his name on the backs of bottles), this red blend contains 75% Grenache and 25% Tempranillo. Pleasingly, it smells a lot like s’mores with its chocolate, smoke and sweet spice. Those flavors follow through on the palate, along with a rush of cherries, resulting in an easy drinking, crowd pleasing wine. As with the Gruner above, this is just an incredible value as a “house red” or cocktail party type of wine.
2006 Bodegas Juan Gil, Jumila, Spain – $16.99 – Made of 100% Monastrell (aka Mourvèdre), this offers deep dark fruit and charcoal on the nose, suggesting a big mysterious wine. On the palate it’s very tannic and masculine, begging for some baby back ribs or something similarly fatty and savory. While not the best wine I’ve ever had in this price range, I praise it for it’s individuality and would recommend it at your next serious BBQ.
What was the result of this little experiment? Well, I think the most important thing to note about the wine program at Whole Foods, when compared with your average grocer, is that they seek out new, interesting and unique wines to fill their shelves—not just the normal garbage flung at them by the behemoth liquor distributors. Clearly, based on the few wines tasted here, there are also some great values to be found. So go ahead…you have my blessing. Buy some wine at Whole Foods. Just remember the most important tenets of my wine shop versus grocer argument—seek out the guidance of a friendly knowledgeable employee, talk about the wines and try new things!