In Wine, Beware of Rare
by Clive Irving
One of the most deceptive terms used for a wine is "rare." You can usually find the word being deployed at two extremes: the expensive and the affordable. One of the world's greatest wines, Romanée-Conti, is rare because its vineyard is less than four and a half acres in size and produces only about 450 cases of unequaled pinot noir a year. A bottle of the 2005 vintage could set you back a cool $9,500. To die for, literally: One sip and you've gone to heaven.
At the cheap end, you can find wines that are rare not because of small acreage but simply because few people know of them. But beware the kind of hype you find--for example--on an airline wine list with this kind of language: "The Pecksniff family has been cultivating this small vineyard in Amador County for six generations, producing a Zinfandel rich in mineral power, a real find." Translated, that means the wine buyer has been able to get 400 cases at a bargain price.
It is heartening to find a wine that is still relatively under the radar and yet notably full of local character. The Campo de Borja region in northeastern Spain was given an official denomination in 1980, but nobody noticed until recently. The Global Gourmet enjoyed a bottle of the 2005 vintage with the Tres Picos label last year in Valencia. Recently, he introduced the 2007 vintage at two small gatherings in the offices of Condé Nast Traveler, to much acclaim. One sign that the wine maker is serious about the condition of his product is the weight of the bottle itself: It has the heft of a gold-plated Burgundy's bottle, despite what this must add to the shipping costs. The deep, dark wine is an astonishingly deft mingling of fruit, spice, and tannins that delivers the finest qualities of the grape, Garnacha (otherwise known as Grenache). Even better is the price: between $14 and $16 a bottle. For the 2007 Borsao Tres Picos Garnacha Campo de Borja, see klwines.com.