EDITOR'S NOTE—the boom in the bust
Some people are comparing the current economic crisis to the 1930s, but for wine and spirits drinkers, there aren't many parallels. Until Repeal in 1933, if our forebears wanted a glass of wine, they made it from zin and petite in their basement. Or they headed to church for a communion wafer and a chalice.
Today, wine is flowing through the recession, part of the culture as it never was 80 years ago. The California wine industry, which grew three-fold in the past two decades, held even in 2008 (based on revenue figures reported by the California wine institute). Imports from countries such as Portugal, Argentina and Chile—where good wine can be had for cheap—have been sparked by the times. This is our issue to feed your craving for good wine—even great wine—at a good price.
As critics, we have some of those cravings ourselves. One evening on my way home from work, I was drinking a Guinness with oysters on ice and chatting with Liam Whyte, my friend at Tracks Bar in Penn Station. Send me some wines I should taste for the bar, he asked, then went off to fill another pint. Whatever synapse charged with the Loire in my brain began to wiggle, or was it the oyster it splashed with a memory of Domaine de PepiŹre? I wondered what Tracks would be like if they offered a cru Muscadet by the glass. So I asked our team of critics to come up with their own fantasy lists for their favorite BYO haunts (page 44).
We also grilled restaurateurs about value in wine: Jeremy Ensey of Becco spoke with Wolfgang Weber about Southern Italy. Seamus Mullen and Roger Kugler of Boqueria talked pata negra ham and Fino with Tara Q. Thomas. And Aldo Sohm of Le Bernardin sold me on malbec...with fish. Meanwhile, we reviewed our tasting results over the last year and selected 100 Top Values priced $15 or less, and the 45 Value Brands—each with a range of great buys for $18 or less.
As you prepare to invest in your $10, $15 or $18 wine for the summer, you may well find it here.
Back in the early 1930s, anyone who wanted a drink could still bask in speakeasy cocktail culture, the afterglow of an early 20th century boom.