Several years ago we announced that the US had become the largest wine market in the world. If we seem a little woozy at the moment, that’s because we’re now experiencing the outcome of that new American exceptionalism.
France and Italy were the first to pounce, sending a staggering amount of wine into the market and into our tastings. We tasted 47 percent more French wine in 2014 than in 2012, 29 percent more from Italy and 60 percent more from Germany. Meanwhile, producers here in the US have been fighting back: In the past 12 months, we’ve tasted 31 percent more Napa Valley wine, 39 percent more from Sonoma County and 80 percent more from the Central Coast. Our Oregon tastings have burgeoned by 32 percent, our Washington tastings by 26 percent and New York State by 167 percent.
All this to say that our tasting staff and critics shepherded panels through 14,600 wines in 2014, up from 12,500 in 2013. “Two thousand more wines?” you might say with a shrug. Tell it to our palates.
If O. Henry were alive and well today, he’d be writing a story about the robo-taster and the wine critic. We’re almost there, with social media and apps that agglomerate the taste of millions
Sure, there are algorithms that will lead you to quality wines. But finding a great wine is different. It’s a little like falling in love. So rather than rely on crowd sourcing, we prefer old-fashioned blind dates. Our critics continue to discover great new wines at our blind tastings, even as the number of chance encounters increases.
We found a lot to love this year, as you’ll read in our sometimes impassioned notes on the 100 Best Wines of 2014. And given the burgeoning market, it’s no wonder we found some astonishing
values in our 100 Best Buys. We’ve also added a new feature to this edition of the Annual Buying Guide, singling out the 20 Best for $10 or less.
Despite the increased competition, many old favorites made our list of the Top 100 Wineries of the Year. Featured in our Hall of Fame, these producers continue to grow the most delicious, distinctive and classic wines on their home turf. But you’ll also fi nd plenty of newcomers, like our first Jura Winery of the Year, a Hungarian you may not know, a grower from New York’s
Finger Lakes you’ll want to collect.
We share their stories in this issue, a guide to the best of the wine world right now. We hope they lead you to some great bottles this holiday season and into 2015.
Photo by Kelly Puelio
This story appears in the print issue of Winter 2014.
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