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Value Wines

How to Find a Great Bottle at Any Wine Shop

How to Find a Great Bottle at Any Wine Shop

Wine expert Devon Broglie Photo © Cedric Angeles

Devon Broglie buys enormous amounts of wine for Whole Foods, always hunting for value. Here, he shares shortcuts to finding terrific bottles and reveals the best wines to drink while watching sports on TV.

Q. Some people get a little lost when they're shopping for wines in a big store like Whole Foods. Do you have any tips?
A. First, don't be afraid to purchase off a display. When retailers have committed to a large quantity of a wine, that's because they believe in it, and they think that it offers good value to the customer. Second, read shelf talkers, especially ones that say "team member favorite" or "staff pick." Third, be a little wary of fanciful names and overstylized labels. Huge companies create a lot of brand-driven wines designed to chase the buyer with marketing dollars.

Q. And when all else fails?
A. Stick to producers you recognize. For me, some examples are Jadot and E. Guigal in France; Marqués de Cáceres in Spain; Banfi, Antinori and Frescobaldi in Italy; Concha y Toro in Chile; Catena in Argentina; and, in the US, Rodney Strong, Kenwood and Kendall-Jackson.

Q. What about White Zinfandel? You're a Master Sommelier; most wine pros can't stand the stuff.
A. Here's my thing: White Zinfandel is the ultimate gateway wine. People have to start somewhere. I mean, really, I'd like to write a blog someday, titled "Why I Like White Zin."

Q. Come on, do you really like White Zin?
A. OK, it isn't what I drink personally, but so what? One of our core selections at Whole Foods is the Beringer White Zinfandel. Because truly, people should drink what they like.

Q. I know you're a huge dry rosé fan—wouldn't you rather sell them that?
A. I find it really dicey when someone pushes a customer who asks for White Zinfandel toward dry rosé. The wines aren't remotely the same thing [White Zinfandel is so much sweeter]. I'd rather move my Aunt Suzanne or my Aunt Sally—who are real people, by the way—to an off-dry Gewürztraminer or a lightly sweet Riesling.

Q. What are your go-to value regions right now?
A. I'm on the South Africa bandwagon. I really think the winemakers there are doing amazing things right now. South African Sauvignon Blanc, for instance, is delicious. You get that New World fruit combined with Old World minerality—it's really impressive. Indaba, DMZ, Sincerely and Southern Right all make great inexpensive Sauvignons.

Q. Where else?
A. I also think Portugal is incredibly exciting. There are a lot of small family producers who are just beginning to come into the US, like Quinta do Crasto. Its entry-level red, which is about $20, is just delicious. Beautiful ripe fruit, a sense of place and a rustic quality that's super-awesome. I'm actually having it tonight with dinner!

Q. Isn't $20 pushing the top of the scale for a value wine?
A. The thing is, the exciting values right now aren't at the $6 to $7 level. They're in the $15 to $25 price range. That's where the growth is, in terms of sales, and it's also where you get the highest potential to find a wine that, for its price, will taste like it's actually supposed to. That price range is where wines from Rioja and other great Spanish regions actually taste like they should, wherea Dolcetto from Piedmont really tastes like Dolcetto, and so on.

What was the first wine that ever really impressed you?
It was a 1986 Rotllan Torra Priorat. Of course, this was 1997 and I was brand-new to the whole thing. So I think the reason it was unlike any wine I'd ever tasted before was because it was completely flawed. But I vividly remember it, and whenever I have a cooked or flawed wine now, I think, Hey—that was that wine.

You're a fanatical Spanish soccer fan as well. So are you biased toward Spanish wines?
Yes! I was in Spain for the 2000 and 2003 harvests, and I've been a Barça fan [the Barcelona soccer team] since before they were good. So the wines of Catalonia, Priorat and Montsant definitely hold a place in my heart. Take Celler Piñol: Juanjo Piñol is as much of a character as you'll ever encounter, and his Ludovicus, which is a blend of red Spanish varieties, is amazing for $15.

Is that what you drink when you're watching a game?
It depends on what time it is here in the US. The most recent game was at 11 a.m., so we were having mimosas. Made with Spanish cava, of course—it was a 2009 Marques de Gelida Brut.

What if Spain wins the World Cup again this July?
OK, then I'll open a bottle of the wine I helped make when I was living there. It's from the Priorat: Costers del Siurana Clos de l'Obac, the 2000 vintage. But you know, I can always drink that wine if Spain loses, too.

Related: The Radical Reinvention of Great Portuguese Wine
In Search of Good Cheap Wine
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