Making your best buy: Know your quality ratio for wine

There are magic words and terms in the wine world. One classification every wine drinker needs to know is QPR. QPR stands for quality-to-price ratio.

QPR represents what every wine drinker is looking for regardless of the wine budget. Every wine drinker is or should be looking for wine that tastes above, or way above, its price point.

QPR wines can be found on grocery shelves and in liquor stores, wine shops and really fine wine shops. How about an example? Robert Mondavi has a couple of different labels for Napa Cabernet in the $20 price range. The wines taste like you should pay more.

Some of the best examples of QPR wines are second labels. Wineries selling their grape juice at higher price points sometimes have a second label for value-priced wine. That doesn’t necessarily mean you’re getting less quality, but it might mean you’re getting a little different fruit or perhaps grapes from a region other than the one the winery might be known for normally.

A great example of second labels from Napa is Decoy. Decoy is the second label for Duckhorn wines. Duckhorn is known for its marvelous single-vineyard Merlot wines. Those usually sell full retail for $95. But the Decoy label features a wonderful Merlot for $19.99.

Many of the famous French chateaux have second labels, a common French practice. It takes some research and work, but second labels are well worth the effort.

But many Grape Sense readers buy most of their wine from groceries or local liquor stores with an occasional outing to a wine shop. So what’s on the shelf there that’s a good buy?

A recent discovery widely available in Indiana is Chronic Cellars. Chronic wines come from Paso Robles on California’s central coast. The background for Chronic Cellars is a good story. Two brothers who were raised in the heart of Paso wine country attended college and returned to Paso to work at Peachy Canyon winery, one of Paso’s best.

One of the slang terms often used by the brothers was “chronic” when referring to things they liked. They decided to set out on their own and offered up their first vintage in 2008. What you won’t find on their website is their wine-making pedigree. When they returned to Paso to work at Peachy Canyon, they were returning home.

Brothers Josh and Jake Beckett’s parents own Peachy Canyon Winery. So again, pedigree matters. Chronic, now owned by Winery Exchange as of 2014, was a totally separate operation, not a second label. But the two brothers remain at the winery as winemakers and in marketing.

But the colorful labels and great value wine proved to be a hit, particularly with younger consumers. The winery makes 14 different wines. The wines are very drinkable and surprisingly affordable. Take, for example, one of their best is Purple Paradise. The Zinfandel, Syrah, Petit Sirah and Grenache blend. The wine has a satisfying dark fruit and chocolate taste profile with a balanced finish. Better yet, the suggested retail is just $14.99.

Chronic wines are all over the state with a big presence in a couple of the supermarket chains. The wines stand out because of their labels, but you’ll remember them for your taste. Chronic Cellars is one of the best value labels I’ve found in several years.

Howard W. Hewitt of Crawfordsville writes every other week about wine for more than 20 Midwestern newspapers. Reach Howard at: hewitthoward@gmail.com