2009 Silver Birch Sauvignon Blanc (Octavin)

The Real Meaning of Value

I just don’t get it.

A few people I really like and respect have reviewed this wine ahead of me. Jason over at Jason’s Wine Blog (who, it should be noted, specializes in reviewing wine at the lower end of the price spectrum), while not formally giving the 2009 Silver Birch in the bladder inside the octagonal cardboard the once-over, did mention it in a recent post as “…impressive and… a crowd favorite.

A couple of my homeboys (as it were), including fellow Tres Amigo Josh Wade at Drink Nectar wrote this guy up, and gave it a 3 out of 5, which I translate in my little head as something resembling an 80 on the Robert Parker point scale. Josh mentions specifically that this is a value buy.

The same score was given out by Those Who Are The Best New Wine Blog Twentyten at Swirl, Smell, Slurp, where both She and He gave, individually, a score of 3 out of 5. They refer to the wine as “good” after calling food They consumed “great,” so I have to consider that a less-than-rousing endorsement of the wine—but an endorsement nonetheless.

Liking this a bit more is my buddy and fellow fantasy baseballer Josh Sweeney at wine(explored). With his forgiveness, I am going to include here his entire review verbatim, including his 7 out of 10 (which, in my little messed up world, is something like an 85 on Parker’s scale):

2009 Silver Birch Sauvignon Blanc: 7/10. This is a classic, aggressive, beautifully flavored Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc. I actually had a lot of trouble keeping my pace with this box. It drank so well for so long, I actually finished it a week early. If you can get the 2009 before we hit 2011, I highly, highly recommend it for anyone who likes a crisp, acidic Sauv Blanc.

Josh likes.

So, the consensus seems to be that this is average-to-good wine, that when coupled with its price (around $24 for a 3L box, or about $6 per bottle-equivalent) is recommended pretty much across the board by my blogging contemporaries.

I don’t fucking see it.

This is plonk. This is nigh-undrinkable, one-note, over-acidic plonk, and I can’t consider wine like that a “value” at any price, including free (which, because this was sent to me by someone involved in the promotion of this product, it was).

I think the wine blog whateversphere has found itself in the dangerous territory of trying to redefine “value.” High value is not necessarily correlated with low price.

The Chateau d'Yquem I reviewed last week, regardless of how good it is (and oh my GOD it is good) cannot be considered a “value.” It costs somewhere in the neighborhood of $300-$400 per bottle-equivalent (and is much more common in the 375ml half-bottle). But that’s not why. It can’t be considered a “value” because that price point is basically the worldwide peak for Sauternes.

However, the $30 Napa cult wine The Prisoner is absolutely a value. It drinks like a $60-$80 bottle. Many people would argue that wine that costs $30 (or $20, or some other arbitrary number) cannot be considered “value” wine, because it is out of some people’s price range.

To me, this is a bastardization of the concept of “value,” and leads to situations like this: crap wine given more than its due simply because it costs less than a child’s ticket to the cinema.

So here are my notes.

The wine looks like a sauv blanc, very light yellow-to-clear in the glass. On the nose is a light alcohol sting (but not terrible), grapefruit, and some grass.

The palate, however, is all one note. This tastes like grapefruit juice. Almost sour, but really, it’s the high, unbalanced acidity here that is making me think “underripe grapefruit.” Can’t blame the grapefruit for that. Did I mention this tastes like grapefruit juice?

I can’t call that a value, personally. And I can’t recommend this wine.

Verdict: sub-70/100

P.S., a 12-pack of 32oz bottles of Ocean Spray white grapefruit juice will run you about $35. That’s around $2.30 per 750ml. Just sayin'.

Full Disclosure: This wine was provided to me by someone involved in its production, sale, or marketing.

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