THIS STORY HAS BEEN FORMATTED FOR EASY PRINTING

Three sommeliers. 10 wines. 10 paper bags. And, as it turned out, one or two surprises.

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By Jenn Abelson
Globe Staff / March 27, 2011

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We turned to the experts to see if 90+Cellars could stand up to highly rated wines.

Three sommeliers from local restaurants agreed to participate in a tasting panel at Davio’s Northern Italian Steakhouse. Brian Deshler of Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar, Alexei Beratis of Towne Stove and Spirits, and Paul McKeever of Davio’s were not given any details about what they would be sampling. When they showed up, the bottles were wrapped in paper bags to ensure a blind tasting.

These connoisseurs tried 10 bottles over five rounds. During each round, we served a selection from 90+Cellars and compared each one to a brand-name wine made during the same year, from the same varietal. The wines had also received accolades from industry publications like Wine Spectator and Wine Advocate. After the sommeliers weighed in with their favorites, we ripped away the paper bags.

Here’s how 90+Cellars fared.

Round 1: German Riesling
All three wine experts preferred the brand name — a 2007 Kerpen Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Spätlese 1 star that costs $25 — to 90+Cellars Lot 12, a 2007 Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Spätlese priced at $21.99.

Round 2: Argentinian Malbec
Two of the three sommeliers favored 90+Cellars Lot 23, a 2009 Old Vine Malbec, compared to a 2009 Maipe Reserve Malbec. 90+Cellars costs $11.99. A bottle of the same vintage sold under its original, or source, label costs $15.99. The Maipe retails for $14.99.

Round 3: French blend from Languedoc
All three tasters voted for 90+Cellars Lot 21, a 2008 French Fusion blend of syrah, grenache, and mourvedre, over the 2008 Chateau de Lascaux Coteaux du Languedoc. 90+Cellars is priced at $11.99. A bottle of the same vintage from the source label, which received 91 points from Wine Spectator, costs $17.99. The Chateau de Lascaux retails for $16.99 and also received 91 points from Wine Spectator.

Round 4: Australian Shiraz Viognier
All three wine experts preferred the brand name — a 2008 The Chook that costs $19.99 — to 90+Cellars Lot 4, a 2008 Shiraz Viognier that costs $16.99.

Round 5: Italian Barolo
Two of the three sommeliers favored 90+Cellars Collectors Series Lot 26, a 2006 Barolo, compared to a 2006 Mario Marengo Barolo Brunate. 90+Cellars retails for $29.99. A bottle of the same vintage from the source label, which received 94 points from Wine Spectator, costs $75. The Mario Marengo Barolo received 93 points from Wine Advocate and is priced at $64.99.

Final thoughts
Brian Deshler of Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar: “Knowing what Barolos cost in the market, [90+Cellars] is a pretty serious bottle.’’

Alexei Beratis of Towne Stove and Spirits: “The people doing 90+Cellars can recognize good wine and have good negotiating skills.’’

Paul McKeever of Davio’s: “Personally I’m not that into scores. But I get the gimmick with 90+ and it’s a great marketing tool. The quality is there. It’s in the bottle.’’