The current issue of the “Wine Spectator” — Jan. 31-Feb. 29, 2008 — helpfully recapitulates last year’s reviewing program by listing all the wines reviewed in 2007 by name, price and rating. The descriptions of the wines are omitted, but those tend to be pretty damned telegraphic anyway.

What’s interesting about the issue, though, is a section in which the Spectator’s writers and reviewers go country by country and region by region and reveal the average price of the wines in the different scoring categories. This is particularly important in the top scoring — let’s call it “iconic” — segment of wines rated 90 to 100 points of the WS 100-point scale.

Look for example at this breakdown for France:

Red Bordeaux: Average price of wines scoring 90 to 100: $95.
Red Burgundy: Average price of wines scoring 90 to 100: $116
White Burgundy: Average price of wines scoring 90 to 100: $86.
Rhone Valley: Average price of wines scoring 90 to 100: $72.
Loire Valley: Average price of wines scoring 90 to 100: $32.
Alsace: Average price of wines scoring 90 to 100: $73.
Champagne: Average price of wines scoring 90 to 100: $92
Languedoc & Roussillon: Average price of wines scoring 90 to 100: $35.
Other France: Average price of wines scoring 90 to 100: $41.

Do I have to spell it out for you? B-U-Y L-O-I-R-E.

It’s also interesting that for California, the guide does not go through all the counties and regions and valleys in similar manner; that would take a book. Instead, the matter is arranged by grape. Here’s the sequence:

Cabernet sauvignon: Average price of wines scoring 90 to 100: $103.
Chardonnay: Average price of wines scoring 90 to 100: $48.
Pinot noir: Average price of wines scoring 90 to 100: $52.
Syrah: Average price of wines scoring 90 to 100: $47.
Zinfandel: Average price of wines scoring 90 to 100: $32.
Merlot: Average price of wines scoring 90 to 100: $52.
Sauvignon blanc: Average price of wines scoring 90 to 100: $24.
Other grapes: Average price of wines scoring 90 to 100: $45.

Do I have to spell it out for you? B-U-Y S-A-U-V-I-G-N-O-N B-L-A-N-C A-N-D Z-I-N-F-A-N-D-E-L.

Now these figures do not take into account the rarity of certain wines, the prestige of properties and vineyards and other factors, but this much is clear: Of all the regions and countries mentioned in this exercise, only New Zealand comes in at a lower average price — $30 — of wines scoring 90 to 100 points than the Loire Valley. And much as the wines of New Zealand have improved in the past 10 or 15 years, they don’t represent nearly the diversity of grapes and styles that the Loire Valley does, from Sancerre and Pouilly-Fume in the east to Muscadet in the west, with Chinon and Anjou and Savennieres and Vouvray and Saumur and many other smaller appellations in between.

Perhaps 2008 should be the Year of the Loire, and we should spend the next 10 months exploring its varied treasures.

Alternatively, it seems like a good time to fill the spaces in your wine rack or the boxes in your closet with sauvignon blanc and zinfandel wines from California, experimenting with different regions, vineyards and labels. There would be worst ways to spend the rest of the year.