There are however some takeaways worth noting here, and those takeaways do indeed lead to some conclusions regarding what wines might present great buying opportunities in 2013 and beyond. So instead of discussing what wines I can no longer afford, though we’ll deal with that next week, here are some that I can afford, and why they are worth buying.
Wine Bottle image via Shutterstock
Here's a Start
Before we get to specific recommendations, it’s worth noting that while there is still cheap wine available just about everywhere, almost every region that has prolifically produced vast oceans of cheap wine is making some effort to trade some of that volume for an increase in quality. This overall reduction in quantity is coming at a very interesting time in the wine world. It seems as though regions such as China, India, Russia and Brazil are awakening to fine wine just as the historical sources for these wines have reached, through climate change, vineyard acquisitions, and improvements in the vineyards and the cellars, a sort of nexus of peak production and peak quality.
Simply put, the wineries are getting press like never before, making finite qualities of wines that critics are prone to fawn over just as demand is set to explode. The truly top wines are already priced out of the reach of mere mortals, but those price increases are making their way down the quality tree and they might very well be coming to a wine near you very soon.
Take for example Bordeaux, the poster child for speculative excess and pricing bubbles in wine. The Chinese market pushed prices for the top Bordeaux, in particular Lafite and all wines associated with Lafite such as their second label Carruades de Lafite as well as their sister property Duhart-Milon, to unsustainable highs. The LIVEX Bordeaux 500 chart shows this run up, and the subsequent sell off of Bordeaux from 2010 through the present day. As you can see, there has indeed been quite a drop from the peaks of 2011, but this broad index of 500 top Bordeaux Chateaux still registers a gain of 25% from 2010 through the end of 2012, an impressive return.
So what does this have to do with people buying and drinking Bordeaux? A little and a lot. The pricing not so much, but the importance of Bordeaux and the prominence it holds when talk turns to wine, well that’s priceless, to steal a phrase. Ask someone about fine wine and chances are good that they’ll know of Bordeaux. Perhaps nothing specific, just that Bordeaux is associated with fine wine. That is about the best branding one can expect to get, casting the die for what is to come.
Bordeaux Prices Remain Reasonable
Remember I mentioned that wine prices are increased, and that the prices you pay for wines are going to go up? Well, it’s time to get used to it. We are entering a new pricing paradigm for wine, and everything will be more expensive. Bordeaux is unique in the world of wine because of the Bordelaise attempt to balance supply and demand for their wines. This is a ringed system admittedly, as there would be plenty of wine to go around if the industry did not strictly control the flow of wine into the marketplace. That’s really not the point here, what is the point is that the price of vintages go up and down in response to critic’s reviews and the overall view of the vintage.
This creates, roughly, three types of vintages for all but the top few dozen Bordeaux. Vintages that suck and should be avoided, vintages that are fine, perhaps early maturing and less ripe or rich than the so-called best, and the so-called best vintages. Why do I say so-called? Simply because it really depends on what you want to get out of your wine. If you want something lighter and fresher, a grand vintage might not be the best option for you. This means that a lot of wine will be priced well with each less-than-great vintage that comes, and frankly in great vintages there are literally hundreds of Chateaux that might produce remarkable values.
Even Some Classed Growths are Well-Priced
Let’s face it, the first growths and super seconds are not cheap, but as you move down the prestige ladder there are very few regions that can supply the type of age-worthy wines that Bordeaux can supply. In fact there seems to be more and more $50 crap coming from around the globe with each passing vintage, and while Bordeaux 2010 is not the same as Bordeaux 1990, or even 2000 for that matter, the wines still tend to be more elegant and capable of complexity than those of so many other appellations.
It’s a stylistic question of course, but assuming you enjoy Bordeaux, it’s hard to argue with the prices of these 2010s, a supposedly great vintage in the making, though I have just been able to taste some of the more modest wines of the vintage and as such have no personal opinion of the vintage yet. Take a look at these producers, each of whom have a fine track record of producing winning wines.
2010 du Tertre $40
2010 d’Angludet $40
2010 Sociando Mallet $40
2010 Meyney $35
2010 Carbonnieux $40
2010 Ormes de Pez $35
2010 Chasse Spleen $30
2010 Lilian Ladouys $20
2010 Poujeaux $32
2010 Potensac $28
2010 Cambon la Pelouse $20
Where can you find better value? Really, nowhere, though you can find equal value, that’s for sure. So I expect Bordeaux to remain important and strong through 2013, particularly when it comes to the under $40 a bottle level where these wines have so little competition.
Of course a $25 bottle of Bordeaux is only a good value if you like Bordeaux, and if you are interested in aging your wine a bit. Even value-priced Bordeaux benefits from a bit of age. So what if you want immediate gratification but are not opposed to having your wines age well? Well, in that case there are at least two regions that continue to supply astounding values today, and for my money Chianti, in all its glory, is tough to beat.
As with most regional wines, Chianti is a broad catch-all phrase that really can’t convey the range of stylistic issues today’s producer can avail themselves of. It is indeed likely that Chianti continues to suffer from the stigma of straw-clad fiasci holding shrill, acidic wines that we struggled to get down next to our plates of spaghetti at Ristorante Genoa on Broadway and 73rd street where a complete dinner was $10. Yes I’m going back a few decades here, but that’s how wine memory works. Bad wines do damage that lasts for years.
Of course you don’t have to go back years to find bad Chianti, there’s plenty available today but little of it makes its way to our shores. Today’s Chianti producers are a blend of modernists and traditionalists who, as a group, are producing wines that have never been better, and with painfully few exceptions, continue to be budget priced. This is a list of favorites--each produces lower priced wines as well so don’t be taken aback by the relatively high pricing here. These are fabulous wines!
2009 Montevertine Rosso $40
2007 Fonterutoli Ser Lapo Chianti Classico Riserva $30
2007 Castello di Bossi Chianti Classico Riserva Berardo $30
2009 San Giusto a Rentennano Chianti Classico Riserva Baroncole $45
2008 Boncie Le Trame Chianti Classico $40
2009 Castello di Monsanto Chianti Classico Riserva $20
2008 Felsina Chianti Classico Riserva Rancia $40
2009 Selvapiana Chianti Rufina Riserva Bucerchiale $40
2009 Badia a Coltibuono Chianti Classico Riserva $30
2009 Castellare Chianti Classico Riserva Il Poggiale $35