Temperatures this summer were all over the place

September 2, 2013

As we approach the shank of a long, strange summer, the news on the wine front is mixed. Cali is having a hot summer, with recent temperatures in the upper 80s-95 range. Many of the early whites and grapes for sparkling wine are in. NY, Ohio and Canada are colder than normal. Europe, on the other hand, is desperately chilly. In fact, there were temperatures hovering around the mid-60s in Italy just last Wednesday, while Germany, Austria, large parts of France and England are in the same cold shape, with Dijon 68, the Douro in Portugal 71, Avignon 66 and Champagne at a very nippy 63. The nadir and winner of the “global warming” award is Nantes at 57 low to 75 high. Nantes is home to most of the best Muscadets. The watch words will be ripe, fat and jammy in the U.S. West and austere in Euroland. There is however a bright note. If these trends hold, Eiswein will be prolific and should have plenty of acid balance. More as the pattern unfolds.

Neal Martin writing in WA claimed Bodegas y Vinedos Ponce Pie Franco 2001 was made of the very dark-skinned Bobal grape and aged 10 months in 600-liter used French oak barriques. It showed! It is inky dark purple-colored. The nose needed aeration but opened to currants, cranberry and gravel. On the palate, a rustic wine with fine tannins and an appropriate acid background. He rated the wine 94 points. When I found it was priced under $20, I had to try some. Although I think 94 is a bit rich, it is a very solid 90+ and under $22 has fine QPR (quality/price ratio).

Another nice high QPR Spaniard is Bodegas Volver Tarima Hill Monastrell 2010, RP 93 and IWC 91. Priced around $15 and drinking beautifully now, this dark ruby-purple wine has a huge bouquet. Cherry, cassis, blackberry and graphite give way to bittersweet chocolate, blackberry and spice flavors. The finish is slightly tannic, indicating it will cellar, and leaves a clean, smoky mineral after-flavor.

Going upscale but still priced under $40 is 2001 La Rioja Alta Gran Reserva 904. Rated 96 points by Wine Advocate, most of the others said 92-94. This gem is still evolving and should easily drink through 2040. Dark ruby-colored with a garnet rim, The bouquet is complex with Asian spices, incense, tobacco, balsamic and blackberry. On the palate it has great depth, black fruit and spice, and is very ripe.

For “playas” only, want to hear a reason to buy, cellar properly and sell? A bottle of Krug Clos du Mesnil Blanc de Blanc Brut Champagne, considered by many cognoscenti to exceed  Crystal, Dom and Grande Dame in most years, was offered after disgorgement in 2007 for $550-600/bottle. July 2013 it was going for $1,500.  This activity is not for the faint of heart, those who can’t refrain from cellar raiding or the uninformed. However, just for fun go to this web page: to have a look at how the various vintages have performed. It is noteworthy that even during the rude financial crash in 2008 the top-flight wines of this type held their ground. They also recovered much more quickly from their mild down tick. An equivalently rated and highly renowned Chateau Petrus 2005, by comparison, came on the market at $3,600 in 2007, rocketed to $5,700 in 2008 and has slid to $4,400. Still a decent return but pale by comparison.

While I’m on cellaring for resale, generally speaking, Rhone wine from Chateauneuf du Pape is usually not a wine that will produce great returns. Although they age well and drink beautifully after seven or so years, the production of wine in great years and poor is prolific. I did a little research and it appears one can buy 95-97-point-rated wines from 2003, 2005 and 2006 for less than or at a $40 premium from their opening prices. The 100-point wines, however, have increased more than 50 percent. As I have mentioned many times in the past, this is only a game for those who wouldn’t be disappointed if their option was consume or take a loss. Drinkers would be better served to buy a case of good old USA Tablas Creek Esprit de Beaucastel for $60.

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