Wine index shows falling prices in January

February 24, 2014

Just completed an almost-great mystery novel named "Night Film," by Marisha Pessl. It was well laid out, with interesting page variations, clever turning of phrases. I particularly enjoyed this, in response to the query, “Are you sure?” “A tornado blows a house down, killing the owner. It’s a tragedy. Then you learned it was a serial killer who lived there and it becomes a miracle. The truth about what happens to us in this world keeps changing.” It is fast-paced; the character development is thin in places but somehow Pessl holds your attention and reading is a suspenseful pleasure. I heartily recommend the first 586 pages and six lines. It has a terribly trite, boring couple-of-pages ending that leaves an open door to a sequel. I hate it when that happens.

A new trend from Italy picked up in Oregon is fermenting and storing wine in amphorae, large ceramic hideouts for Jafar, to my children. Historical hysterics may remember that back in the day, before folks my age were born, the Mesopotamians used amphorae to make and store wine. Here we go again! And get this - those large, 60-liter, crock pots are going for north of $2,500. I guess if the producers want oak they toss in a few boards.

For the first time in 12 years, fine wine prices have actually declined in January. The Liv-Ex Fine Wine Index shows pricing for the 100 wines in most demand worldwide. As you may have guessed, they are very pricey, and the list is Bordeaux heavy. It is the decline in Bordeaux prices over the past two years which has driven the index down 12.2 percent. Bordeaux Premier and Grand Cru sales had accounted for 66 percent of annual sales. This has declined to 18 percent. Burgundy is off 6.5 percent, and the Italians are on the rise. Blake Gray writes that excellent reviews by Tanzer and Tony Galloni, who you know are two of my top three critics, have driven this Italian surge. Why would I be interested, you may ask? Because I have found that the wine market usually follows the trends found here. It is part of the basis for my suggesting "hold fire” or “jump in now.” Check it out at

Hamilton Russell Chardonnay Walker Bay SA is back on the shelf. The 2013 vintage is right up there with Giaconda and Leeuwin Estate for best Chard from far southern climes. It opens with a bouquet of fresh lime, red apple and distinctive pear aroma. On the palate, a bit of spritz and acidity balances the ripe mango flavor. The finish is clean, acid bright and leaves me with tangerine and apricot aftertaste. Reminds me of well-made Meursault, usually priced around $50. I found some for $309/case, comparable 90 point from USA, Kistler Dutton Ranch around $75. Recently, the Margaret River region Chards from Australia are priced right, many under $20. Aussie Chards took the top four places last fall at the Le Jugement de Montreal.

Joel asked me ”What is the difference between $6 and $30 Chardonnay? In a nutshell, $30 Chardonnay will usually be vineyard specific. It will have more complexity, more intense fruit flavors, a longer finish and more integrated oak flavors. Usually the balance is better also. Finally, as with most things, scarcity drives price.

Try these if you can find them: Dry Creek Chenin Blanc Clarksburg Dry 2011 under $15; Pine Ridge Chenin-Viognier 2010, under $11; Ponzi Pinot Gris 2012, under $16; cheap, 92-point white Burgundy, 2011 Marie-Pierre Manciat Macon Les Morizottes can be found priced under $15. For my Barolo boys, bring in a 94-point Giovanni Rosso Serralunga Barolo 2009 for $55. You guys should be able to split a case around $500; drinking 2017-forever.

Regardless what the calendar jokesters say, I celebrate Mr. Lincoln’s birthday Feb. 12 and Mr. Washington’s Feb. 22. It is absolutely amazing to me that we have a day for Cinco de Mayo and a day for MLK (a man I also revere), and we lumped our two most important presidents into one day, the third Monday of February, which is neither of their birthdays. I toasted Abe last week and I’ll be hoisting one to George on Saturday. Hope you will join me.

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