High-end wine prices still showing declines

March 10, 2014

Just walked in from shoveling a bunch of global warming. Those darn weather vagaries caused by the Yankee Clipper aka the polar vortex, or was it El Nino, have got to be stopped. One fortunate side effect of the prodigious amounts of ice, snow, mudslides and floods is drivers have slowed to a virtual standstill. When coupled with the rapidly escalating prices of fuels, which have home thermostats set to 60 degrees F in order to stay out of the poorhouse, this should have the salubrious effect of lowering CO2 emissions, thereby cooling the planet. Just in the nick of time. Unfortunately for us, dear readers, cooling has a very negative effect on wine production.

Previously I have written that two straight years of poor weather might have the effect of raising the prices on 2007-10, all fairly good years in most places. It appears I was wrong. There are many factors at play that seem to be offsetting the wine markets. Nearly every indicator is blinking a depression in the wine markets. I am revising my short-term hold your fire to a bit longer term. A few weeks past I wrote that the Grand and Premier Crus would hold their price line. Recently, all but the ne plus ultra had cracked, and asking prices were starting to fall. This was happening in dribs and drabs. So, I was unsure if it would gather steam. In the face of recent news, I’m now betting prices will continue to decline. The latest reports have even the likes of Chateau Petrus 2009 declining from its highs of $4,413. to $3,952 as of July 2013. There was a slight uptick to $4,133 in January 2014. Another bellwether, Gaja Langhe Sori San Lorenzo 1999, 95 points from Tony Galloni, is off from $385 to $330. I recognize that few, if any, are buying in this market. The info is presented to illustrate that the prices of the most highly sought wines in the world are in decline. Petrus is going for: 2011 at $1,950 and 2012 at $1,600. The 100-point 2005 are in their window and have declined from a high of $5,658 to $4,440. The last time I have witnessed this in my wine world was during the Carter-Volcker era in 1979.

Back to our range, following is a list of great QPR wines with brief notes. I recently sampled these at a rather large tasting. All should be found priced under $20. Cruz de Piedra Tiasta Torrontes, at $9, has peach, citrus, honey, balanced, slightly sweet, persistent flavors repeat. Add anise. Xumek Chardonnay 2010, $14, apple, apricot, buttered toast, vanilla, old style but fresh. Cruz de Piedra Umbral de los Tiempos Cabernet 2009, $14, unreal bargain: huge, intense, currant, black pepper, pie spices. Black fruit flavors, integrated oak, great balance, tannins reserved but I say will lay down. Best so far at show.

For upscale Oregon Pinot Noir, check out Ken Wright Cellars Savoya Vineyard Yamhill-Carlton District. Good QPR and most vintages are rated better than 92 points. I saw some 2008 for $50, and the 2011 and ‘12 were at $45. That should be a no-brainer. BTW, here’s a guy who produces single-vineyard top-notch and doesn’t rip your wallet to shreds. Wright’s alright!

I also sampled a bottle of Domaine Charvin Chateauneuf du Pape 2011 on sale at $660/case. This CdP is rated 94 points by Jeb Dunnuck, WA’s new guy, and Josh Raynolds of IWC says 93. The wine is diamond-bright, ruby-colored. The nose is a complex bouquet of cherries, licorice, herbs, lavender, roses and pepper. A good swirl on the palate sends flashes of cherry, garrigue and ripe fruit riding silky tannins, and a rich, full mouthfeel. The refreshing finish shows the balance, a bit of a tannic grip and a floral hint. Drinking well now and will stand for at least eight years. I first came across Dunnuck writing in The Rhone Report. I have very high regard for his analyses. I trust he won’t let that old RP magic grow on him.

Finally, here’s all you need to know about Washington state wine-growing regions. Nice article by Greg Dal Piaz: