Some Bordeaux may be good value even after bad vintage

April 28, 2014

Wow, some of the 2013 Bordeaux is already released and most of them at greatly reduced prices. Some of the Grand Cru and better secondary Crus are for sale at 30 percent discounts from the 2012 vintage. As I wrote in the fall, 2012s were off from the 2011s, which were off from the 2010s. The Margaux 2012, for example, were off 33 percent from 2011. Even the biggest Euro cheerleaders were unable to put a good face on the dismal Bordeaux 2013 vintage. The effete French marketeers and even our very own head of wine and spirits at Costco, Annette Alvarez Peters, were rife with examples of their disdain for the American palate in their pronouncements. Ms. Peters was quick to point out, “I wasn’t expecting the wines to be so fresh and approachable. They will chime well with the U.S. palate, but the tough decision is the price point.” Yes, Ms. Peters, perhaps you should use them as a loss leader or give them away. Most of them are indeed losers.

Thibault Pontallier, son of Chateau Margaux managing director Paul Pontallier, was more forthcoming than most of his peers on the subject of price. “If it was my decision, I would expect a small symbolic decrease on the price of the 2012," he said. “We’re not crazy. We know the market, and we know people like the wine. I’d like 2012 and 2013 to be remembered as great wines to buy and to drink - as it used to be.”

OK, so what does that mean for us? Names like Giscours, Prieure Lichine and Rauzan-Segla are on the market at $31/bottle. R-S 2012, 90 points, came on at $58, and the 2011, 93 points, at $80. I’m going with my main gurus who are rating the 2013 R-S 90 plus. Prieure Lichine, 90 plus. Both, when purchased under $375/case, are bargains that may not come around for a while. This is a case where searching for the perfect may be the enemy of enjoying the good. Two poor vintages in a row will probably cause the 2008-11 to recoup some of their softness; although the loss of Chinese demand seems to be weighing on the market right now. Giscours avoid. Prosecco Mionetto DOC Treviso Brut Organic NV is an enjoyable wine reviewed here in the past. We just sampled a bottle at our Easter dinner. The McDs enjoy their bubbly any chance we get. Mionetto can be found but not in Delaware. You can probably have it brought in priced under $160/case and your wine store pal can make a decent markup for his troubles. Whole Foods touted it as a Top Ten Wine of the Summer, and Wine Harlots gave it a nice review. Golden straw-colored, and the nose is floral with a touch of grapefruit. It has active fine bead that continued throughout. Light body with apple flavors and a cleansing acid finish; 88 points, 1 extra if you buy it under $150/case.

Franciscan Estate Napa Chardonnay 2012 is a 90-point bargain priced under $16. Pale gold-colored with a mixed bouquet of apple, smoke, spice and just a bit oaky with a hint of peach. Creamy opening repeats apple flavors with vanilla and toasted oak spiciness with some gravel minerality. The finish was longer than expected at this price point, and the peach notes returned with some toasted almond.. Regulars are aware I deplore the trend to the middle most Chardonnay producers employ. Janet Myers shows all that it is still possible to make a fair-valued, classic Chardonnay. Thank you, ma’am.

Maison Bleue out of Yakima Valley in Washington is starting to come up on the radar. When I had a chance to sample their Notre Vie Arthur’s Vineyard Viognier, I jumped on it. I say 93 points for 2011 and 90 for 2010. Pale straw with decent legs, it opened to a complex bouquet of lemon, vanilla, hazelnut and tropical fruit. On the palate, plenty of acidity to balance the fruit flavors of lemon and lychee that are underlined by honey and vanilla notes. Stephen Tanzar rated nine of the 2010-11s from Maison Bleue 89-93, and you know how tight he is. He gave the Le Midi Boushey Vineyard Grenache 2010 93 points. So far I can’t locate any.

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