Avoid overhyped wines with overinflated prices

May 1, 2021

A recent solicitation for Chateauneuf du Pape and a variety of other well-known Cotes du Rhone included several stellar names and a wide variety of vintages. I’m a fan of these varietal wines and blends. They are consistent. You must search back to 2004 generally and the mid-1990s, in the case of Cote Rotie, to find any scoring under 90 points. Those wishing to explore Cotes du Rhone should avoid the huge names. The writers and the public have driven the prices to extremes in the $400/bottle range. Instead, look for CdP Domaine du Vieux Telegraphe 2016, 95 McD under $80, and the Pa. Liquor Board has 1/2s at $40. Availability in Pennsylvania says your local wine store pal can possibly acquire them for a modest upcharge for their time and effort. The price ranges, based on my research, are wide. Shop carefully. Another name to look for is M. Chapoutier. In addition to their top line such as 2016 Ermitage L’Ermite, 93 McD at $564, or the Ermitage Le Pavillon at $525, they produce a wide range of Rhone red blends and varietal selections. Their 2016 CdP La Bernadine is a solid 92 McD, can be found under $60, window is 2018-30+. This 100 percent Grenache shows blackberry, cherry and plum with barrel spice, coffee and damp earth aromas. Balanced acidity/soft tannin frame with medium weight. The dark fruit aromas repeat as flavors. Add some smoke and anise in the clean finish. 

Want Aussie? Try Penfolds! For big-buck buckaroos, Grange Bin 95 2012 is their recent top, ready now, 96 points, $550/bottle. You must sit up and beg to get some. Penfolds is now owned by Treasury Wine Estates. Fortunately, their winemaker since 2002, Peter Gago, has maintained quality. He claims Grange will last 60 years. He prefers them at 20- to 25-years. I hope he lives so long and continues providing us the wonderful Penfolds Collection of wines. I rarely do blanket recommendations. Penfolds under Mr. Gago has something for most, white to red, and a wide range of pricing. More consistent than Fritos, weather permitting. After being dissed at Decanter Worlds with an 88, the 2014 Penfolds St. Henri Shiraz failed to gain price traction. I rated it 94, JR 18 of 20 and others were 92-95. This is a steal under $100. Ready now; will cellar well into 2035. Unfortunately like in Cotes du Rhone, these conglomerate owners have read too many of their well-deserved but overhyped press clippings. I’ve had the rare good fortune to attend functions where I was able to access overpriced, top-caliber wine. I decided early on that part of assessment should be price. Like most wonderful opportunities, the very dear are often relegated to my one-off bin. My prism is usually revolving around aggregate pleasure. And it goes like this: Take one bottle of Chateau Petrus from a rare poor year, the 2013, rated 92 points and costs $3K+, came in at $1,800+ in 2016, compared to a far better vintage, 2010 Chateau Clinet, $195 with WS 95, WA 98, JS 97 and McD 94 with 2 price points. Brown bagged, nearly all will go with Clinet and I guarantee you will get more than 11 times the satisfaction until the labels are displayed and you start looking for Rudy, who did a John Denver last week. 

I’m supporting Syrah, Grenache and Rhone River Valley varietals and blends provided by U.S. Rhone Rangers, other wonderful vintners in Central Cali and western Washington state as well. The best recent vintages from Paso Robles, Calif., and its environs are 2010, 97 McD; 2007, 96; 2009, 95; 2015 and 16, 94. The 2018s are looking great but would appreciate some cellar time. Those taught Syrah was originally propagated near Shiraz in Persia (Iran) not Australia mate and may harbor certain xenophobic, amygdala promptings be relieved. A DNA study from U. Cal has proven Syrah is a very old cross of Dureza and Mondeuse Blanche, which occurred on the west bank of the Rhone.  Another recent study informed us that, in addition to fear and flight, this tiny part of the limbic system also produces rewarding (appetitive) stimuli. This last was the new thing I learned today. Oops, I’ve been having so much fun. Paso and Washington will need to wait.

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