Less-trendy wines may offer great bargains if quality is there

January 13, 2020

Barbara and I watched the beginnings of Golden Globes. Right on, Ricky! It was refreshing to see all the crestfallen visages as Gervais skewered the glitterati. Probably a career ender for him, although he began by saying these are jokes, folks. Lenny, Rich, Sam, Phyllis, Joan Rivers, the Sarahs, S. and B., and even Rosie, plus a whole host of iconoclastic comics would be run out of business today by these phonies. Tom Hanks gave him the look of love. Several of his jokes were bleeped due to inappropriate language. Where’s George Carlin when you need him? In that crowd, not much could be named inappropriate, IMO. Must have been to protect us “hoi polloi.” Did you know Hedda Hopper’s real name was Elda Furry? Mario Armando Lavandeira Jr. ain’t no Hedda. 

With the exception of the wine we sampled, what with war news hysteria, awful football and silly awards program, we tuned out in favor of good music, good wine and some polite conversation. Honest injun (is that pejorative or a compliment?), I tried to go mainstream. Failing that, I took the advice of Aristophanes, who is claimed to have said, “Quickly, bring me a beaker of wine, so that I may wet my mind and say something clever.” So, how about some words on Chateauneuf du Pape, a category I’ve neglected for a couple of years.

More’s the pity. These lovely red wines have lost their mojo. I have no idea the reason. Marjorie’s email reminded me that they have become bargains for those who know how to shop. She asked about the 2017 Clos Des Papes, rated 93 by many, at about $85. This is indeed a fine wine, but it needs time. However, you can find the 94-point 2004, now in the heart of its 2015-26 drinking window, at $960/case plus a modest shipping fee getting in at $90/bottle. This was rated mid-90s by all the major writers. I found bottle prices at $80. 2004’s lower price is driven by the 2005-07s being heavily touted by most. Best recent vintages for CdP are the 2016 and 2010, 2007, 2006 and 2005. I wish to remind readers that whenever we get a 2- or 3-year spread of excellent wine, usually the preceding and following years’ prices are best QPR for those who actually drink the wine. Provided, of course, the vintage rated well. The 2006 is best QPR of the three at $636 for a 6-pak. You can review CdP vintages from 1978 to current at the Wine Cellar Insider web page. 

Those searching for bargains from the region should look for wine from neighboring Vacqueyras and Gigondas labeled Cotes du Rhone Village. Most of these have shorter windows of 5-10 years. For Chateau de Saint Cosme Gigondas, most recent vintages except the 2016 (avoid) rate around 90 points at $45/bottle. If you can find the 91-point 2014 under $42, jump all over it. Owner Louis Barruol is known as the Chapoutier of Gigondas. Vacqueyras 2015 is regarded as their best ever, but it needs at least until 2021 and possibly longer. My go-to guy on this region is Josh Raynolds. Look for Alain Jaume Domaine Grand Veneur Garrigues Vacqueyras 2015.

Those unfamiliar with Cotes du Rhone, on opening the wine, may be put off by the Brettanomyces aroma, more commonly referred to as Brett, or by the vulgar as barnyard or gamey aromas. Decanting an hour prior or even allowing the wine to breathe in the glasses will usually dispel the aroma.

Viognier is quite prominent in Northern Rhone. RRs are alert to my love for Viognier from Condrieu AOC. Domaine Francois Villard Les Contours Deponcins 2016, 90 McD, comes from a vineyard adjoining Condrieu and therefore can be found at value pricing under $30. Most of the better Condrieu Viognier will run $60-$70. I was initially attracted to this wine because it is produced by a winemaker who was formerly a chef; I figured his food affinity was worth looking into. Plus I enjoy peaches and apricots. Villard produces four Condrieu, five St. Josephs, three Crozes Hermitage and a Cornas. You will be happy with any of his selections. “There can never be any substitute for your own palate nor any better education than tasting the wine yourself.” - Robert Parker. 

Subscribe to the Daily Newsletter