Getting more bang for your wine buck (or euro, or pound…) while learning new things
February 10, 2013
Greetings all, here some tips on buying wine. Do not always go for the most expensive wines to impress – if you are out to impress. I have learned this over several years. Yes, an expensive wine – coming from a well known brand – can be a sure thing. But what may be even more impressive is when you do some research, and tasting, and share that special wine with people: in the end, this can be far more “impressive” and rewarding for you and your guests.
Some examples: Instead of buying top flight Bordeaux, why not a cru bourgeois level Bordeaux from an excellent vintage? Many wines made today that were not officially classified in the 19th century can have just as much of an impact as a classified Medoc. Take Sociando Mallet for example. Or Château Bernadotte Haut Medoc. Both of these wines – just two examples – if purchased in a very good vintage, will impress you and your guests and take less a load off of your pocket book!
Here some useful links to Cru Bourgeois level wines from Bordeaux:
Seek other regions or less acclaimed but high quality appellations
Another strategy would be to look at a region and fine less heralded appellations within that region – and obtain more bang for your buck: take for example Syrah from Cote Rotie in the northern Rhone. Cote Rotie can be very expensive – and of course downright delicious. I recently had a Domaine Jamet 2001 Cote Rotie that is frigging delicious. Just at its peak. If you want that bottle now, however, be ready to pay $100. Still a “bargain” when you think of new bottles of other top flight wines that can cost twice as much. This is a great bottle of wine. But you can get superb Syrah from the northern Rhone without having to pay so much: try the St Joseph appellation. One of the nicest Syrahs I have had from that region is made by the celebrated producer Chapouter: Les Granits. The soils are poor and stony, and perfect for making quality wines. In fact, I had recently purchased a magnum 2001 for about the same price as the Jamet 2001 Cote Rotie costs. Is one twice as good as the other? Not sure. But you are getting fantastic terroir-driven Syrah from the northern Rhone at a very good price.
But I need to get back there….
Seek something new
Discover new places… including new countries and regions. I have been focusing on France, and for good reason. Some of the greatest wines are made in France. But I have been neglecting the Loire Valley. I do appreciate Sancerre and Pouilly Fumé like most of us. I have had some nice reds from Saumur Champigny and Chinon, and of course some of the delectable late harvest wines from Vouvray (not to mention their dry whites). But lately, connoisseurs are swearing by the age worthiness of older Cabernet Franc wines form the Loire Valley. When prices for top crus of Bordeaux and Burgundy are skyrocketing, where do mere mortals go? It may be worth investigating this region more closely – and that I will do later this year, with a detailed report in these pages…
Of course, wine lovers sometimes specialize in one region or country. Most of the wine in my cellar is French. But I have begun a love affair with Italy that can only grow. For that reason, I intend to visit northern Italy, to try more of the glorious wines made there, from Tuscany to Piedmont.
Here a video from the Merano Wine Festival, where I co-hosted three master classes.
Grand cru from another era: it may actually be cheaper…
Finally if you really want grand cru Bordeaux, the time is now to seek out back vintages for the most part. Too many of the top wines today in recent vintages 2009 and 2010 cost about the same price – if not more – than fully mature counterparts from vintages in the past. Even 2005 looks fairly competitive. But the gems to find are wines from the 1970s. Like long lost hits, somewhat forgotten, by mid 70s George Harrison, you can be happy with wines like Haut Brion 1978. I have had this wine on two occasions and both times it sang. And it was purchased for less money than its 2009 or 2010 counterpart… But you could also find La Fleur Petrus from 1990 for about the same price as its 2010 counterpart. Same goes for wines like Pichon Baron or Pichon Lalande. So if you want to spend an arm and a leg, and you want to enjoy the wine now, go for back vintages. Sometimes they may not be as complete – especially if from the 1970s – but they will provide great pleasure. And proper maturity, which you will not get from 2009 or 2010.