Insider Tips on Buying Bordeaux

The best Bordeaux tasted recently is the 2015 Chateau Corbin from Montagne St. Emilion. So good I bought another, and if I published scores, it would get a 92-93.

Oh, and the price was $12.95 at Trader Joe’s.

No, this wasn’t a total surprise.  I lived part-time in Bordeaux from 2000-2010, return frequently, and tasted many wines when there last September-early October.

The fact is that there has never been a better time in recent memory to check out and stock up on Bordeaux red wines. And not just the famous, high-priced stuff; you can find authentic, beautiful Bordeaux for under $25.

Here are five reasons why every red wine lover should be focusing on Bordeaux now for good wines at great prices. We are also offering five buying tips to help you stay focused on value.

Recent vintages, 2014 and 2015, are of consistent high quality across the board, from the least expensive appellations to the fabled names.

The strong dollar versus the Euro (thanks Brexit) is playing to our advantage. (And, no Donald, you cant take credit for that.)

Bordeaux needs to be reasonably priced  to regain its market share after 3 mediocre vintages (2011, 2012, & 2013) that allowed Cabernet and Merlot from California, Washington, and South America to come on strong. Actually, 2012 wasn’t that bad.

Now that China’s brief romance with high-priced, legendary chateaux is over, Bordeaux winemakers have experienced the wake-up call, come back down to earth and are re-focusing efforts on making the best Bordeaux wines which feature balance, subtlety, harmony, and elegance.

The 2016 vintage, still in oak is being touted at greater than 2015, and the pressure of a third consecutive fine vintage will motivate the wine trade to bomb out the remaining 2014s to make room for the 2015s.

So how to take advantage of the present situation?

First, get re-acquainted with how things work in Bordeaux. A quick review would be helpful to get a feel for the interplay of multiple grape varieties, the existence of numerous sub-regions and tiny appellations, and the background of the classification systems.

Hint: go to www.winesearcher.com, click on France and then on Bordeaux. Or for a shorter review, go to http://www.wine.com.

Then, ram dump the stuff about the 1855 Classification and the St. Emilion classification system. And don’t pay too much attention to the high scores and hype from Parker and The Wine Spectator.

To me, James Suckling and The Wine Enthusiast Magazine are much more reliable, if you need a guide.

Third, understand that vintage ratings are all weather-related. Bordeaux is a large region but the weather conditions are generally shared in all. When the spring weather favors a good crop, and when the summer weeks are dry and warm but not too hot, and when the harvest conditions are favorable, these conditions hold true for the entire region.

Fourth, therefore, in good to excellent vintages, like 2014 and 2015, look to less prestigious appellations which enjoy the same conditions. They often are the neighbors of a famous chateau. In St. Emilion, for example, check out wines from Montagne St. Emilion or from Castillon which is on the eastern slope as you head out of St. Emilion.

Fifth, in these less prestigious appellations, look for wines made by a real chateau-owner. Wines from co-ops and private labels from negociants are less likely to offer authentic Bordeaux.

Best Bordeaux Buys at www.wine.com

2014 Chateau Cap de Faugeres, Castillon $16.99

2014 Chateau Clement Pichon, Haut Medoc $19.99

2014 Chateau de France, Pessac-Leognan  $24.99

2015 Chateau Fourcas Dupre, Listrac-Medoc, $15.99

2015 Chateau Lanessan, Haut Medoc, $16.99

Best Buys from www.getwineonline.com

2014 Chateau de Parenchere Bordeaux Superieur, $13.99

2014 Chateau Hyot Cotes de Castillon $13.99

One from http://www.wineexpress.com

2014 Chateau La Grange Clinet Grande Reserve, Cotes de Bordeaux

14.95 by the case

Millennials, Malbecs, & Magical Moments

 

Millennials now represent a major force within the wine market that will increase in importance. And for that reason, they are being surveyed, prodded, and studied by every wine marketing geek and MBA grad.

Everyone agrees, millennials are definitely drinking more wine on a per capita basis than either the Gen Xers and Baby Boomers, and more females are making the wine buying choices.

Recently, two insightful online articles added a little more to the emerging profile. One was featured on Yahoo Finance, “Millennials Creating Wine Industry Change.” It verified that millennials represent 29% of wine drinkers but consume 34% of all wines. It made the point that the group also favors organically grown things, including wine.

Even Fox News got into the act with a lifestyle story, “Why millennials can’t get enough wine.”  Surprisingly,  it was a fairly coherent, albeit a cut-and-paste article, and ended with this quotation:

“Millennials are adventurous in their choices, too. They like to choose  lesser-known varietals from regions that are under the radar.They want to create their own cool,” said Marc Irving, the sommelier at the Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn.

So there is a rough sketch, a basic profile, emerging and these are the main attributes of Millennial Wine Buyers (MWB):

Confident and adventurous, willing to explore new types of wines

Impressed by brands with clever images but authenticity and organic practices are important

Not very interested in traditional wine types, the kind the Brits swoon over like Bordeaux, French Burgundy, Port, Sherry and others that come with vintage baggage.

Ratings from wine critics have little impact on buying decisions

Social gatherings like special events/ activities at wine clubs are a major part of the lifestyle, something to be shared

Wine is an event, an experience; collecting and cellaring pricey, famous wines for future drinking is, like, totally stupid

Buying wines online is a natural thing and a good reason to be constantly checking your messages. Even when on a date.

The same day those two articles appeared, several websites featured deals on Argentinian Malbecs, including two that rank among my current favorites. Here are the two beauties offered online at great prices that deliver the goods:

2015 Proemio Malbec, Argentina, $10.99 and free shipping on 6

At http://www.cinderellawine.com

2015 Amalaya Malbec, Argentina, Salta region, $13.99 @ http://www.wine.com

These two are stunning values that outscored my benchmark Malbec, Norton Reserve.

The Amalaya with a dollop of Tannat and Syrah is as bold and lively as its colorful label. Delivers big-time flavors from start to finish.

Over the last few years,  Malbec has become my go-to red wine by the glass because it is so versatile and well-priced.

And when talking about Malbec in these terms, the automatic assumption is that it is from Argentina. I have tasted wines from Cahors and Malbecs from Chile and Washington only to conclude Malbec is synonymous with Argentina.

But to return to the subject of millennials and wine, Malbec seems to be the perfect fit. It is a lesser known wine flying under the radar from a fascinating region, and with so many versions being featured by the online wine merchants, it is definitely up and coming and so much fun to explore.

Textbook Malbec is big, bold, dark, deep, dramatic and flashy.  It offers immediate pleasure from its lively aroma,  deep, delicious flavors, and great, round, satiny texture leading to a long aftertaste.

And, the clincher: Excellent Malbec need not be expensive. There are at least ten now available online for way under $20 a bottle.

2015 Proemio Malbec, Argentina, $10.99 and free shipping on 6

At http://www.cinderellawine.com

2015 Amalaya Malbec, Argentina, Salta region, $13.99 @ http://www.wine.com

2014 Fabre Montmayou, Malbec Reserva, Mendoza, $14.50

2015 Norton Reserva, $15.99

2015 Zuccardi Series A Malbec, $15.99

2015 Bodega Viamonte Malbec, Lujan de Cuyo, $15.99

2015 Recuerdo Malbec, $16.99

2014 Kaiken Ultra, $17.99

2014 Ben Marco Malbec $17.99

2015 Susana Balbo Malbec, $19.99

Absolutely, The Best Under $15 White Wine Today

The quest to discover the greatest value and top all-purpose white came to a surprising end this week.  

No, it is neither a slick Chardonnay or fruity Pinot Gris nor is it among my long-time go-to whites, Sauvignon Blanc and Grenache Blanc.

It is made from the most underrated, overlooked variety and by a winery with an amazingly consistent track record.

The wine: 2016 Chenin Blanc,  Dry Creek Vineyards

No, this is not an April Fool’s Joke.

It is the most versatile, most subtle, most intricate, most complex and most complete white wine under $15.

It is the complete package:

Authentic with real history

True to type

Subtle in its aromatics, multi-leveled in flavors

Complex but without heavy oak; lingering, vibrant palate-cleansing finish

Shows old vine character with its lush texture

With genuine minerality

Online deals from $8.95 at www.empirewine.com and $13.99 before discounts & with special shipping options at www.wine.com

A Spring Break One-Hour Blitz

 

                  www.cinderellawine.com

Cinderellawine, a website operated by the Wine Library, has vastly improved its selections so far this year. It is definitely trending up in the highly competitive market of online wine sales.

Always offering free shipping on six, it has gotten out of its

ho-hum rut of silly, over-priced wines with some great deals on wines rarely seen online.

Now the parent company headquartered in New Jersey needs to reduce its inventory, or as they say,

“With Spring arriving, we need to do a little additional inventory cleanup … and this is the perfect way to do it!

We want to move fast.

On Thursday, March 23rd at 12 Noon, we will launch a one hour sale on Winelibrary.com. Expect a selection of 25+ wines with prices that are beyond ridiculous.”

Here are samples of recent super deals:

2013 World’s End Rebel Reserve Chardonnay, Napa. $19.99

2013 Kangarilla Road Cabernet Sauvignon Mclaren Vale, $15.99

2013 Bello Megahertz Cabernet Sauvignon, $17.77

2013 Lone Birch Chardonnay, Washington, $9.99

2012 Paco Dos Cunhas Santar Nature, $10.98

You might look for these or similarly priced wines at Thursday’s flash sale, the one-hour blitz.

Read more about Flash Sales at www.bestonlinewineshopping.com

by clicking on flash sales.

 

New Upgrades, Downgrades: Online Wine Retailers

 

Upgrade                    www.cinderellawine.com

Cindy, operated by the Wine Library, has vastly improved its selections this quarter. Always offering free shipping on six, it has gotten out of its ho-hum rut and is now selecting some excellent wines rarely seen online. For example:

2013 World’s End  Rebel’ Reserve Chardonnay, Napa. $19.99

2013 Kangarilla Road Cabernet Sauvignon Mclaren Vale, $15.99

2013 Bello Megahertz Cabernet Sauvignon, $17.77

2013 Lone Birch Chardonnay, Washington, $9.99

However, this site still occasionally over-hypes an unknown, unproven, over-priced wine.

Upgrade                  www.cawineclub.com

The California wine club, one of the oldest, really caught fire with its special March sales. Not only were the wines priced to sell but they were also from real wineries. The $1 per case shipping offer was the clincher. Try these:

2013 Wither Hills Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough,NZ  $9.25

2015 Pedroncelli Chardonnay, Dry Creek Valley, $11.99

2012 Zaca Mesa Z-Blanc, Santa Ynez Valley $11.99

2012 Highway 20 Zinfandel, Sierra Foothills $11.99

2014 Rabbit Ridge, Tuscan Style Red, Paso Robles $12.99

Upgrade          www.wineexpress.com

After offering a string of over-priced wines such as the Buena Vista, Coppola King Kong, and Black Stallion Cabernets, this site recently redeemed itself by adding some excellent deals to the mix.

It hit the bullseye with The 2015 Redgate Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley for $15 and followed with the 2014 San Pedro Single Vineyard Maipo Valley Cab for $15.

The selection of 2015 Chianti Colli Senesi 2015 Fattoria Del Cerro $10.95 by the case reaffirmed the feeling that this site is worth checking every day.

That is if it continues to ferret out real deals

Downgrade         www.wineaccess.com

Even when offering authentic wines or good deals, this site is totally annoying. The write-ups ramble through elaborate Parker or Galloni reviews, detailed vintage assessments, and usually stray far off the main avenue by dropping names of famous people, restaurants, chefs and hotels in the wine country.

It is obvious they know every VIP in the wine world and can always get a table at the French Laundry.

The so-called narratives easily earn them the Kellyanne Conway award. But it is all far less amusing. They just seem to pile on the irrelevant information, facts, and experiences that have no direct connection to the wine being offered.

Here’s a  recent example of this disconnect:

“We’ve known Phil Titus for 25 years, his marine biologist brother Eric for a decade. The story of Lee Titus — Phil and Eric’s father, who moved to California from Minnesota just after the Depression — is a piece of St. Helena folklore. As Lee attended medical school, his future wife, Ruth Traverso, the daughter of Italian parents, was living in San Francisco’s North Beach. During family October vacations in Napa Valley, the Traversos returned to their Piedmontese roots, helping friends harvest their vineyards in Calistoga. Years later, when Ruth and Lee married, both husband and wife were bitten by the wine bug.”

And Btw, when visiting with Phil, they stayed at the Meadowood and ate fried calamari and Mary’s Chicken.

Downgrade       www.firstleafclub.com

Despite the great background and contacts, this club has not improved since coming on the scene with great fanfare and advertising support.

It asks the same silly questions to establish your preferences, and is still offering the same wines for the most part.

Somehow the private customizing algorithms end up suggesting a couple of Malbecs and ordinary Sauvignon Blancs.

To date, I’ve not seen one wine that is unusual and a super deal.

The 3 bottle trial package remains worthwhile.

 

The Cheap Bastard’s Personal Wine Shopper

 

Amidst endless hype and blather that dominates the world of online wine sellers, one offer this week stood far above the crowd. Nothing wrong with tasty wines at rock bottom prices, is there?

Ten money-saving wine deals are offered until March 31 by the California Wine club…www.cawineclub.com.

These wines are deeply discounted and this current offer includes $1 shipping on half, full or mixed cases. 

Each wine I’ve selected from about 100 listed on the site is a great value for its type, including a $40 Napa Cabernet better than most $100 Cabs.

Insider Info: This is one of the oldest and most reliable clubs that in my experience delivers on time with no hassles.

Most wines are made from small, family owned wineries.

My  Ten Picks (free of course):

2013 Wither Hills Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough,NZ  $9.25

2015 Pedroncelli Chardonnay, Dry Creek Valley, $11.99

2012 Zaca Mesa Z-Blanc, Santa Ynez Valley $11.99

2012 Highway 20 Zinfandel, Sierra Foothills $11.99

2014 Rabbit Ridge, Tuscan Style Red, Paso Robles $12.99

2014 Clos LaChance Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, Central Coast $12.99

2014 Lucas & Lewellen Cabernet Franc, Estate Santa Barbara $13.99

2012 Groom Shiraz, Barossa Valley, $20.00

2012 Stolpman Syrah, Ballard Canyon $29.00

2012 Bacio Divino Cellars, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley $40

 

Five Fab February First Wine Deals

Serious Merlot

Looking for delicious, serious Merlot at an amazing price, then www.invino.com is selling the 2013 Esterlina Merlot Cole Ranch for $14.95.

This website recently bought the entire bottled inventory of Esterlina. This 2013 Merlot is from the cool, high elevation Cole Ranch site in Mendocino and consequently is a well-knit age-worthy version, not an over-ripe fruit-bomb. Original price was $45.

Classic Chardonnay

Chardonnay lovers should head directly to http://www.wiredforwine.com

which has the fantastic 2014 Nyers Chardonnay, Carneros District.You

rarely see this wines online, and the price is $19.97. That’s a real deal.

Oregon Pinot Noir Bargain

Best suggestion for exploring the much talked about 2014 Pinot Noirs from Oregon without spending way too much is to look at www.northwest-wine.com.

One of the best deals going these day is the 2014 Arterberry Maresh Pinot, Dundee Hills. Price is $24.95 a bottle.

All Purpose Malbec

Looking for a great value red wine to enjoy as your personal house wine, then shop Argentinian Malbecs at www.wine.com. My favorite is the 2015 Amalaya Malbec ($13.99). It is richer and more exciting than most, thanks to a dollop of Tannat and Syrah.

The 2015 Trivento Reserva Malbec ($10.00) offers more typical character, if you prefer to play it safe.

Curious about Cult Wines

Two remarkable cult wines are offered by http://www.vivino.com. The first is the 2013 Hanzell Chardonnay, the true Chardonnay pioneer in California. For a little history, Hanzell was the first boutique, cult winery and served as the model. Limited quantities are offered at $54.99 a bottle.

A newer cult winery, Napa Valley’s Alpha Omega, is also featured at vivino. The 2011 Napa Valley Cabernet is yours to try at $69.99. Yes, that’s a discounted price…get over it!