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Tag Archives: expensive wine

Expensive wine 76: Chateau Pontet-Canet 2003

winereview

Chateau Pontet-CanetHow silly are Bordeaux wine prices? The Big Guy, who bought the Chateau Pontet-Canet 2003 (13%) almost 10 years ago, should have kept it in case he needed to top up his grandchildren’s college fund. The wine has doubled in value since he paid $60 for it at a Dallas wine shop.

Wine as investment is an alien concept to the Big Guy and I. We buy wine to drink, which is why any review of the Chateau Pontet-Canet has to take into account its ridiculous run-up in price. What’s the point of a $120 wine, even from a producer as reputable as Pontet-Canet — a fifth-growth estate in the 1855 Bordeaux classification that’s often compared to second growths — that doesn’t make you shiver? Because, as well made as it was, and as well as it has aged, and as much as we enjoyed it, it was worth $120 only if the person buying it wanted to flip it like a piece of real estate.

Which you can’t tell from its scores — proving, sadly, that the idea of the Emperor’s New Clothes is never far from wine and that scores can be as corrupt as a Third World dictator. That’s because the only way to keep the market going is to keep throwing lots of points at the wine, which seems to have happened here. I found lots of mid-90s, with nary a discouraging word.

If you get a chance to try it, the Chateau Pontet-Canet has more fruit in the front (blackberry and raspberry) than you’d expect, and which explains Robert Parker’s fondness for it. The tannins were very soft, and the acidity was muted, almost an afterthought. If you sniff really hard, you can smell graphite, which makes the pointmeisters go crazy. The finish is long, but not extraordinarily so, and the impression is of a quality wine that would be a steal at $40 or $50. But memorable, as one reviewer described? Hardly, unless you’re marveling at the demand for a $120 wine that was made 12 years ago.

Again, this is not to criticize its quality, but to note how little the Bordeaux market has to do with reality. You could buy four terrific bottles of Chablis for the same price; three bottles of a Ridge zinfandel, maybe the best value in the U.S.; or two bottles of Pio Cesare Barbaresco, one of the best wines I’ve ever tasted.

If and when the French understand this, they’ll understand why 90 percent of the world is priced out of Bordeaux. Until then, I’ll somehow live without it.

Expensive wine 75: John Duval Plexus 2011

winereview

plexus 2011John Duval is a legend in the Australian wine business, someone who made some of the greatest wines in the country’s history when he worked for Penfolds and who has produced consistently outstanding wine on his own since leaving Penfolds in 2003. His wines are an example of the best of Australia, blending terroir, craftsmanship, and that sixth sense that the best winemakers have about what should go where.

The Plexus 2011 ($39, sample, 14%) is a red blend that does all of that, combining shiraz, grenache, and mouvedre to produce a wine that is somehow both powerful and sophisticated, soft and structured, cultured and free-spirited. In this, it does what so much great wine does, marry what seem to be contradictions to produce something greater than the whole.

Look for lots of berry aromas, followed by ripe but not quite jammy blackberry and cherry fruit and some spice and black pepper. That the alcohol is so low for an Australian wine speaks to Duval’s respect for terroir and to work with what the grapes gave in a cool vintage, rather than to force high alcohol to please critics. Not surprisingly, the 2011 Plexus only got 89 points from the Wine Advocate, about what it gives very ordinary $15 California chardonnay.

Highly recommended and a steal at this price, especially given how much junk is for sale that costs more than $40 and gets 94 points. We tasted this in my El Centro class, and the students were flabbergasted that this style of wine could be this delicious and taste so completely different from anything they had tasted before.

This is a Father’s Day gift for anyone who loves red wine and wants to take a step forward in understanding how wine can be different depending on where it’s from. Serve this with any red meat or Father’s Day barbecue.


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Winebits 388: The world hates expensive wine

winenews

expensive wineThe cyber-ether has been full of vitriol for expensive wine over the past month, so much so that even the Wine Curmudgeon has wondered what’s going on. Some of these posts make me seem like a “bring on the $100 samples” member of the Winestream Media:

Damn you, Napa cabernet: Something called Vox Observatory, which is part of the company that owns the chi-chi Eater food site and the SB Nation sports blogs, posted a video called “Expensive wine is for suckers.” The results? Not only is expensive wine overpriced, but many of the tasters said they liked the way the cheap wine tasted better than they liked the way the expensive wine tasted. One even went so far as to say that she was glad she had cheap wine taste. I wonder: Would Eater have run a similar post, citing the cheap and simple qualities of grocery store tomatoes over $15 organic, heirloom tomatoes? Of course not. This post speaks directly to the cliches the wine business and the Winestream Media reinforce about wine, and how their approach intimidates people who aren’t wine drinkers.

Grocery store cheap wine: The cheapest offers the best value, according to a study done among British supermarkets. Almost two-thirds of the wines sold at Lidl and Aldi, known for their low prices, were called a good value; at least half the wine at six other chains was judged a poor value; and three-quarters of the wine at the bottom grocer was called a poor value. This is an amazing result, and not just because so much wine in grocery stores is so ordinary. It speaks to the concept of premiumization, and that producers and retailers aren’t giving us better wine when we pay more money, but the same wine in better packaging and with more expensive marketing.

The placebo effect: Think your pricey wine tastes better than the cheap wine I drink? That may be because you want it to, says a study in the Journal of Marketing Research. Says the report: “Expectations truly influence neurobiological responses,” and there are even brain scans to prove it. Again, not a surprising result, and especially for those of us who have spent our professional careers trying to educate people on the differences between cheap and expensive wine.

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