For most of us, the grand wines and grander Champagnes in our cellars met their Waterloo over the holidays. Drunk with pleasure but harder than ever to replace, what with world-wide demand and tariffs.
I’ve been told by countless friends in the trade that they sell perhaps 80% of all their stock of sparkling wines between mid-November and New Year’s Day. And virtually all their big-ticket items. I believe it.
The holidays over, bonuses eaten up and the Tax Man Cometh, what’s a wine-loving feller or lady gonna do?
Well, one of the abiding themes of this column will be this: A smart consumer can still, even in this day of Trump tariffs (and let us hope for a better day soon on that front), find really good, interesting French, Italian and German wines for under $25-$30 a bottle, for sure; and perhaps as low as $10-$12 a bottle—if you work at it, read-up and listen to good advice. And that is what I am here for, Dear Reader.
Let me begin by saying that most of the wines I drink on a regular basis, chez Anderson, fit this bill. I am one of you. I am not a Wall Streeter, I am not a lawyer, nor a doctor. I am but a humble writer and a fallen academic, who was lucky enough to begin drinking and tasting mostly French and German wines as a grad student at Yale in the mid-1970s.
No, I am not drinking Grand Cru Classé Graves at $10 a bottle as I was back in those heady days, but I can still drink really good Beaujolais, Mâconnais and Chalonaise wines, red and white for the equivalent price with inflation figured in.
Here’s what I am drinking—with pleasure—these days:
A recent discovery, from Kermit Lynch, and thus a near-sure-fire hit are the wines from young Quentin Harel, whose old vine, organic domaine-grown-and-bottled 2018 Beaujolais-Villages “Grandes Terres” and Morgon are revelations. The “Grandes Terres” comes from vines that average 40 years (7-70 years is the range) and might just be the best Beaujolais-Villages wine I ever remember tasting. Spicy red fruit (plums and raspberries) and nice acidity combine with low alcohol to deliver the goods. I bought a half-case and subsequently bought another full case for about $17 a bottle. Beat that with a big stick!
The famous Domaine Ferraud’s 2018 Juliénas “Ravinets” is, befitting the vintage, rich, ripe and succulent. I think it loses just a bit of the Juliénas village character—there’s none of that tangy dry sherry thing that I almost expect here—but that’s the very ripe vintage. The wine is gulp-able, and a bargain at around $18 from WTSO.
WTSO is also the source for the grower Pascal Aufranc’s 2017 Juliénas “Les Cerisiers,” which does have that tart dark cherry fruit to it—in obvious contrast to the 2018, the less overtly ripe 2017 vintage speaks! About $17.
My bargain red ($12) came as a real surprise: a 100% Pinot Noir from the heart of the Mâconnais, on the edge of the famous “La Roche Vineuse”—famous, that is, for its Chardonnay—and Milly-Lamartine, also white country. This is the 2017 Bourgogne “Pinot Noir” from Domaine de la Belouse, an Esprit du Vin exclusive. Tart, spicy red berry fruit. The terroir speaks!
On the white wine side, for daily drinking, you could do a lot worse than Domaine Jean-Marc Brocard’s Bourgogne Chardonnay “Kimmeridgien,” which is a snip at about $16. Brocard is one of the most dependable growers in Chablis. This one was grown on estate property close to Chablis and benefitting from similar soil. Very like Chablis itself. Dry and minerally.
Two wines that will cost you about a Hamilton more ($25 or so), but are well worth the price, indeed, are bargains, yet are also very dissimilar both from the Brocard and from one another are the 2017 Pouilly-Fuissé “Marie-Antoinette” from the great Jean-Jacques Vincent and family (Marie-Antoinette having been his grandmother!) and the 2016 Rully “En Rosey” blanc from Maison Chanzy. These are both super bargain wines: The “Marie-Antoinette” used to come exclusively from Vincent family vines and still is mostly sourced from their extraordinary holdings in Pouilly-Fuissé. It is at once balanced and understated, elegant, classic Pouilly-Fuissé as befits the Vincents. The Rully “En Rosey” is a revelation, long on the nose and finish and lip-smacking on the palate, a real contrast to the drier Montagny and the more fullish, more oaky Côte d’Or whites.
There aren’t that many Bordeaux, certainly not at the classed growth level, that I can still afford for daily drinking, but two that do qualify are the 2015 Château Larose-Trintaudon and 2015 Château Ducluzeau, both about $25 the bottle.
Larose-Trintaudon is an absolutely huge estate in the Haut-Médoc bordering on St. Julien. Bottles and vintages used to be very variable. New ownership and greater care have resulted in major steps forward. The 2015 won’t make you think you’re drinking a St. Julien, but it’s a nice, round, very well-made claret from a ripe vintage. The Ducluzeau comes with a wonderfully old-fashioned label and a name that you might just recognize: Mme. Jean-Eugène Borie. Yes, THAT Madame Borie—the widow of the famous Jean-Eugène Borie of Ducru-Beaucaillou and Grand-Puy-Lacoste. Ducluzeau comes from Listrac and, in my experience, is seldom seen in this country. It should be. The wine—made with a good dose of Merlot—is much less tannic than the usual Listrac, and, if not as charming as the best Moulis wines, is the real deal, made by people who know how to make fine claret.
A perfectly enormous amount of Champagne, the vast bulk of what is sold in this country, is bought and drunk around the turn of the calendar year. I love Champagne and try to have a glass of the stuff—or at least a glass of good Crémant, whether from Alsace or Burgundy—every night. You couldn’t do better for the price than two current WTSO offerings, both priced around $30 the bottle. The Champagne André Chemin “Cuvée Sélectionée” Premier Cru Brut NV is a real crowd-pleaser. It’s a blend of 80% Pinot Noir and 20% Chardonnay—the Chemin property being located in predominantly Pinot country and all the better for it. The wine itself is just a tad sweeter than perfection, but who cares? It really is delicious. Champagne Baron-Fuenté’s Grand Cru “Esprit” Brut “Blanc de Blancs” NV is drier and mor elegant, but it also needs more time in bottle. Try them both, see what you think, and let me know. I’m all ears!