Of Stump Years and Spaniards or Bordeaux for Regular Folk
Much like Vancouver Real Estate, Bordeaux has been priced out of reach for regular non-wealthy folk. Chinese millionaires are gobbling up ‘culture’ through ‘luxury’ with the appetite of millions of Robber Barons. So the rest of us are left to look elsewhere, be it condo-living or the suburbs in the case of Vancouver, or outside of main-stream Bordeaux for wine.
Two Sources of Value
The sad thing, of course, is that Bordeaux makes great wine. Even while some producers have moved more toward ripeness in recent years, there is no denying that great Bordeaux is an inimitable pleasure. So what is the hard working professional not endowed with millions in wealth to do when seeking a special bottle?
Two options. One is to turn to old vintages of stump year Bordeaux. These are the good years just before or after a ‘vintage of the century’. They tend to still be around on the market via auction or otherwise and are still in the realm of sanity for pricing given their being overshadowed by the hyped vintages. These wines are often even more enjoyable than the starred vintages as they are closer to classic claret than the ripe and opulent style from years such as 2005, 2009 and 2010. In the last decade, I recommend looking to 2001 and 2004 for strong performances at much more reasonable prices (I recall buying the super-seconds in 2004 for $130-$150/bottle, whereas now most hover around $600). A quick peruse of wine-searcher reveals the 2001 Leoville Barton for between $110-$150.
The other option is to turn to classically made Rioja, which was the home of phylloxera fleeing Bordelais in the 19th century. Lopez de Heredia is a highly traditional example for knowledgeable wine-geeks who understand this classic style. But there are others such as Pecina, Cune and Murietta that nicely bridge fruitier styles with classic claret-style structure. Yes I know these are Tempranillo based wines but they offer a similar experience and profile to classic Bordeaux. Again, the prices are on the sane side with most under $100 per bottle.
Two Great Wines with Stature
I recently had the pleasure of tasting a 2001 Leoville-Barton side by side with a 1994 Lopez de Heredia Tondonia. Both were excellent, with the Barton edging out the Tondonia for elegance and being easier to understand. These are both very classic wines with soft tannins and leafy, earth-driven aromas. The fruit provides liveliness but it is not overflowing. The wines demand subtle, not bold, foods.
These wines have stature. They are relatively affordable for special occasion wines. They are complete, complex experiences. And the best part? The super-wealthy don’t bother with them.
Tondonia: Very Good+ to Excellent