Joanne Yaeger, SueHa Newton. Jean Pierre Chambas & Debbie Marlowe circa 1990
Scouting for Vintage Values in the Big Apple
By Debbie Marlowe
Two days, hundreds of wines red, white and rose, and sore feet. Your wine scout flew to New York for two solid days of wine explorations, trying to size up the wines being bottled around the world right now, the wines that will be on shelves later this year.
There were two main tastings, the first organized by a relatively new group Return to Terroir/Renaissance des Appellations, the second by renowned West Coast wine merchant Kermit Lynch.
The "Return to Terroir" group is a ‘back-to-basics’ group which preaches that each vintage, each bottling, should capture the essence of where the grapes were grown. Its growing list of members, many of them already famous winemakers, work to help their land produce its best and avoid using synthetic chemicals or modern winemaking techniques that compromise the expression of their own acreage and the grapes it uniquely produces. Most of the wines we tasted succeeded in this mission. Even the same appellations, from growers within a few miles of each other, often had very different tastes and smells.
I think the "Return to Terroir" movement is bringing some excitement back to the world of wines! In one bottle, you may find flavors from the flint in the soil of a hillside; in another, you may get hints of fruits that grow nearby. It’s great because you can never be sure exactly what surprise awaits you inside the next bottle you buy!
From just north of the Mediterranean to Alsace, from The Rhone to Mosel-Saar-Ruher, winemakers came, pouring tiny tastes of what they plan to offer. It was a phenomenal array of vintages and values.(That evening, I attended a wonderful dinner hosted by Kermit Lynch, at New York hotspot Barbuta whose chef, Jonathan Waxman, created multiple courses to accompany the fantastic wines. Dinner was a wonderful experience. I had the opportunity to speak with a number of winemakers from France, and with others in the wine business from all over the country. The list of wines at the dinner included a Chateauneuf-du-Pape from Domaine du Vieux Telegraphe, Domaine Leon Barral, Chateau Thivin Cote du Brouilly, Domaine Ostertag, Domaine de Fontsainte, and Francois Jobard Meursault 1992 from magnum.
In his most recent newsletter Lynch writes that France is now producing wonderful wines at prices that are much more competitive than in the past. He explains that French producers are affected by two major factors: that many Americans feel they’ve been too pricy and too esoteric and that global competition has forced price reductions. I have to agree. The price predictions for some of these excellent wines are very favorable, making them good targets for The Wine Shop of Charleston and our philosophy that good wine often can be a good value. I expect to be able to stock some excellent French wines at costs the great majority of my customers could easily afford.
Yes, I tasted some extraordinary wines that will command fabulous prices. I’ll stock some of them but it was heartening to find so many unique, exciting wines of great quality at prices I’m sure you’ll like.