The reasons for this change are twofold. Perhaps three, for just after pulling the trigger on my early morning wine purchases I reviewed my inventory and prepared a pull list for my coming visit to the cellar. Two cases of Burgundy for the coming year, almost all from 2002 and 2005. Lesser wines from those vintages, but perfect for drinking now and soon. For drinking with non wine geek friends, my family, over a roast chicken or meatloaf dinners. For that Tuesday night when you just want to pop and pour something and the wife is not in the mood for Italian.
This is where I find myself today. Looking increasingly for easier wines. I simply no longer have the time to spend 4-6 hours with a bottle of wine on a weeknight. Now, I know that a $50 bottle of wine, even one that is well under, is by no means what the world considers to be a daily drinker, but in Burgundy something between $25 and $40 is what satisfies the requirement. In Italy there is far more opportunity, and I avail myself liberally, most notably in Tuscany with Chianti, generally Classico and Ruffina, but also in the Alto-Adige with Lagrein, and Piedmont with Barbera and the occasional Pelaverga and Dolcetto, and even the several Zins I enjoy each summer!
We are approaching the target. All the other wines I drink are, to a certain extent, either replacements for, or set up wines for what i really want to drink. Nebbiolo. Mostly Barolo.
The last decade has been either very kind or very wicked to Barolo, depending on your perspective. Wines that were cheap are now expensive. Wines that were expensive are now out of reach. Even if you have a lifetime supply of Barolo this has a distinct impact on your consumption trends. Which is to say the consumption of increasingly rare and costly wines are decidedly on the decrease. There is so much great wine, great Barolo that it remains relatively easy to scratch the Barolo itch, though I do have to admit that those less expensive Burgundies not only keep the wife happy and allow for an easy glass on a casual night, but also scratch an itch that Barolo is not well suited to scratch.
Back to my transformation though. While Burgundy has this sort of natural hierarchy, Barolo remains less stratified, with just a handful of producers being chased out of the hands of mere mortal consumers. I have made a conscious choice to buy less expensive Burgundy simply because it fits my consumption needs. The choice to stop buying certain Barolo producers though has been made for me.
Consider if you will the following list of wines that I have stopped buying.
One final note regarding the chart above. I have found a little bit of Bartolo Mascarello at the $170 a bottle price, a reasonable figure in the grand scheme of things. I also expect that given the nature of the 2014 vintage there will not be too much upwards pricing pressure for at least another vintage but the trio of 2015, 2016, and 2017 will, barring any widespread financial disaster, seal the fate of these wines, and I do not see a scenario where the wines of Bartolo Mascarello don’t become unobtainium. Too rare, too good, too coveted.
So, am I lamenting? We’ve established that I am not. I’ll drink some lovely Burgundy on Tuesday nights with whatever I have cooked and will live out the remainder of my life slowly thinning my cellar, but that does not help you, and I am all about being helpful. Which brings me to the point of all this. While I hope to continue to taste the wines I no longer buy as they are released I have to say that I see very little utility in actually promoting them. There’s no need for that. We all know they are great. What consumers need, and frankly I need, is to know where the value is, and there remains plenty of value in Piedmont.
So, with that being said, I expect that in the future I will only recommend wines that offer value, which is a relative concept and I am aware that I open myself up to valid criticism as I continue. For the purpose of this exercise, and with it being noted that I shall move the goalposts as I see fit, my benchmark will be Giuseppe Mascarello’s Barolo Monprivato; a wine that has never failed to deliver, and one that is produced in sufficient numbers to satisfy current demand and maintain a rather stable price point. A quick check of today’s Winesearcher indicates that 2013 Monprivato is available for $140, a lot of money for a bottle of wine no doubt, though a relative bargain for world class wine.
So that’s the line. $140, though most great Barolo is available for much less than that. You can drink fabulously well for as little as $40, and the field between $40 and $60 is absolutely packed with great wines. In an effort to kick off a discussion of value in Barolo allow me to introduce the following list of killer values in Barolo. Prices will change, and thus the order of these wines as well, but the top values will remain the top values. Best bets in what should prove to be one the best vintages of the past 3 decades.