I prefer not to "recycle" old posts, but once a year I like to update my Top 50 Cellar Picks: cellar-worthy reds priced from C$20-40. The rationale is detailed in my original post below, with this update of a top page on my site is to reflect new successes, as well as disappointments with previous picks.
Here's the original post (1/22/07) followed by my updated picks:
For Christmas, my good friend Eden received from his (perfect) wife some wine racks to start collecting. To put this new storage to work, he requested my "Top 50" list of wines, priced from C$20- C$40, for cellaring. Fifty wines is very ambitious, but I'll take stab at it! Sorry for the lenghty post...
In considering this request, I had to work within the following parameters:
- Red wine only - He does not drink white wine (philistine!), so no need to bother there.
- Cellar worthy - They should be wines that may benefit with age, or at least have a few years of cellaring in them.
- Availability - These should not be rare/difficult to find offerings.
- Vintages - A winery that seems to perform reasonably well over a variety of vintage conditions.
- Balance - While he has a clear preference for Aussie Shiraz, I felt he needed to expand the collection to cover some old world wines as well.
- Previously tasted - No recommendations from books, just stuff I know.
Here were my suggestions, grouped by region:
With Bordeaux prices rocketing, it is not the easiest region for "values", but I have a few ideas in the target price range:
- Chateau Pibran (Pauillac) - Classic Bordeaux, good year in and year out.
- Chateau Croix-Mouton (Superieur) - by Jean-Phillipe Janoueix, the name was changed to "Croix-Mouton" (from "Mouton") due to a legal dispute with the 'other' Mouton in Bordeaux...
- Chateau Potensac (Medoc) - Another classic Bordeaux
- Chateau Clarke (Cru Bourgeois) - Probably a touch more modern as of late, but nicely made.
- Chateau Pipeau (St-Emilion) - Is it possible to get a good St-Emilion in this price range? Yes!
The Rhone is host to numerous great values, and an excellent way to draw my friend out of the safety of Australia and into the "Old World". Here are just a few:
- Chateau Signac "Cuvee Terra Amata" (Cotes du Rhone) - Big, brawny modern-styled Rhone, a great value
- Domaine du Vieux Lazaret (Chateauneuf du Pape) - At the high end of the assigned price range, but a tremendous CdP that shames some at twice the price.
While the wines of the Southwest are not widely known, the following estates appear widely available and make compelling, age-worthy wines:
- Chateau Montus (Madiran) - Tremendous, age-worthy wines made from the Tannat grape by the talented Alain Brumont
- Chateau Bouscasse/Vielles Vignes (Madiran) - More Tannat, Alain Brumont
- Chateau Lagrezette (Cahors) - A French take on Malbec, various cuvees exist, very nice and age-worthy.
I could probably fill the list with Languedoc-Rousillon wines, but here is a sampling. I especially like the wines of Pic St-Loup:
- Chateau Lancyre "Grande Cuvee" (Pic St-Loup) - Well made Grenache/Syrah
- Chateau Cazeneuve "Le Roc des Mates" (Pic St-Loup) - Deep, rich and complex
I dove into the Loire this past year, and found two wines that fit the theme:
- Charles Joguet "Clos du Chene Vert" (Chinon) - beautiful expression of Cab Franc
- Charles Joguet "Clos de la Dioterie" (Chinon) - beautiful expression of Cab Franc
The reds of Burgundy are difficult to fit into this post, mainly due to "availability" (and hefty prices), but here are a few. I don't do the region justice - check out Brooklynguy for a deeper dive into Burgundy.
- A et P de Villaine "Les Montots" (Mercurey) - perhaps a touch more challenging to locate than most on this list, but can be found and is a nice price for good Burgundy
- Nicolas Potel Santenay Vielles Vignes - a lovely Burgundy at this price point
Broadly speaking, Spain is filled with values, but the key is consistent availability. I would point to:
- Conde de Valdemar Gran Reserva (Rioja) - Great steak wine
- Hacienda Monasterio Crianza (Ribera del Duero) - You must try this, fantastic
- Sierra Cantabria (Rioja) - Multiple cuvees, all excellent values
- Muga (Rioja) - Very nice take on Rioja and widely available
- Quinta da Quietud (Toro) - Availability may be a challenge, but a must have
I couldn't possible forget about Italy. I could probably find 50 wines easily that would be great for the cellar, but pricing can sometimes be high. Here are a few selections:
- Clerico "Trevigne" Barbera D'Alba (Piedmont) - Surprising complexity for Barbera
- Fonterutoli Chianti Classico (Tuscany) - Great consistency across vintages, ageworthy
- Castello Banfi "Colvecchio" (Tuscany) - A Tuscan Syrah? Absolutely.
- Capezzana "Ghiaie Della Furba" - A super "Super Tuscan" at a more reasonable price point
- Belguardo Poggio Bronzone (Morellino di Scansano) - Nice consistency
- Di Majo Norante "Don Luigi" (Molise) - How many ways can I express my love for this wine? Simply awesome - if this list were rank order I would consider it near the top.
- Taurino "Notarpanaro" (Puglia) - Obscure grape (negroamaro) from an obscure region, excellent wine.
- Planeta Syrah (Sicily) - From Sicily. A nice, but different, take on Syrah.
- Allegrini "Palazzo della Torre" (Veneto) - Complex, interesting, balanced, reat value
- Allegrini "La Grola" (Veneto) - Ditto
Australia seems to be a go-to region for great values. Here are some suggestions:
- Penfold’s Bin 389 - Cab/Shiraz, while not cheap it fits in the range. A classic.
- Vasse Felix Cabernet Sauvignon - my only Margaret River selection, very Bordeaux like, aging well.
- D'Arenberg "The Lauging Magpie" - A compelling wine for the price, nice year to year consistency.
- Elderton Barossa Shiraz - An excellent wine, seeking a more restrained "French" take on Aussie shiraz
- Rosemount GSM - I would have put the D'Arenberg Ironstone Pressings here, but the price is above my $40 limit...a nice GSM and widely available
- Greg Norman Cabernet Merlot - This has the stuffing to put away for a few years.
- Yalumba "The Signature" Cabernet Shiraz - Consistently good, with aging potential.
Chile should be a good source of inexpensive reds, but I haven't tasted that many. Here are two:
- Montes Alpha Merlot - This would blow Miles away...
- Casa Lapostolle Cuvee Alexandre (Cab or Merlot) - powerful, complex New World takes on Bordeaux
I would be remiss if I didn't mention Argentina:
- Altos Las Hormigas Reserva - Widely available, very nice
- Catena Cabernet Sauvignon - The regular cuvee is an excellent, structured take on this grape
- Norton Privada - Prices have moved up from below $20 to above $20, but still a great wine
Two South Africans, including a Pinotage:
- Kanonkop Pinotage - meant for aging, very interesting wine, not for everyone
- Meerlust Rubicon - a classically styled Claret, with a hint of S. Africa
Unfortunately, a lot of the U.S. wines I could recommend are not widely available or come in outside the necessary price range. Here are a few California selections:
- Napanook - Excellent second wine from the maker of Dominus
- Ramey Claret - Nice Claret.
- Justin Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon - Good value
- Cline Small Berry Mourvedre - Different, should age nicely
- Unti Syrah - Terrific Syrah at this price point
This post is not definitive, and I (and my friend) would love to hear any other suggestions you may have that fit the parameters above.