A Return to Normalcy Sets Up a Thrilling Wine Spectator Finale

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Wine Spectator revealed wines 5 through 2 in their 2012 Wine of the Year campaign. It was largely a return to normalcy that, in one sense, calmed the experts in our Scoop the Spectator contest, and set up a cliff hanger of sorts to see which wine will be named their Wine of the Year.

More on that in a moment, but here are some thoughts on the wines revealed today...

5. Château Guiraud
Sauternes 2009

What can I say about this one? This wine has won the whole thing before, but I have a hard time even spelling it. Sauternes, a dessert wine from Bordeaux with honey-lemon flavors and a quirky after taste, is a bit of an acquired taste that I haven't acquired yet.


4. Clos des Papes
Châteauneuf-du-Pape 2010

I think what we're seeing here is how reluctant they are to repeat a wine. The 2005 Clos des Papes was Spectator's Wine of the Year in 2007 - can you imagine the groans and zzz's they'd hear from subscribers if they repeated the same wine just 5 years later? What new story would they tell?

Great birth year wine (I've got the '05 and '07 set aside for that purpose) but how many $100+ bottles do we need in our lives? I don't think this nod does much to move the market on this wine. All of the good news was already baked into the price. Even when it won it didn't escalate out of control and could still be found months later. And the well-regarded 2007 was widely available for around $100 for a long time as well. It's a great wine, but Spectator can only move the market on a widely available $100 wine so much.


3. Two Hands
Shiraz Barossa Valley Bella’s Garden 2010

This wine is always in the Top 10 and you frequently see at at Costco at a fair price. Spectator seems to love it, and as much as Harvey Steiman (who rates their Australian wines along with other categories) has turned me on to some great values I like the more affordable bottlings from Two Hands better.

Kind of like the Schild they seem to go nuts for every year that's got great QPR metrics but ultimately doesn't taste very good in my opinion, I'm a pass on this one. But I probably shouldn't bash it until I try this vintage.


2. Château de St.-Cosme
Gigondas 2010

I definitely had this as the favorite going in. Thomas Matthews' comment earlier this week was interesting. In hindsight it seemed to carry a conciliatory tone:
But I must note the love shown for Chateau de St.-Cosme. Louis Barruoul was at our Wine Experience last month presenting his Gigondas Valbelle 2009, our #10 wine of 2011, and both he and the wine were extremely impressive. I hope you all get to enjoy some of his wines, no matter what rank they may take in our Top 100. 
Kind of a "their wines are great! we love 'em! but we could only have one winner!". I think this wine getting the number 2 nod (as opposed to number 1) is a good thing for people wanting to buy this wine because it won't vaporize quite as quickly as if it had won. But the net of it is St. Cosme is on value hunter radar screens now more than ever. I'm interested in trying other bottlings from them. They crushed it (once again) this year.


Although @EvanDawson (our first entry this year) is in the lead now, I think we all agree it's likely someone has guessed the winner already.

I've got to think it's @RichardPF's entry - the 2010 Le Vieux Donjon. There might be some concern about 2010 Rhones taking 3 of the top 5 spots, but I think since the Cosme is a Gigondas and not a true Chateauneuf-du-Pape the Donjon is still the favorite. I've heard of some panic buying of this wine today - kind of like the rush on D batteries before Hurricane Sandy.

@NWTomLee has been beating the drum for 2009 Bordeaux. It was a great vintage for sure, but so was 2010 Bordeaux. Further the Leoville Barton was already in the top 10 along with Sauternes. I think Bordeaux is done in this year's Top 10. More importantly - where's the value in Bordeaux? I don't see it. But I could be eating my words tomorrow!

If the Donjon doesn't get it, I think it would be a statement from Spectator that the wine wasn't all that great. Remember, a panel of their senior editors get together to taste the contenders for the Top 10. I've tried the wine, and it's tight. It needs time. But I think they can see through that near term stuffiness and I think it will win.

If it does, expect the price to shoot through the roof and further fuel interest in future Top 10s. It's a wine you've likely walked past if you've been an a fine wine shop the past couple months. As of this morning you could still find it in the $50 range. And Magnums for $110. Certainly a great arbitrage/flipping opportunity if you think this is the one! I've never resold a wine ever and I'm not interested in starting. But if I had to bet I'd think this is the one.

But you never know - a Bordeaux could sneak in there.
We shall see tomorrow at 11 am Eastern.

If you haven't already, have a look at the videos Wine Spectator produced for each of the Top 10 wines. They're quite good I think and provide insight into how to pronounce some tricky French wine words.

So what do you think? Will it be Chateauneuf or Bordeaux in the top spot?


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