Beyond Eric Asimov’s excellent Times column “The Pour,” some of the paper’s most compelling wine writing has been delivered recently via the Gray Lady’s “Wealth Matters” rubric.
“Stuck at Home, People Are Splurging on Wine and Spirits” (December 18, 2020) by Paul Sullivan informed us that in 2020
Sales of wines, for instance, dipped in the first quarter, before the pandemic. But they are now selling at a brisk rate, making up for the slower months… And sales of premium wines during the post-pandemic period have grown more than other categories.
The trend has been driven, at least in part, by the fact that
[people are] not traveling and not going out to dinner. Instead, they’re looking to buy something that will make yet another dinner at home more interesting. And because they’re not paying the markups that bars and restaurants usually charge, they can afford higher quality bottles.
Not only do these (partly anecdotal) observations align with what wine sales agents from across the country have been telling me (one rep told me that his company’s retail program grew so significantly that it bested its 2019 sales last year), but they also dovetail with our personal experience: because we stopped going out to dinner (completely in our case), we were able to spend more on our retail consumption.
Here are some of the wines that we enjoyed in 2020 “despite,” as Weird Al put it, “things.”
Robert Foley 2018 Chardonnay
Yes, we loved this Napa Valley Chardonnay. The fruit was classically new world bright but balanced by vibrant acidity and wonderful freshness. I’d never had anything white from Foley but the reasonable pricing for this mid-level Chardonnay kept bringing me back.
Dominque Lafon 2018 Bourgogne Blanc
I was curious about this “second label” by Dominique Lafon after reading up on him in the course of my work for the Boulder Burgundy Festival where he was the virtually featured winemaker this year. It’s not cheap but this wine was spectacular, a great value for those who want to dip their toes into Burgundian greatness. One of my favorite wines of the year.
Vignai da Duline 2018 Friulano
Classic, focused, elegant, and genuine. Vignai da Duline is one of those estates that all the cool kids — from the classicists to the enohipsters — in Italy love. And with good reason. We’d never had the monovarietal Friulano and both Tracie and I were blown away by the depth and beauty of this stunning wine. Highly recommended and another great value for a premium wine.
Faury 2018 Saint Joseph Blanc and Rouge
I was drawn to this producer because of the rarity of white wine from Saint Joseph. Both of these wines, each under $40, were nothing short of spectacular. Kermit Lynch has always had a knack for sourcing under-appreciated wines that land at reasonable prices and both of these wines delivered 1,000 percent.
Pertinace 2016 Barbaresco
Pound for pound, Pertinace is the greatest value in Barbaresco today imho. After I tasted this wine for a virtual wine dinner I led, I bought a case and we drank it for all of our holidays. What a wine and what a value! This is one of those wines that I’ll remember for the rest of my days. No joke. I have my suspicions as to why this cooperative is not more popular in the U.S. and that’s fine with me. My recommendation: run don’t walk.
Oddero 2016 Barolo
I’ve followed Oddero for more than 15 years now and I’m always blown away by the wines’ consistency over time. A perennial classic that always lands with reasonable pricing. I believe that’s because the Oddero family has always remained true to their original vision: old school, traditional winemaking with immense focus and elegance. We opened this with Pietro for a virtual wine tasting I led and it was magical to share the experience with other like-minded tasters.
Mastroberardino 2016 Taurasi Radici
Another magical experience, tasted with Piero Mastroberardino for a virtual wine tasting I led. I have such a deep connection to this wine: back when I first started tasting and collecting, it was one of the few wines I could afford to lay down (anyone else remember the extraordinary 1995 vintage for this wine?). Tasting with Piero is always such a compelling experience and this wine was extraordinary the night we shared it virtually with the host restaurant’s guests. What a wine! And what a fantastic value, another one I’ll be cellaring from the year of the pandemic.
Happy new year, everyone. I hope this finds you and loved ones all healthy and safe. Thanks for being here and thanks for all your support in 2020. Looking forward to brighter times and more great wine in 2021.