From €9.20, HK$980, 120 Swiss francs, £120 a dozen
I'm off to the Rhône Valley soon to taste the 2012 vintage in depth but many examples of Rhône 2012s I have already come across look extremely exciting, and a huge step up from the slightly disappointing 2011s. It's always difficult to decide when to publish our Rhône report since UK merchants make their offers at very different times and Rhône tends to clash with our Burgundy report - as I reported last July in Rhône primeur offers - we tried. We will try to publish Rhône tasting notes as soon as we can and definitely before our hundreds of reviews of 2012 burgundies in January.
Since I tasted pretty much all the 2012s from the excellent southern Rhône négociant Tardieu-Laurent earlier this week courtesy of their UK importers Corney & Barrow, and since they report that already they have sold out of their allocation of St-Péray and red Crozes-Hermitage, I thought I should flag up as soon as possible how impressive this producer's 2012s are.
For value I was particularly taken by their basic white and red Côtes du Rhône, called Becs Fins. I suspect that many a 2012 Côtes du Rhône will be providing great drinking for value-conscious wine drinkers all over the world and from many different addresses. After all, this is an appellation produced in great quantity, and prices have remained very reasonable. But these bottlings from Michel Tardieu and his son Bastien, at their base in the Luberon, are streets ahead of the appellation average.
Tardieu-Laurent, Becs Fins 2012 Côtes du Rhône Blanc, based on southern Rhône fruit, was bottled in July. It tastes salty and quite rich on the palate with much more exciting tension and artisanal grunt than the average white Côtes du Rhône. It's already drinking well with lively acidity but a good charge of vaguely (but not simplistically) passion fruit flavour underneath. The alcohol level is a moderate 13.5% and I reckon it is worth drinking any time over the next two years. I thought it worth 16.5 points out of 20, which is quite high for this points-miser.
I gave the same score to the more potent (14.5%) Tardieu-Laurent, Becs Fins 2012 Côtes du Rhône Rouge, an unoaked, unfined, unfiltered blend, bottled last summer, of particularly satisfying Syrah with Grenache that again has great drive and energy threaded through seductive fruit. I liked the slightly chalky, very persistent finish and felt this would make delicious drinking over the next three years. These are both very superior wines at a particularly good price.
This is one of those wines listed by the tentacular Bordeaux-based online operation Millésima, so wine-searcher.com lists prices in France, Hong Kong, Switzerland, Germany, Portugal, Austria, Italy, Spain, Benelux, UK (£120 a dozen) and Ireland - going upwards in price, presumably mainly because of local taxes. But the cheapest prices on offer are in Spain, €9.75 from Vila Viniteca of Barcelona for the white, and in France, €9.20 from the online retailer vins-etonnants.com for the red. In the UK, Corney & Barrow are still selling the 2011 vintage of Becs Fins by the bottle at £11.50 and £13.25 respectively. The 2012 vintage will be offered in the new year at £75 and £85 a case respectively per dozen in bond.
I'm sure they will find their way to the US, where the 2011 vintage of the red version is widely available at between $16 and $20 a bottle.