OK, so I happened to stop by the Trader Joe’s on Excelsior Blvd in St. Louis Park last Saturday, and lo and behold there was a 2009 Châteauneuf-du-Pape under the label of J.L. Quinson selling for about $10. I thought, “No way,” so I checked with one of the guys in the store and he said it was awesome. So I picked up a bottle thinking, “Well, it should be a very good Côtes du Rhône.”
It is…and more.
Yes, I was turned off by its recent vintage, its still undeveloped youth. But damn! It had color, substance, body, fruit—in short, anything one would want in a good, albeit young, grenache-based wine. Far better than anything I have had from Spain in the same price range.
So it has had little or no barrel aging. But it’s excellently made and certainly reflective of what the appellation in a good vintage can offer.
Why is it so cheap? My only guess is that as well as being a very good to great vintage, 2009 also produced a surplus of juice. The J.L. Quinson label is owned by the venerable firm Pasquier DesVignes, owned by the Quinson family and located in Romanèche-Thorins, the home also of the sprawling Georges Duboeuf wine enterprise. My supposition is that Pasquier DesVignes had the juice by previous contract with growers—not uncommon in the wine business—and that cash upfront for the recent vintage was better than waiting around for the wine to age, putting it up against more well-known producers.
The upshot? A chance for us peons who prize good wine from good appellations to secure it at a too-cheap-to-believe price.
Is the wine drinkable now? You betcha. Will it be drinkable and enjoyable in 5 or 10 years? Ditto. While oak aging, which this wine lacks, adds a certain something to many wines—notably Bordeaux, Burgundy, Napa Cabernets, Italian reds and more—because of the wine’s inherent balance—not too fruity, nor too tart, nor too tannic—the oak is not so much missed.
Bottom line: If you’re near a Trader Joe’s, buy this wine. Buy a case of this wine. Lay it away in a good cellar. For $10 a bottle, you (and your progeny, if you are an old fart like me) will be more than rewarded.