If you’re really interested in great wine values, then, if you haven’t already, acquaint yourself with some trustworthy negoçiants. In case you might not have seen the term before, negoçiants are, very broadly translated, something like wine merchants. In practice, however, their relationship to the wines they sell under their own names is much more of a hands-on enterprise than simply the selling of a product. They canvass a particular viticultural area, buying up excess grapes, or the juice thereof, or even a stray wine here and there in various stages of completion. Some of the juice or grapes may even come from some notable producers who wish to keep the amount of their own label under control by selling off some of their excess raw ingredient. Negoçiants, then, proceed to complete whatever needs to be done to those ingredients to procure a finished wine to be sold under the name of the negoçiant. Few serious fans of wines will not have heard of the likes of Louis Jadot for Burgundy, and Georges du Boeuf for Beaujolais. But have you ever heard of Cameron Hughes, a California negoçiant who sells most of his admirable product to Costco? No, you don’t have to be French to be a negoçiant, despite the cedilla under the “c.” But Costco??? Well, as it happens, Costco may be the largest negoçiant in America, producing under its Kirkland label something like 15 different wines not only from the U.S., but from such areas as France, Italy, and New Zealand as well. All of those Kirkland wines range from good to excellent, but the price value of those same wines is never less than remarkable.
One of Kirkland’s finest values of late has been their Chateauneuf-du-Pape, perhaps the southern Rhone’s most distinguished wine and, while rich in Grenache, comprises, still further, a judicious blend of any of eighteen different Rhone varietals. The excellence of a CNP is hardly a secret, and it rarely sells for less then fifty bucks a bottle. The Wine Spectator gave a recent Kirkland CNP a 92 rating, and, when Costco finally noted this in their stores, the wine vanished from the shelves with dispiriting speed. O.K. So here’s an advance notice: the 2012 Kirkland CNP has just appeared. It has not yet been rated by any major wine publication, to my knowledge, but my own tasting revealed that it’s a first-class bottling, and, like its wonderful predecessor, sells for only $19.99 … a price that is beyond astonishing. Go for it before word gets any further out than this notice.