Having spent the last few days here in the Rhone Valley, tasting wines at Decouvertes du Rhone an the many "Offs" events, I have a few observations to help those not here on their buying strategy.
The 2014 Rose wines are stunning. Chene Bleu's just bottled Rose is a killer, so are the usual suspects from Domaine La Mordoree, Chateau Triquevedel and Prieure de Montezargues Tavel Roses as they are all back on track and very reminiscent of the 2011s and 2009s. So while the 13s were good, despite a horrible growing season with lots of rain, the good news is the yields in 2014 are up, and that means with a strong dollar much better prices. Personally, I'm already looking to grab some of the 2014 Mourchon Rose, which like Chene Bleu isn't from Tavel but from east of the Rhone.
As for a red wine buying strategy, first off the 2009, 2010 and 2011 vintages were all great years up and down the Rhone Valley, and many wines remain available, where they are being offered as deals if you know where to look. What's more, many producers still have inventory in their cellars, so expect with a stronger dollar to find more wines arriving that are from the producers' own inventory as importers free up cheaper dollars to buy up wines that are now more drinkable and received impressive scores. Those wines are mostly ready now to drink, while many will age and more importantly, will provide drinking pleasure over the 2012s and 2013s that are much lighter, especially from the Southern Rhone AOC wines and the more generic Cotes du Rhones.
2013 in the Northern Rhone was solid, though some Syrah producers had issues based on when they picked resulting in smaller yields. That said, 2013 in the Northern Rhone has produced many solid Cote Rotie, Cornas, St. Joseph, Hermitage and Crozes Hermitage reds and stunning whites. 2014 is looking to be even better, especially with the whites so far that I tasted from producers of the level of Yves Cuilleron, Vins de Vienne and others.
If given a choice between 2012 and 2013 from the southern Rhone, I would opt for the 12s but with a stronger dollar the 13s will appear to offer a better value but aging ability and structure will be less there too. As for what to buy from the north, it's really a toss up based on what you can find and what you will pay. Producers are across the board happier with 2014 and expect to return to form overall when those wines go to the bottling line.
Chateauneuf du Pape may be the anomaly of the south for 2013. Before the reds, the 2014 whites are exquisite giving lots of positive thoughts for what's to come with the reds. As for those, 2012 was a solid year, and in many cases a winemakers year where smaller production led to really well made wines. The 2013s are good, much like 2008 making it a wonderful early drinking, restaurant vintage.
What's Hot? The Cotes de Ventoux, Sablet, Rastau and Lirac. Also wines from the Costières de Nîmes will be providing great values from the 2013 vintage. I was personally dismayed with the 2013 Gigondas' I tasted as they just didn't measure up to their predecessors. Then again, many were just put in the bottle and still need time in the barrel, but the weak year that 2013 was for Grenache in general makes me think that we'll see more Cote du Rhone and less Gigondas on people's tables.
Given the weakness of 2013 reds, and the impressive nature of 2014 whites, I'll be putting more of my wine buying budget into the whites while enjoying what's been accumulating in my cellar, along with a very strong mix of 2014 Rose.