Ditton Wine Traders’ fine wine blog
7 April 2015Bordeaux En Primeur 2014: worth considering
by James Read
We had the pleasure of making our annual trip to Bordeaux to try the 2014s last week and we were pleasantly surprised by the quality of many of the red wines. In our view, it is a very good vintage, certainly the best since 2010, and if priced correctly could be a vintage to buy now for future drinking.
However, if the wines are priced too highly by the chateaux, there will be no reason to buy them now as comparable vintages which are nearing their drinking windows (such as 2008 and 2006) are still available on the market. The 2014s must be priced below the current market values of these wines to show value. Alas, we won't know this until the wines are released so in the meantime, we thought we would give you a picture of the vintage to help you make your buying decisions when the time comes.
Overall quality of the vintage
Overall assessments on the quality level of a Bordeaux vintage are helpful in extreme vintages like 2005 or 2009 (which were great) or like 2013 (which was not very good at all except for the very top wines), but vintages like 2014 are harder to judge as a whole as the quality is less homogeneous. There were undoubtedly some very good wines (our favourite and best value wines are listed below) where the fruit, acid and tannin were all in balance and they will make for fantastic drinking in the medium to long term. However, there were also some wines which lacked ripeness and therefore had too much acid and tannin, making them harder to taste now and harder to enjoy in the future.
As a rough guide, the quality of the vintage as a whole is similar to 2001, 2006 and 2008 (which were better than 2002 or 2013 but not as good as the excellent 2005, 2009 and 2010).
We tend to describe vintage quality in terms of the red wines as the vast majority of Bordeaux we sell en primeur is red. However, it is worth noting that the dry whites in 2014 are excellent, combining lovely, ripe Sauvignon Blanc/Semillon fruit with mouth-watering acidity. We didn't try a bad wine.
The vintage for Sauternes was also successful. It has not hit the quality heights of the stupendous 2001 but it is a very good vintage which displays ripe, sweet fruit with balancing acidity and some botrytis in the best wines giving them a certain level of complexity only found in the better vintages.
Chateau Lynch Moussas, venue of the St Estephe and Pauillac tasting
Unusual weather conditions
2014 was a very trying vintage for the vigneron as it was cooler than usual in July and August, when it was meant to be warm, and warm in September and October, when it was meant to be cooler. This extended the ripening period and allowed for the grapes from the successful vineyards to ripen physiologically and phenolically, giving good potential alcohol levels, balanced yet refreshing acidity levels, mature tannins and ripe fruit flavours. These grapes have made some very good wines indeed. However, some vineyards failed to ripen the grapes enough to make a totally balanced wine and the acidity and tannins really stood out when we tasted them last week.
As a rule, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc fared better than Merlot as they benefited more from the extended growing season though as above, it is hard to make a general judgment as some Merlot-based wines were excellent.
The campaign has started already
The first wines are being released as we write this so please do let us know at your earliest convenience if there are any wines in which you are particularly interested so we can notify you immediately of its release. We expect the campaign to start properly in the next few weeks and carry through to May/June.
Why buy En Primeur from Ditton Wine Traders?
As always, we will offer the wines as and when they are released by the chateaux and will give our best, honest advice on whether they present good value or not. We are hoping the chateaux see this vintage as an opportunity to bring back their core buyers and as a result, we are hoping for some fair prices. Watch this space.
Finally, buying En Primeur from Ditton Wine Traders ensures that you pay the correct price: we will match the best price on the market (compared to reliable, comparable merchants).
In the meantime, please let us know if you have any questions and we look forward to a successful Bordeaux primeur campaign.
Our Favourite Wines (in alphabetical order)
Vieux Chateau Certan
Our Best Value Wines estimated to be under £500 per case (in alphabetical order)
Domaine de Chevalier Rouge
Duo de Conseillante
Grand Puy Lacoste
Haut Bages Liberal
Malescot St Exupery
8 September 2014La Rioja Alta
by James Read
I have recently returned from a trip to La Rioja Alta which was enlightening, entertaining and most of all, incredibly interesting. I had never been to Rioja before so to see the vineyards and taste through many of the finest wines of the region put them very much into perspective.
We arrived very late on a Tuesday evening and immediately got stuck into La Rioja Alta's 1998 vintage of Gran Reserva 908. I have never had this before so it was great to try – it is just starting to shine with wonderful ripe dark fruits on the palate intermixed with smokey, gamey flavours. The oak is still noticeable but this is still a young wine and will drink for many years to come.
The next morning saw us congregate at 9.00 am to see La Rioja Alta's main winery. It is very impressive, using the latest technology to ensure the old-fashioned techniques are not lost but indeed improved. Every consideration has been made to ensure the wines are as clean and pure as the producer intends.
After a very interesting tour of the winery, we then set to tasting the wines. They were:
2001 La Rioja Alta Gran Reserva 890
95% Tempranillo, 3% Graciano and 2% Mazuelo. The nose bursts with dark cherry fruit with complex notes of spice, vanilla, truffle and cinnamon. The palate is supremely well-balanced with gorgeous dark fruits and a hint of cocoa which leads to a very long, very energetic finish. The perfect combination of power and elegance. Absolutely lovely and the wine of the trip.
2004 La Rioja Alta Gran Reserva 904
90% Tempranillo and 10% Graciano. Red and black fruits emanate from the glass with earthy, spicy notes. There is even a touch of Pinot 'farmyard' to it giving it great interest. The palate is fresh yet ripe and the red fruits fit well into the compact structure. The hint of coffee on the finish leaves you wanting more.
1995 La Rioja Alta Gran Reserva 904
90% Tempranillo and 10% Graciano. Coffee and Asian spices dominate the nose with hints of leather and cherry fruit. The palate is very well-balanced with a hint of orange peel giving it freshness and complexity. This is fully mature now and the tannins are supple and gracious.
All the wines are very different in style, stature, maturity and complexity but one thing is true, they are made with the utmost care and attention and all of them have the very best qualities that Rioja has to offer.
After the tasting, we headed to the dining room to have lunch. After a few local (and delicious) tapas, we adjouned to the table to have some of the best lamb chops I have ever had accompanied by probably one of the best Riojas I have ever had, the 1989 vintage of Gran Reserva 890. This was astounding, combining caramel, spice and dark cherry fruit on the nose with a sensational palate of raspberry fruit. This is perfect now and shows how great this cuvee can be with some years under its belt.
I could go on and on about our very gracious host, the exemplary company and the fantastic accommodation but I believe the wines were the stars of the show and would recommend them from top to bottom.
I have been told the 2001 vintage of the 890 will be released shortly and I can only advise everyone to buy some of this. The 2001 vintage in Rioja is one of the greats and though you can undoubtedly drink it on release, it will also repay keeping and grow in complexity and stature.
Thank you very much to AR for inviting me and to Fran and the team at La Rioja Alta who made our trip so interesting and enjoyable.
20 June 2014Barbaresco, Produttori del Barbaresco 2008
by James Read
I met up with a few friends in the wine trade last night to watch the England-Uruguay match and to drink a few good bottles of wine. As we all know, the match didn't go in our favour but fortunately, we had some delicious wines to console us. Of the wines we had, I would like to highlight one which really impressed me, the 2008 Barbaresco from Produttori del Barbaresco.
This was my offering to the evening as we have some in stock and I have never had a chance to try it. On first smell, pure aromas of red fruits and fresh herbs eminated from the glass. The palate had a firm structure but the amount of fruit hid the tannins well and the finish was both elegant and silky. I came back to it a little later and a decadent note of bitter/dark chocolate appeared which made the wine even more enticing. Needless to say, it went down very well with the group, all of us commenting on what great value it is at £19.50 on the table.
It was an evening of ups (the wines) and downs (the match) but an enjoyable one nonetheless.
If you would like to order this wine, please find below a special offer:
2008 Barbaresco, Produttori del Barbaresco – £170 In Bond per case (£160 for 3+ cases)
£19.46 per bottle inc. duty & VAT
'The Produttori's 2008 Barbaresco is simply fabulous. A sweet bouquet melds into expressive fruit in a Barbaresco that is exceptionally polished and refined. The 2008 boasts striking sweetness and inner perfume to match its understated, elegant personality. Quite frankly, the 2008 is very hard to resist today, as the tannins are quite polished. Unusually sweet, silky and refined, the 2008 will take the better part of a decade to show the full breadth of its pedigree. At $37, it is one of the very finest values in ageworthy wine from anywhere in the world. This is a magnificent showing from the Produttori and a great introduction to the 2008 harvest at this historic house. 91+ points.' Antonio Galloni, Vinous
14 May 20142004 White & Red Burgundy
by James Read
The 2004 vintage in Burgundy is a tale of two colours… Since they were first released, the reds have been largely derided and described mainly as light to medium-bodied with high acidity and lacking the fruit found in more generous vintages (and in the worst cases, having green, stalky flavours which totally overpower the fruit). The whites, however, were very much lauded and were described as being classic and pure with firm acidities and direct, mineral palates.
To see if this was truly the case, a group of eleven of us in the wine trade gathered last week to taste the wines with 10 years under their belt. We all provided at least one bottle of white and one bottle of red, assembling an impressive collection of the following 12 whites and 14 reds:
2004 Macon Verze, Domaine Leflaive
2004 Chassagne Montrachet 1er cru La Romanee, Fontaine-Gagnard
2004 Puligny Montrachet 1er Cru Clavoillon, Domaine Leflaive
2004 Puligny Montrachet 1er Cru Perrières, Louis Carillon
2004 Puligny Montrachet Les Enseigneres, J-F. Coche-Dury
2004 Meursault Tessons Clos de Mon Plaisir, Guy Roulot
2004 Meursault 1er Cru Poruzots, Francois Jobard
2004 Meursault 1er Cru Charmes, Domaines des Comtes Lafon
2004 Meursault 1er Cru Goutte d’Or, Domaine d’Auvenay
2004 Bienvenues-Batard-Montrachet, Louis Carillon
2004 Batard-Montrachet, Marc Colin
2004 Corton Charlemagne, Louis Jadot
2004 Charmes Chambertin, Denis Bachelet
2004 Charmes Chambertin, Armand Rousseau
2004 Charmes Chambertin, Christian Serafin
2004 Charmes Chambertin, Domaine Dujac
2004 Griotte Chambertin, Laurent Ponsot
2004 Gevrey Chambertin 1er Cru Clos St Jacques, Armand Rousseau
2004 Clos Vougeot, Hudelot-Noellat
2004 Clos Vougeot, Thibault Liger-Belair
2004 Clos de la Roche Vieilles Vignes, Laurent Ponsot
2004 Bonnes Mares, Nicolas Potel
2004 Bonnes Mares, Comtes de Vogue
2004 Musigny Vieilles Vignes, Comtes de Vogue
2004 Echezeaux, Jean Grivot
2004 Echezeaux, Domaine de la Romanee-Conti
Admittedly, these wines do not exactly constitute the full range of quality levels in Burgundy but instead they are made up of what should be some of the best examples of the vintage.
We tasted the wines in flights of two, made our notes and then briefly discussed each wine to see what everyone thought. In general, most of the group was in agreement about the overall quality and style of each wine but there were some very interesting disagreements about some of the wines, making for a very thought-provoking evening.
We started with the 2004 Macon Verze, Domaine Leflaive and the 2004 Chassagne Montrachet 1er cru La Romanee, Fontaine-Gagnard. Firstly, the Macon Verze showed caramel and spice notes and a refreshing yet slightly tired palate. Not bad for Leflaive’s first vintage of this wine but it was a little over the hill and displayed a slight bitterness on the finish. The Fontaine-Gagnard, however, was singing. Lovely peach and orange peel aromas eminated from the glass and the wine was forthright yet mouth-watering on the palate. A lovely glass of wine.
Next we had the 2004 Puligny Montrachet 1er Cru Clavoillon, Domaine Leflaive and the 2004 Puligny Montrachet 1er Cru Perrières, Louis Carillon. On first smell, the Leflaive was overwhelmed by a struck match aroma, which was not entirely unpleasant, but then aromas of caramel and spice came through. I was not that impressed with it actually, describing the nose as heavy (which is what one does not want from a classic White Burgundy). The palate was similar in that it lacked a bit of zing and the finish had a bitter note. I feel this too was a bit over the hill. The Perrieres from Carillon was completely different in that it was fresh, showed citrus aromas on the nose and had refreshing acidity on the palate.This should all point to a very good White Burgundy indeed, except that it was, well…. boring. Everything in place but lacked real character.
We moved on to two wines from perhaps my two favourite growers in Burgundy, 2004 Puligny Montrachet Les Enseigneres, J-F. Coche-Dury and 2004 Meursault Tessons Clos de Mon Plaisir, Guy Roulot. The Coche was absolutely classc, showing the tell-tale mineral and apple aromas common to his wines and lovely definition and structure on the direct palate. A very good wine indeed. We then moved on to the Roulot which was the first wine which really divided opinion. I and some others thought the nose had a strange, cheesy smell whilst others thought this was classic Roulot on form. There was no disagreement on the palate though, which had lovely texture and balance.
Both the 2004 Meursault 1er Cru Poruzots, Francois Jobard and 2004 Meursault 1er Cru Charmes, Domaines des Comtes Lafon were unfortunately a disappointment for different reasons. The Jobard was pretty awful. I thought it smelled and tasted more like White Rhone than White Burgundy and had an odd note of Coca-Cola on the nose, not something I generally look for in Chardonnay…. Needless to say, we moved on rapidly to the Charmes from Comtes Lafon, which was annoyingly corked. We were all very disappointed as Lafon wines have gained an unfortunate reputation for prematurely oxidising so we wanted to see if this was in good condition or not, but the cork taint was so strong that any attempt at trying to judge it was impossible.
The next pair were the 2004 Meursault 1er Cru Goutte d’Or, Domaine d’Auvenay and the 2004 Bienvenues-Batard-Montrachet, Louis Carillon. They couldn’t have been more different. The d’Auvenay had an incredible nose of buttered popcorn with hints of spice and toffee. The palate was near-perfect with lovely texture, balance and richness. This was generally thought to be the white wine of the tasting with everyone raving about its individuality and outright quality. The Bienvenues from Carillon was very much like the Perrieres we had earlier in the tasting – all the constituent parts were there but it didn’t show proper Grand Cru quality nor did it prove to be a very interesting wine.
The final whites were the 2004 Batard-Montrachet, Marc Colin and 2004 Corton Charlemagne, Louis Jadot. I don’t know the wines of Marc Colin very well but this was a brilliant wine. The nose was very complex with notes of spice, flowers and white fruits. The palate was very broad and had a lovely balance. I will have to try some more of his wines in the future. We finished with the Corton Charlemagne from Jadot which was, sadly, oxidised. Jadot’s whites are known for prematurely oxidising and this showed all the attributes – total lack of fruit, sherried aromas and a sickly, dead palate.
Having finished tasting all the whites, we had a quick breather and moved on to the reds. We started with 2004 Charmes Chambertin, Denis Bachelet and 2004 Charmes Chambertin, Armand Rousseau. I wasn’t expecting great things from the Bachelet as the house style incorporates heavy extraction which produces dark colours and dark fruits. I thought this, combined with a light, green vintage like 2004, would produce a wine lacking in body and fruit. I was wrong. The nose bursted with ripe red and black fruits with herbal notes and the serious palate was very savoury with great texture and structure. A very good wine in any vintage. The Charmes from Rousseau which followed was completely different. Admittedly, it was more Charmes-esque with pretty, strawberry fruit on the nose and a very more-ish palate of soft red fruits but it didn’t have the seriousness or complexity of the Bachelet.
Two more Charmes to go with the 2004 Charmes Chambertin, Christian Serafin and 2004 Charmes Chambertin, Domaine Dujac. Neither of these really worked for me. The nose on the Serafin was OK (my exact note from the night…not exactly a ringing endorsement) with good ripeness for the vintage but the fruit was non-descript and simple. The palate was dry and short which I think can only come from Serafin not making allowances in the winery for the vintage (in other words, a producer has to change what he does in each vintage to ensure they get the best out of the grapes). In the case of 2004, less extraction, less oak and less intervention seemed to be the key to making better wines. The Dujac which followed suffered from exactly the same problem. Dujac used to regularly leave all the stems in the must which in a good to great vintage, give a certain structure and flavour to the wine. However, in a vintage like 2004 where the wines are already lacking fruit, it has given the wine a stalky, green, herbal nose with an overly acidic, bitter palate. It was pretty awful, actually.
Next we had the 2004 Griotte Chambertin, Laurent Ponsot and 2004 Gevrey Chambertin 1er Cru Clos St Jacques, Armand Rousseau. In my humble opinion, I don’t believe Ponsot made very good wines between the mid-1990s and mid-2000s and this wine confirmed my beliefs… The nose was lacking fruit and showed simple, coffee notes and weirdly, I could actually smell the acidity. The palate was even worse with spiky acidity and a dirth of any interesting fruit. Not good. The Rousseau which followed brought a smile to my face. The Clos St Jacques had lively and pure red fruits on the nose and a charming and refreshing palate. It was a great example of what could have been produced in a vintage like 2004. It does not have the power of a 2005 or 2009 or the elegance of a 2008 or 2010, but it does have honest, pure flavours.
We then tasted the 2004 Clos Vougeot, Hudelot-Noellat and 2004 Clos Vougeot, Thibault Liger-Belair. I tried all the 2004s from Hudelot-Noellat en primeur and tried many of them again about three years ago and I was not a huge fan. They all had the same stalky, green characteristics of the vintage and the acidities were elevated to the point where it cancelled out the fruit. This was very different though – the green notes had disappeared and interesting spicy and gamey flavours had appeared. Very strange indeed. The palate has completely changed since I last tried this wine as well, showing pure red fruits and refreshing acidity. It is still a relatively light-bodied wine and I couldn’t describe it as being a blockbuster, but it had finesse and a great deal of charm. Next was the Clos Vougeot from Thibault Liger-Belair. This was similar to the Serafin in that the winemaker does not seem to have changed any techniques to suit the vintage. All this wine had was a weird note of bacon on the nose and high acidity and no fruit on the palate. Enough said, I think.
The 2004 Clos de la Roche Vieilles Vignes, Laurent Ponsot and 2004 Bonnes Mares, Nicolas Potel followed. Like the Griotte from Ponsot tasted earlier, this was not a very good wine. In fact, they were so similar I could have used the same tasting note. The only real difference between the two wines is one is three times as expensive as the other. I feel I would be a tad disappointed if I bought either… The Bonnes Mares from Potel showed everything that is wrong with 2004 – vegetal aromas dominated the nose and the palate was clipped and acidic. A bad pair, I think it is safe to say….
And we moved swiftly on to the 2004 Bonnes Mares, Comtes de Vogue and 2004 Musigny Vieilles Vignes, Comtes de Vogue. There was some lively discussion before we even tried these wines about firstly, Bonnes Mares the appellation and secondly, the expectation that these wines were going to be in the normal mould of de Vogue wines (which is characterised by quite hard structures and sometimes, a lack of charm). One doyen of the wine industry declared to the group that Bonnes Mares was the least interesting Grand Cru in the Cote de Nuits and that he would be non-plussed if he never had another one again. His final question to the table was, ‘have any of you ever had a great Bonnes Mares ?’. Following this comment, we put nose to glass to find a relatively fine nose of red fruits but it didn’t unfortunately excite. The palate was similar and lacked fruit. Not a terrible wine but I think we all secretly agreed with our fellow taster’s earlier comments… The Musigny was altogether a different animal. The nose was very Chambolle with fragrant and pure red fruits and the palate was silky and fine. I will steal a fellow taster’s comment here and agree that the wine had real ‘energy’. This was a lovely wine with loads of charm and very different from my expectations.
We finished with 2004 Echezeaux, Jean Grivot and 2004 Echezeaux, Domaine de la Romanee-Conti. And it was a very fine way to finish… I wasn’t totally with the group on the Grivot – we all agreed it had a ripe nose of red fruits and some complexity but I thought it was a little bitter on the finish which spoiled the palate. Most of the group didn’t notice the bitterness and thought the wine was well-structured and well-balanced. There was no disagreement on the next wine though…. The Echezeaux from DRC was excellent. The nose had gorgeous red fruits with the classic DRC note of Asian spice. The palate was round, well-balanced and finished with sweet fruit, a commodity not found in most of the other reds we tried. It is amazing how the DRC can make such fantastic wines in every vintage.
After some discussion and subsequent thought I have come up with a few conclusions: the whites were not as good as I thought they would be though they suffered less from premature oxidation than I had expected. The reds were generally better than I thought they would be and that most of them have somehow lost the green, vegetal notes of the vintage which I had noticed on previous encounters. However, one important thing to note is that Burgundy prices have risen considerably over the past few years and many of these wines sell for hundreds of pounds. As a result, save for the d’Auvenay and DRC, I would prefer to buy lesser wines from better vintages than better wines from 2004. This presented an interesting conundrum for me: I have always thought that the grower trumps the vintage in Burgundy. In other words, a great producer can make great wines in any vintage. I still generally adhere to this theory but 2004 has put some doubts in my mind – maybe when the vintage is this difficult, it is better to seek lesser wines from another, perhaps more generally expensive vintage, which will give more pleasure but which might not have as illustrious a name…
Many thanks to ML for organising such an interesting evening and to the group for providing such an array of wines and for adding so many inciteful and amusing comments! You learn a lot at evenings like these.
10 May 2014An evening of interesting wines
by James Read
This is officially my first blog post…. I have never been much of a blogger as I come from the generation that narrowly missed the internet revolution. However, I thought I would finally put pen to paper (or keyboard to internet…) in the hope that I will be able to add some insight into wines and the wine trade and hopefully provide some interesting and entertaining stories along the way.
As such, I thought I would use a very memorable dinner I attended a couple of weeks ago to start. A few wine trade colleagues and I met up to share some great food (lamb cooked sous vide for two days which was absolutely delicious) and 13 different wines. They were:
Graacher Himmelreich Riesling Kabinett, JJ Prum 2007, Mosel, Germany
Meursault Grands Charrons, Boisson-Vadot 2009 (Magnum), Burgundy, France
Meursault, Boisson-Vadot 2007, Burgundy, France
Laville Haut Brion 1992, Bordeaux, France
Ducru Beaucaillou 1986, Bordeaux, France
Grand Puy Lacoste 1982, Bordeaux, France
Chateauneuf du Pape Rouge, Clos des Papes 2003, Rhone, France
Chateauneuf du Pape Cuvee Reservee, Pegau 1989, Rhone, France
Tertre Rotebeouf 1999, Bordeaux, France
Gazin 1982, Bordeaux, France
Dominus Estate 2001, Napa Valley, USA
Mr K Noble Man 2003, Central Valley, USA
Rieussec 1998, Bordeaux, France
An interesting selection to say the least! We kicked off with the Graacher Himmelreich Riesling Kabinett, JJ Prum 2007 which showed lovely purity and lime fruit. Perfectly balanced and mouth-watering, it served as a good primer for the two excellent White Burgundies which followed. Firstly, we had the Meursault Grands Charrons, Boisson-Vadot 2009 from magnum. Boisson-Vadot has made quite a name for himself over the past few years by making delicious, serious Chardonnays from his multitude of lieux-dits and 1ers Crus in Meursault. I am not really a fan of 2009 White Burgundies as I feel they have a bit too much fat and not enough refreshing acidity, but as is usual in Burgundy, a top producer can defy the general style of a vintage. This was certainly an example of a wine which has retained freshness and purity in an otherwise difficult vintage for whites. We then moved on to the Meursault, Boisson-Vadot 2007which was drinking perfectly on the night. 2007 is a lovely white wine vintage in Burgundy and the wine had it all – subtle use of spicy oak, minerality, great balance and a very interesting nose which benefited from its age. Excellent.
We then adjourned to the table and opened the Laville Haut Brion 1992 which sadly had had its day. Mature Laville Haut Brion can be one of the most interesting white wines in the world – the combination of Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc intermixed with oak can produce some stunning wines. Unfortunately, this was not to be on the night and the wine had completely oxidised.
With the whites over and the lamb served, we moved on to the reds. To begin, we poured the Ducru Beaucaillou 1986. This was a perfectly stored, ex-chateau bottle which showed its provenance. A very well made wine, it had classic St Julien flavours of dark cherries and blackcurrant with the usual hints of spice and smoke. I was not completely enamoured by this – an example of a very good wine with all the parts in place but unfortunately the sum of the parts was just a little dull.
Next we had the Grand Puy Lacoste 1982. I am unashamedly a huge fan of Grand Puy Lacoste and this lived up to all my expectations. It was nothing short of absolutely delicious. Everything one would want in Pauillac – dark brooding fruit and a full-bodied, ripe palate. I could have drunk this all night…
But alas, with the bottle finished, we moved on to the Chateauneuf du Papes. I will commence this paragraph by stating that as a rule, and contrary to most of the wine-drinking public, I don’t really like Grenache. In my opinion, it lacks purity and as it ages, the leather and spice take over and all fruit is lost. There are of course exceptions to this rule, notably Chateau Rayas, but in general, I don’t really buy wines made from Grenache unless they are cheap and cheerful like a good, young Cotes du Rhone. The first wine was Chateauneuf du Pape Rouge, Clos des Papes 2003. This was awarded 97 points by Robert Parker and 98 points by Jeb Dunnock, the new Rhone critic for the Wine Advocate. They certainly tried something very different to us. The nose smelled of nail polish remover (a tell-tale sign of volatile acidity, a common problem in a vintage like 2003 where the pH and alcohol level are high making the wines unstable) and the wine was pretty much undrinkable. Rumour has it that there are two batches of this wine (due to two different bottling runs), one which is excellent and one which has completely fallen apart. Unfortunately, it seems we had the displeasure of having a bottle from the latter! The next wine, Chateauneuf du Pape Cuvee Reservee, Domaine de Pegau 1989 was very good. Grenache the way it should be – hints of leather, spice, garrigue but importantly, it had ripe, juicy fruit on the palate and a normal alcohol level – something which is pretty rare nowadays.
We then moved on to Tertre Roteboeuf 1999, which was on impeccable form. Lovely, silky and ripe Merlot fruit dominated both the nose and palate. This was so easy to drink it was verging on dangerous. Francois Mitjavile makes great wines year in and year out and the 1999 was no exception.
Next we had Gazin 1982. Gazin is an odd Pomerol in that I find it usually lacks the hedonism and ripeness of most Pomerols but it does always show the breed that comes from proper terroir. Though it is a 1982, this was no blockbuster and I don’t think I would have placed it as a 1982 if I had had it blind. It tasted more like a 1988 to me – a classic Bordeaux vintage with refreshing acidity and good structure. A food wine, it went very well with the various cheeses which accompanied it.
We finished off the reds with Dominus Estate 2001. The reason we drank this was largely down to me – I argued that Dominus did not make great wines between 1994 and 2007 and this was vehemently refuted by pretty much everyone at the table. Fortunately, our host remembered he had a bottle of the 2001 in the cellar and promptly opened it in an effort to prove me wrong. When first opened, all I could smell was Bovril and not a hint of ripe Californian fruit. I quickly declared myself the winner of the argument but I had spoken to soon…. The wine started changing rapidly in the glass and within minutes it showed lovely dark red fruits and pencil lead on the nose. The palate was structured yet broad and had a lovely balance – a real mix of the New and Old World. It was delicious and I had to concede defeat...
And then, the sweet wines. First we had the Mr K Noble Man 2003 which was excellent. This is made from botrytised Chardonnay which you don’t come across very often. A joint effort by Manfred Krankl (of Sine Qua Non, producer of some of the US’s greatest wines) and the late Alois Kracher (producer of some of the greatest sweet wines made anywhere in the world), it showed an unctuous, honeyed and caramel nose with a thick, oily textured palate. This is heady stuff with 278 grams per litre of sugar but it is balanced by good acidity which in my book makes for a very good sweet wine indeed. And finally Rieussec 1998. 1998 is not a particularly great Sauternes vintage but Rieussec always delivers rich and ripe honeyed fruit and this was no exception.
All in all, a very fun evening with great conversation, food and wines. One of the many perks of working in the wine trade is having evenings like this…. Thank you very much to EB for hosting and cooking, TM for organising and to all for providing some great wines.
3 April 2014Bordeaux 2013: Why buy En Primeur?
by Ben Grosvenor
It was no pretty picture that had been painted before we headed out to Bordeaux to try the much maligned 2013 vintage earlier this week. The press have not been scared to jump on the usual band-wagon before any wine had even been tasted, reporting that 2013 was a tricky growing season for Bordeaux. A fact that, rather unusually, the majority of the Chateaux owners have not been afraid to admit to also.
'With this type of vintage, nature reminds you that she's the boss in the end, you know you won't make the vintage of the Century’ said Olivier Berrouet, head of winemaking and vineyards at Petrus.
While consultant Stephane Derenoncourt told Decanter.com 'It was a war against nature, and it's very difficult to win.'
Tasting at a Negociant
We must remember though, that at the time they were released, 2002 & 2007 were considered poor vintages. Now however, many respected critics are praising those vintages as a joy to drink. It could be another 10 years before the 2005’s are fulfilling their promise, while it is vintages like 2013 that will sooner rather than later provide pleasure. If 2013’s are released somewhere lower than 2011 & 2012, and the wine made our list (or your preferred critic’s list), then it will certainly be worth looking at. We should not judge a wine by its vintage, and that is an important thing to remember.
Even a poor vintage does not have to mean it will be a poor En Primeur campaign. Especially if the pricing is correct.
Where wine merchants have in recent years boasted up to 90% of their turnover coming from Bordeaux, a more recent picture shows that this figure is dropping fast, due to what is seen as insignificant price decreases on release. Rather than making money on the vintages of the century (2009 & 2010), those who were prepared to put their money in to a product that wouldn’t be physically available for a further 2 years, have actually lost money.
The ‘average vintages’ of 2011 & 2012 didn’t help much either, as pricing was cut, but not by nearly enough.
It would seem a pretty simple problem to solve right? Cut prices enough and the wine will sell. And when better a time to do that than in the average vintages, especially where quantities are lower and it will cost less to do so.
The 3 key reasons for buying En Primeur:
- To obtain a better price for investing your money in a product that is not physically available another 2 years.
- To obtain future allocations. (Particularly useful in vintages such as this, where demand will not be as great).
- To get the formats you like (Halves; Magnums & Double Magnums etc.).
The new barrel room (Chai) at Montrose
The truth is that for the private customer, En Primeur is an exciting time in the calendar – as it gives the consumer an opportunity to purchase the wines they want at a cut price, in return for their early investment. We, the UK wine trade, would love to be involved in the trading of Bordeaux. Traditionally the strongest & most revered of all wine producing regions, it is with great hope that the Chateaux in Bordeaux price this campaign to work.
A couple of releases already have hinted that the campaign may not go the way we would like, but it’s too early to call yet, and we remain hopeful of some prices that will make sense to the consumer to come back to Bordeaux En Primeur.
One thing that does need to be understood however is that as long as there are cheaper vintages readily available in bottle, more expensive Primeurs will not sell.
One of our favourites: Calon Segur
But, let’s not write off the 2013 Bordeaux campaign just yet. It’s difficult to call a particular region, or a left/ right bank vintage, every appellation has produced some lovely wines, just not very many of them. Some of the Chateaux may well surprise us with their pricing – there were some very good wines produced, and if you’re not bothered about which vintage is on the label, and you’re more concerned with the quality in the bottle – provided the prices are right, these would be our top picks:
Calon Segur (& it’s cheaper stable mate, Capbern Gasqueton)
Domaine de Chevalier
Pavillon Rouge de Margaux
Grand Puy Lacoste
* Top 3
Domaine de Chevalier
Of course, we haven’t tasted all of the wines that Bordeaux has to offer, and the above only applies to the top 150 or so Chateaux in Bordeaux. The remaining 90% of Chateaux will have found the vintage very difficult without the expensive harvesting teams and sorting equipment.
If you would like to be kept informed on any particular Chateaux during the campaign, please do let us know. Our regular updates will be going out throghout the course of the campaign: If you would prefer not to receive these, please do let us know.