by Wine Owners
Posted on 2018-12-17
Ahead of the new 2017 releases in early 2019 it's time to report on Burgundy and its news.
Another warm summer produced accessible, fruity wines.
Left to do their thing, the vines were wont to produce very high yields especially in areas hit by frost damage in 2016 as the plants strove to compensate. Yields in Chardonnay were as high as 80 hl/ha. Now that’s a lot.
With a long run of short harvests stretching back to 2009 for several communes, the temptation was to let nature’s abundance run unabated. The trouble is, pinot noir is particularly susceptible to a large crop, so the trick in 2017 was to work to constrain yields.
Just as many over-cropped 1999s are now showing flat, far from being the great wines they might (and should) have been, we shall see which producers in 2017 haven't applied the brakes hard enough in due course.
For those who produced normal yields, 2017 is a delightfully juicy, fruit-forward year. Yet the best wines have more than just fruit: there is a fine mineral structure, a chalkiness and salinity that complements the raspberry coulis, kirsch, griotte, plum and fruit pastille characteristics.
The best pinots show appealing sucrosité with plenty of supporting freshness, which contributes to a sappy, mouth-watering persistence.
Above all I loved the harmony, balance, progression and energy of the best reds. I wouldn’t be surprised if they never shut down, and stay delicious from early on in their development throughout a moderately long drinking window: after all the 1997s are just about still hanging in there these days, and the 2017s have the potential to be rather better.
The perfect 2017 pinot has flowing raspberry fruit, a vinous, kirsch-like refinement, an infusion of Seville oranges and hints at a darker side with liquorice and spice.
The question mark over 2017 is whether a proper degree of intensity has been achieved. The vintage doesn’t seem to reach the same level in general as 2016, and yet the greatest 2017s do rival (and in a few cases surpass) their 1 year old siblings.
2017 is also very much a vintage where the appellations are reflective of their classification. Stepping up through a range from Bourgogne, through village wine and premier cru up to grand cru feels like an exercise in stepping up through the gears, with more oomph and interest at each change.
Whites are generally delicious as long as yields were tightly managed, and though the acidity levels were apparently a little less than in 2016, the very best still show a notable pithiness, a chalkiness and a bright intense citrus core that successfully counterbalances a tropical fruit character of pineapple and guava.
Looking ahead to 2018, this is going to be a very tricky vintage. It was really hot, and the choice of picking date will have been critical.
Many producers were searching for perfect phenolic ripeness, waiting until the pips indicated an expected level of maturity. Some producers believed that perfect phenolic ripeness was not the only deciding factor for picking a harvest date in 2018. Those that were concerned about alcohol levels went early. They got their grapes in as early as the start of the last week of August finishing during the first week of September.
Producers needed to avoid too much extraction in 2018 for fear of introducing bitter flavours, especially those who had gone early. The gentlest of infusions seem at this very early stage to be the making of the best wines. Even so you won’t see many wines straight out of barrel with that trademark shining ruby robe of classic burgundy in 2018.
The most exciting wines tasted from barrel were made from grapes carried in at around 13.5 degrees but there are tales of 15 or (even!) 16 degree behemoths, whilst 14.2-14.5 degrees feels like a norm in the vintage.
The early pickers were fearful of what might happen if they let the alcohol levels rise too far, and they were evidently right. There were very real risks of partially completed fermentations and consequent high residual sugars in the juice. Several producers we spoke to had a battle to restart stalled fermentations, typically by tipping in the lees of another wine that had completed its fermentation more successfully.
The wines are largely dark purple or purple-black, opaque in appearance, and unsurprisingly show exuberant New World fruit and tend to have a mouth-coating texture due to the higher alcohols. There are some who argue that this is a very great vintage in the making; that vintages like 1947 were very hot indeed and yet they have transformed into great old bones. Taking a necessarily broad view at this early stage I would suggest that there are likely to be a rather small number of potentially very great wines.
Fourrier continued experimenting with Amphorae in the 2017 vintage with La Combe aux Moines, but they are sure to come into their own for 2018. The terracotta enables the wine to breathe whilst acting as a totally neutral vessel. This accentuates minerality and produces a wine – if unblended with wine aged in wood – that would be too strict. Certain of his wines including Clos St Jacques and La Combe aux Moines have a proportion of the production being aged within these fabulous looking clay containers for the 2018 vintage. The finished wine will be blended with the other part of the vineyard in barrels. It will be fascinating to see the results – could these turn out to be some of the greatest wines ever made at this wonderful domaine?
2017 – The year that distribution changed
Producers are not blind to the fact that certain merchants have been selling their UK en primeur allocations to Asia, notably Hong Kong. They are not happy to discover that importers cross geographical boundaries, even if the wines sold may be subsequently stored for a period of time in the UK.
Nor are their agents impressed, who have the clout to recommend their producers shift allocation to where demand is currently being met indirectly.
As a result certain top producers have withdrawn a significant part of their allocation to the UK in favour of Asia, even though there is much more wine this year to go round - in some cases up to 3 times the quantity of 2016.
With Brexit uncertainty depressing the Pound, more wine not necessarily translating into larger allocations for the UK, and the secondary Burgundy market having risen substantially during the course of 2018, there are few reasons to imagine that prices will fall. Which makes it a tricky call for consumers who don't want to lose their allocations and yet this is one of the most uncertain of times. High release prices for great vintages such as 2015 and 2016 were swallowed. We will have to see how digeste 2017 proves to be.
by Wine Owners
Posted on 2018-10-22
Omar Khan’s Business & Wine events are hedonistic epics of wine indulgence and learning, and October 2018’s event at The Four Seasons on Park Lane was no exception.
Bouchard’s 2005s are a stunning set of wines, and when compared with 2015 showed fabulous balance and freshness. A beautiful menu that proved a perfect foil to the great wines served including Chevalier Montrachet La Cabotte 2002 and Beaune Greves La Vigne L’Enfant Jesus 1976 demonstrated how unfair Michelin can be in its treatment of hotel establishments compared with independent restaurants: Romuald Feger deserves a couple of stars!
By the time Henriot bought Bouchard Pere et Fils in 1995, the venerable House, founded in 1731 had found itself in a bit of a financial squeeze. New oak barrels were rationed and the wine maker was making do.
Herriot’s purchase changed all of that, and by 2005 Bouchard was well and truly reestablished as one of the great Burgundy Houses, and a microcosm of Burgundy itself with vineyard holdings representative of practically every commune across the Cote de Beaune and Cote de Nuits. The responsibility of this unique heritage is keenly understood by Henriot: so that for consumers discovering Burgundy, whose initial enthusiasm can so easily be diverted by an underwhelming experience, Bouchard Pere et Fils offer a swathe of benchmark wines.
Tasting a cross section of the 2005 Burgundies compared with the 2015 vintage highlighted a number of exceptional terroirs. It also showcased the very high quality of the 2005 vintage. It may well be that 2015 was a much more successful version of 2009, with the warmth of the vintage kept fresh and with retained definition of fruit thanks to more controlled wine making, but on this showing the wines are less precise and less fresh than 2005. Maybe they just need more time; sometimes the intrinsic balance of a wine changes shape over the course of the early years in bottle. Let’s hope that’s the case with these 2015s because the whites in particular need to freshen up.
A little more on the 2005 vintage chez Bouchard. These are, in a word, brilliant. We suspect most Burgundy-philes have resisted broaching their 2005s for fear of encountering a tannic behemoth, such are the tales of untamed structure in the top wines. This range tells a very different story: of freshness; blood orange mid palates, confit fruit illuminated with beaded acidity, and the sort of drive and energy that makes you want to dribble into your poulet de bresse aux tropettes de morts. Of course there’s structure too, but it’s balanced, provides focus and is more than offset by oodles of rich juicy fruit.
Ot the reds L’Enfant Jesus showed the precision of the Beaune Greves vineyard, with a bright thrust of energy, resonance and depth, and a mid palate veined with blood orange and black chocolate. This is a wine for the ages.
Le ‘Le Corton’ is a great red terroir, produced from a vineyard which is also permitted for white Corton. This 2005 doesn’t have the earthy depths of a Bressandes, but exhibits great drive, energy, a concentrated confit mid-plate and is very elegant. A more delicately formed Corton and in my view all the better for it.
Volnay Caillerets 2005 is a more forward wine, although the term is relative in context of the preceding wines. Aromatically spiced with a dark liquorice sweetened mid palate that has a creamy texture, a good sense of energy with oranges present on the finish.
On the night the Chevalier Montrachet 2005 was chalky and mineral, insinuating in its attack before gradually but determinedly building intensity. Very, very long. Le Montrachet 2005 was a powerhouse but so, so primary; a tough one to judge other than elementally and so to try to anticipate something extraordinary in the coming decades.
On this showing, other than recommending you fill your boots with Bouchard 2005s, you might want to check if 2005 Burgundies are well enough represented in your cellar. If not, they’re not going to get any cheaper as they get closed to the start of their drinking windows, so now’s as good a time as any to start looking for some.
by Wine Owners
Posted on 2018-10-17
When tasted from barrel in the spring of 2017, it was very evident that this was a vintage with loads of extract, with one of the highest ever IPT levels ever recorded in Bordeaux. IPT is a measure of the combined phenolic compounds in the juice - principally tannins and colorants responsible for the red, purple and blue hues in grapes. Large bunches of rather small berries meant high skin to juice ratios.
We suspected that the finest wines were those who extractions were gentle - neatly summarised by Frédéric Faye at Chateau Figeac who described their fermentation process as an ‘infusion’ with the gentlest of extractions achieved from the submerged cap.
With the proviso that the 2016s have been in bottle for as little as 3 months, this was an opportunity to re-taste a selection and test our original impressions from 18 months ago.
The more extracted wines with highest IPT levels were evident, and at this stage it has to be said that they were the least harmonious. Where there was a desire to make full use of, or to accentuate, all the elements proffered by nature, the palate tended to be dominated by raw power, the scale undeniable but at the expense of charm for now.
The structure of 2016, hidden under a cloak of velvety fruit and sweet tannins when barrel samples, was much more evident now the wines are in bottle, and this structure allied to tremendously aromatic fruit in the best examples, affirms 2016 as a vintage with some truly great wines in the making.
It’s not just a great cabernet sauvignon vintage either, with some of the right bank merlots absolutely stunning. La Conseillante that had seemed a little sweet and svelte at the property in April 2017 is now brilliantly pitched, with extremely expressive and aromatic fruit held in check by an impressive frame of tannins.
What was slightly surprising however, was the wide variation. Those who are tempted to categorise 2016 as a uniformly great vintage will be disappointed; there is plenty of dull wine. The difference between the vintage's heights and the good average is a chasm.
The Northern Medoc had an especially successful vintage, with Cantermerle showing excellent concentration and focus, and my pick of the appellation at en primeur, Citran, showing all of its former promise and more. Could this be the bargain of the vintage?
Domaine de Chevalier has made an epic red, with great substance and lovely resonance, and on this showing had the better of the high-in-cabernet-franc Carmes Haut-Brion. Though evidently fine fruited, Haut Bailly’s firm tannins are a bit overwhelming for now. Both Pape Clement and Smith Haut Lafitte major on great substance and scale, but show a raw or unknit character at this early stage.
Canon was showing very defined fruit with loads of grip but for now felt very slightly loose on the finish. Figeac has managed to combine stunning definition, texture, harmony and length and on this showing must be a 100 point wine in the making.
Gazin was absolutely charming with an impressively solid core. La Conseillante as already mentioned was a hit.
St Estephe and Pauillac were as good as expected given how fine the Cabernet was from this upper part of the Medoc peninsular, and wines from Cos Labory and Phelan Segur were notably excellent at their price levels.
Clerc Milon had stood out as exceptional in April 2017, and now in bottle shows impressive density, a huge finish and attractive gaminess. D’Armailhac was extremely exciting, packed with red fruit and finely beaded acidity and plenty of accompanying structure. Pichon Longueville Comtesse was one of the stars of the en primeur tasting and once again stood out for its super-refinement: unquestionably a top wine of the vintage.
In St Julien the Bartons stood out. Langoa was svelte, intense, showed gorgeous scale and definition at a very attractive price point. Leoville Barton was another league and heads above the other St Juliens. Huge, but super fresh, light-footed, with a mouthwatering blood orange infused core and a very direct, linear finish. One of the greatest wines of the vintage.
Lagrange was fine, the tannins so ripe and silky that their velvety texture cloak its underlying structure, just as it did when tasted in London a year ago. Talbot was back to it’s very best, likely up there with its beautifully balanced 1982.
The Margaux appellation in the main was not quite as exciting as the magnificent 2015s, a vintage in which the commune excelled. However one stood out for it’s stunning definition and extraordinary elegance. A fitting wine to finish this round-up of 2016s in bottle. Beautifully textured. A wine that simply flows across the palate with effortless grace. It helps that it’s also one of the most under-rated wines in the whole of Bordeaux, sitting as it does on great terroir. The wine in question is Chateau Dufort-Vivens, Second Growth Margaux, fully biodynamic, and an outstanding success in 2016.
by Wine Owners
Posted on 2018-10-16
We had the pleasure to share a wonderful Chateau Margaux dinner with our members and the estate's ambassador Thibault Pontallier at La Trompette last week. The line up encompassed Chateau Margaux 1983, 1986, 1989, 1990, 1996, 1999, 2004, and a surprise magnum of 2000, preceded by Pavillon Blanc 2015 and Pavillon Rouge 2000 and 2009.
Pavillon Blanc 2015
Mineral nose, chalky, white currants, and saline. In other words a lot going on! Bright attack, palate follows the profile of the nose with addition of seville oranges and attractively bitter pith, green guava, and a fruit bush leafiness before ending on a firm finish.
Wine Owners view
A great investment in future drinking - one of the most complex of white Bordeaux, with refinement and structure for the long haul, and will be impossible to find in the future.
Pavillon Rouge 2009
A controlled, spicy nose, intense cassis, fresh blackcurrant leaf. Surprisingly cool from such a warm vintage, great grain to the wine’s texture, full of future promise, with depth and focus.
Wine Owners view
Hitting the level of a second growth, Pavillon rouge is a grand wine in 2009, more expressive than the Grand Vin at this stage, yet with the same sense of balance and poise. Chip off the old block.
Pavillon Rouge 2000
Complex pine infused nose. Dry aromatic attack, gorgeous definition and a fine persistence. A touch of gaminess, roses, and spruce tips on the mid palate, the fruit evolving into a broad savoury finish enlivened with sappy, uplifting acidity.
Now to 2025
Wine Owners view
Mature and exciting with lots of complexity within which it’s easy to pick out individual flavours. So plenty of wine to make a special occasion a bit more special.
Aromatically expressive, a spiced attack preludes a charming medium-weight classic claret of supreme elegance and harmony. A gentle finish that nevertheless remains very elegant and delightfully complete.
Now to 2023
Wine Owners view
A great drink for right now, majoring on Margaux’s famed subtlety. Still possible to find in the secondary market around £350-£400 per bottle, which given its age and refinement is something of a steal. Hard to think of better First Growth value for money.
Heady, spiced, with a touch of iodine creating an intoxicating blend. Resolved on the palate, very good intensity allied to racy acidity. Fine scale with oranges and cloves on the long finish.
Now to 2025
Wine Owners view
1986 was a happy surprise due to the energy and resonance of the vintage. We wouldn’t keep it much longer but another strong buy for drinking around £400 per bottle.
Gorgeous overt nose, great length and grain, sappy with rising aromatics, a twist of liquorice and a cloved finish.
Wine Owners view
The generosity of the vintage is evident on the nose, yet the accomplishments of this wine are still hidden, and there’s a sense of more to come. That grainy texture and gorgeous spiced finish are surely harbingers of great things in store for future drinking. As a result, a decent investment to boot for a 10 year view.
Saline, gamey nose and an energetic and velvet-textured attack, counter-balanced and infused with blood orange. Great resonance and breadth, visceral, spiced finish, and a whiff of very attractive sweet chloroform right at the finish. Very, very long. A great wine.
Now to 2030
Wine Owners view
The velour and silky density of this wine makes it a beauty for enjoyment right now, and sure enough it was wine of the night for the majority of attendees. There’s more to go but will it ever be as lovely as it is now? Expect to pay £720+ per bottle so one for the collector who is looking for the very best vintages of Margaux.
Svelte Nose, and then at the outset, so young and fresh. Tannins still present. A large scaled, monumental wine of extraordinary length yet extremely primary. An absolute baby in other words! With time in the glass the aromatics really open up. There is great intensity and a wonderful centre to this wine. Tonight 1990 gives more pleasure, but the sense of energy and drive in this wine along with all the other elements suggest a great, great Margaux in the making for 2025 onwards.
Wine Owners view
This is going to be mind-bendingly good. Though it lacks the resolution and some of the warmth of the 1990, it makes up for that in sheer energy, focus and intensity in its core. This elemental wine is still good value at around £500+ per bottle and would be an obvious choice as an investment, or buy now and wait 15 years to for a thrilling vinous experience as close as any gets to a concept of the perfect wine.
Margaux 2000 (Magnum)
A wine that is already resolved but at the beginning of its plateau. Spiced, cloves, sweet chloroform. Great energy, definition and depth on the finish, enlivened by a fine thread of acidity that uplifts the fruit. Very long and all the while gaining in energy through the impressive finish.
Wine Owners view
The overriding sense one has here is of harmony. Balanced and complete, spiced and heady with the signs of further maturity a short few years away. For many palates this is completely ready but an interesting addition to any Bordeaux lover’s cellar for its immediacy and near term potential.
by Wine Owners
Posted on 2018-06-28
Whilst expensive Burgundies make the headlines, there's another revolution taking place that is transforming the qualitative level of winemaking more generally in Burgundy.
It's a revolution that's very different to the one caused by an influx of corporate cash snapping up top domaines that produce some of the region’s most sought-after wines.
Daughters and sons who are graduating from l’école viticole, and who spend their stages at new world wineries or with progressive in-region vignerons, are taking best practises in the vines and chais back to familial domaines and transforming quality of those wines. Other offspring are going it alone, relying on their social network to buy grapes from friends and friends of family. And still others are coming back to their roots, turning their back on a career in Paris for the siren call of the Côte d’Or.
In a way there’s a relationship between the two; the big money coming in is offering the promise of a wealthier future to the next generation.
Within this dynamic atmosphere there are lots of value buying opportunities. One doesn’t have to be a millionaire to own and to drink Burgundy. But you need to be quicker to claim an early allocation than previously. Prices of new discoveries rise fast. Whereas in the past it would have taken many vintages of successes before a domaine became established enough to justify rapid price hikes, these days positive press and ensuing price escalation can happen quickly.
How do I discover new producers?
Follow your favourite merchants – they’ll organise events or dinners at which the wines they represent can be tasted, allowing you to figure out which of the wines they are offering you think are the real deal.
Follow the critics – Neal Martin is now at Vinous, William Kelley has assumed the mantle at robertparker.com and Steen Öhman is busy discovering new talent at Winehog.
The blog format of Winehog is well suited to reading about new discoveries, where he’s picked up on Thibaud (Y) Clerget, Nicolas Faure, his fiancée Amelie Berthaut at Berthaut-Gerbet, Maxime Cheurlin at Georges Nöellat, Duroché, Jean-Marc Bouley, Arnaud Tessier, and Jean-Marc Vincent to highlight a range of notable domaines.
Charmes Dessus 2012, Domaine Tessier © Nick Martin
His latest discovery is Marthe Henri Boillot in Mersault, a true ‘start up’ having returned to pick up the remnants of her grandfather’s estate and has cut sourcing deals with friends.
It’s a familiar story. Down the road in Santenay Jean-Marc and Anne-Marie Vincent picked up the reins of his grandfather’s lapsed estate back in the late 1990s, and have transformed it into by far the best domaine of Santenay, making wines of great succulence, nerve and aromatic complexity. In fact, his reputation as one of the best true vignerons on the whole Côte is widely recognised by many other top producers all the way up into the Côte de Nuits.
They say birds of a feather flock together. Just look at Jean-Marc’s vigneron network, and you discover producers who share the same qualitative ethic and who are in search of constant improvements; producers such as Olivier Lamy, Jean-Marc Bouley and the passionately intense, super-fit Bruno Lorenzon in Mercurey.
Jean-Marc Vincent © Nick Martin
High density planting, low plant yields, vine training to minimise stress on the vine’s foot, braiding à la Leroy, soil microbial activity/ fertility, low sulphur addition late on in the winemaking process, rigorous triages of natural corks - are typical leitmotifs of these, and a growing number of young, ambitious producers.
In Vosne-Romanée, the brilliant and young family winemaker at Arnoux-Lachaux, Charles, has employed the braided training technique of his heroine Lalou-Bize Leroy to magical effect in his Aux Reignot vineyard, adding definition, an extraordinary energy and drive to this profound wine that is Grand Cru in everything but name. Arnoux Lachaux’s prices have skyrocketed so in that sense that particular ship has sailed; plenty are yet to leave port.
by Wine Owners
Posted on 2018-06-06
Hosted by Flint, tutored by Alec Seysses, this was an unforgettable dinner. The wines are hedonistic, show great intensity of flavour and grand dimension. But they are not heavy or dense. They are wines of intensity and breadth rather than weight.
2011 Bonnes Mares
Alec said that they extracted a little more than they might normally have done. The colour is a darker shade of purple, whilst at first the nose is dense and rather closed. There is a boatload of liquorice evident at entry and on the mid palate, with iodine, orange and thyme.
With air the nose opens up to reveal lavender and plum skins, a sweetly perfumed mid palate and a velvety texture. Great length. Complete.
1998 Clos de la Roche
At first a tight nose, with a sweet undercurrent. With time in the glass, classic tertiary pinot aromas mingle with lemon verbena. A fresh attack is followed by citrus fruit, and a sappy, mouth-watering mid palate. There’s great persistence to the finish with a classic pinot character. Showing plenty of life and suggesting a great mid term future over the next 5 years.
Expansive nose of angelica, sandalwood and iodine. Quite broad, very tertiary, leafy and resolved with a medium-long finish.
2007 Clos St. Denis
Sherbetty nose, broad pinot nose, herbal and saline. Delightful fruity mid palate, redcurrent and cream, a touch of liquorice, sweet fruit but lifted by a gently freshness. Hedonistic.
2002 Clos St. Denis
Perfumed, deep nose, a hint of game with a consommé-like infusion, saline. That gamey complexity shows up again on the front palate before broad orange-infused flavours channel the wine into the mid palate. Terrific focus. Moderate weight but great intensity, very complex with an unami and saline character building out into the long finish. Very 2002 in its precision and energy.
1999 Clos St. Denis
Oranges and other citrus fruit on the nose, with lemon verbena adding a herbal character. Gorgeous velvety texture, a really visceral wine. Liquorice, orange pith, great intensity and a really solid core. Compact and immensely deep. Orange rind on the finish. Very young and tight as yet.
A pinot ‘qui pinotte’ – that classic nose exhibiting tertiary pinot character of strawberries ‘on the turn’ mixed with damp undergrowth. Just classic. Gentle resolved wine. Some resonance on the finish. Deceptively mid-weight with alluring intensity.
1999 Clos de la Roche
Great complexity and depth. Orange infused nose, saline with perfume of wild broom. Cloved, liquorice attack, and a hedonistic and visceral mid palate. Great resonance. Orange peel, sherbettty sweet fruit. Amazing freshness and length. Goes on and on. A legend.
1999 Bonnes Mares
Expressive aromatic nose, really quite open and sweet. Ready to go, right in the middle of the red to black fruit spectrum. Fruity jujubes and as you might expect a sweet mid palate. Calmed down with 30 minutes of aeration in the glass to reveal a fresh finish that lengthens correspondingly.
Caroline Brangé ©Nick Martin
by Wine Owners
Posted on 2018-05-30
[Last week, the Wine Owners team tripped along to Lords, to taste a range of top 2017 Bordeaux wines en primeur. Below is a contribution from Artemis, the newest member of the team...]
What could be been better for a mid-May Thursday than a large tasting of Bordeaux Grand Crus at Lords Cricket Ground?!
The tasting included wines from over fifty chateaux, each bringing two vintages: 2017 and one other back vintage. Determined buyers and tasters were able to get around the whole room, while others focused on either the left bank or right bank, or maybe their favourite producers. Here are some great value attention-catchers.
Some wines with very good fruit expression, and also notable for their value, were La Tour de Mons and Meyney. The tasting duos were 2014 & 2017 for La Tour de Mons and for 2015 & 2017 Meyney. These are an absolute recommendation especially if you have now started working on your cellar.
- La Tour de Mons 2017: £164
- Meyney 2017: £228
- La Tour de Mons 2014: £190
- Meyney 2015: £295
On the same spectrum at a nearby stand were Lafon Rochet and Cos Labory with their tasting pairs. Both of these wines offer very good fruit and ageing potential, Lafon with a rounder mouthfeel and Labory with a spicier finish.
- Lafon Rochet 2017: tbc
- Cos Labory 2017: tbc
- Lafon Rochet 2014: £285
- Cos Labory 2011: £240
In the photo here are Chateau Pibran on the tasting table, next to d’Aiguilhe. Both of these will please those who enjoy fresher Bordeaux expressions with texture and minerality. Pibran is handled in the same facilities as Pichon Baron, and can be a nice addition for a diverse wine portfolio.
- Pibran 2017: £280
- d’Aiguilhe 2017: £180
- Pibran 2014: £225
- d’Aiguilhe 2014: £150
Similarly, d’Aiguilhe was tasted next to its big brother, Canon La Gaffeliere (Saint-Emilion Premier Grand Cru Classe B). This Cotes de Bordeaux wine retains freshness and is a very good introduction to the wines of the Von Neipperg vineyards.
White & Sweet Surprises
En Primeur tasting means racing tannins, so a break was required from the full-bodied reds, to explore sweet and dry whites. Dry, old-vine Semillon-dominated, 'S de Suduiraut' from the eponymous chateau offers concentrated flavours, along with substantial freshness and minerality. Luscious Clos Haut-Peyraguey 2014 & 2017 from Bernard Magrez was the perfect way to close the tasting, after a mouth watering duo of Pape Clement Blanc (2006 & 2017).
- S de Suduiraut 2006: £230
- Clos Haut-Peyraguey 2017: £290
- Clos Haut-Peyraguey 2014: £350
by Wine Owners
Posted on 2018-05-09
'Passion Asset' is a phrase of two halves. Alongside all the asset-focused work we do here at Wine Owners, we try to indulge the passion-focused bit too. Jonathan Reeve returned today from five busy days touring and tasting around eastern Sicily. Below is a summary of the trip, and five suggestions for Sicilian wines worth adding to your cellar (with a 5 – 10 year drinking window).
Erupting with Pride
Sicily has confidently reinvented itself in the past fifteen years, and is clearly proud of its achievements. Bulk blending wines have now been moved firmly to the background, and the island’s wineries are focusing their attention (and ours) firmly on quality wines and regional styles. Nowhere is the pride more obvious than around Etna. It seems so overt there that it borders on a sense of superiority, forgivable only because of the wines’ clear quality and the vineyards’ lofty perspective over the rest of the island. Etna remains the island's flagbearer, its wines a clear step or two ahead of the other regions in the charge towards quality and international recognition. Etna wines are blessed with pure fruit flavours, stunning ruby-like colouring, and the excellent acidity which is a signature of volcanic soils.
Wild and high atop Etna, Cornelissen’s volcanic ‘Magma’ Vineyard (900m)
There is a sense of competition on Etna, with a handful of the top wineries quietly jockeying for the very top spot. Happily, their stylistic differences mean there is room at the top for them all; elegant Benanti, classic Graci, pure Torre Mora, bold Terre Nere, natural Cornelissen. We spent three days around Etna, mostly around the northern side where the best (blackest) terroir is to be found. One sunny afternoon we sampled the various and varied crus of Frank Cornellissen (whose ‘Munjebel CS’ shows just how Burgundy-like Etna wines can be, but whose wines have not yet proved themselves cellar-worthy), and those of the Tenuta delle Terre Nere (whose sexy Santo Spirito features among my suggested purchases below).
Among our gracious hosts during the visit was Antonio Benanti, who spent four full hours guiding us around his vineyards and wines. The quality and ageing potential of Benanti's Etna wines was abundantly clear, as was his focused, classic winemaking style.
A classic Rovittello label; Benanti before it was ‘Benanti’
The stand-out wine from Benanti's range was the Etna Rosso from his vineyard in Rovittello. Rovittello is clearly a village to watch; Torre Mora's vineyard and winery is also there, and the high quality of their Etna Rosso from 2015 and 2016 was undeniable. The little-known Torre Mora estate was acquired in 2016 by Tenute Piccini of Tuscany, and given a very classy upgrade. Viticulture and winemaking have both been overhauled, with clear results, and the wine style brought up-to-date to a fresher, vibrant, more-classic wine style. Complimenti Piccini.
Rejuvenated: Tenuta Torre Mora, Rovittello
No Wine Is an Island
Sicily has a broad range of wine styles – and more importantly clear distinctions between those styles. Also vital is that these styles work together; they complement one another, rather than competing. Fresh, crisp, elegant Etna Bianco is clearly distinct from broader-styled Inzolia-Chardonnay IGT blends and citrus-tropical Cattarratto varietals. Taut, bright, ruby-like Etna Rosso is a world apart from the dark, plummy Nero d'Avolas made in the island’s south-eastern corner, and another world again from the juicy, mouthwatering Cerasuolos from Vittoria (these combine Nero d'Avola's brooding depths with Frappato's ripe-strawberry brightness). Add to this core the island’s traditional trademarks – fortified Marsala and sweet Muscats from Pantelleria and Noto – and you have crystal-clear stylistic diversity that any region would be proud of. The wildcards in the pack were the handful of dry Moscato wines we tried. These were an unexpected surprise –refreshing in every regard. First was Planeta’s super-refreshing, aromatic Allemanda, and then COS’ amphora wine Zibbibo-in-Pithos, which calls to mind orange blossom and Earl Grey tea.
Amphorae at COS. Definitely not jug wine.
Sicilians Don't Shrug
Marketing is key to Sicily's new look, and the island is doing it with flair. The island is more than just 'shrugging off' its old reputation. Those shoulders are shimmying with Mediterranean style, brilliantly exemplified by Donnafugata’s colourful labels. A visit to a Sicilian wine shop is like a visit to an art gallery. Many of the top wineries are hot on hospitality, too, with comprehensive tours and tastings available, and an increasing number offering accommodation (we stayed for two nights at a chic farmstay owned by the Occhipinti family). Planeta stood out on the hospitality front; our morning visit to their Buonivini estate was guided with expertise and generosity. We specifically requested to taste a few back-vintages of Cerasuolo di Vittoria and reds from Noto, to assess their cellaring potential. A cluster of wines from 2005 to 2015 soon appeared, and confirmed that top-level wines from both of these DOCs are indeed capable of developing for over a decade. One clear pattern was that the aromas and palate take on lives quite distinct from one another over the years; the 2005 Santa Cecilia Noto had a savoury nose of black olives and herbs, but retained noticeable fruity flavours on the palate. The lifespan of Sicilian wines will almost certainly increase in the coming years, as Sicily’s new generation of quality-focused winemakers continues to find its groove. This does beg one question, though…will the lively, soulful marketing and label designs disappear once the wines get more serious? Let’s hope not.
Five Sicilian Wines Worthy of Your Cellar
- Planeta Dorilli Cerasuolo di Vittoria Classico 2015
Drink 2018 – 2023
- Cos Cerasuolo di Vittoria Classico 2013
Drink 2018 – 2023
- Benanti Pietramarina Bianco 2016
Drink 2019 – 2029
Contact Benanti and tell them I sent you: email@example.com
- Torre Mora Etna Rosso 2015
Drink 2019 – 2025
Not yet released. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Terre Nerre Santo Spiritu 2015
Drink 2019 –2025
Planeta Buonivini Estate, Noto
by Wine Owners
Posted on 2018-05-02
There comes a moment in the evolution of every market where all the stars are aligned. Last week a bottle of CVNE Vina Real 1959 sold on an online auction for 905 euros.
One might well ask what this has to do with investing in (comparatively) young Rioja to make the best returns. What it confirmed to me was that the home market, Spain was back.
After several years in the doldrums the Spanish economy, at least for the wine drinking classes, was back on its feet.
What has also been noticeable is that recent releases have shown that wine makers felt able to increase prices by double figure percentages. Castillo Ygay for example has seen a 15% rise from the 2007 to the current release of 2009.
Other important factor is the considerable improvement in quality since 2001.
Wines that had consistently been receiving marks around the upper 80s and low 90s began receiving marks in the mid to upper 90s. I mention this not as a slavish follower of Parker; but as Maynard Keynes remarked investment is like a beauty contest where success is not necessarily about picking what one likes oneself but choosing what the crowd will like.
Secondly what is screamingly obvious is that Rioja is extraordinarily cheap in relation to French wines of a similar quality. Of course the market is much bigger, especially for Bordeaux, but like many markets the big returns come in the smaller markets. One only has to look at the Burgundy market over the past 20 years to see the truth in that.
Rioja prices have been suppressed by the fact that it is largely an internal market whereas Bordeaux is international.
Amongst specific choices Rioja Alta 904 and the even cheaper Vina Ardanza stand out as highly marked wines at very little purchase cost. Picking the best vintages of CVNE Imperial and Vina Real is also an inexpensive hobby. One only has to look back over recent vintages to see how rapidly all these rise in relation to their purchase cost over a 10 year period to see that returns of 200-300% are achievable. Given the Burgundy effect that could well prove very conservative…
My general advice is stick to the traditional names (making classically crafted wines) that are showing rising quality. Those in the know will note that I have not mentioned Lopez de Heridia: the reason for this most obvious of omissions is that I feel the market in their wines is so interesting as to be worth a further blog instalment.
Mike is a Wine Owners member and a long-term collector who started his cellar in the 1960s. Having witnessed the development of wine markets over the last 60 years, and a salesroom regular for several decades, Mike is well placed to spot opportunities.
by Wine Owners
Posted on 2018-03-05
We would like to echo the sentiments of Lisa Perotti-Brown – the new face of Bordeaux at The Wine Advocate – who revels in reviewing great wines from vintages less hyped than the universally celebrated ones.
A review of past vintages is so much more pleasurable than one of a current vintage. It can be pursued at leisure, far from the madding crowd of en primeur set-piece campaigns. The wines have been in bottle for some years, and have grown into their skins, allowing them to express themselves and harmonise. There is none of the guesswork required when evaluating young wines. And it is not done as part of a tasting Megathon favouring the most obvious, richest wines…
Here follows a spotlight of vintages which hide truly great wines, many of which still represent good value.
Let's start with 2013, the worst climatic year Burgundy has experienced in a long time, characterized by a dreadful summer of cold, sodden weather. But that’s the thing with Burgundy; its growers refused to give up. They never do. They spent the summer in their Aigle wellies desperately battling the filthy elements and sticky, sucking mud. Coaxing what they could out of their precious vines - their livelihood - trying to make the best of a seemingly bad lot. The coaxing process involved leaf thinning, and sacrificing bunches to give the rest a chance at maturing properly. And that is the thing with Pinot Noir; it responds exceptionally favourably to low yields.
Now, if you like dense, sweet fruit with generous alcohols, 2013 may not be the vintage for you. But if you enjoy intensity of flavour without the weight of a hot year, red Burgundies from 2013 will positively surprise you. All the more so if you first tasted barrel samples back in January 2015; the wines are now positively transformed from that first recalcitrant showing.
It’s well known that a warm, accommodating, crisis-free growing season will result in wines that are generous and velvety-textured in their youth. But these aren’t always the wines that develop into fine, complex maturity. Take 1999 for example, lauded as one of the greatest Burgundy vintages of all time. Indeed, some of the wines are astoundingly good. But just as many others are really quite average. Why is that? Over-generous yields. It’s a fine line with Pinot, between harvesting as much ripe fruit as nature provides and allowing the fecund vine to produce as much as it’s wont.
Back to low-yielding 2013, and the best wines are beautifully crystalline, intense and transparent. Think a cornucopia of red fruits, blackberries and gooseberries: the essential ingredients of a refreshing summer pudding – a balancing mélange of sweet and sharp. Add characteristic Burgundy high notes of salinity (and a mineral-tinged, geological nod-in-the-glass to the inland sea of which the Cote d’Or was once a part) and hopefully you’ve formed a fair mental image of 2013 red Burgundy.
It’s no coincidence that blue chip stalwarts such as Eric Rousseau and Christophe Roumier love their 2013s. Aubert de Villaine sees his Domaine de la Romanée 2013s as long distance runners (in contrast to his more ‘forward’ 2014s). And they are delightful.
2013 is also one of the last sensibly priced vintages before Burgundy prices became vertiginous.
Wines from cooler Burgundy vintages often start out rather awkward, and out of kilter. Their acidity may add definition and length, but can also close the wine down, or conspire with tannins to suppress the essential grape characteristics in a wine.
2006 was one such vintage. Its wines were initially hard to taste, and broadly speaking, unlovely. Many of us viewed 2006 Burgundies as unwelcome magpies in our collector’s nest of more comely vintages.
But now, after a decade in bottle, the wines are starting to show very well. They exhibit well-defined fruit, great length and energy. Next to the 2005s, they may lack heft and powerful tannin structure, but they are nonetheless serious, intense wines. And they are beginning to drink well now. You’ll have to wait at least another decade for your 2005s to come around, but 2006 is a fine emerging vintage that will give pleasure now and for the foreseeable future.
For Bordeaux, 2011 was always going to be a tough sell. On release, the wines seemed scrawny and mean in comparison with the monumental 2009s and 2010s.
Yet a recent dinner event hosted by Wine Owners showed how dangerous it is to tar a whole vintage with the same presumptive brush, or to judge a more classic vintage too early. The highlights of that tasting were Vieux Chateau Certan 2011 and La Mission Haut-Brion 2011. They were both easily the equal of their counterparts from better-regarded vintages, and represent great value compared with any more recent vintage.
In Bordeaux, 2006 was a vintage that attracted more than its fair share of negative press, the effects of which are still in evidence today, judging by the affordability of 2006 Bordeaux on the Wine Owners Exchange. The success of a Bordeaux vintage depends on sentiment, and in 2006 combination of negative factors came into play.
First, it came on the heels of stellar 2005. Second, Bob Parker’s favourable rating of the vintage attracted criticism from many pundits, attracting further negative attention. Third, the release prices were too expensive– due at least partly to the high Parker scores. Why else would La Mission Haut-Brion be ready to trade at £1,550 per 12x75cl, yet be overlooked?
[ Top tip: buy La Mission Haut-Brion at this level – half of its opening (mis)price. It is considered a ‘wine of the vintage’, rivalled for this accolade only by the (much more expensive) Mouton. ]
We are fans of the Bordeaux 2006 wines we’ve tasted. They don’t have the powdery tannins and powerful black fruit of the 2005s, but they do have superb energy, and a sappy character that compels you to take the next sip. We see many wines from 2006 as more interesting than their counterparts from 2004 or 2008. Notable examples include Mouton, Pontet-Canet, Leoville Barton, Leoville Las Cases, La Conseillante (just a sampled tip of the iceberg). Whenever tasted comparatively, these showed extremely well alongside relative other vintages.
In our experience, where 2006 performs particularly well is its consistency. Simply put, we’ve never had a poor one. Other low-rated back-vintages produced a number of successes (such as 2007, 2011), but none are as consistent as 2006.
2002 is another Bordeaux vintage which suffered from poor reputation. The year’s poor weather consigned the vintage to the status of ‘restaurant wine’ before any of the wines were even bottled. But it’s easy to forget that the wines were very well priced; first growths were released at around £800 per case (just one-sixth of their 2015 release prices). If you had invested in 2002 Bordeaux 15 years ago, you would be feeling rather smug right now. 2002 is the vintage for the contrarian that lurks inside every wine enthusiast!
While they were never going to be the most profound expressions of Bordeaux (in the light of the meteorological conditions), the 2002s have consistently tasted savoury, fruity, and sweetly spiced with cloves, cinnamon sticks and liquorice root. At all levels of classification, we’ve yet to stumble across a disappointing example.
In 2002 Piedmont, like Bordeaux, suffered from rotten summer weather. Wine commentators have described 2002 in Piedmont in such terms as ‘wiped out’, ‘disastrous’, ‘severely compromised’, ‘a washout’.
But despite all of this, one wine survived the vintage’s humid gloom (and the hailstorms which repeatedly strafed Barolo) with enough salvaged bunches to benefit from perfect autumnal conditions. This is a wine made with such severe selection that yields were just 12 hl/ ha, and which epitomises viticultural triumph against the odds. The wine in question is, of course, the now-mythical Barolo Riserva Monfortino 2002.
Take a moment to consider the sacrifice involved in making wine with yields as low as 12 hl/ ha. Burgundy considers 25 hl/ ha to be painfully low, and in Bordeaux anything under 40 hl/ha is a very short harvest.
Giovanni Conterno – Roberto Conterno’s late father – called 2002 the greatest Monfortino of his lifetime.
The last word must surely go to Antonio Galloni, whose tasting note and review of this wine encapsulates why it’s so rewarding to seek out the greatest wines within those vintages in the shadows:
“…the 2002 Barolo Riserva Monfortino, a wine that may very well turn into a modern-day legend… 2002 was a cold, rainy year that in many parts of Barolo culminated with violent hailstorms in early September. The weather then turned picture-perfect for the rest of the growing season, but by that time most vineyards were severely damaged. The late-ripening Cascina Francia was an exception. Conterno green-harvested aggressively, which gave the fruit a chance to ripen. …The Conternos were so upset by the poor early press reaction to the vintage they announced they would let no one taste their 2002 Barolo. Conterno has fashioned an old-style, massive Monfortino that pays homage to the great wines of decades past. …It is a deeply-colored, imposing Monfortino loaded with dense dark fruit that today is held in check by a massive wall of tannins…classic, old-style Barolo the likes of which we aren’t likely to see again any time soon. Antonio Galloni, October 2008.