2016 red Bordeaux tasting UGC London 16th October 2018

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.


Chateau Margaux dinner with Thibault Pontallier

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 adding a fruity herbaceous character before ending on a firm iron-infused finish.

2022-2030

94

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.

2023-2035

93+

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 of 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

95

Wine Owners view

Mature and exciting with lots of complexity within which it’s easy to pick out individual flavours. So plenty of wine on to make a special occasion a bit more special.



Margaux 1983

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

93

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.

Margaux 1986

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

95

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.

Margaux 1989

Gorgeous overt nose, great length and grain, sappy with rising aromatics, a twist of liquorice and a cloved finish.

2020-2035

94+

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.

Margaux 1990

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

98+

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.



Margaux 1996

Svelte Nose, and then at the outset, so young and fresh. Tannins still present. A large scaled, monumental wine of extraordinary length get 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.

2025-2050

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.

100

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.

2018-2033

97

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.



Fine wine investment strategies

by Wine Owners

Posted on 2018-09-19


This is an extract of Wine Owners' Collecting and Investing in Fine Wine guide. You can download if for free here.


Short-term? Long-term?

Generally speaking, wine investments perform best over a minimum period of around 5 years.

There is no single ‘right answer’ of course. Some very active collectors sell and reinvest as soon as they see a fixed return, following speculative market momentum. Other collectors tend to hold for long periods of time— and although they may go through periods of flat or negative growth, typically they benefit from shifts in supply and demand; when demand pulls significantly ahead of supply, prices tend to move sharply reflecting that imbalance. Longer-term strategies may also benefit from partial realisation of profits to mitigate the risks of re-ratings.

Wine has periods of both high and low performance, just like any other investment class. Medium- and long-term holds tend to perform more consistently as a result. They also give investors the option to enjoy matured wines (i.e drink rather than sell), if their financial circumstances improve such that personal enjoyment of the wine becomes more significant than the financial value of selling it.



Vintage follower vs. perennial buyer

A common refrain among some investors is “the best wines from the best vintages”. It’s practically a matter of pride having exclusively the best wines in their portfolios.

However, this approach does not fit with the reality of how buyers are allocated wine at first release by merchants. Nor is it necessarily a good idea.

With Bordeaux, this ‘best-vintages-only’ policy is relatively easy to maintain. There is no particular need to buy off-vintages because the wines are produced in volume, and are widely distributed.

But things are different for scarcity-led markets such as top Burgundy, Barolo and cult Californians. Here, supply is low, demand is high and distribution channels are narrow. The net result is that suppliers can apply pressure on consumers to buy a particular wine every vintage, or else lose their right to an allocation next year. With so many customers vying for these wines, merchants can choose to give their best allocations to their best (most consistent) customers. Maintaining an allocation of these wines, therefore, requires consistent buying every vintage, irrespective of quality.

Cherry-picking vintages doesn’t always work, either. Vintages which are heavily touted initially are not always those considered the best in the fullness of time. Piedmont 1997 was considered a stellar vintage early on, but today the favour falls with less-hot vintages such as 1998, 1999 and 2001. And this works both ways; Burgundy 2002 was largely unloved at release, but has now evolved into one of the all-time greats.


Relative value picking 

Identifying value is vital for both short- and long-term performance. How do you select which new releases to pick, or determine which vintages of a wine represent the best value?

Picking the best prospects is now simple. Use relative value analysis to find sweet spots between market pricing and (carefully weighted) critic ratings.

To determine whether Le Pin 2017 is a sensible en primeur purchase, the analysis below compares it with four earlier vintages. The Relative Value Score shows that 2017 is a more attractive buy than the higher-rated 2015 and 2016 vintages. It also confirms that 2012 offers better value (at current market prices, factoring in current critic ratings) than any of the other four vintages.


This is an extract of Wine Owners' Collecting and Investing in Fine Wine guide. You can download if for free here.


Rioja was Spain’s answer to Bordeaux

by Wine Owners

Posted on 2018-09-14


Rioja was Spain’s answer to Bordeaux - incredibly high quality AND quantity produced from noble grape varieties (in Rioja’s case Tempranillo). 

Back in the 1950s and 1960s the large Rioja houses were making wine of extraordinary quality to rival their Bordeaux neighbours to the north. By the 1980s and 1990s many Bodegas had let standards slip (with a few notable exceptions) and the outside world turned away from Rioja, creating a self fulfilling downward qualitative spiral. Since the early 2000s the region has turned itself around, make serious investments, and more recent vintages have attained (or perhaps even bettered?) the heights achieved of their great post-war vintages. 

Rioja prices are still great value but the world is catching on, the positive cycle is established an the region’s future as a blue chip wine producing region is more or less assured.

The following shows the jump in the last 12 months of Rioja prices compared to the general Spanish Index (in which there is a hefty Rioja set of constituents as well). 

For the budding collector, without access to unlimited funds, Rioja is the obvious region to buy into on a 10-year view.


Up and coming Burgundy

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.

Revolution

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.

Must buys

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.


Dujac dinner hosted by Flint Wines at Treadwells

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.

93

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.

93+

1997 Echezeaux

Expansive nose of angelica, sandalwood and iodine. Quite broad, very tertiary, leafy and resolved with a medium-long finish.

92

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.

94

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.

98

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.

96

1999 Echezeaux

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.

92

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.

97+

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.

93


Caroline Brangé ©Nick Martin


Bordeaux Off the Bat

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.

Delicious Fruit

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
Fresher Styles

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



2005 La Mission Haut Brion – pure perfection and a relative value win

by Wine Owners

Posted on 2018-05-17


An overlooked example of value for money here from the 100 point La Mission 2005. Compared to Domaine Clarence Dillon stablemate Haut-Brion, and the rest of the 2005 First Growths, 2005 La Mission is a clear winner in terms of value as is eminently clear from relative value analysis. The only other 100 point wine on the whole left bank is Haut-Brion, which trades at around £6,500. The other Mouton will cost £5,250, Latour £6,600, and Margaux £6,100, all on 98 points, while Lafite lags behind them all in relative terms, commanding £7,700 for 96 points.



Compared to other 100 point La Missions over the year, the 2005 wins out on relative value as well. Whether any of the 2009, 2005 and 2000 will hit the price highs of the legendary 1989 is a subject on which the verdict is very much out, and will depend on how reputation of the vintages develops. Nevertheless, all three look like relatively sound buys, and the 2005 at the offer price just beats the rest (assuming they can be bought at market level).


“The 2005 La Mission Haut-Brion is pure perfection. It has an absolutely extraordinary nose of sweet blackberries, cassis and spring flowers with some underlying minerality, a full-bodied mouthfeel, gorgeously velvety tannins (which is unusual in this vintage) and a long, textured, multi-layered finish that must last 50+ seconds. This is a fabulous wine and a great effort from this hallowed terroir. Drink this modern-day legend over the next 30+ years. Only 5,500 cases were produced of this blend of 69% Merlot, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon and 1% Cabernet Franc.”

100 points, Robert Parker


La Mission Haut-Brion 2005 is offered £4,300 on the Wine Owners Exchange (£4,435 including fees)



No Wine Is An Island

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)
©Jonathan Reeve


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’
©Jonathan Reeve


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
©Jonathan Reeve


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.
©Jonathan Reeve


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
    See Wine-Searcher

  • Cos Cerasuolo di Vittoria Classico 2013
    Drink 2018 – 2023
    See Wine-Searcher

  • Benanti Pietramarina Bianco 2016
    Drink 2019 – 2029
    Contact Benanti and tell them I sent you: info@benanti.it

  • Torre Mora Etna Rosso 2015
    Drink 2019 – 2025
    Not yet released. Contact: info@tenutepiccini.it

  • Terre Nerre Santo Spiritu 2015
    Drink 2019 –2025
    See Wine-Searcher


Planeta Buonivini Estate, Noto
©Jonathan Reeve


2017 Bordeaux – a collector’s perspective on the vintage

by Wine Owners

Posted on 2018-05-08


4 things to remember:

    1. An attractive vintage for second wines (if the prices come down and producers avoid ‘repositioning’)

    2. A truly great vintage for dry whites

    3. Finally, a broad-based success in St. Emilion!

    4. Best wines flow like a river…

2017 can’t be summarised at the commune level. There were notable successes everywhere. But those that were successful had a harmonious, infused, flowing texture to the wines.

The best are the antithesis of shouty wines, and if they were clotheshorses they definitely wouldn't wear shoulder pads. These are quieter, understated types that’ll turn around in a decade’s time, smile enigmatically and sotto voce say “I told you so’.

Economics to consider:

With few exceptions, this is not a red vintage where prices are likely to increase over the next 2 years. Several people have referred to 2007 as a modern day 1988. Prices of 1988 stagnated for several years after release. Not because it wasn’t an appreciated vintage at the time, but because it wasn’t a ‘great’ vintage, and got rather overshadowed by the ensuing duo of 1989 and 1990.

There are a few Chateaux which are increasingly sought after and will sell out, and those wines will probably be worth buying at first release. Subject to the all important caveat of price permitting.

For UK buyers, as at May 2018, sterling has sagged, and is close to historic lows against the Euro. In a year or two the picture could look very different depending on the nature of a EU settlement. The currency swing could be 20%. That is a major disincentive for UK buyers to buy 2017s during en primeur.

The same currency concern was of course present through the 2016 campaign, but the difference is that 2016 was evidently an extraordinary vintage from the get-go, and recent re-tastings confirm its potential greatness. The majority of brilliant vintages are expensive at first release, as was 2016.

Most good vintages that follow great ones, where prices don’t fall far enough from the heights of its precursor, suffer price stagnation for a long time: think 2006. In my view 2017 is not too dissimilar to 2006 in its vintage profile, certainly is not obviously better, and has a further parallel with 2006 in that it follows a great vintage (2016).

Target release prices

See our recent analysis of proto-prices – the level that we believe Chateaux will have to come down to in order for 2017 reds to find a market. On average we believe they will need to reduce release prices by -24%. Some wines would theoretically need to come down by as much as -40% whilst others may not need to reduce their release price at all (notably the dry whites).

We recommend you don’t get too fixated on that average figure of -24% but think in terms of a scale of 0% to -40%.

As an example, it’s worth remembering that Vieux Chateau Certan made a great wine in 2011 that vies for greatness with 2009 and 2010, yet a price reduction of -40% for the 2011 release wasn’t enough to stop it falling by another -25% before it recovered and started putting on gains versis its release price.

Admittedly the 2011 coincided with the Bordeaux market crash of 2012-2014, but even so, it’s a reminder of how even seemingly significant price reductions can still be insufficient reason to buy during en primeur.


©Jonathan Reeve / Wine Owners

1. A vintage for second wines

Look at the quality of the second wines this vintage. Chateaux have been upping the ante over the last few years and there are some profoundly satisfying results.

The thing that stood out in respect of these second wines is the refinement of their tannins; something you used to see only in the Grand Vin. It means that many second wines are now worthy competitors to many classified growths.

All of the following merit scores of around 92-93.

Petit Mouton

Red fruited nose, great intensity and aromatics, super lift and energy and a long, vinous finish.

Le Marquis de Calon Ségur

Fresh, and with a tension that leads to a very fruity core of sweet raspberry coulis. There’s a notable purity to the mid palate, medium weight and a charming savoury finish.

Dame de Montrose

Saline nose, touch of cedar, then sweet pastille fruit, an elegant attack, red fruits and ultrafine tannins. A lifted, fresh, well defined finish that ends with a dab of clove oil.

Pavillon Rouge

Liqueur-like nose, great energy in the attack, with a suave mid palate. Superbly classic, dry character and a fine-grained textured feel to the tannins.

Petit Cheval

Pure nose of red fruits and kirsch, perfumed. Silky feel, cloves on the attack, mid weight, sweet mid palate, fine tannins, evidently structured towards the back of the palate, fresh with a touch of game-bird. Very structured finish: old school and impressive, with a tremendous mouth-watering finale.

Clarence de Haut Brion

Deep nose, saline with liquorice and cedar. Real complexity. Bright attack, creamy red and black fruits, and with drive to a medium long finish.


©Jonathan Reeve / Wine Owners


2. A great vintage for dry whites

With greater focus and freshness than 2015, and much greater intensity and drive than 2016; 2017 is one of the most exciting white wine vintages for years.

Bordeaux white may not have the caché of Burgundy, but occasionally a vintage comes along that is an inimitable and compelling expression of Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon.

That perfect expression should show great minerality (or stoniness), floral aromatics (choisya, elderflower, white jasmine) have bright intense citrus character, and may have background hints of soft fruits in the spectrum of peach, passion fruit and guava.

Great Bordeaux whites need to show purity, vibrancy, and length. The tropical fruited expression should be subtle, nuanced; a suggestion rather than an emphatic flavour.

Whilst Bordeaux whites don’t have a secondary market like the reds do, the quantities produced are relatively confidentielles so may not be easy to obtain in the future, or the blue chip examples may appreciate in value within the couple of years or so after the wines are bottled.

Superb whites (at a variety of price points) were made in the vintage at the following properties:

Haut Brion Blanc

Cool nose of stone fruits, pomelos, a dollop of cream. Burgundian in weight with a sense of scale/ broad dimensions. Huge freshness too. Pithy, firm, lemons and blood oranges with simply huge minerality. This wine represents the great heights white Bordeaux can sometimes achieve.

98+

Pavillon Blanc

Saline, creamy nose. Superb breadth and pithiness, spice and a salty, mineral finish that goes on and on.

95

Les Hauts de Smith Haut Lafitte Blanc

100% Sauvignon. In a word, terrific value! Refined nose, a little bit mute - but fair enough at this stage of its evolution. Energetic attack, great freshness and confit lemon mid palate accompanied by high notes of grapefruit.

92

Smith Haut Lafitte Blanc

An expressive nose in contrast, great intensity evident, then grapefruit and pomelos, and a fine line in mouth watering acidity. Bright powerful citrus character. Precise, pithy and long. Weight and intensity on the finish with background notes of guava.

96

Pape Clément Blanc

Grapefruit and pronounced kaffir leaf nose, intense and limey. Gorgeous attack of pomelos, sherbet, pith, candied lemons. Mandarine infuses the mid palate. Superb.

96

Malartic Lagraviere Blanc

Orange blossom nose, wild heather, with a mineral and herby attack (lemon thyme?). Just a hint of underlying sweetness. Harmonious. Confit lemon on the finish.

95

La Louviere Blanc (Good value)

Pithy nose, Seville orange and pomelos. Very good balance and purity on the mid palate, with good restraint, length and an attractive focused finish.

92

Chevalier Blanc

A floral nose; very interesting and a bit different to most other aromas in this vintage. Gorgeous attack of sherbet, mid palate dominated by grapefruit pith, accompanied by super acidity and attractive length.

94

La Tour Martillac Blanc

Grapefruit and kaffir leaves on the nose with a bright really intense attack. Fine mid palate, quite big scaled, but with tons of acidity to back it up. I’d nevertheless have liked a touch more restraint to focus the finish that ends broad. Maybe it just needs to settle down.

91+

Carbonnieux Blanc

Pithy nose, followed by a sherbetty attack. A little less pure in the mid palate than anticipated by the sparkling intro, although the finish is fine and nicely lifted, creating a pleasing finale.

90

 
©Nick Martin / Wine Owners


3. Broad-based success in St Emilion!

Not for some years have there been so few high alcohol monsters produced in St Emilion, and correspondingly so many balanced, attractive wines. St Emilion was a minor revelation.

L’If

Vinous, fruity nose. Dark fruit in the spectrum of mulberries on the attack. Grainy mid palate, fine tannins, crunchy fruit, a dab of clove oil, liquorice, all delivered with persistent, notable freshness.

93

Angelus

Refined nose, very progressive fruit. Really fine tannins underlie a silky texture. And it's drier than usual, not as sweet or as obviously powerful as before, yet still is large-scaled in the best sense of the term – and is all the better (and classier) for it. The first Angelus I have absolutely adored in a very long time.

96

Canon La Gaffeliere

Expressive kirsch nose, touch of pepper, crystalline fresh attack, creamy red fruits, some plushness in the mid-palate, yet without excess sweetness. Nice progression and finish, with good sucrosité throughout.

92+

Soutard (Good value)

Liqueur and peppered nose, svelte texture. Very attractive griottes on the mid palate, super spiced, clove oil. Sappy, mouthwatering, extremely moreish and fresh. Will be great value mid-term drinking and with the zip to peak in 12-15 years.

90% Merlot with the remaining 10% a mix of Cab Franc, Cab Sauv and Malbec. Yes, Malbec!

93+

Troplong Mondot

Richly perfumed nose, in the aromatic wood spectrum. Very ecclesiastical. Quite big attack with a liqueur-textured quality, cloves coating the mid palate and a bright controlled finish. Fine and exciting to taste.

96

Canon

Sweet fruited nose. Super attack. Great balance, poised, fine grained tannins, and sappy, moreish fruit. Fruit pastille but not in the slightest bit overt, and a silky smooth delivery. It’s almost lush, almost sweet, yet in fact it’s quite firm, with liquorice notes and light spice. Good length. Will be very popular.

95+

Berliquet (good value)

Fruity nose with a touch of pepper. Powerful attack and a subtle mid palate. Flowing fruit and lots of energy with just a hint of firmness towards the back palate, but no dryness. Savoury and liquorice notes are introduced in the finish.

91+

Figeac

Raspberries on the expressive nose, with cedar notes. Liqueur-like texture, and an orange and raspberry infused attack. A vein of dry graphite runs through the fresh, racy, rich mid palate of pastille fruit, ahead of a firm finish. Once again rather lovely, if not delivering the sheer excitement of 2016, or the exuberance of 2015.

95+

©Nick Martin / Wine Owners


4. Harmony and substance.

The nature of the 2017 red vintage is one that wants to express itself without excess: in respect of weight, tannic structure and alcohol.

There is a classically dry character to the red wines. All of which speaks to the Atlantic, maritime pattern of the summer weather, and is also perhaps partly due to the very welcome trend back towards gentler extractions across Bordeaux.

2017 can’t be summarised at the commune level. There were notable successes everywhere. But those that were most successful had a harmonious, infused fruitiness, flowing texture to the wines.

The best are the antithesis of shouty wines, and if they were clotheshorses they wouldn't be seen dead in shoulder pads. These are quieter, understated types that’ll turn around in a decade’s time, smile enigmatically and sotto voce say “I told you so’.

Those that hit the mark included the following, with personal favourites scored excluding any of the wines aforementioned:

Calon-Ségur

97

Montrose

95

Ormes de Pez

91

Cos Labory

90+

Lafite

97

Mouton

97+

Cos d’Estournel

94

Latour

98

Pontet Canet

93

Lynch Bages

93

Grand Puy Lacoste

93

Haut Bages Liberal

93 (Good value)

Pedesclaux

93

Leoville Barton

95

Gruaud Larose

93

Branaire

92

Lagrange

93+

Talbot

92+

Margaux

96

Palmer

96

Rauzan Ségla

93

Cantenac Brown

92

Vieux Chateaux Certan

98

Le Pin

96+

Croix de Gay

93

Rouget

94

Gazin

94

Mission Haut Brion

96

Carmes Haut Brion

94+

Chevalier

93+

Smith Haut Lafitte

94+

Malartic Lagraviere

93

Olivier

93 (Good value)



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