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Bordeaux 2007 dinner club - Part 1

by Wine Owners

Posted on 2017-10-09


The first of 3 dinners to taste through 61 red Bordeaux ‘Growths’ classified in 1855, the 2007 vintage had been kindly provided by 2 wine enthusiast brothers who were keen to share this extensive horizontal with fellow members.

The wines were cleverly organised into suitable flights to accompany each dinner course by Christopher Delalonde, resident Master Sommelier at The Don on St Swithins Lane, ensuring a peak was hit with the glorious venison main course, with further high spots to be enjoyed in the tail-end of supporting wines.

Christopher Delalonde

Given the less than enthusiastic press on the 2007 vintage, the wines showed a remarkable degree of consistency. 2007 was not a vintage to try to force, and the great successes at all levels of affordability and rank were those founded on balance and the natural aromatics of the vintage. Whilst bargains are far and few between, some of the lesser known Crus still represent good value for money. At the top end, the Firsts and most of the Seconds showed their class and the value of their top terroirs.

Cru Note

NM Score

Croizet Bages, Pauillac, 5th Fruit forward, spiced nose. Licorice leads the creamy attack, round supple mid palate. Fresh orange zest on the finish provides focus and suggests there's plenty of scope for near-term future development. Still young and promising. 92
Cos d'Estournel, St Estephe, 2nd Cool nose, spiced and generously perfumed. Savoury with with a saline element, and a texture reflecting fine, grainy tannins on the already resolved attack. Lifted, sappy, fruity mid palate and a finish that ends on a sweet crescendo. Delicious already, with plenty of future potential, and avoiding the overextraction of 2009/2010 vintages. 95
Prieuré Lichine, Margaux, 4th Cool, spiced nose with trademark Margaux perfume. Savoury attack and mid palate, with a blast of licorice. A little obvious and currently a disjointed finish. Mid weight, but this might just be a bit young and yet come together. 88
Pouget, Margaux, 5th First time I've ever tasted this Cru? That I can recall. Lovely, sappy nose: a sense of freshness and vitality. Fruity, rounded attack with the dry character of the fruit lending firmness. Mid weight mid palate, with an intriguing orange zest twist to the finish. Balanced and attractive. One to seek out at a bargain price as a household staple for Sunday lunch, given it's anonymity (and relative lack of buyer interest) in the market? 91
La Lagune, Haut Médoc, 3rd Perfumed nose betraying it's proximity to Margaux to the North and close to La Garonne. Energetic attack, meaty notes, and lightly spiced blend to create a strong appeal. Only a medium length finish lets it down, but still lots to like. 90+
Pedesclaux, Pauillac, 5th Pre the recent renaissance under Lorenzetti, who since 2009 bought 12 hectares next to Lafite and Mouton to enlarge and improve this forgotten Cru. It needed rescuing based on this showing: Licorice infused nose, slightly bright point of attack, nice density but with a bright acidity that isn't integrated and overall paraxodically shows as rather neutral. 86
Dauzac, Margaux, 5th Spiced nose, savoury and round. Rather dull and flat in character. Recalls the edgeless wine recipes made by producers for Naked Wine. Think Barry Manilow (unless you like Barry Manilow in which case think of someone else). 84
Chateau Batailley, Pauillac, 5th White pepper seasoned nose, griottes and cedar. Attractive cedary attack too with enough acidity to be mouthwatering. Firm, classic claret with enough cut to accompany the foie gras. Being picky, the mid palate came across as hollow on this showing. 88+
Desmirail, Margaux, 3rd Quite a neutral nose, on its reserve. Restrained. But the texture shows grainy tannins, offers an elegant intepretation of the appellation, and shows good persistence. The mid palate is dominated by its savoury character at present. Given it was part of the vast Rauzan estate in olden times (together with Rauzan Segla and Gassies), it probably should be offering more than is evident today. 88
Haut Brion, Pessac, 1st Liquor-like aromas intermingle with perfume on the nose. There's a stunning, illuminated attack with crystalline red fruit predominating. Superb energy driving into the long, long finish. Primary for now, this is not yet showing any of the unique Haut Brion Graves character one might expect, of charcoal, smoke and stoney minerality. It will come in time - give it 15+ years. Demonstrating once again how good Haut Brion is in off-years (or average years to give 2007 its dues). 96
La Tour Carnet, Haut-Medoc, 4th As ambitious as its master, Bernard-Magrez, this is a big wine. A liquory nose leads you in, where the palate is rich, with confit fruit leavened with cedar. Modern but nevertheless quite impressive, it offers value and should settle down with age into a gentler form with a little more refinement. Very recent vintages have pulled back are are a bit more restrained. 89
Pichon Baron, Pauillac, 2nd Very creamy nose, anis seeds adding aromatic complexity to the dominant oak influence. Huge cedary attack., sweet fruited mid palate, where the spice and licorice kicks in. Creamy oak influence evident here too. Impressive in its style, but I personally would have preferred more elegance for a Super Second. Yet it's young, needs time, and is an engaging wine for those who are attracted to its powerful form. 92+
Calon Ségur, St Estephe, 3rd Always a 'giving' Cru with a good dose of Merlot, the nose immediately shows off its fruit, which is shot through with graphite. Nice intensity to the attack, creamy yet balanced, with an underlying exuberance that's contained. Medium length to the finish which ends a little flat. The ending lets the whole down for now, but may well gain in energy and interest with age. 92+
D'Issan, Margaux, 3rd Another estate owned by Lorenzetti, who has been making improvements here for longer than at Pedesclaux. Fruity nose, with gamey notes and a trademark D'Issan salinity. There's a super energy to the mid-palate, fruity then savoury and with great progression. Super-fresh, bright acidity is well integrated into the fruit, and is unforced in its style though I'd prefer a touch more finesse. This should develop very well with time, and should make finer old bones. 92
Lafite, Pauillac 1st Creamy nose, black pepper, but very much on its reserve. Superb intensity and an aromatic, floral quality to the fruit. This is defined at this stage of its evolution by refined tannins, is very persistent on the palate and leads into a rich, confit lemon finish. Stunning but terribly young for now. Should be magnificant in 10-20 years. 96+
Beychevelle, St Julien, 4th White pepper nose, a fine attack and a round mid palate, nicely integrated but a bit simple overall. For the cash, one expects more. 88
Kirwan, Margaux, 3rd Perfumed nose, confit, sticky fruit on a rich attack leading to a thickly textured, disjointed mid-palate. I can't help feel it would be a lot more interesting if it followed the less interventionist approach of D'Issan. Disappointing. 88
Grand Puy Ducasse, Pauillac, 5th Perfumed nose, licorice notes, Firm attack, medium weight fruity mid palate with the right amount of freshness to lend lift and definition, and a citric thread driving the finish. Surprisingly good. Perhaps we're so used to the excellence and consistency of Grand Puy Lacoste we're overlooked a 'value' Growth here? 91
Leoville Barton, St Julien, 2nd Balanced, classy perfumed nose is a big step up. Very energetic attack leads to a mid palate showing real complexity, mixing savoury notes with licorice and creamy red fruits. Good length, lovely. 93+
Ducru Beaucaillou, St Julien, 2nd Cedar and saline nose with a dash of perfume that adds complexity. Smooth entry, svelte fruit on the palate, giving the impression overall of a very polished wine. It's quite possible this is less mute on the palate than was my impression, and that the reserved nature of the fruit augurs well for the future. Somewhat worse for wear by this end point, the note was correspondingly short! 92+


Steen Öhman: The Burgundy market today

by Wine Owners

Posted on 2017-05-24




With the 2015 Burgundies arriving in the market these days and with more to come over the next period the market is showing mixed signals - some of continued excessive demand and some spell disaster for lesser producers trying to claim high prices.


The prices of the 2015 vintage

The price development for the 2015s shows a rather mixed picture at the primary level - some producers have showed great restraint and have in some cases kept the prices at 2014 level, whereas moderate increases have been seen even amongst the top producers in very high demand.

A lot of Burgundy producers are aware of the dangers of high prices even on village level, as these wines are now becoming very expensive in restaurants. If they want to maintain a good representation in restaurants the prices for a village level wine are near the limit - aside from the producers in extremely high demand.

Other producers seem not very aware of these dangers and have increased the 2015 prices by more than 20% - and while this may be viable in the very short run - I have talked to several wine bars and restaurants that have cut allocations already, and many will do so after the 2015 vintage. This will perhaps not have a huge effect on the 2016 vintage as the quantities are very small in some cases .. but in the long run some producers have priced themselves out of the market so to speak.


The 2016 vintage - what to expect

I have tasted some 2016s already and there are plenty of reasons to be optimistic, as quality looks very fine indeed. The wines are cooler than the 2015s, and in that way more classic. It's still too early to be very firm on the quality - but potentially a quite outstanding vintage - very well balanced and enjoyable for both the reds and the whites.

The quantities are very low due to the April frost, but also very uneven across the producers and appellations. My expectation would be that the low quantity will ensure a continued upward pressure on prices for the wines in demand, but the tendency could be trouble ahead for increases in prices for the wines with no real demand in the secondary market.



Francois Millet, Domaine Comte Georges de Vogüé - Picture: http://winehog.org/


The long-term effect of prices

In my view, we will see continued increases in prices on the wines in very high demand - i.e. wines getting high prices in the secondary market thus ensuring a margin for those who buy the wines in the primary market.

These wines will still be in demand, as many people will keep allocations as it's a good investment, but larger share will eventually end up in the secondary market. Some of these wines are now priced beyond the limits of the average quite well off consumer, and will be traded accordingly. Restaurants will do the same, and as it becomes more difficult to sell the wines at the tables - they will also cash-in offering wines on the secondary market.

The wines not in demand in the secondary market will eventually have problems, as consumers will cut allocations and move on to other products.

This is where Bordeaux was 15 - 20 years ago, and while the top Bordeaux wines have managed to increase prices the lesser wines from Bordeaux are struggling with low demand and low prices even though quality and the value of these wines often can be tremendous these days.

Take a look at the wine lists of today and note how limited the Bordeaux offerings often are these days - compared to 20 years ago.



Burgundy will prevail but demand will be more volatile

With the small quantities produced in Burgundy the risk of a full meltdown is not imminent even with the latest increases in prices. Some producers will struggle as they will be caught between the need or urge to increase prices and the restrain shown by some of the top estates regarding the prices on the low-level wines.

A good negociant will be facing the fact that their Vosne village will cost the same as the wines from a top end producer in the primary market. That is not sustainable in the long run - and these producers could well see a collapsing demand within a few years.

As prices go up I expect demand to be more volatile, as the focus on the great vintages will increase. This has happened in Bordeaux and with the globalisation and available price information around the clock this will also be the case with Burgundy.

So, I expect increasing and more volatile prices for the wines in demand, and a sluggish market for the producers with high prices without a good demand from the secondary market.


The calculative consumer

As the prices increase the consumers will be more calculative and look at the historic prices and the development in the prices and availability of back vintages. Is it the right time to buy, can the same wine in an equally good back-vintage be found on the market at a lower cost.

The conscious consumer will check these things, and will search for information, to ensure a good price and ensure a good investment, even though the wine is bought for pure pleasure. Importantly consistency in the prices seen in relation to back vintages will be needed at least for wines produced in relatively large quantities.

This will increase the focus on services that offer historic data on prices and the possibility to validate and research the “true” market price.


The rising stars will emerge and shine brightly

Furthermore, we will see new talented producers pop up - and become in fashion within a very short time - and achieve high demand for these wines in the secondary market very rapidly as the producers get the acclaim from the wine press. So, exciting times where buyers and investors must be on their toes to follow the trends in Burgundy.

As a wine writer, it's exciting times in Burgundy as new talents emerge all the time, and old somewhat lacklustre estates are transformed to a new star within a few years with the arrival of a new generation.

So, stay on your toes, stay tuned in and informed on winehog.org - a yearly subscription is only 29€ - sign up here 


Steen Öhman

Chief Tasting Officer

Winehog.org 


NB:

The team at Wine Owners love Steen’s Burgundy reviews. Just like us, he was an impassioned collector, until he decided to pack in his day job and apply his palate to Burgundy for the good of mankind (and perhaps to gain a little personal enlightenment along the way).

An annual subscription with https://Winehog.org is a bit of a bargain; plus the reviews are accessible, and when we taste the wines that Steen’s tasted, we ‘get it’. Furthermore he’s a real discoverer, so if you're the sort of collector who loves the idea of buying into the next young Burgundy buck before the rest of the world catches on and spoils the price, you really should subscribe!


Latour, biodynamics and Demeter

by Wine Owners

Posted on 2017-05-17


Latour’s conversion to organically produced vines began almost 20 years ago when they stopped using chemical herbicides. Since then, they started experimenting with new techniques, and in 2015, 100% of L’Enclos was organic and 50% of it was biodynamic.

Producing according to biodynamic techniques is not new. This method applies ancestral practices of using only ingredients from the farm and maximising their impact. For example, fertilizing is from the manure from the cows and horses living on the estate, mixed in with different flowers of certain specific properties. This main idea is to create a sustainable and circular ecosystem aimed at protecting the earth and make it more fertile by freeing nature to multiply the microbial activity in the soil.

Pontet Canet can be considered as one of the pioneers. They did their first biodynamic trial in 2004 and the results turned out to be very positive: the vines were brighter and tighter. Alfred extended the test parcel and the vineyard became fully converted in 2006; a first for a Médoc Classified Growth. Ten year’s on, and their most recent vintages show an aromatic complexity that is quite clearly much more evident when compared to their wines from the mid 200s.

Now more and more vineyards use biodynamic practises to grow their vines and in the winemaking. After decades of intensive farming many of the top vineyards in Burgundy and Bordeaux, including Domaine Leroy and Domaine Leflaive, began looking for new options since their soils were being exhausted and couldn’t sustain healthy vines with good grapes.

The biodynamic label, Demeter, has recently gained popularity in the Bordeaux region. Chateau Durfort-Vivens has this year been fully certified by Demeter, with the designation proudly added to their bottling in the form of a strip label. In a variable year the Margaux appellation, Durfort-Vivens 2016 showed out of cask as a wine of character, with a lovely aromatic profile,crunch fruit and a chewy, black cherry infused finish.

But it’s far from a one-way argument. As weather patterns become more extreme, protecting the plant and its fruit from the element under a strict biodynamic regime can be risky.

A wave of quality obsessed Burgundy producers increasingly use biodynamic treatments in a mixed approach to vineyard husbandry where the focus is on the soil’s microbial strength. But with repeated hailstorms, and the risk of rot in a warm humid environment, it takes a brave man or woman to forgo other practical fall-back options.

It’s a rich man’s game. Small Burgundy producers cannot afford repeated losses to disease when conditions get really rough and biodynamics might not be sufficient without heavy and repeated doses of copper sulphate,something which producers adopting biodynamic viticulture are reluctant to do with concerns about creating copper residues in the soil.

Château Palmer is a leading proponent of biodynamics and has been undertaking a great deal of research on test barrels of recent vintages, both in the vineyard and in the cellar and reducing use of sulphur as a stabilising agent. In 2016 they misjudged with one too-few copper sulphate treatments resulting in an attack of mildew, reducing their overall production volumes to just 28hl/ha, a miserly figure for Bordeaux in a generous year where most quality producers cropped at 45-50 hl/ha.

Yet biodynamics is ‘back’ here to stay, even if those who apply for Demeter certification are likely to be outnumbered by those who simply practise biodynamic principles and use many of the treatments.

Further north in Saumur, the legendary Loire estate Clos Rougeard has been practising biodynamics for ever. In the 1960s and 1970s when their neighbours embraced synthetic fertilisers and chemicals, they were mocked for holding true to their ancestral principles practised since the time of their great grandfather.

The last word goes to Nadi Fourcault, the remaining brother of Clos Rougeard (only recently bought by the Bouygues family who also own Chateau Montrose). “The only thing that’s revolutionary about us is that we’ve never changed.”



Bordeaux en primeur 2016: a weepy

by Wine Owners

Posted on 2017-03-28


The potential of the 2016 Bordeaux en primeur assessed from a comparative examination of the weather conditions

There is a weather station located near the airport in Bordeaux which has been recording details of rainfall and temperature since 1911. It’s worth mentioning that rain in Bordeaux-Merignac does not mean rain in St.Emilion; nor does the absence of rain in Merignac on a particular day signify no rain in Margaux. But if the 2016 Bordeaux en primeur campaign is to find traction then some consideration of the weather is important.

THE RAIN

Looking at a Table of Cumulative Precipitation (below) which covers several of the greatest vintages of the last 2 centuries (with a couple extra thrown in to demonstrate the ‘exceptions which prove the rule’), one is immediately struck by one anomaly - the 1982 vintage (the others we know about).

It is a sine qua non of red wine grape production to have a sufficient period of dry weather in the summer to induce hydric stress in the vine so that the plant will cease growth and focus on maturing its fruit. It’s also a general rule that wet weather at harvest time is not conducive to healthy picking conditions and produces rot.

Table of Cumulative Precipitation

THE HEAT

It is widely accepted that warm weather (as opposed to canicular heat - remember that 2003 had 50 days of temperatures warmer than 30°) is another critical ingredient in the production of great wine (also interesting to see just how much cooler it was in 1982) - see the table below of Maximum Average Temperatures.

Maximum Average Temperatures

Clearly, the temperature progression during 2016 was unusual and extraordinary. Not shown, but also relevant, is a table constructed of average minimum temperatures: 2016 was about average, and slightly cooler than many other years in July; certainly not as warm as 2003.

ASSESSMENT OF BORDEAUX 2016 VINTAGE

Whilst the general weather picture for a vintage is a good prognostication of the quality of the wines not everyone will have been dealt the same cards. Terroirs are not the same. Not every estates’ ambitions are equivalent. Not every vigneron has the tools, techniques and vision to maximise the potential. Some producers will undoubtedly over-reach themselves. Comparing the general climatic conditions for 2016 with other remarkable vintages several features of the 2016 Bordeaux vintage stand out:

    - First, 2016 had no phenomenological events of any significance eg frost.

    - Second, the precipitation in the growing season and replenishment of the water table set it up for drier conditions later in the year. Of course, warmer humid weather at this time meant vigilance in case of mildew etc.

    - Third, the uniformity of temperatures and the progression of average temperatures until August, without the heat spikes of 2003.

    - Fourth, August was an unusually sunny month in 2016.

    - Fifth: the dry, warm months of July and August were followed by a beautiful autumn.

On the face of it, the charts above, general as they are, demonstrate that 2016 was one of the most remarkable years that Bordeaux vineyards have ever experienced. One might, with some justification, call it a ‘benchmark’ year. Coupled with the advancement in oenology and the investment in the vineyards which have been undertaken in the last 30 years and if meteorology were the only factor in determining vintage quality (so ignoring viticultural practises, key husbandry decisions, winemaking approaches and trends, sharp temperature spikes masked by monthly averages) then 2016 could be one of the greatest, if not the greatest of Bordeaux vintages. However, the true quality of the vintage will only be demonstrated by the en primeur tastings which are about to commence.

Estates are surely crying (with happiness) over their wines and as for the rest of us, to paraphrase Goethe: “If you've never drunk wine while crying, you don’t know what life tastes like.”

Stay with Wine Owners as we taste our way through the Bordeaux appellations next week. Follow our tweets @WineOwners1. As ever we shall represent the voice of the wine lover and collector pointing out where there's value and where it makes no sense to buy early. Not forgetting the merits in back vintages that en primeur comparative evaluation often spotlights. We look forward to your company along the way.

Tables: compiled and coloured by Wine Owners from data by Infoclimat


La La Land

by Wine Owners

Posted on 2017-03-22


Few producers ever achieve the magical 100 point rating from the Wine Advocate. Parker’s ratings have been the most influential in the world, so to achieve the magic century is quite some accolade; to achieve it more than once is the stuff of dreams; to achieve it 28 times as have Guigal’s famed Cote Rotie triumvirate of La Landonne, La Turque and La Mouline (collectively nicknamed ‘the La Las’) is unprecedented. No other producer from a single appellation comes close.

You might have thought that these three wine with a claim to be among the finest in the world should cost the earth, shouldn’t they? Well, in fact they don’t – at least not in comparison with the finest wines of Bordeaux, Burgundy and California.  

For the purposes of this analysis we’re going to look at the 2009 vintage, which paints a fairly typical picture for these wines. Historically there is very little variation in the values of the three wines, with prices often within a 3% range. So, this chart for La Mouline ’09 is mirrored closely by the other two. What is immediately noticeable is that prices have, until midway through last year, fallen consistently. This despite two 100 point scores in November 2013 and September 2014!

The fall in price is on a par with the falls in value of Bordeaux wines in the same period, but importantly the La Las did not have a huge price rise immediately prior to the falls that insulated many buyers from the slump. It seems, on the face of it that Guigal’s amazing wines were simply the victim of a lack of global interest in Rhone wines at the top end.

This seems to be changing however, as over the last 6 to 9 months the relatively attractive pricing has found favour, and sentiment seems to have turned positive. All good vintages across all three wines are moving upwards, and demand is out-stripping supply for the first time in many years. 

La Mouline 09 is 15% up since July, and is on its way back to the £4000 a case level last seen in early 2013. In our view there is reason* to be confident that this recovery is a fundamental re-evaluation of the value of the wine, rather than simply the beneficial effect of weak Sterling, and there is definitely reason* to add this to a cellar, for both investment and drinking purposes.

So, what is this reason you may well ask?

Sadly, the La La’s were among the chosen wines of various boiler room, sales led operations who decided that they were ideal wines to sell as investments to unsuspecting investors at way over fair market prices. This created skewed pricing and led to reputational damage to the wines that caused prices to drop. Thankfully most of these operations have now closed down, and their negative impact on the market has dissipated. The secondary market is now a healthier place for these great wines, and prices are once again reflecting the supreme quality and longevity of Rhone’s finest.



Ten tips to get through Valentine's Day

by Wine Owners

Posted on 2017-02-13


Romance and wine are irrevocably linked for the simple reason that alcohol reduces our inhibitions and allows the true poetry in our souls to bubble to the surface. And if we're not quite as lyrical as we'd hoped, it gives us a very good excuse the next day. So here are 10 tips to help you navigate the wine pitfalls of Valentine's Day. (But that is all. We can't guarantee love).

1. Order a couple of glasses of champagne whilst you're looking at the menu. And let your date have one of them. Champagne shows you have class and you care.

2. Try Italian. Any Italian wine will enable chaps to pretend they're Casanova, whilst ladies can dream they're in Venice or Florence.

3. Women like pinot noir. Yes, it's expensive, but is she not worth it? Try one from Russian River or Oregan or go wild with a Nuits St Georges or Chambolle from Burgundy. Speak like Louis Garrel and she'll have shivers down her spine.

4. The Spanish are arguably more passionate than the French or Italians. Lively whites from Verdejo, Godello and Albarino and intense reds from the Rioja and Ribera del Duero. You can get all emotional and wear a cape and tight trousers, but girls, avoid the moustache.

5. Look into your dates' eyes as you sip red wine. It will light your face with a rosy tint and make you even more attractive. Yates wrote "Wine enters through the mouth, Love (through) the eyes." Make sure you get it the right way round.

6. Spice up your relationship with a peppery little shiraz or grenache. Try wines from the untamed landscapes of the Southern Rhone and Languedoc. Think Wuthering Heights with grapes. Adding pepper to a glass of house red may not have the same effect.

7. If you're nervous and tongue-tied, splash out on some proper claret. You will feel like a Scottish Laird and talk like Sean Connery.

8. Sweeten the mood. Try dessert wine. Perhaps have it instead of dessert, if you're watching the waistline. Sauternes, Coteaux du Layon or great German Riesling will inspire all manner of affectionate language like honey and sweetie, but we suggest you avoid calling anyone pudding.

9. Beware the rugby club humour of buying wines with names that talk for you. "Flowers" and "Fairytale" are just cheesy. "Flirt", "Menage a Trois" and "Fourplay" (an Italian red) may leave you facing an empty seat.

10. Finally, however well it goes, bear in mind Rosalind's words in As You Like it. " I pray you do not fall in love with me, for I am falser than vows made in wine."



Domaine de la Romanée Conti 2014 vintage

by Wine Owners

Posted on 2017-02-06


Let me first put my hand up and say I’m a fan of 2014 as a Burgundy vintage. It seems to me to be a year of rather lovely balance across the board. No doubt with exceptions, it’s a vintage to buy as high up the qualitative tree as you can afford, quite unlike 2015 where the hot summer provided a metaphorical leg up to wines on cooler, less exposed sites and colder soils.

Adam Brett-Smith, Managing Director of Corney & Barrow the UK exclusive agent for DRC, describes 2014 as the ‘happy vintage’ but warns that it’s easily underestimated. I do agree. The wines may be ‘on the fruit’ and correspondingly expressive, but there’s sufficient fine-grained structure, dry extract and acidity to see the wines develop over the medium to longer term.

The ability of Burgundies to age from classic or un-showy vintages seems consistently under-called by wine critics, especially where there’s a degree of natural concentration through moderate or normal yields, which seems to make a big difference to the finickety nature of Pinot Noir. 2014 should age effortlessly for 15-20 years.

TASTING NOTES

Corton

Warm, red fruited nose. An expressive, spiced attack with nice energy and a twist of licorice. A degree of firmness merely hints at the character of the archetypal Corton appellation (although there is huge variation between the various Corton soils) and leads into a giving, fruity finish.

Échézeaux

An inviting yeasty nose, in turn earthy and creamy. Once again, a degree of firmness that’s overridden by open, expressive, croquant fruit. It’s a wine that pinotents – delivering the essence of Pinot Noir, into a finish that’s framed with an orange citrus cut.

Grands Échézeaux

A fresher nose, vinous and earthy. There’s greater complexity, finely balanced with a bit more structure, more defined and an elemental, vinous character. On its reserve for now, with a freshness and depth that tempts a prediction of a great GE.

Romanée-St-Vivant

Sweet pastille fruit on entry, less evident grip, more expressive with greater mid palate volume. Super upfront fruit with a fine grained back palate. Freshness kicks in on the finish with good persistence.

Richebourg

Liquory aromas rise from the glass. Power comes through on the nose but paradoxically there’s a balancing restraint to it. Greater intensity than preceding wines, much less up-front fruit but with a bit more torque - progressive, earthy and very complex. Flashes of fruit push through, towards a grainy back palate with building intensity. Real grip and substance with old vine character.

La Tâche

Another step up, right now it presents as a more chiselled form of the Richebourg, a rather elegant and cushioned expression of La Tâche at this early stage. There’s lots of latent power and a sense of reserve on the back palate with a long and persistent finale.

Romanée-Conti

Expressive nose of fruit, earth, and a greater sense of minerality. Powerful yet very refined. Darker character, with a brightly illuminated outline to the dark fruit. A controlled finish with fine-grained grip and a sense of penetrating depth.




2015 Burgundy in context

by Wine Owners

Posted on 2017-01-30


This report is written on the back of 3 days of tasting cask samples and back vintages chez producers in Burgundy, hot on the heels of the London tastings.

We visited 13 small producers and tasted well over 100 wines in cellars, tasting rooms and producers’ homes, evenly split between the Cote de Nuits and Cote de Beaune.

The London en primeur tastings showed open wines with plenty of fruit. Those that were bursting with energy stood out, with some showing somewhat mute: a little flat or lacking in definition. Such are the challenges of transporting samples directly from barrel and expecting them to perform. Sometimes they do, often they don’t.

Barrel tastings in situ are a much better opportunity to judge wines individually and form a view on the vintage overall. Unsurprisingly the wines showed much more consistently than they had done in London.

If you can taste alongside prior vintages, as we did on a few occasions, that’s all the better as it provides useful context.

Comparisons have been drawn with previous vintages by commentators, notably 2005 and 2009 (presumably due to the hot summers they all have in common).

The producers don’t agree. 2009s show in a bigger, atypical mould. 2005s are considerably more tannic, built for the very long term, and most will need a good while yet. A few producers see 2005 as the greatest vintage of their generation, but many more look to 1999 as their benchmark.

2015 has the fruit and accessibility of 2012, with more volume and structure, and seemingly similar PHs. It’s an alluring vintage without the generally slacker character of 2009. Most of the successes were picked early, before the rains on 10th September. But some held off and still produced lovely wine. Others who harvested after the 10th have wines that seem to me to be too sweet, perceptibly lower in acidity and have less fine tannins. For the majority that were successful, the watchword was very little or no punching down, almost everyone opting for gentle extractions.

Some producers went for a high proportion of whole bunch fermentation. Those practising the inclusion of whole bunches do so to add an extra sense of freshness and complexity. It’s worth pointing out that stems actually slightly increase the PH, so lowering acidity in the finished wine. But they also contribute different, plant-derived flavours such as eucalyptus and mint, and it’s possibly this that gives the impression of making the wine feel light-footed. Perhaps the marginal lowering of acidity also contributes to a silkier mouth feel. Theoretically whole bunches also add a bit of structure, but I’d guess it depends on what percentage is used and often you don’t sense it.

Having tasted plenty of wines with and without whole bunches, it does seem that a common aspect of the vintage character is the silkiness of the tannins that are present irrespective of these types of winemaking decisions.

Another facet of 2015 is its lovely concentration. Pinot Noir excels in vintages that aren’t bountiful. Yields in 2015 were generally lower than in 2014, 1990 or 1999. This was especially true of the Cote de Beaune because the vines hadn’t fully recovered from the stressing effects of hail in the preceding years.

2015s are fruity, rich, with good density and show definition. On balance I personally preferred cooler sites – due to location, aspect or being in a windy spot. But others will favour out-and-out richness and a broad-shouldered character from the warmer sites. We all have our palate preferences and that’s as it should be. In any case there are no universal rules to successful buying in 2015 since the different vineyard characters shine through.

The greatest relative successes are the lesser appellations. There are some truly superb Bourgogne rouge and village level wines. You’d be seriously missing out if you just focus on trophy wines.

Village wines in 2015 are priced similarly to the levels of Premier Crus from just 2 vintages ago. Grand Crus are up by a third in many cases. If you go long on 2015 now and choose to rationalise in a few years’ time, there are no guarantees that you’ll get your money back.

If you ask which were my favourite communes in 2015 that especially shone, I’d plump for Pommard, Aloxe-Corton, Chambolle-Musigny, Morey-St-Denis and Gevrey-Chambertin.

Nevertheless, I was delighted by lovely wines from Auxey-Duresses, Santenay and Volnay. I thought Nuits-St-Georges and Vosne-Romanée were stunning successes in 2014, and it was no surprise that they showed at least as superbly in 2015.

By now you’ll have formed the impression that 2015 is a great vintage across-the board. Indeed it is. Yet not everyone is happy.

A proportion of long-term collectors are refusing their allocations this year for the first time, which may tell us something about the sustainability of these levels. Some of those ‘given up’ allocations are going to overseas buyers who spend vast annual sums with the big London merchants. But Burgundy producers are well aware of the grey market of en primeur releases originating out of the UK. For now, they are tolerant of it, but for how much longer?

Many merchants are concentrating allocations in the hands of their wealthiest buyers who spend by far the most throughout the rest of the year. And when I say spend, I mean spend. Their dependence on wine investors or wine accumulators makes it harder for them to allocate widely, and correspondingly difficult for Burgundy lovers to gain access to many Grand Crus and Premier Crus. In that fundamental sense the market has changed out of all proportion.

Overall takings at the 2016 annual Hospices auction were down 25% on the previous year (although it’s worth remembering the historic 2015 auction record was in aid of the Paris victims of the IS-inspired atrocities). There is less of 2016 to go around due to the catastrophic late April frosts from the tip to almost the toe of the Cote D’Or, but the quality of what was made is very good and it’s another warm vintage.

If you’re UK based, one other thing to consider is that the Sterling Euro exchange rate will be volatile over the next couple of years, and many will be betting against the Euro during this timeframe. Presidential election results in France in 2017 could have a major impact on the Euro’s relative strength or weakness.

With this in mind, and given the extremely high release prices in the UK for 2015 Burgundy, it’s worth revisiting 2014 for all those who held back.

With a few months or more in bottle, the red wines are showing superbly, with dark, ripe fruit, excellent minerality and sufficient structure to assure medium to longer term drinking.

2014 is a good vintage. It’s a more classic red Burgundy vintage than 2015, majoring on its lovely balance. Based on these tastings, I am delighted to have bought so much of it.

2014 white wines have wonderful intensity, and though enjoyable for their terrific concentration already, are going to age beautifully. I’ll be laying down my best bottles for 15 or more years, but will surely be tempted to dip in regularly along the way.

2013 was plagued by miserable weather. Producers needed to battle the elements, along with mildew and rot. They had to work assiduously all the way through. Perhaps because of this the best producers are proud of their achievements. Reds 'pinottent', that is to say they show fine, overt varietal expression in a really fresh, lifted mid-weight style, with one proviso: just so long as vineyard husbandry was top notch the wines were able to draw energy from the life of the soil and yields were managed to concentrate the berries.

2013 reds may be mid-weight, but the best have a lovely ethereal intensity, and village wines are starting to drink already; they have none of the hardness and excoriating acidity of 1996, or the sharpness of 2006. Tasted 2 years ago as barrel samples 2013s were particularly taciturn, rather dry and mute, as you might imagine the product of such filthy weather. Today they are transformed.

However much the 2015 white wines are being talked up as being fresher than one could have imagined given the heat of the year (and they are), they are simply not in the same class as 2014. They lack the same degree of definition, intensity and breeding with which that vintage is blessed.

With prices increasing for whites too, there’s really very little reason to go long on them this year, and it’s noticeable that recent merchant emails contain a lot more white wines still on offer compared with the mostly sold-out reds. I’ve only bought a few affordable cases for nearer term drinking, and thought the best vineyard sites of Mercurey in the Cote Challonaise showed particularly well. But I’ll be drinking them well before my 2014s.

As a parting footnote, don't overlook Moulin-a-vent in the Beaujolais. From the red granite soils of the appellation’s best terroirs and in the able hands of top Cote D’Or producers, Gamay shows what it can create: truly a noble grape.


2015 Burgundy - a superb vintage

by Wine Owners

Posted on 2017-01-06


With the highly touted 2015 Burgundy campaign upon us, we can be sure of two things: it is a superb vintage, and prices will rise.

Let’s be honest, Burgundy is for wine lovers. Although we may have more Bordeaux in our cellars - steady, consistent, blended excellence - it is fickle, flirtatious Burgundy which steals our hearts. And the whole world is now falling in love with Burgundy, courting the tiny quantities and ready to take our place in the queue.

The pure, ripe fruit of the 2015s will tempt early drinking, but if we want to experience the extraordinary range of flavours, textures and sensations that fine burgundy can produce, we must be prepared to wait. Or to seek out mature wines from great producers in other vintages. Remember, in Burgundy more than anywhere, it is the producer who matters more than the vineyard or the year.

So rather than bet the whole house on the latest vintage, now might be the time to review the Burgundies that your fellow collectors have offered for sale on the fine wine exchange.

There is a dazzling range of beautiful wines available, from the most humble appellations to the greatest of Grand Crus. Some are for drinking now, others for keeping for the future, whatever that may bring. Some are in bond and some are duty paid, but DP prices are never more than their In Bond case equivalents and there is no VAT for exchange buyers. All were bought when the pound was much stronger and prices were lower. Prices of Burgundy’s back vintages may never be this low again.



So where would you start?

Chardonnay is arguably easier to enjoy across the board in youth than Pinot Noir. 2014 whites have greater precision and zest than their 2015 counterparts and it is probably the best vintage since 2001. 2014s are only just starting to appear as offers for sale on the secondary market and they are unquestionably worth having in any cellar.

As long as yields of this naturally exuberant varietal are constrained, there is plenty to pick from: 2013, 2012, 2010, 2007 were all very good, whilst there are some terrific 2006s with nerve and energy, in contrast to lush and giving 2008s. Very late malolactic fermentations in 2001 lent plenty of substance to the best wines; they had longer to feed off their nourishing lees. When looking at 2005 and earlier fears of premature oxidation (premox) have really hurt the market. But there are still old bones that are simply thrilling.

Looking to red Burgundy, consider 2005 - considered one of the great vintages and should make fine old bones, but there's tannins aplenty, some more puckering than others depending on extraction, that suggests another 10-20 years will be required. Indeed they may be drinking in the same window as 2015 or later! 

Consider 2010, a vintage with the nerve and intensity of 2008 married to the flesh of a vintage like 1995.

If you want to buy into a vintage that was overlooked when released but that has evolved into one of the most exciting we’ve tasted look to 2002, a lesson if ever there was one in how pinot noir loves luminosity more than heat. These are wines with fine intensity and great purity.

Talking of which, if you’re a classicist and enjoy form over flattery, 2001 is starting to climb the upward slope of maturity with wines that are sappy and crystalline but may have yet to reach their peaks.

The truly great 1999s are lusciously fleshy, sweetly spiced and dense, but at the same time so coiled, that most Grand Crus will surely need another 5-10 years. Many premier crus and village wine are gorgeous now.

2012 is a successful recent vintage that had really low yields (a very good thing for Pinot Noir) but will be cheaper than 2015. Producers love 2012 thanks to their fabulous balance and flattering ripe fruit, which nonetheless blankets an underlying structure for mid term appreciation.

The top tips for 2015s (whatever we say, we know you’ll want to buy some!) are that the lesser appellations, cooler climates and colder soils will excel. You don't need to stretch to the top of the tree to find great Pinot Noir in 2015 to drink over the next 15 years, which is great news for Burgundy lovers and something to be thankful for in a very expensive vintage.

Buying back vintages vs new releases

Other than exceptionally hard to find Grand Crus and Holy Grail producers’ best wines – that you’re either allocated or you’re not – it’s worth looking to premier crus from producers with good reputations for quality and value-hunting.

Take Beaune Grèves L’Enfant Jésus from Bouchard Père et Fils. Whilst back vintages were much cheaper at release than they are today, there isn’t much between the release price of 2015 or any number of superb back vintages.

As the chart below shows, the superb 1999 vintage is still cheaper today than the release price of 2015, the equally acclaimed 2010 is the same price, but you can drink it in 10 years instead of having to wait until the 2030s for the 2015; and only the 2005 and 2002 are a little more expensive – but not hideously so.



Raving about Rhone

by Wine Owners

Posted on 2016-12-13


2015 is the best Northern Rhone vintage in 55 years, according to this article on JancisRobinson.com. That’s some statement given the quality of vintages over the last 15 years or so, including the superb 1999, which at the top end is just coming into its drinking window.

Great though 2015 is, it isn’t going to satisfy drinking requirements in the short term, even at more modest levels, whereas my bottle of Chave Offerus (St. Joseph) 1999 is melt-in-the-mouth gorgeous now.

Outside of the Rhone elite and their blue chip labels that can appreciate markedly in value over the medium-to-longer term, along with some of the region’s special cuvees and bottlings, these are not wines to use as a store of value. They do not appreciate in value. They are wines to enjoy. But they need time to come around. As impressive as new vintages are, they express in youth only a general sense of the wine they will become.

In our estimation these are wines that are depressingly under-appreciated. As you’d expect from such a large region of production, styles vary enormously. They variously show varietal character, complexity, precision, texture, and depth of flavour with more than just a touch of minerality.

If you’ve not tasted mature white Rhone recently, you could well find the waxy texture, floral and white peach character refreshingly braided with acidity an exciting experience. For the quality and complexity these great wines offer, many are cheap. Not a word I use lightly, but they really are terrific value and hold their own in the company of any of the world’s great whites.

Though it’s tempting to buy into great new releases, and potentially worthwhile at the top of the tree, there’s no kudos in hanging onto cases of wine and paying a decade or two’s worth of storage, when you can drink the real thing without playing stockholder.

There really is something for everyone.

View Rhone offers on the exchange



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