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Bordeaux 2016 - our tasting notes

by Wine Owners

Posted on 2017-04-24


For a detailed overview of the vintage, please see What you need to know about Bordeaux 2016 reds

This year’s Bordeaux 2016 en primeur tasting notes reflect the vintage and its character. You’ll see the same words come up again and again in our tasting notes.

For fruit character, that commonly includes "briar fruit", "cassis" or "blackcurrant" and "sherbetty fruit". Very few showed prune or confit fruit character, and we generally marked these ones down as potentially showing overripe characteristics.

For non-fruit character, it’s "licorice" and "cedar". An Interestingly definitional note: Licorice (or liquorice) is extracted from the root of Glycyrrhiza glabra, a herb whose extract is 50 times sweeter than sugar!

Many of the best wines have a "liqueur-like" refined nose and a similar mouth-feel.

Structurally, a "charge of tannins" is very evident on the attack, often accompanied by a "chewy" finish. This comes from the July/August drought when lack of water led to the plants shutting down and producing correspondingly higher tannins.

The long autumn hang-time with cool nights led to the sense of freshness in the wines. You’ll find lots of wines in my notes that are "mouth-watering", "sappy" and "threaded with acidity".

The finish of the wine is so important when evaluating young, fine (and expensive) wine and this year the finishes are typified by the word "controlled" whilst there was generally very good "insistent" length. It’s that sense of containment and balance on the finish that helps make the best wines so good and sets them apart from the rest.

Further tasting notes will release on the right bank in due course where I did the least tasting, and see these links for what the critics think of St Emilion and Pomerol.

DECANTER - Bordeaux 2016 Right Bank: Anson’s first impression

JANCIS ROBINSON - Bordeaux 2016 : the guide

Picture: Wine Owners Ltd.

SAINT ESTEPHE

Producer Score Favourited Description Price bracket Appellation
Cos D'Estournel 98 * Cedary, sweet nose. Then a charge of tannin. Firm fruit, progressively building from a cool mid palate to a powerful, broad finish - rather like a fan opening or a peacock's tail slowly revealing its intricate colours.   £££ Saint Estephe
Montrose 97 Liqueur like nose. Cassis and cedar notes in the attack then sweet mouthwatering, very balanced mid palate. Sweet finish. Very fine. £££ Saint Estephe
Calon Ségur 97 * Blackcurrant nose, airy, structured attack, liqueur-like texture, then rich summer fruits and a warmer than anticipated finish. Nice firm undercurrent nonetheless as the soft tannins push through and bring needed focus to the finale. £££ saint Estephe
Le Crock 95 * Refined nose, lovely attack, grainy fruit. Tremendous attack and energy. Dark fruit infused with licorice. Complete, large scaled and satisfying. ££ saint Estephe
Lafon Rochet 95 * This is fine. Spiced, sweet fruit on the attack and mid palate, a big tannic charge and chewy finish. This is long term, big-scaled and really serious. ££ Saint Estephe
Chateau Phelan Segur 93 * Svelte, dense, lots of freshness, spiced attack. Soyeux, with a point of freshness at the finish. ££ Saint Estephe
Cos Labory 93 * Good density and attack. Very good complexity to the fruit. Mid weight. Super length. Quite clearly the best since the superb 1990. ££ Saint Estephe
Ormes de Pez 92 * Seasoned nose, a touch of cassis and cream, glorious cassis fruit and blackcurrant leaf. Great freshness and zesty finish.  ££ Saint Estephe

Pagodes

92 Gentle attack, a sweet flourish and a mouthwatering mid-palate. Attractive, if not the most impressive St Estephe this year. ££ Saint Estephe
Dame de Montrose 91 Lovely attack, good dry fruit, nice lift and fine finish. ££ Saint Estephe
Meyney 93 * Liqueur-like in its texture, a super attack of cassis crème. Long, intense, well balanced and super-well integrated. I love St Estepehe in 2016 £ Saint Estephe
Chateau de Pez 92 * Super-vibrant, a little sweeter than some, but nicely done and a great finish. £ Saint Estephe
Marquis de Calon Segur 90 Evident structure, quite sweet mid-palate but lots of sap to it too to accompany the ripeness, hence the finish coats the lips with a dollop of cassis jam. £ Saint Estephe
Capberne Casqueton 89 Savoury, attractive attack with good weight, a noticeable intensity, but just a little less energy for me than 2010. Second best ever vintage of this wine. £ Saint Estephe
Tronquoy Lalande 89 Briar fruit, quite deep, merlot heavy and correspondingly plush. £ Saint Estephe
Haut Marbuzet 88 It's fine, but in a veritable constellation of terrific St Estephe performances, this is closer to the back of the classroom. £ Saint Estephe


PAUILLAC

Producer Score Favourited Description Price bracket Appellation
Lafite Rothschild 99 * Subtle, elegant, understated. Buffered tannins, very, very complex fruit with an illuminated fringe of acidity. It's an exercise in balance with a firm, insistent finish. ££££ Pauillac
Mouton 98 Aromatic, perfumed, sensual nose. Lush, huge, spiced with cloves. Powerful and dense. Very fine complex palate, anise seeds. Amazingly well-integrated tannins. ££££ pauillac
Latour 97 Restrained nose, fruit attack, buffered tannins, complex with an iron infusion and a touch a meatiness, leading to a firm finish.  ££££ Pauillac
Carruades de Lafite 96 * Mouthwatering attack, Covered, voluminous fruit. Powerful, serious wine. Licorice. Very, very long. Best ever. ££££ Pauillac
Pichon Longueville Lalande 99 * Subdued nose, then a very refined attack, more backward than many, but there's evident intensity of fruit, a wonderful aromatic quality, with great prickly acidity throughout. Not showy, but extremely impressive in its reserved, elemental state. It feels like it could be a legend in the making. £££ Pauillac
Pontet Canet 97 * Saline, eucalyptus nose, powerful attack. Sweeter than some others. Unctuous but a beautiful balance. The sweet fruit submerges the considerable tannins. Then a sappy, mouthwatering lift. Pure, powerful and in line with the character of the vintage, a firm finish. £££ pauillac
Pichon Baron Longeuville 96 Vinous nose. Fine attack and mid palate, showing balance and control. Super-refined. Aromatic, characterful and complete. £££ Pauillac
Lynch Bages 96 * Deep nose, packed with fruit. Energetic attack. A formidable charge of tannins; chewy, bright attack. Settled, calm finish. £££ pauillac
Petit Mouton 93 Very fine nose, svelte, integrated, balanced powerful, long and large scaled. £££ pauillac
Chateau Clerc Milon 96 * Seasoned nose, restrained, quite high acidity. Very mouthwatering and dry. Vinous mid palate. Firm, damsons, réglisse, very svelte finish. Liqueur quality of texture. Very refined but not polished or made-up. ££ Pauillac
Grand Puy Lacoste 95 * Rich and generous nose, with a touch of licorice. Smooth, supremely balanced wine featuring crystalline fruit. As good as 2010. ££ pauillac
Réserve de la Comtesse 94 * Vinous nose, perfumed with myrrh, delightfully textured and delicious mid palate. It's hard not to fall in love with this. ££ Pauillac
D'Armailhac 94 Liqueur-like, fine nose. Good attack. Fine thread of acidity. Sweet mid palate and very controlled, sweet, sappy finish. Lots of tannin, very well integrated.  ££ pauillac
Echo (Lynch Bages) 92 Large-scaled, aromatic fruit, nice grip, sappy, dry mid palate. Characterful. ££ Pauillac
Chateau Duhart Milon 91 Warm, vinous nose. Quite an overt palate. Slightly bitter twist to the fruit. Quite intense. Powerful tannic charge in the mid-palate. Reminds me of the 89s when they were babies. Ambitious. ££ pauillac
Chateau Croizet Bages 91 Covered, thickly styled fruit, cedary fresh and insistent, long finish. Cedary and good overall balance. ££ Pauillac
Chateau Lynch Moussas 90 Iron-infused fruit. A little fierce, but likely to settle down with a bit of bottle age. There is proper intensity there and it's certainly 'real' young wine; a bit disjointed but with the key elements in place. ££ Pauillac
Pedesclaux 93 *

Good concentration, fresh, with a taut citric core. Mouthwatering then the dense fruit kicks in towards the end. Very progressive and very good. Retested May 17: Classical and firm, fresh damsons, spicy, sweet.

£ Pauillac
Lacoste Borie 90 Nice density, good weight, freshness and very silky tannins £ pauillac
Batailley 90 Pretty, confit fruit. Earlier drinking but delicious for what it is. £ Pauillac
Grand Puy Ducasse 89 At the sweeter end of the spectrum in the vintage context. £ Pauillac
Griffons 89 Dense and texturally interesting. Liqueur-like, fruity, and a charge of tannins, that perhaps prematurely curtail the finish. £ Pauillac
Pibran 87 Slightly odd. A bit of fur on the fruit. A little savoury and wild for my taste. £ Pauillac
Tourelles de Longueville A bit dull. Uninteresting. £ Pauillac


SAINT JULIEN

Producer Score Favourited Description Price bracket Appellation
Leoville Las Cases 96 Super aromatic nose. Savoury. Finely crafted fruit, comprising redcurrants, briar and cherry. Cushioned tannins, and a very integrated finish, with an orange-peel lift.   £££ Saint Julien
Ducru Beaucaillou 95 Vinous nose of blackberry leaf and cedar. Bright attack, chewy without a tannic charge of the year seen elsewhere. Very covered in plush fruit, though fresh and with good energy. Blackcurrant and mint. Cushioned tannins. Lovely but perhaps a little polished for so early? £££ Saint Julien
Chateau Leoville Barton 95 * Lovely firm-fruited attack, intense but not huge. Very fine mid palate Sweet fruited and medium weight. Insistent and elegant. ££ Saint Julien
Chateau Gruaud Larose 94 Cool reserved nose, controlled, fine attack. Very fine tannins. Beautifully balanced. ££ Saint Julien
Branaire Ducru 94 Complete wine, great mouth-coating texture. Big but fine tannins. ££ Saint Julien
Beychevelle 94 * Liqueur-like nose, vivid attack, rich progressive finish but reassuringly controlled. Excellent. ££ Saint Julien
Leoville Poyferré 94 Cedary, saline nose, big cassis and briar fruit, with a touch of warmth. Controlled progression, super-integrated tannins, then a dry tannic charge kicks in with chewy, fresh, matière. ££ Saint Julien
St. Pierre 94 * Powerful attack and tannins but a sweet and long mid palate. Complete and long. Much better balance than the over-polished 2015. Much better and unforced in 2016. ££ Saint Julien
Langoa Barton 93 Round, sweet mid palate and a mouthwatering finish. Charm and character. ££ Saint Julien
Gloria 92 * Cool nose, fine mid palate, good energy and a citrus lemony finish. ££ Saint Julien
Talbot 92 A bit bigger on the attack than some,  but certainly not too sweet, and although a little unknit at this stage, there's a fine sap to the finish and it could evolve into an excellent Talbot.  ££ Saint Julien
Chateau Lagrange St Julien 91 Cool restrained nose, super charge of tannins, and a sappy finish. A little bit unknit at this stage to be hyper-critical, but the intensity is there, hence the positive score. ££ Saint Julien
Clos du Marquis 90 This is very good, peppery, reserved nose, mid weight. Crystalline, crunchy fruit. £ Saint Julien
Moulin Riche 89 Rich, chewy, with a cocktail of cherry and briar fruit. Gives the impression of being more alcoholic than others. Good length. £ Saint Julien
Petit Lion 89 Liqueur-like and refined on the palate, quite a bit of acidity and right now, not the longest finish. £ Saint Julien
Lalande Borie 88 Mid weight, sappy and a reasonable finish. 2010 a better prospect at this level. £ Saint Julien
la Petite Marquise 88 Cassis nose, creamy and field herbs, including anise on the palate. Approachable and well-balanced with an attractive fresh finish, that is nevertheless on the short side. £ Saint Julien
Croix de Beaucaillou 88 Vinous, liqueur-like nose, sappy, sweet with soft, svelte fruit. Forward. £ Saint Julien


MARGAUX

Producer Score Favourited Description Price bracket Appellation
Palmer 98 * Lots of energy, the attack is incredible. 29 ha/ha due to a mildew attack resulting from a miscalculation (too little) of copper treatment on this biodynamic estate. Creamy briar fruit in a mid-weight+ frame. So much more elegant than 2015. Classy firm fruit. Sweet sherbetty mid-palate and an interesting herbaceousness on the finish. Beautiful wine. ££££ Margaux
Margaux 96 Refined nose, faintly perfumed. Cassis and energetic attack. A less harmonious mid palate than 2015, but still with a at least a good dab of summer pudding emerging with air. More of a sappy character, firm tannins lurking in background but barely surfacing. This could be very good but is somewhat backward today.   ££££ Margaux
Pavillon Rouge 92 Subdued nose, saline. Savoury palate, quite powerful attack. Rather unusual 84% cabernet composition, signaling the ongoing and increasing seriousness of Margaux's second wine, lending some support to its market price. £££ Margaux
Ego (de Palmer) 94 * Delicious! Croquant fruit, fine lingering finish, Evident purity. ££ Margaux
Chateau Durfort Vivens 93 * Characterful and grippy. Quite crystalline, crunchy fruit, with black cherry infused mid palate. Chewy finish competes with persistence of fruit on a mid-weight frame. This is different to 2015, that came across as richer and more mineral (iron), but the minerality is still there. Time will tell which is the more satisfying, they are both excellent in their very different ways. Demeter certified this year (French biodynamic certification).  ££ Margaux
Brane Cantenac 92 Rounded, showing as forward in the context of the vintage, back cherry infused mid-palate, lifted by freshness and with a very nice finish. £ Margaux
Rauzan Segla 90 Very classy as always but it's not 2015. £ Margaux
Lascombes 89 Nice attack, then mid palate fades away. Maybe just closed? £ Margaux
Cantenac Brown 89-91

Very nicely balanced, mid weight, not a patch on the 2015. Retasted May 17: Ripe, progressive, spiced and very energetic. This has come on leaps and bounds in 6 weeks since previous tasting.

£ Margaux
Prieuré Lichine 88 Good energy, just lacking character. £ Margaux
Malescot St. Exupery 88 I worry that there's a bit of a hole in the middle of the palate. £ Margaux
Kirwan 88 OK, but not as exciting as the rather good 2015. £ Margaux
D'Issan 88-91 A bit stalky? Not a patch on the marvelously saline 2015. Retasted May 17: lifted and fine. £ Margaux
Ferriere 87 I love this Chateau for its direct character blending ripe fruit with a classic mould. I'm afraid 2016 isn't one of those vintages I can recommend. You'd be best looking backwards at least 5-10 years for value for money drinking. £ Margaux


MOULIS EN MEDOC

Producer Score Favourited Description Price bracket Appellation
Mauvesin Barton 92 * Superb texture and good length £ Moulis en Medoc
Chasse Spleen 92 * Liqueur-like texture, solid mid-palate and a fine finish. Very good indeed, and this should be a sensible buy as it always performs in the secondary market. £ Moulis en Medoc


LISTRAC

Producer Score Favourited Description Price bracket Appellation
Forcas Borie 89 Superb, fleshy merlot. A lovely near-term wine that should drink on release but has the stuffing to last. A surprise and another good showing for Moulis in 2016. £ Listrac


MEDOC

 Producer Score Favourited Description Price bracket Appellation
Les Grands Chenes 91 * Juicy, fruity nose. Liqueur texture in the mouth with a controlled, fresh, mouthwatering finish. Young vines on what Bernard Magrez describes as a very impressive terroir with a little bit of gradient to it. This is not at all what I was expecting: classical and quite fine for what it is. £ Medoc
Goulée 88 Quite rich, warm inviting nose, not the longest. £ medoc
Chapelle de Potensac 87 Savoury nose. Approachable and easy, a certain density notwithstanding, then savouriness on the mid palate and a nice bright finish. Far less serious than Potensac but does that make it any the worse? £ Medoc
Tour de By 86 No £ Medoc
Tour St Bonnet 86 No £ Medoc
Potensac 86 Aromatic attack, a tannic charge and a slightly rustic finish. This is an agitated wine. Big chewy end-game. £ Medoc


PESSAC LEOGNAN

Producer Score Favourited Description Price bracket Appellation
Mission Haut Brion 97 * Vinous. Round, inviting nose. Aristocratic, juggling dense, firm fruit and a mid-weight+ stature. Fresh mid palate, mouthwatering, a fine thread of acidity coaxes the wine into a long, lingering finale. More approachable than Haut Brion and today all the better for it. ££££ Pessac-Leognan
Haut Brion 95 Floral notes precede a cool nose of ripe fruit. On the palate the fruit is firm, a little more withdrawn at first than MHB, showing a touch of oak, but the tannins are super-fine. Cool finish despite the obvious lurking size of the wine. Should show more in the future, for now probably quite impressive, and elemental just like 2015 was, not obviously showy. In terms of ranking I's suggest more like 1998 than 1989, and a notch or two below their super-serious and intense 2015. My guess is the quality of the Cabernet Franc last vintage was a step up. £££ Pessac-Leognan
Carmes Haut Brion 95 * Firm, proper and mouthwatering from partial whole bunches. Very good length. Classy and a standout in Pessac at this level. ££ Pessac-Leognan
Domaine de Chevalier 94 * Lightly seasoned nose. Firm, fruit, bright aromatic mid palate and finale. Sherbetty and refreshing. Fine tannins. Nicely judged weight. ££ pessac-Leognan
Clarence de Haut Brion 90 Fruity accessible nose, touch of white pepper. Textured entry allied to a lightness of feel, then a touch of warmth and caramel on the finish.  ££ pessac-Leognan
La Chapelle de La Mission Haut-Brion 90 Vinous, fine tannins, crystalline fruit, and a licorice twist towards the back of the mid palate. Mid weight and delicious.  ££ Pessac-Leognan
Pape Clément 90 I fell in love with Pape Clément last year. It had such exceptional balance, lift and class. The terroir truly expressed itself combined with a velour quality to the fruit and great definition thanks to its freshness. 2016 is a step backwards, with hints of over-ripeness within the rich fruit, and (for me) missing a sense of place. ££ pessac Leognan
Malartic La Graviere 91 * Superb, mid weight and moorish claret with gently sweet mid palate. £ Pessac-Leognan
La Louviere 89 Good mid weight, with some intensity and charm £ pessac-Leognan
Esprit de Chevalier 89 Aromatic character, present tannins and graves like dry finish. £ Pessac-Leognan
Solitude 88 Mid weight and nicely balanced £ pessac-Leognan
Espault Martillac 88 Padded savoury fruit. £ pessac-Leognan
Chateau Carbonnieux 88 A bit rustic £ Pessac-Leognan


SAINT EMILION

Producer Score Favourited Description Price bracket Appellation
Cheval Blanc 96 Subdued nose, stony and earthy. Very fine mid palate, progressive, aromatic attack, juicy dark licorice and spiced finish. ££££ Saint Emilion
Figeac 99 * Perfumed nose with jasmine. Energetic attack. Cedary mid palate. Fresh pithy attack. Then chewy bitter, dark cherry conclusion. This is excellent. A bit less of an eager labrador than 2015, it misses the rich summer pudding quality of last year but has greater elegance and is nigh on perfect. £££ Saint Emilion
Petit Cheval 91 Liqueur textured elegance, leading to a dark, slightly pruney finish £££ Saint Emilion
Quintus 91 Sweet fruited nose, good volume, nicely done. ££ Saint Emilion
Quinault L'Enclos 95 * Great fruity nose, very aromatic. Lovely liqueur like mouth feel on a river of flavour. Effortless and fine. Highly recommended. £ Saint Emilion
Corbin 93 * Quite fat, red fruit predominate, super intensity, quite creamy. Bramble and sloe. Very good. £ Saint Emilion
Destieux 92 * Liqueur eau de vie nose, character and energy, good intensity and a properly chewy finish. This will be good value. £ Saint Emilion
Fombrauge 89 Good intensity, tannic charge and grainy texture, with a slightly loose finish £ Saint Emilion
Le Dragon de Quintus 89 Fruity nose, firm fruited palate. £ Saint Emilion
Labergorce 87 Savoury, some intensity, cherry finish but slightly rustic £ Saint Emilion
Saintayme 87 Powerful, lifted attach, with a very firm, slightly bitter mid-palate. (Was this a bad tasting moment of mine?) £ Saint Emilion
La Dominique 87 Middle of the road, nothing to complain about - or to get excited about. 2015 considerably better. £ Saint Emilion


POMEROL

Producer Score Favourited Description Price bracket Appellation
Vieux Chateau Certan 97 *
Reserved nose, with a  lovely infusion of eau de vie. There is a very substantial tannic charge in the mid palate, with plenty of intense dark, covered fruit and licorice to compete. Impressive but my guess is that will be a pretty backward wine for years to come.  £££ Pomerol
Eglise Clinet 95 Intense, firm, backward, impressive. £££ Pomerol
Conseillante 95 Seasoned nose, cool. Creamy and dense cassis fruit, the attack is rather aromatic. The expansive mid palate is spiced. Chewy but soft and silken tannins on the progressively rich finish. Rich yet there's a crystalline aspect; a control and focus that constrains the eager fruit. £££ Pomerol
l'Evangile 92 Dark hued and correspondingly darker flavours than many in 2016. Cassis, mulberries and a hint of plum. There's a certain freshness that duels with a little warmth on the finish, like a welcome current of air alleviating an otherwise hot day. Those who enjoy bigger wines will attract to L'Evangile. £££ Pomerol
Petit Villages 95 *
Cedar nose, cool. Liqueur like texture, the fruit infused with eau de vie. Super charge of tannins, racy balanced and elegant. Is this the best Petit-Villages ever? ££ pomerol
Vray Croix de Gay 92 *
Reserved, elegant with a fine finish. Good vinosity. ££ Pomerol
Chateau Rouget 92 Good definition, intensity and freshness ££ Pomerol
Petite Eglise 90 An exercise in restraint for the vintage, but for now it presents as a bit angular. (Was this a bad tasting moment of mine?) £ Pomerol
Chateau Beauregard 89 Nice control on he finish though comes across as a little monolithic £ pomerol
Chateau La Pointe 88 Big attack, sticky ripe fruit, quite monolithic £ Pomerol 


LALANDE DE POMEROL

Producer Score Favourited Description Price bracket Appellation
Siaurac 92 * Classy, balanced, controlled, rich and delicious. £ Lalande de Pomerol
la Chenade 88 Mid weight, sappy, pure, grippy bitter fruit. Good length and satisfying finish. What I don't get is a specific character. £ Lalande de Pomerol
Cruzelles 87 Bitter cherry, a little drying in the mid palate ((Was this a bad tasting moment of mine?) £ Lalande de Pomerol


Picture: Wine Owners Ltd.


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



Restaurant tips

by Wine Owners

Posted on 2016-08-19



It has been said by some wise sage that 1% of people care way too much about wine and 99% of people don’t care enough. This rings true, and I thought it would be interesting to investigate why this is.

Most of my friends and peers drink wine. With sufficient regularity to alarm the British Medical Council in many cases. And most of them drink rubbish. Seriously – any £5 bottle will do the trick normally, and the second cheapest wine on the restaurant wine list is pretty much as far as they go.

This baffles me.

OK, so not everyone is going to spend a fortune on a wine collection, or consult Parker or Robinson for every wine buying decision, but it is really simple to drink more interesting wines without breaking the bank or having to do hours of painstaking research.Here are a few rules of thumb, aimed at buying wine in a restaurant (assuming it isn’t one of the growing numbers that allow you to BYO for a modest corkage).

1) The cheapest wines normally have the highest % mark-ups, and the second cheapest wine normally has the highest mark-up. Restaurateurs know how people make buying decisions, so be aware of the relative lack of value.

2) The first few wines on a list will have tendency to be ‘neutral’ in style, as they are likely to be bought to match all foods. One size fits all is not the best way to approach buying wine – think about what you are going to order.

3) Don’t be afraid to buy by the glass. Technology such as Coravin means a far wider array of wines can be sampled, so you can avoid just plumping for a bottle of NZ Sauvignon Blanc, or a bog standard Rioja, and narrowing your options. Why not order a suitable wine for every course of you meal?

4) Look for exotic grape varieties or little known regions – these are likely to be the sommelier’s attempts to stamp their expertise and personality on the wine list, and will likely be good value and interesting. Think Greece, Portugal, Austria, or regions like Swartland in South Africa or Salta in Argentina.

5) Embrace the joys of dessert wines. Seriously, sweet wines are amazing things that are criminally overlooked. A little bit of ‘sticky’ at the end of your meal is always a good thing!

6) If the restaurant has a sommelier, get their opinion. Don’t be afraid to ask seemingly silly questions. These guys are there to ensure you get the most enjoyment from your meal.


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Character speaks volumes

by Wine Owners

Posted on 2015-12-09


Robert Parker has consistently highlighted low yields over the years as a key indicator of quality. It’s a belief over which he’s been challenged by producers and experts alike.  

But is he wrong? Are low yields a prerequisite for wines of character and nuance that we so crave, or is this just a red herring seized upon by eager wine writers whose understanding of winemaking techniques are inadequate?

Jordon Ross of Oenology International points to a run of vintages where the worst wines from the key regions of Bordeaux, Burgundy and California were made from lowest production vintages, whereas the best wines came from those where production was highest.

His misgivings, and those of producers he interviews such as Dominique Lafon, are down to the belief that low yields sell wine and that old vines do not necessarily produce better wines than young vines.

M. Lafon highlights an extreme case to argue that view “Some producers here are talking low yields but with so many dead vines in their vineyards that it’s nonsense, it means nothing.”

That’s as maybe, but let’s not allow rotten vineyard husbandry to define the argument and allow the rejection of the notion that low yields might nonetheless be an important factor behind quality.

I for one am more than happy to accept that a little knowledge is a dangerous thing, that my own technical base - like the know-how of most collectors - is relatively scant, and that it’s easy to grossly oversimplify.

However, I do possess one means of very subjectively putting the question to the test, and that’s my palate. When all is said and done, surely that’s what matters most?

Burgundy seems to be a particularly good and topical reference point when discussing yields given the run of low yield vintages the region endured 2010-2014.  

The true colours of a fine wine show with age, long after they've been evaluated by tasters in their first blush of youth (or in the case of Burgundy as échantillons untimely plucked from the comfort of their oak casks).

Vintages blessed with good production volumes and generally fine weather - 1990 and 1999 being prime examples that were lauded upon release - whilst studded with beautiful wines, contain as many examples that are bland and fruity, but fall short of complex or exciting.

On the other hand, there are many wines from low-yielding vintages characterised as difficult or gawky upon release, which 15-20+ years on show a level of intensity and aromatic complexity that are more than a match for the bigger, ‘better’ vintages. For example, there are truly wonderful wines from 1998 (Gouges, Barthod, Bachelet, Mortet) that at release were described (correctly in my view) by Jancis Robinson as ‘tough and stolid’. 18 years on, and they have matured into exceptionally complex, deeply toned wines. 

Seeking out the best producers is a must of course, since there are great, good, average and awful ones irrespective of anything else. 

Talking of great, no one does it better in Barolo than Roberto Giacomo. His transparent Monfortino 2002, with its tiny yields from a dismal vintage, is a very special wine of weightless proportions. It will never be mistaken for a hot year like 1997 or 2004, but so what? The wine has a rare aromatic subtlety and sweetness that makes it a rarity.

So what of more recent vintages? Bill Nanson talks about 2012 red Burgundy as a vintage visited by ‘the four horsemen of the apocalypse’! It wasn’t easy and yields were considerably reduced. Will it prove to be a great vintage? I believe so, with the best wines surely destined to be as good as 2010 or 2005. There is a fabulous vitality to the vintage that ought to see the best examples blossom into wines of great character. 

As if that wasn’t bad enough from a vigneron perspective, 2013 was worse: an exceptionally low yielding year, blighted by a summer that only dared speak its name in July. Although the wines can seem lean and dry at times (evident in January 2015’s échantillons in London), on another day from barrel in situ they show fine, sappy, delineated fruit. 

Even though 2013s have higher acidity levels and bright flavours, my guess is that the miserly yields and consequent concentration of juice will compensate over time and make some fine older bones, unlike the much higher-yielding 1996 vintage which remains angular and more often than not lacking.

So far we’ve discussed low yields resulting from nature’s hand.

When it comes to the age of vines and yields per vine, it seems to me the argument is rather more clear-cut.  Assuming the producer puts the necessary time and effort into vineyard husbandry, older vines and the naturally occurring lower yields seem to very obviously impart intensity and complexity to the end result. When Clive Coates talks about ‘creamy old vine flavour’ I get what he’s describing. 

So, whilst accepting that low yields per se do not necessarily mean good wine, to deny its very significant contribution to creating truly great wines and their appreciation seems unnecessary.



SPOTLIGHT ON... Le Tertre-Roteboeuf 2010

by Wine Owners

Posted on 2015-08-06




Wine writers and bloggers fine wine purchasing influence ranking

by Wine Owners

Posted on 2015-06-07


Which wine writers exert the most influence over consumer purchasing decisions of fine wine?

It’s a question we’ve often been asked, and one we wanted to understand in context of what kind of recommendations influence consumers’ fine wine buying decisions.

To find out, we teamed up with Spiral Cellars, and organised a structured research programme through Effective Research. The fine wine purchasing influence ranking is based on 244 questionnaire responses. 

We discovered that consumers rely on multiple recommendation sources, and even the least relied-upon source is quite significant in influencing purchases. This also suggests that social media influence is real, and can indirectly contribute towards buying decisions.


There is nonetheless a clear, favorable bias towards online sources, with the subscription sites of leading critics exerting the greatest sway over consumers.

Which critics and bloggers, if any, are you most likely to base a proportion of your buying decisions on?  




When it comes to informing a proportion of buying decisions, Robert Parker is the clear winner with more than half of all respondents likely to buy based on his reviews. Neal Martin, his successor for new Bordeaux releases and leading Burgundy critic, is relied upon by 29% of respondents, with Jancis Robinson in a very strong second place position on 49%.

Vinous Media (Antonio Galloni on 26% and Stephen Tanzer on 17%) showed complementary strength, with Burghound (Allen Meadows) registering 22% and Tim Atkin on 20%. 

Whilst consumers have their favourites, their buying decisions will be influenced by a number of critics and writers.


Post Parker primeurs

by Wine Owners

Posted on 2015-03-16


With Robert Parker handing over the reins of Bordeaux Primeurs tasting to Neal Martin, what are the implications?

The first, most obvious, change is Neal’s palate.

However objective a critic may be, his or her palate and personal preferences inevitably play a big part. Where Parker excelled was at getting his impressions across in a particularly accessible and descriptive way; not easy when tasting barrel samples. The temptation is to describe a wine in its elemental state elementally, which isn't that interesting to read. He described its future, and over the years demonstrated he was rather good at that.

His personal preferences may have veered towards a sunnier style of wine, but he tended to let the wine buyer know if a wine was stylistically towards one end of the spectrum or another. But it must be very hard to award a great score to a wine that doesn’t move you viscerally, and to that extent personal preferences must come into play.

Martin’s tasting preferences are naturally more European than Parker’s, and is perhaps more likely to be dazzled by finesse and complexity over power, texture and rich fruit. This is a gross oversimplification for sure, but perhaps suffice to say his evaluations will be his own.

The second is winemaking trends.

The trend back towards a more classical form of winemaking is already underway (allied to far better vineyard husbandry than was broadly the case when Parker started out – he is often attributed with raising standards). Use of new oak is being moderated at many Chateaux, and régisseurs are looking at ways to fully express and nuance their amazing terroirs, sub-plots and micro-climates whilst making the most of Bordeaux’s inherent ability to bear and bottle the most age-worthy wines in the world.

The tendency of the late 1980s and 1990s towards making and showing the kind of wines proprietors thought would garner the best scores early on is on the wane. If the world’s leading critics and evaluators of young Bordeaux favour a finer-boned vernacular, this will be reflected in the market, which is more likely than not to reward those styles of wine with the greatest demand.

The third change is context.

Back in the early 1980s there was no Internet, market transparency was therefore limited and the market was much narrower than today’s. Can another critic, however good, assume the same degree of importance and purchasing influence over a market in the way that Parker has achieved? If so, will they come from Europe or do they have to be American? Or Asian?

Will crowdsourcing views and reviews become a proxy for the next leading critic of his or her generation, a perspective that arises with the growing importance of the Internet? I wonder. Some may argue that buyers are too ready in our online age to trust the word of a virtual room-full of complete strangers over the words of an advisor or friend. Whilst such principles may work well for holiday destinations or white goods manufacturers, it’s tougher to see how this will ultimately prevail for the finest of fine wine. How experienced is the taster, do they have a bank of reference points in respect of tasting young wines, and can they draw parallels between what a wine tasted like when in barrel compared with 10-15 years on? Can they recognise the future evolution of a young wine, see similarities and differences, then context (and visualise) the next young wine they taste accordingly? What does it mean when experienced tasters say that great wine is born great? What does great taste like? What’s the palate preference of each taster; where on the spectrum do they sit?

That’s an awful lot of questions to ask of a crowd, especially when most of them have day jobs. Broadly, people may not care about all that of course; but people into their fine wine, and making spending decisions based on the judgement of others, will care. That’s why evaluators of fine wine such as Neal Martin, Jancis Robinson, Stephen Tanzer, Antonio Galloni, Tim Atkin, Will Lyons, and many other talented writers (see here) matter so much.

What could be somewhat significant in turning reputation and influence into market impact is the business model deployed. What I wonder is this: with the Internet capable of coalescing huge audiences and showing the true - often massively underestimated - size of market niches, will blanket subscription firewalls allow wine writers to maximise market influence?

How experts in general monetise their high value content may yet change over the next few years, perhaps in a parallel way that the music business experienced a profound shift from selling records to selling bums on seats and festival tickets. Will the experiential become the bigger money-spinner? How the world’s critics engage with their audience and allow them an element of participation and dialogue may prove decisive for the next Parker, if there is to be one. Being social web savvy can only but help.

The fourth change may be the end to ‘wait and see’.

If the Chateaux knew Robert Parker was coming to Bordeaux, they might hold off from releasing until his scores were known, and the job of negociant and merchant alike was simplified, if sometimes a little delayed.

When Parker didn't come to town within a few months of the new vintage, the market reflected the collective views of the wine industry that had tasted samples most frequently (producers, courtiers, negociants, importers) and added a dose of realism to do with the macro-economic context. Price differentials within a set of wines (e.g. First Growths) were narrower. So, famously, 1990 was priced cheaply in the recession of 1991 as was 2008 in the post-Lehmann, financially sclerotic environment of 2009.

In the short term at least, all the leading critics will turn up to taste on time and publish on time. The extent to which they will collectively or individually influence prices (and demand) remains to be seen, but it would be more surprising if they didn’t have at least some bearing on the market. Producers are more likely to have made up their mind on pricing based on their qualitative assessments early on, and perhaps we shall all be spared interminably long campaigns.




UK Wine Writers And Bloggers Index

by Wine Owners

Posted on 2015-02-09


We’ve been working with our good friends at Traackr, a unique San-Francisco and London based platform for influencers, to build a ranking of UK wine writers and bloggers based on a measure of their relative influence - weighted favourably towards their social media engagement.

Traackr enabled us to create key influencer scoring for wine writers and bloggers in the UK, by their influence within social media. This is measured through interaction with their content, actions such as comments, link backs and re-tweets; and aims to encompass all personal activity, extending beyond the scope of traditional website-centric measuring tools.

The index highlights wine writers and bloggers who are most active through social media, and who have websites or blogs that are at least partially freely accessible and up to date. It excludes those who run subscription sites behind paywalls, where these do not have content that can be accessed via RSS feeds in front of the paywall.

See the following post for further explanation of methodology and why some top influencers of wine fine buyers aren't in the top 15. Traackr’s scoring algorithm is takes into account 3 variables:

REACH - The measure of total audience size eg blog visitors, Twitter followers, YouTube subscribers.

RESONANCE – How much activity is created every time something is published. Engagement constitutes a crucial (and therefore heavily weighted) variable that reflects degrees of influence.

A writer or blogger with the biggest reach may therefore still come below another with a smaller following but who has a higher resonance score – because the level of engagement is used as a prime measure of how influential they are within their audience.

RELEVANCE - This is a measure based on a broad range of wine-related keywords, which in the case of this index reflects the fine wine end of the market. Relevance is a factor of how often someone uses the keywords that drove the search; the timing of the keyword usage; the diversity of the keywords used by an influencer; and the placement of keywords.

Influence is dynamic, and scoring will reflect how levels of activity and engagement change. Online and social media are highly fluid ; this index will be updated every 6 months to reflect changes and newcomers.

The index highlights new or niche writing talent as well as confirming the importance of many household names, for the benefit of wine lovers and collectors as well as those who are discovering wine.

We hope you enjoy reading them as much as we do. Please let us know which of your favourite UK-based wine writers we’ve missed so we can include them in the project and see how they fare in six months’ time!

Top 15 Influencers

 

And here's the complete list of all the UK wine influencers:

Rank Influencer  Reach* Resonance* Relevance* Website
1 Jancis Robinson 99 73 87 http://jancisrobinson.com
2 Jim Budd 89 56 91 http://jimsloire.blogspot.com
3 Jamie Goode 92 31 95 http://wineanorak.com
4 Fiona Beckett 96 47 90 http://www.matchingfoodandwine.com/
5 Andrew Barrow 84 68 87 http://spittoon.biz
6 Tim Atkin 93 46 89 http://timatkin.com
7 Sarah Ahmed 81 51 90 http://thewinedetective.co.uk
8 Victoria Moore 81 50 89 http://howtodrink.co.uk/
9 Matthew Jukes 80 46 89 http://matthewjukes.com
10 John Abbott 62 57 89 http://decanter.com
11 William Lyons 82 33 89 https://www.facebook.com/willlyonswine
12 Robert McIntosh 91 47 80 http://wineconversation.com
13 Nicolas Rezzouk 49 73 83 http://ofmustandmash.wordpress.com
14 Lucy Shaw 65 44 86 http://finewineandthecity.blogspot.in
15 Richard W. H. Bray 62 36 89 http://winerant.blogspot.com
16 Geordie Clarke 71 44 81 http://geordieclarke.com
17 Rupert Millar 26 69 84 http://thedrinksbusiness.com
18 Jane Parkinson 78 32 79 http://www.janeparkinson.com
19 Robert Joseph 87 24 78 http://thewinethinker.com
20 Quentin Sadler 76 27 79 http://quentinsadler.wordpress.com
21 Richard Hemming 80 40 75 http://jancisrobinson.com
22 Natasha Hughes 77 34 76 http://natashahughes.com
23 Rosemary George 83 37 72 http://tastelanguedoc.blogspot.com
24 Henry Jeffreys 84 56 68 http://worldofbooze.wordpress.com
25 Warren Edwardes 46 50 74 http://wineforspicewarrenedwardes.blogspot.com
26 Chris Kissack 76 71 64 http://thewinedoctor.com
27 Vim Chatwani 73 26 72 http://12x75.com
28 Sarah Abbott 79 24 71 http://sarahabbottmw.com
29 Daniel Winerackd 52 31 72

www.winerackd.uk

30 Neal Martin 86 25 61 http://wine-journal.com
31 Matt Walls 62 42 61 http://mattwalls.co.uk
32 David Lowe 75 28 60 http://bigpinots.com
33 Peter Wood 41 10 74 http://thetastingnote.com
34 Walter Speller 44 90 51 http://walterspeller.com
35 Nick Stephens 50 43 55 http://bordeaux-undiscovered.co.uk
36 Anthony Rose 81 48 47 http://anthonyrosewine.com
37 Oz Clarke 94 50 44 http://ozclarke.com
38 Sally Easton 70 37 42 http://winewisdom.com
39 Michael Edwards 27 53 45 http://michaelbulles.blogspot.co.uk
40 Patrick Schmitt 19 12 56 http://thedrinksbusiness.com
41 Benjamin Dawes 45 47 29 http://rdfinewine.com
42 Pieter Rosenthal 48 50 25 http://corkandbottle.co.uk
43 Sarah Newton 93 29 13 http://wine90.com

Source: Traackr


The online wine community in a nutshell - Source: Traackr.

The online wine community in a nutshell - Source: Traackr.


Acts of Vandalism

by Wine Owners

Posted on 2012-12-05


Competitive rivalries naturally abound between wine producers and their employees or  neighbours, yet very occasionally this boils over into hatred or vengeance and can lead to committed acts that go beyond the pale.

As reported on Jancis Robinson's Purple Pages

 The latest shock is the news that Gianfranco Soldera's entire production of the last 7 years has been lost to someone who broke into and entered his cellar and poured 600 hetctolitres of his famous Brunellos down the drain.

Soldera

That means it'll be another 9 years before any new releases will be forthcoming from the acknowledged master of brunello, and the maker of one of the world's greatest wines, with new releases priced at  GBP 1,500/ EUR 1850 per case of 12 bottles.

I feel very fortunate to have some of his wines, and will treasure these extraordinary, ultra long-lived, pure sangiovese rarities more than ever in the knowledge that I won't have the opportunity to buy a new release for another decade.

By the way, I do recommend Jamie Goode's excellent reviews from a vertical hosted by the brilliant Edinburgh merchant and shipper, Raeburn Fine Wines.

Sadly, this sort of event seems to be less isolated than it might have once been.

Take the example of Chateau Labat in the Medoc, who suffered 1,900 plantings of young vines butchered; cut down a few inches above ground level by secateurs earlier this year. It is estimated that it would have taken the perpetrator up to 7 hours to carry out the act, such was the malice aforethought of the sabotage.

Such action is an echo of a similar act carried out against the Cathiards at Chateau Cantelys, when 900 vines suffered a similar fate at the hands of electric secateurs in 2006.

Back in the 1990s, Chateau Monbrison's vines were similarly butchered by jealous local producers angered by the public way in which the then Belgian proprietor Vonderheyden was advocating extremely low yields in the pursuit of quality. Someone took offence, the act of destruction of his vines a powerful warning shot across the bows.


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