Burgundy 2017 and beyond

by Wine Owners

Posted on 2018-12-17


Ahead of the new 2017 releases in early 2019 it's time to report on Burgundy and its news.

2017

Another warm summer produced accessible, fruity wines.

Left to do their thing, the vines were wont to produce very high yields especially in areas hit by frost damage in 2016 as the plants strove to compensate. Yields in Chardonnay were as high as 80 hl/ha. Now that’s a lot.

With a long run of short harvests stretching back to 2009 for several communes, the temptation was to let nature’s abundance run unabated. The trouble is, pinot noir is particularly susceptible to a large crop, so the trick in 2017 was to work to constrain yields.

Just as many over-cropped 1999s are now showing flat, far from being the great wines they might (and should) have been, we shall see which producers in 2017 haven't applied the brakes hard enough in due course.

For those who produced normal yields, 2017 is a delightfully juicy, fruit-forward year. Yet the best wines have more than just fruit: there is a fine mineral structure, a chalkiness and salinity that complements the raspberry coulis, kirsch, griotte, plum and fruit pastille characteristics.

The best pinots show appealing sucrosité with plenty of supporting freshness, which contributes to a sappy, mouth-watering persistence.

Above all I loved the harmony, balance, progression and energy of the best reds. I wouldn’t be surprised if they never shut down, and stay delicious from early on in their development throughout a moderately long drinking window: after all the 1997s are just about still hanging in there these days, and the 2017s have the potential to be rather better.

The perfect 2017 pinot has flowing raspberry fruit, a vinous, kirsch-like refinement, an infusion of Seville oranges and hints at a darker side with liquorice and spice.

The question mark over 2017 is whether a proper degree of intensity has been achieved. The vintage doesn’t seem to reach the same level in general as 2016, and yet the greatest 2017s do rival (and in a few cases surpass) their 1 year old siblings.

2017 is also very much a vintage where the appellations are reflective of their classification. Stepping up through a range from Bourgogne, through village wine and premier cru up to grand cru feels like an exercise in stepping up through the gears, with more oomph and interest at each change.

Whites are generally delicious as long as yields were tightly managed, and though the acidity levels were apparently a little less than in 2016, the very best still show a notable pithiness, a chalkiness and a bright intense citrus core that successfully counterbalances a tropical fruit character of pineapple and guava.



2018

Looking ahead to 2018, this is going to be a very tricky vintage. It was really hot, and the choice of picking date will have been critical.

Many producers were searching for perfect phenolic ripeness, waiting until the pips indicated an expected level of maturity. Some producers believed that perfect phenolic ripeness was not the only deciding factor for picking a harvest date in 2018. Those that were concerned about alcohol levels went early. They got their grapes in as early as the start of the last week of August finishing during the first week of September.

Producers needed to avoid too much extraction in 2018 for fear of introducing bitter flavours, especially those who had gone early. The gentlest of infusions seem at this very early stage to be the making of the best wines. Even so you won’t see many wines straight out of barrel with that trademark shining ruby robe of classic burgundy in 2018.

The most exciting wines tasted from barrel were made from grapes carried in at around 13.5 degrees but there are tales of 15 or (even!) 16 degree behemoths, whilst 14.2-14.5 degrees feels like a norm in the vintage.

The early pickers were fearful of what might happen if they let the alcohol levels rise too far, and they were evidently right. There were very real risks of partially completed fermentations and consequent high residual sugars in the juice. Several producers we spoke to had a battle to restart stalled fermentations, typically by tipping in the lees of another wine that had completed its fermentation more successfully.

The wines are largely dark purple or purple-black, opaque in appearance, and unsurprisingly show exuberant New World fruit and tend to have a mouth-coating texture due to the higher alcohols. There are some who argue that this is a very great vintage in the making; that vintages like 1947 were very hot indeed and yet they have transformed into great old bones. Taking a necessarily broad view at this early stage I would suggest that there are likely to be a rather small number of potentially very great wines.

Amphorae

Fourrier continued experimenting with Amphorae in the 2017 vintage with La Combe aux Moines, but they are sure to come into their own for 2018. The terracotta enables the wine to breathe whilst acting as a totally neutral vessel. This accentuates minerality and produces a wine – if unblended with wine aged in wood – that would be too strict. Certain of his wines including Clos St Jacques and La Combe aux Moines have a proportion of the production being aged within these fabulous looking clay containers for the 2018 vintage. The finished wine will be blended with the other part of the vineyard in barrels. It will be fascinating to see the results – could these turn out to be some of the greatest wines ever made at this wonderful domaine?




2017 – The year that distribution changed

Producers are not blind to the fact that certain merchants have been selling their UK en primeur allocations to Asia, notably Hong Kong. They are not happy to discover that importers cross geographical boundaries, even if the wines sold may be subsequently stored for a period of time in the UK.

Nor are their agents impressed, who have the clout to recommend their producers shift allocation to where demand is currently being met indirectly.

As a result certain top producers have withdrawn a significant part of their allocation to the UK in favour of Asia, even though there is much more wine this year to go round - in some cases up to 3 times the quantity of 2016.

2017 pricing

With Brexit uncertainty depressing the Pound, more wine not necessarily translating into larger allocations for the UK, and the secondary Burgundy market having risen substantially during the course of 2018, there are few reasons to imagine that prices will fall. Which makes it a tricky call for consumers who don't want to lose their allocations and yet this is one of the most uncertain of times. High release prices for great vintages such as 2015 and 2016 were swallowed. We will have to see how digeste 2017 proves to be.


2016 red Bordeaux tasting UGC London 16th October 2018

by Wine Owners

Posted on 2018-10-17


When tasted from barrel in the spring of 2017, it was very evident that this was a vintage with loads of extract, with one of the highest ever IPT levels ever recorded in Bordeaux. IPT is a measure of the combined phenolic compounds in the juice - principally tannins and colorants responsible for the red, purple and blue hues in grapes. Large bunches of rather small berries meant high skin to juice ratios.

We suspected that the finest wines were those who extractions were gentle - neatly summarised by Frédéric Faye at Chateau Figeac who described their fermentation process as an ‘infusion’ with the gentlest of extractions achieved from the submerged cap.

With the proviso that the 2016s have been in bottle for as little as 3 months, this was an opportunity to re-taste a selection and test our original impressions from 18 months ago.

The more extracted wines with highest IPT levels were evident, and at this stage it has to be said that they were the least harmonious. Where there was a desire to make full use of, or to accentuate, all the elements proffered by nature, the palate tended to be dominated by raw power, the scale undeniable but at the expense of charm for now.

The structure of 2016, hidden under a cloak of velvety fruit and sweet tannins when barrel samples, was much more evident now the wines are in bottle, and this structure allied to tremendously aromatic fruit in the best examples, affirms 2016 as a vintage with some truly great wines in the making.

It’s not just a great cabernet sauvignon vintage either, with some of the right bank merlots absolutely stunning. La Conseillante that had seemed a little sweet and svelte at the property in April 2017 is now brilliantly pitched, with extremely expressive and aromatic fruit held in check by an impressive frame of tannins.

What was slightly surprising however, was the wide variation. Those who are tempted to categorise 2016 as a uniformly great vintage will be disappointed; there is plenty of dull wine. The difference between the vintage's heights and the good average is a chasm.

The Northern Medoc had an especially successful vintage, with Cantermerle showing excellent concentration and focus, and my pick of the appellation at en primeur, Citran, showing all of its former promise and more. Could this be the bargain of the vintage?

Domaine de Chevalier has made an epic red, with great substance and lovely resonance, and on this showing had the better of the high-in-cabernet-franc Carmes Haut-Brion. Though evidently fine fruited, Haut Bailly’s firm tannins are a bit overwhelming for now. Both Pape Clement and Smith Haut Lafitte major on great substance and scale, but show a raw or unknit character at this early stage.

Canon was showing very defined fruit with loads of grip but for now felt very slightly loose on the finish. Figeac has managed to combine stunning definition, texture, harmony and length and on this showing must be a 100 point wine in the making.

Gazin was absolutely charming with an impressively solid core. La Conseillante as already mentioned was a hit.

St Estephe and Pauillac were as good as expected given how fine the Cabernet was from this upper part of the Medoc peninsular, and wines from Cos Labory and Phelan Segur were notably excellent at their price levels.

Clerc Milon had stood out as exceptional in April 2017, and now in bottle shows impressive density, a huge finish and attractive gaminess. D’Armailhac was extremely exciting, packed with red fruit and finely beaded acidity and plenty of accompanying structure. Pichon Longueville Comtesse was one of the stars of the en primeur tasting and once again stood out for its super-refinement: unquestionably a top wine of the vintage.

In St Julien the Bartons stood out. Langoa was svelte, intense, showed gorgeous scale and definition at a very attractive price point. Leoville Barton was another league and heads above the other St Juliens. Huge, but super fresh, light-footed, with a mouthwatering blood orange infused core and a very direct, linear finish. One of the greatest wines of the vintage.

Lagrange was fine, the tannins so ripe and silky that their velvety texture cloak its underlying structure, just as it did when tasted in London a year ago. Talbot was back to it’s very best, likely up there with its beautifully balanced 1982.

The Margaux appellation in the main was not quite as exciting as the magnificent 2015s, a vintage in which the commune excelled. However one stood out for it’s stunning definition and extraordinary elegance. A fitting wine to finish this round-up of 2016s in bottle. Beautifully textured. A wine that simply flows across the palate with effortless grace. It helps that it’s also one of the most under-rated wines in the whole of Bordeaux, sitting as it does on great terroir. The wine in question is Chateau Dufort-Vivens, Second Growth Margaux, fully biodynamic, and an outstanding success in 2016.


Chateau Margaux dinner with Thibault Pontallier

by Wine Owners

Posted on 2018-10-16


We had the pleasure to share a wonderful Chateau Margaux dinner with our members and the estate's ambassador Thibault Pontallier at La Trompette last week. The line up encompassed Chateau Margaux 1983, 1986, 1989, 1990, 1996, 1999, 2004, and a surprise magnum of 2000, preceded by Pavillon Blanc 2015 and Pavillon Rouge 2000 and 2009.



Pavillon Blanc 2015

Mineral nose, chalky, white currants, and saline. In other words a lot going on! Bright attack, palate follows the profile of the nose with addition of seville oranges and attractively bitter pith, green guava, and a fruit bush leafiness before ending on a firm finish.

2022-2030

94

Wine Owners view

A great investment in future drinking - one of the most complex of white Bordeaux, with refinement and structure for the long haul, and will be impossible to find in the future.


Pavillon Rouge 2009

A controlled, spicy nose, intense cassis, fresh blackcurrant leaf. Surprisingly cool from such a warm vintage, great grain to the wine’s texture, full of future promise, with depth and focus.

2023-2035

93+

Wine Owners view

Hitting the level of a second growth, Pavillon rouge is a grand wine in 2009, more expressive than the Grand Vin at this stage, yet with the same sense of balance and poise. Chip off the old block.

Pavillon Rouge 2000

Complex pine infused nose. Dry aromatic attack, gorgeous definition and a fine persistence. A touch of gaminess, roses, and spruce tips on the mid palate, the fruit evolving into a broad savoury finish enlivened with sappy, uplifting acidity.

Now to 2025

95

Wine Owners view

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



Margaux 1983

Aromatically expressive, a spiced attack preludes a charming medium-weight classic claret of supreme elegance and harmony. A gentle finish that nevertheless remains very elegant and delightfully complete.

Now to 2023

93

Wine Owners view

A great drink for right now, majoring on Margaux’s famed subtlety. Still possible to find in the secondary market around £350-£400 per bottle, which given its age and refinement is something of a steal. Hard to think of better First Growth value for money.

Margaux 1986

Heady, spiced, with a touch of iodine creating an intoxicating blend. Resolved on the palate, very good intensity allied to racy acidity. Fine scale with oranges and cloves on the long finish.

Now to 2025

95

Wine Owners view

1986 was a happy surprise due to the energy and resonance of the vintage. We wouldn’t keep it much longer but another strong buy for drinking around £400 per bottle.

Margaux 1989

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

2020-2035

94+

Wine Owners view

The generosity of the vintage is evident on the nose, yet the accomplishments of this wine are still hidden, and there’s a sense of more to come. That grainy texture and gorgeous spiced finish are surely harbingers of great things in store for future drinking. As a result, a decent investment to boot for a 10 year view.

Margaux 1990

Saline, gamey nose and an energetic and velvet-textured attack, counter-balanced and infused with blood orange. Great resonance and breadth, visceral, spiced finish, and a whiff of very attractive sweet chloroform right at the finish. Very, very long. A great wine.

Now to 2030

98+

Wine Owners view

The velour and silky density of this wine makes it a beauty for enjoyment right now, and sure enough it was wine of the night for the majority of attendees. There’s more to go but will it ever be as lovely as it is now? Expect to pay £720+ per bottle so one for the collector who is looking for the very best vintages of Margaux.



Margaux 1996

Svelte Nose, and then at the outset, so young and fresh. Tannins still present. A large scaled, monumental wine of extraordinary length yet extremely primary. An absolute baby in other words! With time in the glass the aromatics really open up. There is great intensity and a wonderful centre to this wine. Tonight 1990 gives more pleasure, but the sense of energy and drive in this wine along with all the other elements suggest a great, great Margaux in the making for 2025 onwards.

2025-2050

Wine Owners view

This is going to be mind-bendingly good. Though it lacks the resolution and some of the warmth of the 1990, it makes up for that in sheer energy, focus and intensity in its core. This elemental wine is still good value at around £500+ per bottle and would be an obvious choice as an investment, or buy now and wait 15 years to for a thrilling vinous experience as close as any gets to a concept of the perfect wine.

100

Margaux 2000 (Magnum)

A wine that is already resolved but at the beginning of its plateau. Spiced, cloves, sweet chloroform. Great energy, definition and depth on the finish, enlivened by a fine thread of acidity that uplifts the fruit. Very long and all the while gaining in energy through the impressive finish.

2018-2033

97

Wine Owners view

The overriding sense one has here is of harmony. Balanced and complete, spiced and heady with the signs of further maturity a short few years away. For many palates this is completely ready but an interesting addition to any Bordeaux lover’s cellar for its immediacy and near term potential.



Bordeaux Off the Bat

by Wine Owners

Posted on 2018-05-30


[Last week, the Wine Owners team tripped along to Lords, to taste a range of top 2017 Bordeaux wines en primeur. Below is a contribution from Artemis, the newest member of the team...]

What could be been better for a mid-May Thursday than a large tasting of Bordeaux Grand Crus at Lords Cricket Ground?!

The tasting included wines from over fifty chateaux, each bringing two vintages: 2017 and one other back vintage. Determined buyers and tasters were able to get around the whole room, while others focused on either the left bank or right bank, or maybe their favourite producers. Here are some great value attention-catchers.

Delicious Fruit

Some wines with very good fruit expression, and also notable for their value, were La Tour de Mons and Meyney. The tasting duos were 2014 & 2017 for La Tour de Mons and for 2015 & 2017 Meyney. These are an absolute recommendation especially if you have now started working on your cellar.

  • La Tour de Mons 2017: £164
  • Meyney 2017: £228
  • La Tour de Mons 2014:  £190
  • Meyney 2015: £295

On the same spectrum at a nearby stand were Lafon Rochet and Cos Labory with their tasting pairs. Both of these wines offer very good fruit and ageing potential, Lafon with a rounder mouthfeel and Labory with a spicier finish.

  • Lafon Rochet 2017: tbc
  • Cos Labory 2017: tbc
  • Lafon Rochet 2014:  £285
  • Cos Labory 2011: £240
Fresher Styles

In the photo here are Chateau Pibran on the tasting table, next to d’Aiguilhe. Both of these will please those who enjoy fresher Bordeaux expressions with texture and minerality. Pibran is handled in the same facilities as Pichon Baron, and can be a nice addition for a diverse wine portfolio.

  • Pibran 2017:    £280
  • d’Aiguilhe 2017: £180
  • Pibran 2014: £225
  • d’Aiguilhe 2014: £150


Similarly, d’Aiguilhe was tasted next to its big brother, Canon La Gaffeliere (Saint-Emilion Premier Grand Cru Classe B). This Cotes de Bordeaux wine retains freshness and is a very good introduction to the wines of the Von Neipperg vineyards.

White & Sweet Surprises

En Primeur tasting means racing tannins, so a break was required from the full-bodied reds, to explore sweet and dry whites. Dry, old-vine Semillon-dominated, 'S de Suduiraut' from the eponymous chateau offers concentrated flavours, along with substantial freshness and minerality. Luscious Clos Haut-Peyraguey 2014 & 2017 from Bernard Magrez was the perfect way to close the tasting, after a mouth watering duo of Pape Clement Blanc (2006 & 2017).

  • S de Suduiraut 2006:  £230
  • Clos Haut-Peyraguey  2017: £290
  • Clos Haut-Peyraguey 2014: £350



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+


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.




Clos Rougeard at Noble Rot

by Wine Owners

Posted on 2016-04-19


This extraordinary vertical of Clos Rougeard (1976-2010) was held at Noble Rot, courtesy of Jordi Orriols-Gill of Rare Wine Vintages. There were 23 wines served in total, accompanied by an excellent menu that played a fine supporting role to the wines.




Clos Rougeard Saumur Blanc Brézé
1993 Fresh, fruited, green fig nose, faint oxidative hints, bright attack yet waxy textured, threaded acidity and exceptionally persistent. Super long. Ridiculously mouthwatering. Desert Island stuff, like a tuning fork in its intensity.
Clos Rougeard Saumur Blanc Brézé 2000 Perfume and camphor nose, rose petals, a dry vermouth-like spirity-ness. Herbal and the freshness builds with almost the same supreme length as 1993
Clos Rougeard Saumur Blanc Brézé
2005 Quince nose. Sandalwood and white flowers. Enormous intensity, primary, coiled. Give it 10 years



Clos Rougeard Saumur Saumur-Champigny 'Les Poyeux'
1976 Corky nose, damp cardboard, metallic palate at first. Jordi reckoned this wasn't corked. He was right, after an hour it had cleaned up, Still, the second bottle for the other table had creamy fruit, and was lovely. The only below par bottle of the night as it turned out on our table - so we can count ourselves lucky.
Clos Rougeard Saumur Saumur-Champigny 'Les Poyeux'
1985 Dusty nose but this has energy and a progression that is proper. Lovely finish. Overall a highly strung wine. Trying hard to present a beautiful public face but the age-lines are there. On its downward descent.
Clos Rougeard Saumur Saumur-Champigny 'Les Poyeux'
1986 Animal, leathery nose, bright, mouthwatering a little dry in the mid palate, over the other side of its plateau. Lovely mouthwatering finish nonetheless. I hour later just a touch spirity but a little more integrated and a touch of alcohol on the finish now the fruit is fading. Past its best.
Clos Rougeard Saumur Saumur-Champigny 'Les Poyeux'
1988 Great herbal nose, with an anis background and a touch of game. Ah, this is more like it. Lovely density and progression, fantastic energy and enormous length. This has lovely poise.
Clos Rougeard Saumur Saumur-Champigny 'Le Bourg' 1989 Darkly perfumed nose, a touch of cedar, warm entry, licorice and a little spice, and the spice is tangible too with a heady mid-palate. Very satisfying. Lifted, blackcurrant leaf finish. Long
Clos Rougeard Saumur Saumur-Champigny 'Le Bourg' 1990

Red fruits and cedar nose, enormous energy and brilliant finish. Great length and more of an expression of Bordeaux that any other of the night thus far.

Clos Rougeard Saumur Saumur-Champigny 'Les Poyeux'
1993 Pure nose, heady and spiced, redcurrenty undercurrent. Velvety palate, sweet, a little taste of heaven. Supremely integrated with an elegantly veined length.
Clos Rougeard Saumur Saumur-Champigny 'Les Poyeux'
1994 Extremely pure nose of licorice and peppercorn, so very gently sweet and svelte, so silken and smooth. The perfect sweetness. Strawberries on the finish and then a mouthwatering pithy finale. 
Clos Rougeard Saumur Saumur-Champigny 'Le Bourg'
1995 Damp wool and perfumed nose. Sheep dipped in Joy par Jean Patou! On the palate the wine delivers a knock out punch. Not sweet, not dry. Aromatic. Sappy (in the best sense of the word) fresh finish. Such shape to the wine. Haute Couture, shaped like an hourglass.
Clos Rougeard Saumur Saumur-Champigny 'Les Poyeux' 1995 Nose of pure seduction. Silky and cedary, liquory texture thanks to melted tannins. Fully resolved. Rose infused mid-palate, intensity without weight, vibrant, heady finish
Clos Rougeard Saumur Saumur-Champigny 'Le Bourg'
1996 Crystalline nose. Alluring organic nose like sleeping next to someone. Burgundian weight. Dark flashes of fruit, interspersed with brighter notes, like shafts of light. Vibrant and heady length. Tonight's expression of Burgundy and what an expression! Warm finish but the warmth does not come from alcohol. Visceral. Perfection. Sherbetty profile on the finish. This went so well with the gorgeous lamb served by the Noble Rot team.
Clos Rougeard Saumur Saumur-Champigny 'Les Poyeux'
1999 Delicate nose, fabulous aromatics, striking palate. Delightful fruitiness and exuberance with the prickliness of acidity on the finish.
Clos Rougeard Saumur Saumur-Champigny 'Le Bourg'
2000 Wood box nose, whiff of varnish, deep warm attack. Huge. Needs a bit more time.
Clos Rougeard Saumur Saumur-Champigny 'Les Poyeux'
2002 Yeasty, bready nose, tight entry, citrus fruit, grapefruit, big flavours, boisterous wine. Lovely dry finish. Lots of concentration. Young. Will be one for the future. Tremendous potential.
Clos Rougeard Saumur Saumur-Champigny 'Le Bourg'
2005 Spiced nose, oranges and mulberries. The warmth of Bourg, liquory texture, like a dry version of Cointreau. The orange in there continues into the finish.
Clos Rougeard Saumur Saumur-Champigny 'Le Bourg'
2007 Creamy nose, preserved lemons and white pepper, like a lemon posset - creamy attack, sticky ripe fruit, yet sherbetty on the mid palate. Very, very long. 
Clos Rougeard Saumur Saumur-Champigny 'Le Bourg'
2008 Potential writ large. Enormous concentration. Pithy, really pithy. Rapier like focus. All about the future. It's impossible to pin down, with at first a dark finish, then a bright finish. Amazing undercurrent of intense fruit.
Clos Rougeard Saumur Saumur-Champigny 'Les Poyeux'
2010 Round, ripe fruit. Fruity and yeasty. Intense fruit, on the terrific attack. Sticky lip-smacking fruit, fresh and plenty of potential. Great focus, like a corsetted wine. Extraordinary length







Leoville Barton vertical

by Wine Owners

Posted on 2014-06-26


We were guided through this fascinating tasting by Anthony Barton’s grandson, who had kindly offered to guide us through the vintages and offered insights into his family history.

The origin of the Barton family’s involvement in wine stems from the peculiarities of the English taxation system in the 1700s. The family business had been selling sheepskins from Ireland where they had previously settled from England.  But Irish products were subject to high import duties at the time. In contrast Aquitaine enjoyed a favorable trading status with England and so the business was relocated to this favorable tax jurisdiction.

However, pressure was exerted by local interests who were perhaps not keen to be party to a European tax carousel, and so the Bartons developed wine interests, first as a merchant, and in the early 19th century as a producer through the acquisitions of Langoa Barton and then part of the Leoville estate that became Leoville Barton.

We tried the vintages in three flights, beginning with 2006 and 2000, two powerful and structured vintages that demonstrate excellent potential; followed by 2007 and 1999 as examples of overlooked vintages that are well priced and offering great current drinking pleasure. We rounded up the evening with two high profile vintages, 1989 and 1990, illustrative of great, maturing vintages on their plateau of drinkability.

Notes

Future promise

2006 – Pronounced pepper and graphite nose, , elegant fruit but still on its reserve.  Full of future promise.

2000 – A classic pencil-shaving nose, and displaying effortless balance. Delicately poised, a fine of finesse, yet still quite elemental. Greatness around the corner.

Early drinking crowd-pleasers

2007 – Lush, velvety nose, spiced warm palate, lovely food wine.

1999 – Fresh mint nose, expressive palate of angelica, puerh tea, licorice. Lip smacking and massively satisfying.

Mature classics

1989 – Super-structured and painfully intense licorice. Huge length of flavor. Impressive but not entirely integrated. An adolescent - needing several more years to fully resolve.

1990 – Incredible nose of anis and macerated cherries. Lifted black cherry and hedgerow fruits, with a weight and svelte palate that reflected greatness.

Conclusions

A quick straw poll revealed the 1990 (perhaps unsurprisingly) as the favourite wine of the evening, narrowly trailed by 2000, with 1999 and 2006 tying for bronze.

A big thank you again to Damien for joining us, to our friends from Asset Wines who organised this event with us, and to Aurelien and Morgane for welcoming us at Pall Mall Fine Wine!


2011 Bordeaux – speed tasting at the UGC Vinexpo Asia.

by Wine Owners

Posted on 2014-06-06


The most noticeable aspect to many of the 2011s is the hole in the middle. Sappy, fresh flavours upon entry, bland characteristics and dry finishes with a tendency to fade away. Red Graves seems to have had a particularly poor time of it, whilst many St Emilion wines suffer from especially dry finishes. Margaux hit the heights for the vintage, as well as some of the depths.

 The wine that proved to be my fine wine initiation was Prieuré Lichine 1986, a young wine in 1989 bought for £6.80 from Laytons. I was happy that their 2011 was so pretty, floral and aromatic: near-term drinking in a well constructed package that’s the epitome of what the vintage can offer. There was no shortage of elegant examples from the Margaux appellation including Rauzan-Ségla and Siran.

 St Julien flew the standard for homogeneity as it so often does. Léoville Poyferré was exceptional, St. Pierre svelte, integrated and very smart. Gloria, Lagrange, and the Bartons showing some complexity and all very pleasant. Beychevelle was forward, cheeky and easy-going.

Pauillac excelled in the vintage; the Pichons both lovely, with a delicious Lynch-Bages occupying the next rung down.

Finally, a special mention for La Conseillante, which stood out from the blandness and dry finishes of so may of the Libournais. A superb wine. Still too expensive at £680, so worth waiting for the secondary market to wreak its inevitable damage on a vintage, like 2012 and 2013, that nobody really wants or needs.

La conseillante


Pontet Canet tasting event.

by Wine Owners

Posted on 2014-04-02


Tucked away inside the Royal Opera Arcade off Piccadilly is a small, authentic bar à vin, the Pall Mall. This was the venue for the first ever Wine Owners event in association with our friends at Asset Wines, who are headquartered upstairs above the bar.

We are very proud to have co-hosted a vertical of Pontet Canet, among the very largest medocaine cru classé estates and the largest of Pauillac, yet arguably the most progressive - having risen far above their classified status whilst demonstrating leadership and foresight in investing heavily in uncompromising viticultural practises in the pursuit of excellence. Many of us have bought regularly upon release over the last 20 years, so it was an exciting prospect to be tasting across 4 decades of wine making evolution.

Thanks to Loric Gouban, Wine Owners’ popular new intern, we also had the pleasure of welcoming Justine Tesseron the daughter of co-owner Alfred, who introduced the Chateau and shared its history with the 30 wine enthusiasts assembled. Everyone was delighted she was able to join us and thoroughly enjoyed her company.

Pontet Canet

The first wine to be poured was 1985. At first blush it showed a fine cedar and bramble nose, and was a satisfactorily savoury wine. Frankly, it was served in the correct order of interest.

1996 had an immediately deeper nose, beautifully long to taste with fine powdery tannins, elegant but still taut and with the promise of more to come in another few years. The wine split the attendees, some of whom deeply admired its sinuous complexity, latent power and impressive length; whilst others were left wanted more fat. For a significant minority this was the most admired wine, although this may need some time to find its finest voice.

2004 was a very different expression. Ripe, intensely juicy and with sweet, tangible tannins delivering an impressive package of power, energy and seduction.

2006 proved to be an unexpected delight. Parker had advised his readers to ‘fill their boots’ and how right he was! Such poise and elegant fruit, this was really svelte with a pure finish. It perfectly intersected the youthful classicism of the 1996, and the juicy attention-grabbing fruit, sweetly tannic, crowd-pleasing 2004. At this point in the tasting this was for many the wine of the night. It has to be said, today this vintage sells for a great price (£600-£640) considering the very fine quality.

Then came the 1955, riskily presented as the last of the flight in the hope - rather than the expectation - of a bouquet finale. Never mind, we all said, it’ll be interesting at the very least and a privilege to taste. The bottles opened had both been re-corked at the property in 1989, and their labels were of the modern design in place of the original ‘Cruse’ versions. The understanding was that this ancient wine had spend its first 34 years in the cellars at Pontet Canet, before being reconditioned and sold. The wine turned out to be a monument. A soft, alluring nose was followed by the most mouthwatering palate, showing the complexity of age yet the freshness of something altogether younger, cupped in perfect balance with the most persistent of lifted fruit. In the glass the wine evolved over a 30 minute period, taking on more roundness with air and continuing to develop attractively to the last sip.  Burgundian in texture and weight, what a way this was to finish such a convivial evening!

Pontet-Canet 1955


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