It’s been another enthralling week of fine wine tastings at AWC Wine Academy. On Tuesday, we enjoyed some breathtaking Grand Cru Burgundies. On Thursday, it was the very finest of Bordeaux, where we compared the likes of Pétrus, Latour, Haut-Brion and Cheval Blanc. As the saying goes, it’s a tough job, but someone has to do it!
Our primary interest was in conducting a head-to-head tasting of the best estates from the Left and Right Banks of Bordeaux. The plan was to do this with eight wines, in four vintage pairs, followed by a final mystery wine. For this event, we were delighted to welcome several of our top clients alongside a number of American Express International Currency Card and Centurion cardholders. The knowledge of the attendees and the quality of the wines being served promised to make this our most impressive tasting yet.
In addition, we were delighted to welcome back wine writer (and co-founder of the International Wine Challenge), Charles Metcalfe as our host. Charles had already proved his mettle by hosting our magnificent 1990 Bordeaux retrospective a few weeks prior. On this occasion however, Charles wasn’t the only wine writer in attendance. I was particularly pleased that Robert Parker’s UK colleague Neal Martin was also able to join us. I’m a great admirer of Neal’s writing and his palate is top notch. I’m certainly looking forward to reading his new book on Pomerol, which he has just completed, when it is published in September 2012.
Above: Journalist Neal Martin and Account Manger Lucy McMillan discuss the upcoming wines.
One of my definitions of truly fine wine is that it doesn’t just engage and intrigue our palates; it must also engage our intellect. This process of engagement is something we strive for at all Wine Academy tastings as we find it is integral to both understanding and enjoyment. It is important that wine tasting be both fun and interactive so that people leave with smiles on their faces, having been entertained just as much as they have been informed.
Our primary technique for getting people involved is to put them into teams and to encourage them to taste the wines blind. We taste wines blind for a number of reasons. First and foremost, not knowing what the wine is in advance removes any pre-existing prejudices that could easily influence the way we regard and rate particular wines. Additionally, because tasting wines blind is more challenging, it is also much more fun!
Above: Purchasing Manager Berenger Piras pours the wines.
Moreover, putting people into competitive teams adds immeasurably to the atmosphere of the evening and is something people invariably enjoy. This promotes inclusiveness and, as a result, tasters tend to ask more questions and become more involved. As a result, they often learn more too – almost without even realising they’re absorbing the information.
Charles began with a short, insider’s guide to the key differences between the Left and Right Banks and how those differences influence both the flavour and structure of the wines. On the Left Bank, the wines are generally dominated by Cabernet Sauvignon, thanks to the prevalence of gravelly soils in the region which allow the variety to thrive. On the Right Bank however, Merlot is more common and it tends to do well on the heavier, clay-based soils.
However, as Charles pointed out – there are always exceptions. In Saint-Émilion for example, there is still quite a bit of Cabernet Sauvignon planted in its cooler soils. Additionally, at the likes of Château Ausone and Château Cheval Blanc, significant quantities of Cabernet Franc make it into the final blend.
Above: Charles prepares for his lecture.
The first two wines set the standard for the evening. Wine one was a stellar 2004 Château Margaux from the Left Bank, which was both magnificent and completely true to its trademark, elegant style. As Charles pointed out, the First Growth was, “perfumed, graceful and classical; everything good Margaux should be all about.” I noted lovely cassis fruit, finely tuned acidity and supple tannins from this underrated vintage. 93 Points.
The Right Bank counterpart (wine number two in this pair) was the 2004 Château Angelus. Somewhat counter-intuitively, this was darker and deeper in colour than the Margaux, with more tannin and grip on the palate to match - which is perhaps why some tasters mistook this for the Left Bank wine of the pair. Whilst I enjoyed Hubert de Bouard’s 2004 Angelus and rated it 91 points, personally, I think it needs a bit more time in bottle.
I wasn’t the only one who preferred the Margaux over the Angelus. When we took a vote on which of these wines people preferred, Margaux was the favourite by a nearly 2 to 1 margin. In total, 19 tasters chose it versus just 10 for the Angelus. At this early stage of the competition, Team Latour (perhaps aided and abetted by Senior Client Relationship Manager, James Woodhead), had swept into an early lead by correctly identifying both the vintage and the respective origins of both wines.
The next pair presented a bit of conundrum. Wine three was revealed to be Gerard Perse’s 1998 Château Pavie, a Saint-Émilion Grand Cru. The estate is a favourite of Robert Parker and he rated this wine 95 points, while predicting that it will last for at least 50 years. High praise indeed, yet not without appropriate basis - you can see exactly where he’s coming from when you taste this wine. Again, much like the 2004 Angelus, this was deep, tannic and powerfully extracted, with fabulous flavours of black cherry fruit. 94 Points.
Of course, 1998 was correctly regarded as a great Right Bank vintage. Unfortunately, that means that many Left Bank wines from the year are regularly overlooked. The magisterial 1998 Château Latour, wine number four, ideally proved the point – these 1998 Left Bank wines are not to be missed! This Latour was commanding, powerful, beautifully delineated and exquisitely balanced, with lovely fruit, cedar, minerals and a terrific amount of length. 95 Points.
As many people pointed out, the Pavie improved considerably in the glass – it clearly has a long life ahead of it. However, the overriding consensus was in favour of the Latour. It just pipped the Pavie by 11 votes to eight with the remainder of tasters undecided.
By now, all the teams were warming to their tasks as the competition heated up and the quality of the wines was increasing in kind. The next pair was simply stunning and it began with a 1996 Château Pétrus. This was a gem of a wine, with poise, power, brooding black fruit, lovely sweetness and that tell-tale spiciness that so often characterises great Pétrus. I rated it 97 points. Paired with it was the 1996 Château Haut-Brion which was a lovely contrast. The Haut-Brion was more evolved and had more smokey and savoury notes. It was also lighter in body, with finer grained tannins and flavours of liquorice root, cigar box and creamy cassis. 95 Points.
It was a tough call between these two wines. The Pétrus was just slightly preferred and it won-out with 11 votes against 10 for the Haut-Brion. Significantly, put perhaps not surprisingly, it was also voted the wine of the night, just edging out the Haut-Brion which came in second overall. Meanwhile, in the team competition, the Lafite table was challenging Latour as they correctly nailed both the vintage and the respective region of origin.
The last pair of wines hailed from the 1995 vintage and did nothing to tarnish the extraordinary levels of quality tasted thus far. First up was Pierre Lurton’s stunning Château Cheval Blanc. Beautifully crafted, with an almost unimaginable purity of fruit, this was benchmark Cheval Blanc at its elegant best. While drinking beautifully now, this will also age and improve for many years to come. 98 Points.
Paired against it was a much more intense Château Mouton Rothschild which was both rich and powerful. It brought an interesting sensation of total completeness with it. The firm and beguiling structure had notes of cured meat, Morello cherry, dark soy and black olives set atop the tannic framework. 94 Points.
So, which wine went down as the best from this final Left versus Right pair? The answer from the very enthusiastic and increasingly competitive audience was the Cheval Blanc, by a hair – just 10 votes to 9. Meanwhile, the team competition was also down to the wire and was only decided in the final round, with Team Latour sealing an impressive victory over Team Lafite.
However, neither the evening’s wines nor the competitive elements were quite done and dusted. What remained was an individual, blind tasting round of the ‘Wine Options’ game. The wine in question was revealed to be an older vintage of Château d’Yquem…but which vintage?
By process of elimination, the triumphant taster eventually emerged, to great applause from the attendees, and was rewarded with a half bottle of the wine in question - a sumptuous, honeyed, marmalade-laden, richly-textured 1983 d’Yquem which I rated 97 points.
Above: A taster admires the evening's wines.
Once again, it was quite a night at AWC Wine Academy. Great wines, great people and great fun. What more could you possibly want?
At the end of this remarkable evening we took a vote on which were the top wines of the night. Here are the results: [Please note that all of these wines are available on request from The Antique Wine Company]
- 1st Place -1996 Château Pétrus – Enquire for pricing- 2nd Place -1996 Château Haut-Brion - Enquire for pricing- 3rd Place -1995 Château Cheval Blanc - Enquire for pricing- 4th Place -1998 Château Latour - Enquire for pricing
For each paring, here is how the voting tallied up:Pair 1 – 2004 Château Margaux: 19, 2004 Château Angelus (Enquire for pricing): 10
Pair 2 - 1998 Château Pavie (Enquire for pricing): 8, 1998 Château Latour: 11, Undecided: 8
Pair 3 - 1996 Château Haut-Brion: 10, 1996 Château Pétrus: 11, Undecided: 8
Pair 4 - 1995 Château Cheval Blanc: 10, 1995 Château Mouton Rothschild (Enquire for pricing): 9, Undecided: 10
We look forward to welcoming you into the Wine Academy in the coming months, whether for another exceptional night of Bordeaux, for your own private tasting or for one of the other exciting events we have planned.
To join us for a tasting or to reserve the Wine Academy for yourself, please visit - http://www.awcwineacademy.com - or contact Deborah Ives on +44 (0) 20 3219 5560. To purchase any of the wines which were covered in this particular tasting, please contact one of our staff wine experts.
Tags: wine school, wine tasting, yquem, wine academy, vintage, The Antique Wine Company, Stephen Williams, Pierre Lurton, Mouton Rothschild, Margaux, Grand Cru, d'Yquem, Fine Wine, Cheval Blanc, Chateau Petrus, Chateau Pavie, Chateau d'Yquem, Chateau Haut-Brion, Chateau Mouton Rothschild, Chateau Mouton, Chateau Cheval Blanc
Education | Wine tasting
Just a few weeks ago, we held our fabulous white Burgundy tasting, which was hosted by wine writer Robert Joseph. Following on the success of that event, Robert returned to AWC Wine Academy last week with a selection of fine red Burgundies to tantalise our taste buds.
As experienced aficionados know, Burgundy can be one of the most complex and often frustrating wine regions in the world. When it hits the heights there’s nothing to match it. However, you do have to kiss a few frogs before you find your princes (or princesses as the case may be).
Above: As with all of our tasting events we enjoyed some lovely canapes and champagne beforehand.
Robert was quick to point out that, should any question or comment come to mind during the tasting, attendees should feel free to shout it out – particularly if they found any of the wines lacking for any reason. With an invitation to openly heckle, who knew what the evening would bring? Fortunately, the enthusiastic and knowledgeable group of Antique Wine Company clients were able to enjoy an impressive, 100% success rate, thanks to Robert’s sublime and varied selections.
Above: Robert Joseph (l) and AWC Wine Academy Director John Stimpfig discuss the wines.
The evening started off with 2007 Corton Clos du Roi by Domaine de Montille. Today this biodynamic property is run by Etienne de Montille who took over operations from his famous father Hubert in the late 1990s. What has now emerged is a more open and silky style of red Burgundy than in previous generations. However, the wines have retained both their purity and their ability to age. This is a difficult task to pull off, but Etienne has managed it with aplomb and skill. The professionalism in production certainly shined through in this utterly delightful Grand Cru Corton.
A perfume of violets, wild raspberries and cherry compote rises from the glass. In the mouth, it displays exquisite balance, freshness and length. Above all, the wine had a brilliantly delicate touch, yet was significantly persistent on the palate – nearly always a hallmark of a great wine. This is what great Burgundy should be all about – the proverbial ‘iron fist in the velvet glove.’ Running £127 per bottle, I rated it an easy 96 points. What a superb start to the evening!
I was particularly pleased at how well this wine showed, as I had just bought the prestigious ‘Piece de la President’ lot at the Hospices de Beaune auction the weekend prior. Purchased for $150,000, the Piece was a 460L barrel of Corton Clos du Roi, Cuvée Baronne de Baÿ – a quite similar wine to the Montille.
As many of you will know, proceeds from the Hospices auction go to a number of extremely worthy charities. With the purchase of every lot, funds are raised to support extraordinary medical work. Some lots help save the lives of underprivileged children requiring emergency heart surgery, whilst others support important research into Alzheimer’s disease. As that is the case, I was extremely happy to pay the added premium for this particular lot. Moreover, if the 2011 Hospices Clos du Roi provides even half the pleasure of this Domaine de Montille I will be more than enthused.
Next up was another Burgundian legend – Domaine Armand Rousseau. Eric Rousseau, who now heads the domaine, produces nothing but Pinot Noir and is a master of the variety. Rousseau is unquestionably one of the Cote d’Or’s greatest and most sought-after growers. This evening’s wine was the 2006 Ruchottes-Chambertin, Clos des Ruchottes Grand Cru. While 2006 wasn’t the most homogenous year for red Burgundy, this was an absolute gem of a wine.
Another stunning aroma - both classical and bright. On the palate it had great attack and freshness. With an almost ethereal lightness, it still carried a touch more depth and weight than the Clos du Roi. The tannins were riper and the structure firmer, with darker fruits and a lovely mineral lift on the finish. Although this is drinking beautifully now, it will improve with age. Worth every penny of the £210 price tag. A sublime 97 points.
The third wine was from one of my favourite properties, Domaine Clos des Lambrays in Morey-Saint-Denis. Since Günther Freund bought the domaine about fifteen years ago, winemaker Thierry Brouin has managed to significantly elevate the quality of the wines. Given the warmth of the 2005 vintage though, we wondered what effect it would have on the style of this particular Clos des Lambray Grand Cru. Certainly this was bigger and broader than either of the previous wines, yet it was in no way over done or over-extracted. Once again, the truffle-like, red berry fruit flavours were beautifully delineated. What a pleasure to drink! Having said that, I would still keep this for a few more years, as I think it will benefit from a bit more time in the cellar. 94 Points.
The next Grand Cru also came from quite a warm vintage and this was reflected in its colour, structure and rounder tannins. While the 2003 Échezeaux from Domaine Robert Arnoux in Vosne-Romanée was nearly a decade old, it was just beginning to move beyond its primary fruit characters and hint at the glorious tertiary flavours to come. I found a lovely complexity in this wine - sweet, red and black fruits (both cherry and cassis) and a few more ‘animal’ or gamey notes. At just £104 a bottle this rated a very creditable and impressive 94 points.
For many, the following wine - Lalou Bize-Leroy’s 2000 Les Boudots, 1er Cru from Nuits-Saint-Georges - was the top wine of the evening. Although 2000 was a legendary vintage in Bordeaux, it wasn’t the greatest in Burgundy. Nevertheless, Lalou made a spectacular wine. The result was a wonderfully complex and pleasurable red with layers of candied violet and black cherry fruit, overlaid with spice, smoke and minerals. This had immense structure and staying power; the tannins are beautifully ripe and the wine is just moving into a more evolved phase. With plenty of sap and dry extract, the length is magnificent, making this is a wine to either enjoy now or to keep with great confidence.
As Robert pointed out, the feisty and talented Lalou is just as well-known as her own wines. She certainly has quite a back story. Having begun her career in 1955, she co-ran DRC with Aubert de Villaine for many years before being controversially fired during a vote by DRC’s board in 1992 – with the deciding vote cast by her own sister! Oh, the family intrigue of Burgundy! However, by that point Lalou had already begun to create her own estate. Domaine Leroy now boasts 22 hectares, from no less than 26 appellations, which contain a total of nine Grand Crus. Today, these biodynamic beauties are made from extraordinarily low yields and are priced at the same level as those of DRC itself. This wine is available for £288 and I rated it 98 points.
How do you follow a wine like that? The answer is with one of Burgundy’s most ‘cult-ish’ wines – none other than Domaine Georges Roumier’s Clos de la Bussière 1er Cru from Morey-Saint-Denis.
The core of this domaine is 12 hectares of Chambolle-Musigny vines which were brought as a dowry by a local girl to Georges Roumier in 1924 and famously included Les Amoureuses and some Bonnes Mares. The domaine was added to with parcels of Clos de Vougeot and the whole of Clos de la Bussiere in 1953. That same year, Georges retired, leaving his son Jean-Marie in charge.
Ultimately, the domaine really rocketed into the Cote d’Or’s Hall of Fame after Jean-Marie’s son Christophe took over technical matters in 1982. In my mind, there is no question that Christophe deserves the title of winemaking genius for the balance and finesse which emerge from his terroir-driven wines. Sixteen years on there are still masses of sweet, rich, black and red primary fruits in this wine, with just the start of spice, earth and truffle. The texture is stunning, thanks to the silky, velvet-like tannins. As ever, Christophe Roumier has managed exquisite sweetness, finesse and remarkable length. An extraordinary 1er Cru effort from Domaine Roumier which is a steal at £96. 97 Points.
At this point, one of The Antique Wine Company’s clients from Switzerland enquired about whether it was or was not appropriate to decant Burgundy. This started a lively debate on the pros and cons of decanting among the attendees. After much discussion and deliberation - and following several rounds of voting - it was decided that red Burgundy should really only be decanted when it is within the first decade of its life. Of course, there are no hard and fast rules here and personal discretion will always play a role. Robert commented that he actually decants most white Burgundy but hardly ever decants any red Burgundy, irrespective of age.
The seventh wine was certainly one my top two wines of the night and proved just how well great Burgundies can go the distance. The nearly 30 year old, 1983 Clos de Vougeot from Domaine René Engel was absolutely wonderful. Today, this 7.5 hectare domaine - with plots in Échezeaux, Grands-Échezeaux and Clos de Vougeot - is owned by Château Latour’s tycoon proprietor Francois Pinault, who bought it in 2006. Since that time, Pinault has installed his trusty lieutenant from Latour, Frédéric Engerer, to be in charge of winemaking.
However, in the 1980s - when this particular wine was produced - the estate was run by Philippe Engel. Philippe’s tenure lasted many years and he is often credited with having pushed the domaine into the upper echelon of Vosne-Romanée producers. According to Robert, Engel’s Clos de Vougeot is probably the domaine’s finest wine due to a combination of very old vines and the fact that they are situated at the top of the Clos, adjacent to the château itself.
1983 was another warm vintage in Burgundy and this wine still had some sweet, primary fruit characteristics to it. It had also developed quite a few of the tertiary, gamey, sous-bois notes which are so beloved by Burgundy enthusiasts. Backed by elements of soy and mushroom, this beautiful wine is now fully mature and the gentle tannins make it a real pleasure to drink. Not only was this the most valuable wine of the night at £300 a bottle, it was also the finest and the most popular (as voted by the attendees). I gave it 98 points.
Perhaps because the Clos de Vougeot was such a stunning wine, it did slightly overshadow the 1978 Volnay Champans 1er Cru which followed it. From Domaine Camille Giroud, compared to the 1983 Engel, this was even further evolved. Fully mature, it was quite firmly in the ‘old wine’ category which meant that it wasn’t to everyone’s taste. Yet it was still very much alive and kicking – though not quite as energetically as the Clos de Vougeot. Available for £186, I rated it 91 points.
Tied for 1st Place -
1983 Clos de Vougeot Grand Cru - Domaine René Engel - £3,600/case of 12
2000 Nuits-Saint-Georges Aux Boudots, 1er Cru, Domaine Leroy - £3,456/case of 12
2nd Place -
2007 Corton Clos du Roi, Grand Cru, Domaine de Montille - £1,524/case of 12
3rd Place -
2003 Échézeaux Grand Cru, Domaine Robert Arnoux - £1,248/case of 12
Tied for 4th Place -
2006 Ruchottes-Chambertin Grand Cru, Clos des Ruchottes, Domaine Armand Rousseau - £2,520/case of 12
1995 Morey-Saint-Denis Clos de la Bussière 1er Cru, Domaine Georges Roumier - £1,152/case of 12
We look forward to welcoming you into the Wine Academy in the coming months, whether for another Red Burgundy tasting, for your own private tasting or for one of the other exciting events we have planned. To join us for a tasting or to reserve the Wine Academy for yourself, please visit - http://www.awcwineacademy.com - or contact Deborah Ives on +44 (0) 20 3219 5560. To purchase any of the wines which were covered in this particular tasting, please contact one of our staff wine experts.
Tags: wine tasting, wine academy, wine education, vintage, clos de vougeot, grand cru, rene engel, nuits-saint-georges, Aux Boudots, Domaine Leroy, Corton Grand Cru, Clos du Roi, Domaine de Montille, Domaine Robert Arnoux, Ruchottes-Chambertin, Clos des Ruchottes, Domaine Armand Rousseau, Morey-Saint-Denis, Clos de la Bussiere, Domaine Georges RoumierThe Antique Wine Company, Robert Joseph, Romanee-Conti, Premier Cru, fine wine, Echezeaux, Domaine de la Romanee Conti, Burgundy
Last week, AWC Wine Academy hosted another delightful, fine wine tasting.
Expertly led by the inimitable and prolific Burgundy author, Mr. Robert Joseph, the tasting attracted some very serious white Burgundy lovers.
Burgundy is the wine region which remains closest to Robert’s heart and his knowledge of the wines, growers, vintages and terrroirs that featured in the tasting were nothing short of encyclopaedic.
No doubt this passion was helped by the fact that Robert lived in Burgundy for several years and knows many of the winemakers and estate owners personally. Throughout the evening, he was able to communicate his understanding and expertise in a way that truly brought the region and its wines to life.
Above: Fine wine tastings at AWC Wine Academy always start with a glass or two of Vintage Champagne. Wine Academy Assistant Alex Scheybeler (l) and Account Manager Lucy McMillan (r) prepare for the arrival of the evening's guests.
This passion also helped fuel some lively debate and precipitated plenty of pertinent, intelligent and quite wine savvy questions. However, no matter how detailed the question, Robert was able to answer with both wit and wisdom. No wonder he’s won so many awards or that Decanter Magazine once described him as ‘one the wine world’s 50 most influential wine people.’
Above: Perfectly chilled bottles, ready to be poured.
We tasted the wines in pairs and the first wine of the evening was the 2009 Chassasgne-Montrachet, Morgeot 1er Cru from Domaine JN Gagnard. Since 1989, the wines at this tiny domaine in Chassagne have been made by the highly talented Caroline Lestimé. It was an impressive start to the evening. As ever, the Morgeot was classy and elegant, yet maintained its depth and concentration – a true to vintage 2009 which will continue to age and improve. 91 Points.
Next was Jean-Marc Boillot’s 2008 Puligny-Montrachet. Whilst terroir certainly plays a part, Boillot is a master at producing complex wines even in the most demanding vintages. 2008 was an altogether different vintage from 2009 and this was reflected in the glass. This wine was more citrusy and tight than the 2009, with plenty of minerality and tons of crisp, fresh acidity. This particular Puligny comes from no fewer than nine parcels, all on the Chassagne side of the commune. It also includes some of the best lieux-dits, such as Rue Rousseau and Les Enseigneres. Out of the pair, most people in the room preferred the more accessible 2009, but Boillot’s 2008 also showed undeniably well. 90 Points.
The next pair of wines, from the same vintages as the first pair, was a clear step-up in quality. First was the 2009 Puligny-Montrachet, Les Champs-Gain 1er Cru from Camille Giroud. You may recall that that Camille Giroud was purchased by the famous American vintner Ann Colgin, of Napa’s Colgin Cellars, back in 2002. Though it is better known for its reds, this was silky, rich, creamy and sensuous – almost New World in style - with lots of ripe white peach and Bosc pear flavours. A real vin de plaisir. 93 Points.
Following the Camille Giroud came a more cerebral 2008 Chevalier-Montrachet, Grand Cru from one of Burgundy’s greatest negociants - Bouchard Père et Fils. Here, the Grand Cru terroir clearly showed through - complex notes of apples, greengage fruit, yellow plum, melon and nuts. This was also quite creamy, with a lot of butter, yet a nice savoury edge that was followed by very long finish. ‘Orchestral’ was Robert’s verdict. 94 Points.
While the Bouchard had been my favourite wine thus far, it was outgunned and outclassed by the sublime wine which followed it. This was Domaine Drouhin’s extraordinary 2005 Marquis de Laguiche Le Montrachet. It was simply breathtaking - complexity, power, eloquence and precision all rolled into one magical wine. Robert described it as being the quintessential ‘iron fist in a velvet glove.’ Without question, this wine is still in its infancy and will age (and improve) for decades. This had everything anyone could ever possibly ask for in a great Montrachet.
Above: Burgundy expert Robert Joseph leads the tasting.
What a pleasure and a privilege to drink such a wine! My tasting notes do not even come close to doing this wine justice - dry, fresh, rich and ripe with astonishing depth, weight and extract. On the palate, I picked up a bewildering range of flavours, including hazelnuts, minerals, white flowers, quince, pear and a savouriness reminiscent of rolled oats. The balance, complexity and length were almost beyond compare. To many this was, without a doubt, the wine of the night. 99 Points.
You would be forgiven for thinking that this would be a nearly impossible act to follow. However, the 2001 Chevalier-Montrachet from Château de Puligny did quite an admirable job – it actually performed extremely well. In part, this was due to the smokier, leaner style of the 2001 vintage and the fact that this wine was developing some superlative secondary aromas and flavours which added to its complexity. 93 Points.
The Château de Puligny’s sparring partner, the 1998 Le Montrachet from Etienne Sauzet also proved to be up to the task. It was beautifully mature and, perhaps not surprisingly, showed a gentle oxidative character which added a honeyed richness. Almond, hazelnut, mandarin orange, minerals and toast - another stunning wine from an excellent producer. 95 Points.
Among serious collectors of white Burgundy, it is inevitable that, at some point, a question about premature oxidation would be asked. The issue of ‘pre-ox’ showed up sometime around 1995 and haunted a number of wines and estates for several years. The question is why?
Robert took the question head on and suggested that it probably comes down to a number of factors. These included some suspect corks, varying levels of sulphur, riper wine styles and greater use of batonnage (stirring of the lees/sediment in barrel) during the process of élevage. Another theory is that the use of gentler presses may have excluded some of the natural phenolics which help keep oxidation at bay and protect the wines. In truth, it is unlikely we will ever know the conclusive answer. Fortunately, the issue is much less prevalent than it once was.
Above: Carefully considering the wines.
Eventually, we reached the last pair of wines. Both wines proved, without a shadow of a doubt, just how magnificently great white Burgundies can age if they are stored properly and given the chance. The first of the two was none other than the 1991 Le Montrachet Marquis de Laguiche from Drouhin – our second vintage of this wine during the evening. Naturally, the wine was showing its age, but it was doing so impeccably. By now, the colour on this wine had transitioned to a deep golden hue, yet it still had that wonderful acidity and honeyed richness which was also present in the younger vintage. These sublime flavours were married to savoury notes of spice, nuts and toast to create something utterly phenomenal.
‘This is what great white Burgundy is all about’, exclaimed Robert. I had to agree, as I found myself captivated by the wine’s sheer complexity, power and elegance. The finish was equally extraordinary. It was also fascinating to taste the 2005 and the 1991 side-by-side because you could see almost exactly where the younger wine is ultimately heading. 96 Points.
Last but not least, we alighted on the oldest Grand Cru of the night - the 1989 Bâtard-Montrachet from Bouchard Père et Fils. It was a fitting finale to this glorious evening. The wine was fully mature, with a complex, elevated nose, followed by a melee of flavours ranging from caramel and honey to nuts and spice box. Clive Coates once described this wine as ‘virile, powerful and [with] bags of life.’ I know exactly what he means. Even at 22 years of age, it is still going strong. 94 Points.
This was an incredibly impressive tasting. It was also a perfect example of how to conduct a Fine Wine Masterclass – with modesty, wit and humour. For instance, Robert candidly admitted, from the start, that it is simply impossible to know everything there is to know about Burgundy. ‘It’s just too complicated, which, of course, is part of its appeal. It’s one of many reasons why people keep coming back for more!’
Another reason is definitely the wines. As that is the case, I’m sure you’ll be interested to know that Robert is back at AWC Wine Academy on November 22nd to showcase eight, fantastic red Burgundies from some of the Cote d’Or’s top domaines. The evening is entitled – The Holy Grail of Red Burgundy. It should be quite the night and we very much hope you can join us.
We look forward to welcoming you into the building in the coming months, whether for the upcoming Red Burgundy tasting, for your own private tasting or for one of the other exciting events we have planned. To join us for a tasting or to reserve the Wine Academy for yourself, please visit - http://www.awcwineacademy.com - or contact Deborah Ives on +44 (0) 20 3219 5560. To purchase any of the wines which were covered in this particular tasting, please contact one of our staff wine experts.
Tags: Montrachet, Domaine Drouhin, Robert Joseph, Chassagne-Montrachet, Domaine JN Gagnard, Morgeot, Jean-Marc Boillot, Rue Rousseau, Les Enseigneres, Puligny-Montrachet, Les Champs-Gain, Premier Cru, Grand Cru, 1er Cru, Chevalier-Montrachet, Marquis de Laguiche Le Montrachet, Marquis de Laguiche, Chateau de Puligny, Etienne Sauzet, Bouchard Pere et Fils, 2009, antique wine company, AWC Wine Academy, Burgundy, Burgundy 2009, fine wine, wine education
Since we opened AWC Wine Academy at our headquarters in Marylebone, it has been a real privilege to receive clients who occasionally stop by and taste great wines with our team. This is mutually beneficial because we like to stay up to date with vintages and our clients get the chance to share the expertise of those on hand.Earlier this week we had the pleasure of receiving one of our North American clients whose favourite tipples are the top wines of Pomerol. We decided to take a look at how the Right Bank wines from the 2000 vintage were coming along. Having tasted some of the Left Bank First Growths from 2000 recently, I felt that they were still too tight and tannic - not yet getting close to their best drinking window. However, on the evidence of this tasting, the Right Bank, Merlot-based wines are already more approachable. We began on a high with the 2000 Pétrus. Self-evidently, it is still a complete baby. This was immediately clear from the depth of colour – barely a hint of ageing around the rim of the wine. The nose is also full of primary fruit; still no secondary aromas at this stage. In the mouth the wine cascades over your palate, with sweet cassis, cherry and plum fruit, followed by an echo of cream and minerals. The acidity gives the wine a sense of vim and vigour with the tannic structure giving it the necessary stuffing to keep everything in harmony and balance. Significantly, while the tannins are beautifully ripe, they are just beginning to open up and soften. Although this will develop for several more decades (and will be worth the wait), it is undoubtedly very enjoyable already. 98 Points.
How do you follow Pétrus? The answer is, with difficulty. However, a bottle of 2000 Le Pin was the perfect foil. As with many Le Pin vintages, what struck me most was the accessibility of the wine – its texture noticeably silkier than the more muscular Pétrus. The fabulously perfumed nose was exquisite – blackcurrants, violets and camphor. The utterly refined, sweet and creamy palate was more of the same, with a finish that seemed endless. One cannot help but love Le Pin’s exotic, flamboyant and hedonistic style. This was right up there with the best vintages from this tiny estate. But will it age as well as the Pétrus? On this, the jury is still out. According to my tasting notes, there’s definitely no rush to drink this or the Pétrus just yet, as both will repay considerable cellaring. However, my money would be on the Pétrus to make the oldest bones out of this pair of sumptuous Pomerols. 97 Points. Last, but by no means least, we uncorked the 2000 Lafleur to see how it was shaping amongst such esteemed company. Happily, it too shone quite brightly – though closer to Pétrus than Le Pin in style. This wine is impressive due to the purity of plum and damson fruit along with the cedar and mineral components - all of which were cushioned by à point acidity, balance and texture. Again, this is still one for the cellar. Yet, like both the Pétrus and Le Pin, it too is beginning to come out of its shell as the tannins are now starting to mellow. 98 Points.On the evidence of this tasting, my advice would be to resist pulling the corks on these wines for a little while yet. However, if you do, you certainly won’t be disappointed. The message for our clients is - next time you’re passing through London, we would welcome you to stop by. We prefer a little notice though, so we can be sure to have the wines decanted and ready!
Further to this profound tasting, we wanted to provide you with the opportunity to enjoy these phenomenal wines yourself, particularly since we now have case quantities of these rarities available. As we’ve just tasted these wines and can comment first-hand on their exceptional quality, speak with one of our expert advisors today to secure them as your own.
I look forward to hearing your own thoughts on these wines and towards recieving you in our beautiful facility when you are next in London.
Stephen Williams, CEO
Tags: Le Pin, Lafleur, Chateau Lafleur, Chateau Petrus, petrus, AWC Wine Academy, antique wine company, fine wine, Jacques Thienpont, pin, private tasting, Stephen Williams, The Anique Wine Company, thienpont, wine education, wine academy, wine, wine school, wine tasting
It’s likely that those who have invested in fine wine over the past few years were able to enjoy some great bottles during the holiday season; 2010 was another boom year for wine investors.
Economic circumstances over the past several years have had relatively little impact on the overall value of upper-echelon fine wine. This is because during times of prosperity demand for fine wine is driven by consumption. However, during more economically adverse periods, fine wine may also be considered a safe haven thereby resulting in an inflow of capital from investors as they switch to tangible asset classes. As a commodity, fine wine is rather unique. There is only a finite amount produced by each chateau in each vintage and great vintages get better with the passage of time. Yet, because the product is consumable, while the quality is improving the volume is simultaneously decreasing.
Over a reasonable timeframe this situation can be capitalized on as portfolios can either be partially or fully liquidated and returns are paid out. Additionally, the returns generated may be re-invested into younger vintages, with a few cases skimmed off and consumed for free, having been funded by the profits.Fine wine investment indices have steadily outperformed the FTSE 100 over the last five years and should therefore be a leading candidate for inclusion in any portfolio as an additional investment class.
2010 Retrospective -Two topics dominated the fine wine investment conversation over the past year - the much anticipated 2009 en primeur campaign and the effect Asia is continuing to have on fine wine prices.To say the en primeur campaign was eagerly awaited would be an understatement. Traders, investors, collectors and drinkers alike all held their breath in anticipation. With reports declaring unprecedented quality across the board the big question was going to be what quantities would be available and at what price. Unsurprisingly, the prices were unanimously high and the first growth wines lead the charge. Price levels of the very top wines inevitably spooked many prospective investors. This forced those individuals to look elsewhere, often by seeking value lower down the hierarchy of quality. The high scoring ‘Super Seconds’ and the St Emilion Grand Cru Classe wines became areas of heavy investment activity.
One of the unexpected side effects of last year’s campaign was that back vintages of first growths suddenly started to become relatively good values, creating a situation where the en primeur campaign had the effect of pulling up the prices of older vintages. Ultimately, the market illustrated that it was still willing to absorb the high 2009 prices. The question now is, in the short term, whether the wines leading the price charge can keep up the current rate of growth and, if so, will they continue to drag the rest of the market up with them?As predicted, the Asian market grew considerably over the last 12 months. The only aspect of the market to disappoint traders, to an extent, was the limited appetite of Asian buyers for the 2009 campaign. On the growth side, the demand for all things Chateau Lafite Rothschild has been unprecedented. This trend was illuminated by the many Hong Kong auctions that brought in stunning sales numbers. The resulting movement in this market sector has had a hugely positive effect on portfolios which include any vintage of Lafite Rothschild or Carruades de Lafite.
Investment Pick of 2010 – Chateau Lafite Rothschild, 2008 – The steady increase in value of this wine over the last 24 months highlights how comparatively undervalued the wine was at release. This growth was only bolstered by the craze created when it was announced that the Chinese symbol for the number ‘8’ would appear on the bottle. The graph below shows the performance of Lafite Rothschild 2008 vs the FTSE over the last two years.
Looking forward to 2011 -
It is hard to imagine any circumstances that would cause consumers in the emerging ‘BRIC’ economies of Brazil, Russia, India and China to reverse their burgeoning interest in historically Western lifestyle products and symbols, including fine wine. The biggest of these economies is certainly China. Whilst we currently see China as an abnormal sales market due to the complete fascination with Chateau Lafite Rothschild, we also observe an enormous appetite to learn about wine. As educational programs and opportunities expand there is no doubt that Chinese consumers will begin to appreciate other high-end wines as well.
Which top-tier wines the Chinese market eventually pursues may seem to have a somewhat random nature to Westerner observers. Partly these choices are driven by the translation of the brands into Mandarin and the symbolism of the labels. In this brand driven environment, it is likely that some of the up and coming wines are going to be estates like Chateau Leoville Las Cases (which translates to “wine of the lion”), Chateau Angelus (“golden bell”), or Chateau Beychevelle (which has a ship on the label not dissimilar to a Chinese dragon boat).
It is also interesting to note that current per capita wine consumption in China is half a litre per person per year. This compares to 55 litres in France and 18 litres in the US. In the event that Chinese consumption increases to just half of US per capita levels then the whole wine business, on a global scale, will change dramatically.As we move fully into 2011, it appears that the popularity of Lafite Rothschild in Asia will continue unabated. Be this as it may, I predict that the other first growths will start to enjoy some of the same popularity over the coming months. Following on Lafite’s tip of the hat to the Chinese market with their 2008 bottle, Mouton made a similar move by offering their 2008 label design to Chinese artist Xu Lei. This acknowledgement of the importance of Chinese consumers will go a long way towards fostering goodwill in the marketplace and increasing demand. At this stage Mouton is still looking undervalued compared to the other first growth estates, creating an investment opportunity which could prove to be a shrewd long-term move. Having spent considerable time with Chateau owners and winemakers in Bordeaux over the past 6 months, the word at some properties is that 2010 is reckoned to be an even better vintage than 2009. Yet, given the successes of 2009, are 100 Parker Points going to be enough to sell through the available stock of the 2010 campaign? At this point we have yet to taste the wines or get a solid feel as to whether the market still has deep enough pockets to absorb another top vintage. Although, if the rumours are true, we could be looking at another pair of successes along the lines of the famed fin de siècle vintages of 1899/1900, which would offer investors further opportunities to enhance their portfolios. To all of our fine wine investors in 2011, here’s raising a glass to a successful coming year and many great returns.
Tags: Wine Investment, Lafite Rothschild, Mouton Rothschild, Leoville Las Cases, Angelus, FTSE100, Liv-ex, Beychevelle, fine wine, fine wine market conditions
En primeur | General | Investment
Hong KongThe Mandarin Oriental’s limousine is ready and awaiting my arrival in Hong Kong and I am immediately impressed with the efficient service that is the norm in this fast-paced city. This landmark hotel is now managed by one of my very first Asian clients, Jonas Schurmann, who when I met him twenty years ago was the Food & Beverage Director at the legendary Oriental Bangkok.
Within two hours of my plane landing, I’ve checked into to my room, have showered fresh, and I am sitting at my desk in The Antique Wine Company’s Hong Kong offices enjoying the sunset view over Hong Kong’s exclusive residential district ‘The Peak.’After taking care of a few administrative matters, my local director (Julien Froger) and I set off for dinner with ‘Mr. Pavie,’ one of Hong Kong’s numerous wine collectors. We dine at Cepage, a Michelin-starred restaurant owned by an Antique Wine Company client from Singapore, and take pleasure in a dinner that would knock the socks off many meals at notable European restaurants.
During the evening we compare the various virtues of La Mission Haut Brion versus Chateau Haut Brion from the now deliciously drinkable 1999 vintage. The La Mission is deep and powerful, with an austerity that will serve the wine well for a long life yet to come. The Haut Brion is more about elegance, finesse, and the classic minerality that for me is the hallmark of this great wine.Afterwards it is back to the hotel for a mandatory nightcap and some time to play catch-up on the ever-growing email inbox because the European business day is still in full swing. I am finally ready for bed around 2:00AM, which I take as a good indication that my jet lag has reduced itself from seven to a mere three hours of discomfort.
The following two days are spent in client office meetings and hashing out deals over lunches and dinners. It is a very full agenda, but I also manage to sit for an interview with the Wall Street Journal about the phenomenon of the Hong Kong wine market. The interview includes making a visit to a private wine cellar at a spectacular home on Hong Kong's famous St. Andrews Golf Course, which is located about an hour drive away in the New Territories. Here we see another side of Hong Kong which reminds me of Gibraltar twenty years ago.
My final day in Hong Kong includes a visit to our logistics company. They provide us with a very secure and temperature-controlled storage facility in the Sha Tin District. The visit is followed by lunch with another one of our importers/exporters to mainland China. Over the best Dim Sum lunch I have ever tasted we talk about the Chinese market and how consumers are now developing interest in wines other than just Chateau Lafite.
While Lafite looks certain to remain the iconic wine for gift-giving, it seems there is a rapidly growing demand for many other Grand Crus and their second wines.
We spend some time studying the 1855 Classification in detail and interpreting the Chinese translation of each name. Leoville Las Cases, for example, means “Wine of the Lion.” Angelus is translated as “Golden Bell.” In China it is not only the taste of the wine but also its name, its meaning and its price that are important factors in the market.
I manage to get an hour in at the Mandarin Oriental's spa before my final dinner, a meal with one of Hong Kong's most prolific collectors, ‘JC.’ We meet at one of his buildings in the former manufacturing, but now choice residential, area of Kowloon.
It is a modest 50-storey affair, about the same size as London's Park Lane Hilton, and inside JC has installed two wine cellars.
One cellar houses about 10,000 bottles of his personal wine collection, and the other is divided into 100 smaller lockers which are rented out to fellow wine collectors for their own storage. "It’s just a hobby business," he tells me casually as we sip on Pol Roger's 1998 Cuvee Winston Churchill and tour his personal cellar - which seems to contain every great wine ever produced. We examine cases of DRC, Comte de Vogue, and Comtes Lafon going back to the 1950's, along with Petrus, Cheval Blanc and all the other First Growths. Later, over a Japanese dinner in his boardroom, we share Louis Latour's 1989 Corton Charlemagne, Bouchard Pere et Fils Batard Montrachet 2000, Armand Rousseau's Gevrey Chambertin Clos St Jacques 2000, and Chateau Palmer 1983. It is a delightful finale to my three day visit to Hong Kong, and I am dropped back at my hotel with enough time to pack for my 5:00AM departure. However, as I step into the hotel elevator, out walks ‘Charlie’ - one of our longest-standing clients from Bangkok. What a coincidence in this small world! Charlie, who is now running JP Morgan's Hong Kong office, and I enjoy a nightcap at the bar together, a drink well worth it because I pick up an order for a few more cases of 1982 First Growths, including a case of Chateau Latour in superb condition that we acquired recently in a cellar purchase in Switzerland.
Thank goodness I am able to get some sleep on my Singapore Airlines flight back to Europe the following day. That is of course after the Krug, caviar, and roast lamb washed down with plenty of their standard Bordeaux - Chateau Cos d'Estournel 2004! For The Antique Wine Company, Asia is currently the fastest growing sector of our customer base, but we still don’t know enough about our clients there. They remain a complex mix of wine traders, hoteliers, and private collectors. During the coming year my objective is to get to know them and their needs better.Travel arrangements booked by Amex Platinum Travel Service.
Tags: Bordeaux, Chateau Angelus, Chateau Latour, China, Domaine de la Romanee Conti, Fine Wine, Fine Wine Asia, Food, leoville, palmer, Singapore Airlines, Stephen Williams, The Antique Wine Company, Wine in China, Wine Travel, chateau palmer, mandarin oriental hotel, pol roger champagne, hong kong, wine hong kong, chateau haut brion, chateau la mission haut brion, cos d'estournel
General | Travel
Often, in our mission to provide our clients with the highest level of service possible, we must verify the legitimacy of bottles. Our staunch anti-fraud stance has been well-documented in the past and we have taken many unprecedented measures to ensure that we only conduct transactions with wines of traceable provenance. This position is exemplified by our continued support of the National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS) in Bordeaux which we partnered with to develop a series of tests using PIXE and Caesium 137 analysis to verify the age of both glass bottles and the wine contained therein.
Here is a bit of further insight into how this verification process begins. This week we were approached by a private individual regarding our interest in selling an Imperial of 1945 Petrus. The first step in any potential transaction like this is that we must verify, to the very best of our abilities, the legitimacy of the wine.
Upon receiving the bottle at our London offices, we began a visual inspection. The bottle provided the following clues:
1.) Label – The label was clearly photo-copied. This was easy to identify because the visual ‘texture’ lines on the front of the label were neither tactile, nor did they press through to the back-side of the label (which was peeling in one corner so both sides could easily be inspected). It is important to note that simply because the label is photo-copied does not automatically mean the wine is fraudulent. In the 1960s and 1970s many chateaux and negociants photo-copied labels as replacements when they were missing the originals.
2.) Capsule – The capsule was worn, but showed no signs of seepage or much physical deterioration. It was somewhat discoloured and the foil had clearly been twisted out of shape at some point. The capsule was also imprint-branded as Petrus and had ‘Mis En Bouteilles Au Chateau’ printed on the side.
3.) Cork – We were unable to see the cork because it was entirely hidden by the capsule, however, the cork was pushing/bulging slightly.
4.) Additional Labels – There were two further labels on the bottle, one at the base of the neck (front) reading ‘Caves du Chapon Fin – Bordeaux’ (restaurant) and one on the back reading ‘Selection Alexis Lichine’ (negociant).
After the above observations were made, it was established that the next step would be to carefully cut the capsule to reveal the sides of the cork. This would allow us to verify whether the cork was chateau-branded or not.
Upon receiving explicit permission from the owner, Julien Froger, head of our Bordeaux and Hong Kong offices, served as chief surgeon for the operation. Despite carefully peeling back three-quarters of the capsule, Julien was unable to clearly see any identifying markings on the cork.
This leads us to believe that the bottle may not be genuine. However, the verdict as it stands now is that we still do not know. The next step is that we are going to see if the owner would like the wine sent to the Bordeaux lab for further analysis.
Tags: The Antique Wine Company, Petrus, Wine Verification, Fine Wine, Imperial, Large Format, Bordeaux, Pomerol, Bottle Fraud, Lable, Cork, Capsule
Stephen Williams, Founder and CEO
Stephen Williams began trading as a wine merchant in 1982 and wishes he had stocked his cellar with Château Pétrus on day one. Since founding The Antique Wine Company, Stephen has built The Antique Wine Group into an organisation with clients in 63 countries and a global network of offices, representatives and business groups. Regarded as one of the world’s leading experts in fine and rare wines, he has created some of the greatest wine cellars and collections in existence – in châteaux, palaces, wineries, hotels and private residences across Europe, Asia and North America. As a popular commentator on the wine industry, fine wine investment and the global wine market, Stephen is frequently quoted by both the UK and international press corps. Along with his regular lectures at AWC Wine Academy, this blog offers a behind-the-scenes view into the world of fine wine.
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