2005 marked a monumental year in Bordeaux. Not only was it the third of the five, supremely great Bordeaux vintages of the 2000s, it was also the vintage that really ignited the global demand – pushed by a growing consumer base in Asia - for the region’s finest wines. In order to allow our clients to gain greater insight into the wines from this year, we recently welcomed Stephen Brook, one of the world’s leading experts on the region, as well as noted wine author and wine competition judge, to lead us through eight examples from this stellar vintage.
Prior to the vintage horizontal, Stephen and our guests enjoyed a Champagne reception with a selection of hot and cold canapés, including beef carpaccio crostini with rocket, parmesan, crème fraiche and truffle oil, pumpkin tortellini with sage butter, and salmon, quail egg and hollandaise baskets, as well as mini salmon fishcakes with tartar sauce. Our in-house chef certainly outdid herself on this occasion!
To start things off, Stephen reviewed some of his own notes on the 2005 vintage for both the Left and Right Banks, as well as for Sauternes, explaining that for each of these areas, "2005 stood out, from the very beginning and from the very earliest sampling sessions, as one of the best Bordeaux years in recent memory."
Right Bank Wine 1: 2005 Château Gazin Wine 2: 2005 Vieux Château Certan Wine 3: 2005 Château Trottevieille Left Bank Wine 4: 2005 Château Beychevelle Wine 5: 2005 Château Léoville Poyferré Wine 6: 2005 Château Palmer Sauternes Wine 7: 2005 Château Climens Wine 8: 2005 Château d’Yquem
The line-up started beautifully, with Château Gazin receiving a warm reception. Stephen commented that the estate’s plots are almost completely dominated by Merlot vines and that the land is of such high quality and is so ideal for the variety that in the 1970s, 4.5 ha of Gazin’s property was actually sold off to famous, neighbouring estate, Château Pétrus. Many people indicated their surprise at just how developed the Gazin already seemed for a 2005, however, Stephen felt that the wine still had significant potential to age well and that there remained a fine future ahead of it.
Despite being located less than 500 metres away from Gazin, Vieux Château Certan, the night’s second wine, had a completely different aroma and flavour profile, with greater wood influence - 100% new oak is used – as well as an unusual, herbaceous character with hints of dark chocolate and smoke. Despite VCC’s justifiable fame, overall, it was actually the third and final Right Bank wine, the 2005 Château Trottevieille, which was the favourite of the regional selections, with Stephen exclaiming that he felt it had, "really impressive length and that the acidity and structure would to allow it to go the distance."
Moving across the river and on to the Left Bank, it was the 2005 Château Beychevelle that led off the flight. Stephen explained how the ship with the dragon head on its prow - that emblem that appears on the wine’s label - helped sales of Beychevelle soar in certain markets, particularly in China, with the upswing in demand increasing dramatically around the time of the 2005 release. Interestingly, the 2005 vintage was also the first year that Beychevelle did not utilise the process of chaptalisation – this is a winemaking technique by which additional sugar is added to the just-crushed grapes in order to increase the potential alcohol that will result from their fermentation.
While the Château Léoville-Poyferré was certainly well constructed and tasty, for Stephen, as well as for the majority of the guests, it was the sixth wine, Château Palmer, which stole the show. The estate is named after General Charles Palmer, who acquired the property in 1814. Situated just a stone’s through from First Growth Château Margaux, the vineyards of Palmer are farmed completely organically, which is still a rare occurrence in Bordeaux.
After guests had a chance to go back and re-sample all of the red wines and discuss their notes with Stephen, everyone moved on to the final two wines of the night – the 2005 Château Climens and the 2005 Château d’Yquem.
The freshness and elegance of the Climens, which had a wealth of beguiling and attractive, floral notes was absolutely invigorating – particularly because the evening’s weather was quite warm and the bottle was nicely chilled. The finish on this wine was strikingly long and Stephen said that he’d wager that it could be placed in a cellar and enjoyed in 50 years’ time, without any issue.
In comparison, Château d’Yquem displayed significantly more texture and a notable creaminess on the palate. However, the acidity was so spectacular that it didn’t come off as overly heavy or cloying in any way. The delicious flavours of marmalade and crème brûlée that will appear significantly and will dominate the palate profile as this wine continues to age were only just starting to show themselves.
With everyone in agreement that 2005 was an exceptional vintage, by popular vote, it was decided that the Red Wine of The Night was the 2005 Château Palmer and that the favourite between the two Sauternes was easily the 2005 Château d’Yquem.
In October we will be welcoming Steven Spurrier, author, judge and wine educator, to present a ‘parallel horizontal’ (the 1998 vintage versus the 2007 vintage from four different estates) of Châteauneuf-du-Pape. Mr. Spurrier will also be bringing a special bottle from his own personal cellar to share with everyone at the end of the evening. This event is going to be quite popular, so ensure you book your tickets early. We hope to see you there.
Tags: Bordeaux, AWC Wine Academy, Chateau Palmer, Chateau d'Yquem, Chateau Beychevelle, Chateau Trottevieille, Chateau Leoville-Poyferre, Chateau Climens, Barsac, Sauternes, Margaux, Pomerol
Education | Wine tasting
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
The Event -
This report follows a fascinating evening of tasting and analysis which covered recent Top Investment Wines and was held in Monte-Carlo, the tax-advantageous wealth haven on the Cote d’Azur.
The thirty-two attendees were comprised of clients of Monaco Asset Management and local clients of The Antique Wine Company.
The purpose of the tasting was to study the investment performance of wine as a commodity, while simultaneously offering an opportunity to taste some fantastic wines. At The Antique Wine Company it remains our view that whilst fine wine represents an impressive investment vehicle, ultimately, great wines deliver pleasurable experiences. It is those experiences with family and friends which are often just as important as a wine’s ability to provide financial gain. What better place to enjoy some fine wine and discuss its investment potential than in a wealth management environment?
The line-up included four of the five First Growths (Lafite, Latour, Margaux and Mouton) along with the world’s finest white wine (Chateau d’Yquem), an exceptional example of Domaine de la Romanee-Conti Echezeaux and Chateau Cheval Blanc. Additional wines included Carruades de Lafite, Chateau La Mission Haut Brion, and a 100 point rated vintage of Chateau Pavie. Bordeaux vintages included 2000, 2005 and the recently released 2008.
Tasting Format -
Our head of purchasing, Berenger Piras, acted as sommelier for the evening and prepared the wines approximately 2.5 hours before the event. With the exception of the Domaine de la Romanee Conti Echezeaux, all the wines were double decanted in advance. The Echezeaux was tasted but not decanted in order to avoid any excess exposure to air. The wines were presented by Stephen Williams, our Managing Director.
The Rules of Engagement -
The wines were tasted in pairs. After delivering a short presentation on The Antique Wine Company and our Fine Wine Investment Services the ‘rules of engagement’ were explained. In this competitive tasting format, tasters could earn points for guessing (or calculating) the correct Return on Investment which would have been generated had the wine been purchased en primeur and then sold on the market today.
To enhance the competition, a bottle of 2005 Chateau Margaux was put on the line for the winner!
Guests tasted their way through the pairs, with some tasting notes, the opening en primeur price, and information on the various estates and vintages being provided. A few subtle clues here and there aided with the calculations. After the final wine was tasted we revealed the answers and guests marked their sheets accordingly. The winner scored an impressive 40 points!
Guests were then asked to vote on their favourite ‘palate’ wine (the wine they enjoyed drinking the most), which also revealed some surprising results...
Votes and Answers –
Please click here to enquire about the availability of these wines or to request additional information.
Surprising Conclusions -
The favourite wines of the night (by taste) were the 2002 DRC Echezeaux followed by the 2000 La Mission Haut Brion and 2003 Cheval Blanc in a tie for second place.
The 2002 Lafite Rothschild was the best performing investment wine with an increase of 1106% since release.
Correlation between taste and investment performance -
The tasting showed that there was very little correlation between the ROI and the Parker scores for this sample set. Two of the three 100 point wines actually ended up at the bottom half of the results sheet in terms of ROI (the Pavie at 203% return and the d’Yquem at 186% return). Interestingly, the two highest performing wines in terms of ROI, Lafite Rothschild (1106%) and Carruades de Lafite (712%) were scored modestly on the Parker scale at 94 points and 91-93
points respectively. This is no doubt due to the distortion caused by the Chinese market for Lafite.
The standout wine of the tasting was clearly the 100 point rated 2000 La Mission Haut Brion. In terms of ROI it came in third place (at 564%) and it was tied for the second most popular wine of the evening by taste. Our view is that La Mission continues to challenge the First Growths year after year in terms of quality. Be this as it may, it is still often overlooked by investors who are only focused on the ‘First Five’. This tasting really highlighted the investment potential of this wine, particularly given that it currently sits at an undervalued position in the marketplace. Fortunately, for savvy investors who are interested in the potentially 100 point La Mission 2009, we still have this wine available for acquisition in small quantities.
What did we learn? -
All of the wines at the tasting performed well from an investment perspective. Mouton Rothschild was the ‘poorest’ performer and it still showed 99% ROI over a four year period! Selecting blue chip wines and carefully analysing the market for undervalued options is the most lucrative route to ensuring solid financial returns.
The corollary between taste, critical acclaim and investment performance is clearly not direct. This shows the diversity of individual preferences, style and quality. These complexities are what continue to make the world of wine so intriguing.
To discuss or purchase wines from this tasting, or if you have questions about other fine wine investment opportunities, I can be reached at our London offices via email or phone +44 (0) 20 7359 1109.
Will Buckland, Wine Investment AnalystThe Antique Wine Company
Tags: The Antique Wine Company, Wine Investment, Wine Tasting, DRC Echezeaux, La Mission Haut Brion, Cheval Blanc, Chateau Pavie, Mouton Rothschild, Lafite Rothschild, Margaux, Latour, Chateau Margaux, Chateau Latour, Carruades de Lafite, Monaco, Monaco Wine Tasting, d'Yquem, Chateau d'Yquem, Stephen Williams, Will Buckland
Investment | Wine tasting
Once again, numerous of the world’s Masters of Wine have descended upon Bordeaux for a week of wine tastings, lunches and dinners, centred around a symposium to discuss the world wine industry and current changes in the international wine market.
I am writing this note having retired to my room at Chateau Marojallia in the sleepy hamlet of Margaux and there is a noticeable calm and tranquillity that’s fallen over this city, whilst my sales office in London (in common with most other wine merchants and negociants) is frantic with activity in selling the 2009 Bordeaux vintage.
This vintage is one that has been received with massive critical acclaim as to its quality, as this week we have seen eager anticipation turn to aghast and shock at the levels of the prices, which incidentally are completely in line with my original forecast set out earlier in this blog.
It seems that we wonder where the logic is in paying between eight and twelve thousand pounds for a case of first growth wine that is still going to be maturing in the barrel for the next two years when we can buy mature vintages, ready to drink today, at a fraction of the price. However, I thought the same during the en-primeur campaign of 2005, again in 2000, the same in 1995 and 1996 – and the same, in fact, in every great vintage when the wines seem to take a step-change to the next level. Despite that, in every example, five years later when the wines are in my cellar and it’s increased in value so much, I’ve not regretted my purchase but wish that I had bought a lot more! I am sure the same will be true of the 2009 vintage.
One of the main advantages of buying en primeur is the fact that this is the only time when you can secure a significant amount of the wines that one really wants. It is also an important time to secure the wine before the distribution fragments its availability around the world. For example, I know that every case of wine that I have bought en primeur, 20 years later when I come to enjoy it, hasn’t been shipped to the United States, Taiwan, back again to Europe and around the world another three or four times but has been under my control since its birth. The faultless provenance offered by en primeur is one of its most important and alluring features and guarantees the quality of what one enjoys in the future.
We have to remember, at the end of the day, it is not the producers that set the price, neither is it the merchants: it’s the market that sets the price. The producers are in a difficult position because the market price will prevail and, if the producer offers his wine to the market too low, then the merchants add on their margin and sell at the maximum the market will accept - therefore, the merchants make all the money. If it is the other way round and the Chateaux price the wines too high then the market will not buy it anyway and the negociants are stuck with the wine because they can’t lower the price. In this case it is just a matter of time before the wine eventually begins to sell but, sooner or later, all great vintages sell.
For me the real secret in all this is finding the value. As I am writing this blog, I have just heard that Chateau Leoville Las Cases has come out at a little more than Chateau Ducru Beaucaillou and considerably less than its neighbour, Chateau Latour, and this is an example of where the real value lies. This is a great wine and I take my hat off to them. I congratulate those at Chateau Leoville las Cases for getting it exactly right. The problem is we just can’t get enough of their wine because everyone wants it!
I am pleased to say that we will have an offering of mature vintages of Chateau Marojallia and Clos Margalaine, the best value Margaux, in a few days time.
Picture: Chateau Marojallia Proprietor Philippe Porcheron in his Margaux vineyard
Tags: Bordeaux, 2009, Chateau Latour, margaux
Tags: estournel, margaux, pavillon, pagodes, primeur, 2009, futures, tasting, vintage
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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