Last night, Château Director Nicolas Glumineau, guided Academy guests through the following, comparative vertical of eight wines:
PAIR 1: 2006 Réserve de la Comtesse vs. 2006 Château Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande
PAIR 2: 2005 Réserve de la Comtesse vs. 2005 Château Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande
PAIR 3: 1996 Château Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande vs. 1995 Château Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande
PAIR 4: 1986 Château Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande vs. 1985 Château Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande
Following a selection of exquisite canapés and Champagne, each of the above pairs was examined in detail as Nicolas provided expert guidance and insight. He began with a history lesson on this prized 2nd Growth château, covering the origins of the two, different Pichon estates while noting that Lalande has always been considered to be quite a ‘feminine’ style of Pauillac. Speaking passionately about the wines, Nicolas commented that “the identity and elegance of Pichon Lalande is due to the percentage of Merlot in the blend,” and that the many, clay heavy vineyard plots are especially suited for the growing of Merlot, much more so than Cabernet Sauvignon. Additionally, Nicolas stressed how the “Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot are the ‘salt and pepper’ of the blends,” adding spice and nuance.
The Founder: Virginie Comtesse de LalandeAttendees enjoyed a lively discussion on the relative readiness of drinking, the fruit quality and the overall ageing development of these particular wines. Nicolas also revealed his personal preferences on when to drink Bordeaux, “My father-in-law is 85 years old and from the Left Bank. He says, ‘I love my wines when they are 30-40 years old.’ Ok, fine, but I want to drink my wines before my sons and grandsons…For me, I just want to see balance.” Nicolas then went on to explain that the comparatively higher than usual percentage of Merlot (for a Pauillac) made Pichon Lalande accessible at a much younger age. After considerable examination and debate, the wines were put to the vote and, by majority, the 1996 Château Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande came out on top as The Wine of The Night. With its combined elegance, power, and rich, dense body, yet with soft tannins, the wine easily took centre stage. The evening concluded with a delicious array of bowl food prepared by our in-house chef and guests continued to sample the wines late into the night, while getting the chance to enjoy one-on-one discussions with Nicolas.
We hope you are able to attend some of the exceptional, upcoming events we currently have scheduled at AWC Wine Academy and we look forward to your joining us here at our Marylebone venue in the near future.
Tags: Wine Tasting, Pauillac, pichon lalande, wine academy
Our first Master Class, focusing exclusively on Tuscan wines, was held at AWC Wine Academy recently and it was a tasting I had been looking forward to for quite some time. Clearly I was not the only one, as all of the tickets were sold out well in advance of the event. The heavy demand resulted in an extensive waitlist, so we have now scheduled an additional session for anyone unable to make the first one. Given the popularity, I recommend your register for it promptly. Understandably, with the range of impressive Tuscan wines we planned to show, there was a palpable excitement leading up to this event. Italian wines in general and Tuscan wines specifically are hot topics these days, with demand for top wines from these regions continually on the rise.Additionally, we were delighted to welcome our expert speaker for the evening, Master of Wine Michael Palij. Michael is, without question, one of the world’s leading specialists on Italian wines. In addition to writing for Decanter Magazine, he also writes all of the course material related to Italy for the Wine & Spirit Education Trust.Along with his academic credentials, Michael is an engaging and charismatic presenter. He is able to add colourful insight to his lectures due to his very personal knowledge of and experience with the wines, estates and people of Tuscany. Michael was certainly able to call upon his expertise for this Master Class, conducting an extremely interactive session, which was a joy to attend.
Forty years ago, ‘great’ was not a word that was generally associated with Tuscan wines. At the time, the category of very fine wine barely even existed in the region. So what has changed? According to Michael, many of the advances can be traced back to the dramatic establishment of the Super Tuscan movement. Led by the likes of Piero Antinori and Nicolo Incisa della Rocchetta, these Cabernet Sauvignon-based wines were controversial, glamorous and most importantly, different. Crucially, they were also of an extraordinarily high quality. These wines helped establish Tuscany’s fine wine credentials at a time when they were sadly lacking. Interestingly and perhaps more significantly, the Super Tuscan movement also spurred a revivalist ‘Risorgimento’ with Tuscany’s native Sangiovese, which Michael described as, “an underrated but truly world-class grape variety.” “The key to the success of Sangiovese comes down to where and how high it is planted. While the French have terroir and attitude,” Michael told us, “Tuscany’s secret is that they have terroir and altitude. In Tuscany, how high up you plant is often the critical factor.”“You also have to remember that Italian wines are primarily meant to be enjoyed with food. Sangiovese is no exception,” he added. “As a variety, it has a lot of tannin and quite a kick of natural acidity. These wines have a real heft to them. They will certainly age and improve, but ultimately they are meant for the dining table.”
Above: Master of Wine Michael Palij lectures on the finer points of fine Tuscan wines.
We began our tour of Tuscany’s greatest wines in the southerly coastal region of Morellino di Scansano. Morellino became a DOC in 1979 and a DOCG as recently as 2009, largely because of the pioneering work done by Elisabetta Gepetti at Fattoria Le Pupille. The wine we started with was her single vineyard, Poggio Valente from the 2005 vintage. This is a Riserva which is only made in great vintages. According to Michael it is also, “without doubt, the top wine of Morellino.”The Poggio Valente is a blend of 90% Sangiovese and 10% Alicante, a variety which adds more depth of colour. At seven years of age, this was showing lovely black fruits and a touch of earthy tomato leaf. There’s plenty of grip, weight and acidity, with excellent integration and balance. “This is what Morellino should be all about,” Michael pointed out. “This is not a vin de garde though, it is really a wine for early or medium term drinking. This is probably at its best now and will be for the next five years.”
Above: Account Manager Annabel Dent takes careful tasting notes.
The next wine was one of Michael’s professed favourites, Fontodi’s 2006 Vigna del Sorbo, a Chianti Classico Riserva from Panzano. At 500m in elevation, Panzano is right in the heart of Chianti Classico, often making it too cold to completely ripen Sangiovese. However, in exceptional years such as 2006, it matures to perfection. Giovanni Manetti’s magnificent wine proved a prime example.A blend of 90% Sangiovese and 10% Cabernet Sauvignon, there were more red fruit expressions in this wine than in the previous, including raspberries and redcurrants, on both the nose and palate. It had a lovely elegance and lift to it as well, with more refined, silky tannins and an abundance of refreshing acidity. Michael informed us that he had actually tasted the 1990 Vigna del Sorbo the day before and thought that this wine would age just as well, if not better. “This is brilliant today, but you should really wait another 20 years before you open this wine.”
If we wanted certain proof of Tuscany’s ability to age, we got it with our next wine, the 1995 Vigneta Bellavista from Castello di Ama. Owner Marco Pallanti was one of the pioneers of the single vineyard, ‘cru’ concept in Tuscany back in 1978. This 22 hectare vineyard now produces one of his finest wines. Selection is extremely strict and Pallanti only makes Bellavista in the best vintages.
Above: Account Manager Lucy McMillan quizzes a taster on his thoughts.
Beautifully constructed, this wine had great finesse, complexity and elegance. The primary fruit was still there but is now giving way to tertiary, bottle age flavours of sous bois and minerals. Also interesting to note was the alcohol level. As Michael pointed out, this bottle was 12.5%. “Now, ten years later on and with global warming, the current release is listed at more like 14.5%.”
The fourth wine was the 2005 Brunello di Montalcino from La Fiorita, owned and run by one of Italy’s best known ‘flying winemakers’, Roberto Cipresso. Heading over to Montalcino and moving forward a decade, we were now seeing a completely different style and expression of pure Sangiovese. This was a big wine at 14.5%, but it holds it together very nicely. Quite modern in style, with a bold, rich and forward expression, this wine had spice, intense black cherry flavours, firm tannins and superb acidity. Ultimately, this was a beautifully balanced and utterly beguiling example of Brunello di Montalcino.I have to confess that I did struggle slightly with the tannic structure of the next wine, Soldera’s 1999 Case Basse. This was also a Brunello di Montalcino, but it is produced in the southwest of the region. Michael has visited this estate many times and regaled us with stories about the beauty of the gardens and vineyards. The property owner, Gianfranco Soldera, is something of a legend in Tuscany. His interests are not geared towards chasing ratings or critical acclaim. “He just makes wines that he personally likes to drink,” Michael told us. Though this wasn’t my personal favourite of the night, many, including Michael, absolutely raved about it, describing it as, “one of the greatest Brunellos ever made.”
Fortunately, nearly everyone in attendance agreed on the next wine, Piero Antinori’s 2004 Tignanello. This is, of course, the original Super Tuscan and the wine which caused all the fuss and brouhaha back in the 1970s. It was the first Sangiovese to be aged in small oak barrels and also the first wine in modern times to use Cabernet Sauvignon in the blend. Today, the blend is roughly 80% Sangiovese and 20% Cabernet.This was a huge pleasure to drink. It is wonderfully lush, plump, and fleshy and it is absolutely brimming with creamy, plum fruit flavours and baking spices. As Michael noted, “it is a very generous, ‘come hither’ sort of wine, largely because it gets a complete, new oak treatment. Significantly, Antinori only utilizes 50% new oak with [neighbouring property] Solaia, but Tignanello gets a full 100%.”Following the Tignanello, we tasted the current latest release of Ornellaia, another Super Tuscan legend, which was founded by Piero Antinori’s brother, Lodovico. Michael explained that this estate was really born out of an internal family feud between Piero and Lodovico. However, this initial conflict was only the beginning of the drama that has befallen Ornellaia in recent years.
In 1999, the Mondavis of California became serious shareholders in the estate. When the Mondavi Company was subsequently taken over by Constellation Brands, the corporation felt that Ornellaia did not fit within their portfolio of global properties. In a subsequent, bizarre twist, Constellation then sold Ornellaia to the Antinori’s arch-enemies, the Frescobaldi family. It all sounds a bit like something out of an Italian opera performance. In spite of all the management changes though, the estate and the quality of its wines have remained very much intact.This particular Tignanello was the 2008, which is admittedly a bit too young to drink still, yet was fascinating to taste due to its ripe, modernist style. The mix is a classic Bordeaux blend of 60% Cabernet Sauvignon with the rest comprised of Merlot, Cabernet Franc and a bit of Petit Verdot.
As is our tradition here at AWC Wine Academy, we always like to liven up our tastings at the finish to make them as interesting as possible. Therefore, the last three wines were all tasted blind. The first was definitely my wine of the night – an absolutely fabulous 1997 Solaia which was a complete tour de force. The wine showed extraordinary class, elegance, complexity and length. Michael agreed, pointing out that you could put this alongside a really good First Growth Bordeaux and it would not look out of place.
Just to prove the point, that is exactly what we did! The next wine was an equally superb 1996 Château Mouton Rothschild. Last, but by no means least, the third wine in the trio was Nicolo Incisa della Rochetta’s 1997 Sassicaia from Tenuta San Guido in Bolgheri.
Personally, I felt that the Château Mouton Rothschild and the Solaia just edged the Sassicaia. Ultimately though, the line between these three extraordinary, Cabernet-based wines was incredibly thin. Interestingly, when Michael asked for a show of hands, almost everyone picked the Mouton as the mystery First Growth – an impressive feat. Yet, for the evening’s preferred wine, it was much more evenly spread out. Although the greatest number of people (11) voted for the Mouton Rothschild, both the Solaia and the Sassicaia were just behind it in the popularity poll. Indeed, talking to people after the event, it was clear that the Mouton Rothschild did stand out. This was not because it was necessarily better than the two Tuscans. Simply that it was noticeably different. In other words, the concept of terroir is alive and well, as is the future of great Tuscan wine. Below is the complete list of wines tasted on the evening. All wines are currently available on request from The Antique Wine Company and prices quoted are in bond.
To join us for a tasting or to reserve AWC Wine Academy for yourself, please visit - http://www.awcwineacademy.com - or contact Deborah Ives via email or on +44 (0) 20 3219 5560.
Tags: Mouton Rothschild, Wine Tasting, wine academy, wine education, wine school, poggio valente reserva, fattoria le pupille, vigna del sorbo, chianti classico, chianti classico riserva, michael palij, master of wine, vigneta bellavista, castello de ama, brunello di montalcino, la fiorita, case basse, soldera, tignanello, antinori, ornellaia, tenuta dell'ornellaia, solaia, sassicaia, tenuta san guido, tuscany, tuscan wine, italian wine
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
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
Recently, many of my favourite wines have come from the stellar, 1990 Bordeaux vintage. Having opened and enjoyed a great number of 1990 bottles over the past year, there is no doubt in my mind that the vintage has now hit full stride. At the moment, these wines are providing enormous drinking pleasure.
As wonderful as they are individually, enjoying these wines alone cannot replicate the focus and feedback provided by a dedicated, horizontal overview. Tasting a wider range of wines, from both the Left and Right Banks in a single sitting, allows for a more comprehensive look at the entire vintage.
Therefore, it is no wonder that I was so looking forward to our most ambitious tasting at AWC Wine Academy yet – a 1990 Bordeaux Retrospective – hosted by writer and broadcaster Charles Metcalfe.
Of course, 1990 was the third ‘great to excellent’ vintage in a row in Bordeaux (not unlike the most recent trio of 2008, 2009 and 2010). It was also a very dry, warm year and, as Charles reminded us, July and August were extremely hot and sunny. In fact, July was the hottest it had been since 1949 and August was the sunniest since 1949.
Above: The line-up of 1990 Bordeaux.
As a result, by the end of August, some vines were so stressed from the lack of water that they started to shut down. However, necessary relief arrived with some September rains and the ripening process resumed. A further downpour on October 7th prompted some to pick sooner rather than later. However, those who waited were richly rewarded. Once again, fortune favoured the brave.
We began the evening on the Right Bank with the 1990 Château Gazin. This highly respected estate is tucked up into northeast corner of Pomerol where its nearest neighbours are none other than Château Pétrus and Château Lafleur! At 24 ha, it is also one of the biggest estates in Pomerol. For the quality it provides, it remains one of the appellation’s best values. Here the soil is predominantly clay, which is extremely useful in hot vintages like 1990 because it retains more moisture and remains cooler. Further, as this is on the Right Bank, we are firmly in Merlot territory. Gazin regularly contains as much as 90% Merlot to the final blend, with the remainder comprised of Cabernet Franc. As a testament to the quality of the terroir here, in the past, Château Pétrus actually purchased some of Gazin’s vineyards and integrated them with their own.
Arguably, the turning point in Gazin’s recent history occurred in 1988 when the present incumbent, Nicolas de Balliencourt took over management of the estate. Just in time too, as the impressive 1990 vintage was right around the corner. The 1990 Gazin was sweet, soft, plumy and savoury, with hints of tobacco leaf and some sous-bois maturity - just as one would expect. To me, this wine was evolved and drinking beautifully. Elegant, refined and possessing surprisingly good acidity, the tannins here were also notable in how deliciously soft they were. 93 Points.
Above: Charles Metcalfe was our expert tutor for the evening.
The next wine was the 1990 Château Calon-Ségur. The 3rd Growth estate sits at the far, northern edge of St-Estèphe and for many years it was run by the redoubtable Denise Capbern-Gasqueton, who was quite the character. Mme Gasqueton unfortunately passed away in September of this year. However, the estate is now managed by her two daughters and they are doing a wonderful job. Perennially known for its fabulous, long-lived wines, the individual now responsible for carrying on Calon-Ségur’s winemaking traditions is Vincent Millet, who took over chief production duties in 2006.
As many of you will know, the wines of St Estèphe have a reputation for being tough and tannic, particularly in their youth. Now at 21 years old, this perfectly-aged Calon-Ségur had shed its youthful exuberance and had become the exact opposite. Fully mature, it was sleek and sensuous with a slightly smoky character. There were still some excellent, primary black fruit flavours remaining - mainly cassis and mulberry - as well as some lovely sandalwood notes. Secondary and tertiary flavours were also coming through with hints of earth, mushrooms and undergrowth, all of which added to the impressive complexity. This wine was exquisitely balanced, with ripe tannins and a generous finish. 92 Points.
From St-Estèphe we headed south to the commune of Pauillac and another rising star of the Médoc, Château Grand-Puy-Lacoste, which is owned by the charming Francois-Xavier Borie. I’ve always loved GPL, as it can offer tremendous value for the quality it provides. While it has showed top form over recent vintages, the question was whether the 1990 would showcase the same level of excellence?
The answer was a resounding affirmative. In terms of pure quality to price ratio, the 1990 GPL absolutely stole the show. For a start, the colour was still impressively deep and it had an incredibly intense nose – with notes of tar, black cherries and cream. On the palate, the fruit was still redolent of blackcurrants, with firm tannins that were only just starting to yield a bit of grip. Compared to the Gazin and the Calon-Ségur, this was showing more concentration and staying power. I think this wine will continue to improve and be delicious for at least another decade. This was an astonishing effort which was well worth a score of 95+ Points.
Above: Wine Academy Assistant Valeria Rodriguez refills glasses at the Haut-Brion table.
We then took a short jump south to St-Julien and a real Left Bank legend - Château Léoville-Las Cases. Owned by Jean-Hubert Delon and managed to his exacting standards, we all had very high expectations for this superb, ‘Super Second’ estate. We certainly were not disappointed. The 1990 Las Cases continues to march on with vim and vigour. At first the nose was a bit tight, but it opened up spectacularly as the wine developed in the glass. The palate exuded class and concentration with cedar, cassis, blackberry and lead pencil shavings. The texture was plush and pure, with supremely elegant and refined tannins. The length was beyond description. This is benchmark claret from a great terroir and a great vintage. What more can you ask for? 97 Points.
How do you top a wine like the 1990 Las Cases? With a classical First Growth like Château Haut-Brion, that’s how! While the 1989 Haut-Brion is undoubtedly a legend (repeatedly rated a perfect, 100 points), on the strength of this tasting, so is its younger sibling. The 1990 is now approaching its prime and it is providing enormous drinking pleasure. The colour and freshness belied its age, suggesting the wine has plenty of stuffing left to last it for the long haul. Polished and pure, with dark black fruits, cassis, sous-bois, cigar box, meat, minerals and wet stones, it was an absolutely sumptuous wine. The finish, balance and texture of this wine are extraordinary. 98 Points.
Fortunately, we still had one red wine remaining in the line up and so we crossed back over to the Right Bank for the 1990 Château Cheval Blanc. This happens to be one of my favourite wines of all time. Interestingly, it has also garnered magnificent scores from both Parker and Robinson over the years – a testament to its quality, as they don’t often see eye-to-eye.
True to form, this proved to be the most popular wine of the night, just edging the Haut-Brion in the final attendee vote. To me, this represented everything that a Cheval Blanc should be. The greatest Chevals are never over-done or unnecessarily extracted and this was a quintessential example - both fresh and elegant. The perfume of this wine absolutely leapt from the glass and the colour was still so dark that it gave almost no concession whatsoever to age. In the mouth it was lively and vivid, with a good attack of mid-palate acidity and the world’s most luscious, cashmere-like tannins. It continued to grow ever more expansively in the glass – with layer upon layer of exotic scents and flavours revealing themselves. I picked up leather, coffee, red fruits, plums, violets, graphite, pencil shavings and cedar. This was utterly magnificent and it is now flirting with perfection. 99+ Points.
The last wine from the 1990 vintage was another liquid legend – Château d’Yquem. It was the perfect ending to a perfect tasting. Rich, honeyed and powerful, this wine offered everything that makes d’Yquem so special- an incredible sweetness, a luxurious texture, en pointe acidity and a spectacular sense of balance. On the palate, botrytis-infused flavours of coconut, apricots, honey and brioche explode in succession. It is no wonder that Parker gave the 1990 d’Yquem a 99 point rating or that he predicted it could last for more than a century! 99+ Points.
Above: Tasters listen carefully to the rules of 'Wine Options' before the final, secret wine is poured.
The final wine of the night was a last minute, unannounced addition. We often like to introduce a challenge of sorts to our tastings for a bit of competitive fun and this evening was no exception. The final wine was poured and guests were told it was, in fact, another vintage of d’Yquem, poured as a thank you to everyone for attending. Tasters then had to try and figure out which exact vintage the wine was from.
The colour was much darker than the 1990 and the nose was noticeably more developed. The fragrance was reminiscent of stepping outside just after the air has been cleaned by the rain. Fresh, enticing and beguiling - with loads of butter toffee and caramel - this was a fabulous, older bottle of d’Yquem. Eventually the vintage was revealed to be the spectacular 1959. While this wine was more than 50 years old, it was clear that it had many more decades of life left in it. The winner of the ‘options’ game ended up taking home a bottle of the 1990 Cheval Blanc for his efforts. Just goes to show - you never know what kind of wonderful luck may find you at an AWC Wine Academy tasting! 94 Points.
Ultimately, this tasting reconfirmed just how epic the 1990 Bordeaux vintage has proved itself to be over time. As these wines were all perfectly stored, they have all aged extremely well. Most importantly, they are now providing the optimum amount of drinking pleasure and they are great value options compared to many more recent vintages. Stock up on these stellar 1990s soon as they are simply amazing.
We look forward to welcoming you into AWC Wine Academy in the coming months, whether for another Bordeaux 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: AWC Wine Academy, Chateau Cheval Blanc, Chateau d'Yquem, chateau haut brion, Chateau Haut-Brion, Haut-Brion, Leoville Las Cases, petrus, Sauternes, gazin, calon-segur, calon segur, chateau leoville-las cases, The Antique Wine Company, Stephen Williams, vintage, Wine Tasting, wine school, yquem
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
Looking back over the recent en primeur tastings, a number of things have become clear... The first and most obvious thing is that Bordeaux has another great vintage on its hands, albeit one which is very different from the remarkable preceding vintage of 2009. The success of 2010 is due to the near-perfect and unusual weather patterns which developed during the vintage. In particular, the weather was dry but not too hot, with many cool nights. Several appellations did experience drought conditions but fortunately rain came at the right time in September. This provided welcome relief just when the vines were at their most stressed.The result was grapes that were small, healthy and concentrated and wines which are high in alcohol, acidity and tannin. As Jean-Guillaume Prats of Cos d’Estournel pointed out – this was genuinely remarkable. ‘Most wine regions can produce one or two of these three components. Only Bordeaux has been able to do all three at the same time!’
Below: Jean-Guillaume Prats discusses the differences between 2009 and 2010
Once again, this was another great year for Left Bank Cabernet. Firstly, this was because the weather conditions suited Cabernet Sauvignon, which ripens a bit later than Merlot and generally has lower potential alcohol. Secondly, this was because some Merlot vineyards suffered from coulure (poor fruit set), which reduced the crop in certain areas. As with 2009, some of the Merlot-dominant wines have come in with very high alcohol levels – whether or not this happened depended on their individual terroirs and the time of picking. On the Left Bank, many chateaux used less Merlot this year and much more Cabernet. Mouton is a case in point. For the 2010, the blend is 94% Cabernet (up from around 80% in 2009). However, this is by no means an exclusively Left Bank vintage. The Right Bank had some notable successes, particularly in Pomerol and, to a lesser extent, in St Emilion. Equally, Graves did well with both their red and white wines. For instance, at both Haut-Brion and La Mission Haut-Brion, big, powerful, and concentrated reds have again been produced. However, the power of these wines is tempered by the excellent acidity so prevalent in this vintage. The same goes for the whites produced by both properties. They are particularly impressive in 2010.
Below: One of the stellar Sauternes of the vintage - Chateau Suduiraut. Notice the interesting thermometer collar below the label, ensuring that the wine is served at the correct temperature.
Sauternes was also a success. The chateaux were blessed with a big crop and the wines exhibit good botrytis character and an excellent balance between sweetness and acidity. However, the wines do lack the sheer intensity and power of the 2009s.
As a result, there is near universal acclaim for 2010. However, some caveats should be issued when it comes to buying the wines – both stylistically and by individual chateaux. Consumers need to realise that the wines from this vintage have a very different profile than that of the more opulent and easy-going 2009s. The difference is that in 2010 the best reds are beautifully balanced but have a much more tannic structure and much higher acidity levels. This means that many will take quite a bit longer to develop. Yet, it is important to understand that they will indeed develop and that the resulting wines will be absolutely stunning. In many ways, this is very much a ‘classical’ Bordeaux vintage that will appeal to traditional European palates.
This was a difficult and challenging vintage to taste - particularly coming on the heels of 2009. There are many gorgeous wines in 2010 but the most successful are unquestionably those which showed some restraint with regard to tannin/extraction levels and percentage of alcohol. Unfortunately, some properties have produced tannic, over-extracted and highly-alcoholic wines. These wines may come around at some point in their development and allow the underlying fruit to shine through. Equally however, they may not.
In 2010 there are some real vins de plaisir, as well as vins de garde. The First Growths and Super Seconds have once again produced some exceptional wines. However, this year, their second wines have also taken a massive step forward. Carruades de Lafite, Le Petit Mouton and Alter Ego de Palmer are all scintillating wines and we will be buying as many cases of them as we are able to secure.
Above: One of the vins de garde - Tasting at Chateau Pontet Canet. Brilliant balance.
Ultimately, the commercial success of the vintage will largely depend on price. My view is that the Bordelais will not price 2010 any lower than 2009 for several reasons. First of all, they know that they have produced another excellent vintage that is similar in quality to 2009. Secondly, they have made slightly less wine than last year – overall production is down. Finally, they need to price it at least at the same level as last year simply to protect the current 2009 prices. Equally, it seems that the chateaux cannot raise prices significantly either. The global economic recovery is far from assured or complete. It also remains to be seen whether the American market will return after a long En Primeur absence.
Above: Will the chateaux embrace correct market pricing or will they burn the opportunity?
Another question is how much slack the Far East markets will take up this year. The Chinese are beginning to buy into the concept of purchasing En Primeur, and there was a notable presence of Chinese buyers in Bordeaux during our time there. Finally, what about Europe? After last year, some European collectors may feel less inclined to buy quite as much this season if the prices significantly increase. All of these factors lead me to expect prices to be released at similar levels to 2009.Of course, there will be exceptions to the rule. Those chateaux which have produced better wines in 2010 than in 2009 may be inclined to break ranks, particularly if Robert Parker endorses them with a big score later this month. In some instances, such price increases will be entirely justified. Against that, my inside information on Parker’s thinking is that he is likely to rate 2010 ‘a notch lower than 2009’.
Above: What will Robert Parker score the wines of Lafite-Rothschild?
At the Antique Wine Company, we will be offering specific advice to our clients as the campaign unfolds throughout May and June. Our counselling will be based heavily on our first-hand experience with each individual chateaux and the quality-to-price ratio of each wine. I believe that, no matter what, 2010 is a vintage that serious and knowledgeable collectors and consumers will want to include in their cellars. Prices are unlikely to fall in the near term and certainly over the long haul, the top wines will inevitably rise in value.Always remember, En Primeur is the best time to purchase top wines at their lowest market prices. It is also the only time consumers and collectors can obtain a substantial volume of their favourite wines and be unequivocally certain of provenance. Demand for the top wines from this vintage will be strong. As a merchant, it is always somewhat of a challenge to satisfy the many demands of the négociants, who require us to purchase vast quantities of their lesser wines, pro-rata to the First Growths and premium wines. The négociants decide which merchants are currently in favour and they like to see those merchants buying not only the First Growths but also promoting the less prominent and lower–hierarchy wines.In almost every vintage, market demand for the First Growths exceeds supply. Each year we find that we can easily sell our entire allocation of these wines. Therefore, we are constantly trying to increase the size of our allocations and 2010 is no exception. Thus, as we head into the 2010 En Primeur campaign, clients wishing to secure larger volumes of First Growths might also consider purchasing other classified wines. In good vintages - where the quality is more homogeneous - these lower hierarchy wines are perfect for many occasions and moments. It is a timely convenience that the 2009 vintage produced wines of this type – exceptional quality and ideal for early drinking.Therefore, clients should consider balancing their allocation requests for 2010 First Growths with a quantity of 2009 lower–classified growths. These 2009s can then be consumed and enjoyed while the 2010s continue to undergo élevage. This creates a win–win situation for everyone involved - including you, the client, The Antique Wine Company as your merchant, and both the châteaux and the négociants. Our Top Picks from the 2010 Bordeaux Vintage -LafitePalmerMargauxHaut-BrionHaut-Brion BlancVieux Chateau CertanLe PinLe Petit MoutonCarruades de LafiteCos d’EstournelAngelusCheval Blanc
Tags: En Primeur, Bordeaux, 2010 vintage, wine tasting, Stephen Williams, Chateau Lafite, Chateau Palmer, Haut-Brion, Vieux Chateau Certan, Le Pin, Chateau Mouton, Le Petit Mouton, Carruades de Lafite, Cos d'Estournel, 2010 pricing, 2010 versus 2009 Bordeaux, Angelus, Cheval Blanc, Saternes, Alter Ego de Palmer
Life is rarely dull in the fine wine business. After spending the weekend tasting nineteenth century Ports in the depths of the Douro Valley, today I’m in Bordeaux to taste wines almost 200 years younger, as the chateaux open their doors to the world in advance of the 2010 En Primeur campaign. For the next few days, I will be writing from the annual series of trade tastings as we get a first impression of what 2010 has to offer. If all the excitement that is starting to build around this vintage proves to be true, it promises to be quite a week!
This year my load is lightened because I am assisted by nine of my colleagues from our offices in London, Hong Kong, and the Cote d’Azur. I think it is vital that the wine experts who will be directly advising our clients have the chance to taste these wines at the earliest opportunity available. This enables them to provide authoritative advice from their own personal experience. For me, that is what being a good wine merchant is all about.
Our first tasting today was at the St. Julien Second Growth Chateau Leoville-Barton, owned of course by the legendary Anthony Barton. As ever, the property was looking immaculate and resplendent in the warm spring sunshine as we turned off the D2. However, we immediately stepped out of the bright light and into the cool dark cellar. Surrounded by barrels of the still-maturing 2009, upon tasting the first wine in the line-up this morning (the 2010 edition of Third Growth Chateau Langoa-Barton), my initial impression was that this was indeed a very different vintage from the fabulous 2009.
Above: Spring is in the air!
For a start, you could taste the intense tannic structure on both the Langoa and the Leoville-Barton that followed it. These wines were much more assertive than the 2009s. True to form, the Leoville was much broader and more serious than the Langoa, with classical cassis fruit. Both wines also weighed in at 13.2% alcohol, thereby contradicting advance reports of high alcohol wines across Bordeaux. These wines were anything but. I was very taken with the Leoville (92 points) but less so with the Langoa (86 points), which seemed to me to lack attack.
Below: Cellar room at Leoville-Barton
From St. Julien we headed to Chateau Belgrave, the Fifth Growth property belonging to the Dourthe group that is part of the Bordeaux negociants CVGB. We were ushered into the very bright and modern tasting room adjoining the barrel hall. This estate has just been impressively (and expensively) renovated. In fact, our visit today meant that we were among the first to taste there. This was also our first opportunity to taste across a broad swath of appellations. However, I resisted the temptation to stray too far afield. I limited myself to tasting a single Margaux flight of eight wines in order to get a better handle on how the vintage performed in that particular region.
First up was the lesser-known Fifth Growth Chateau Desmirail. It had good colour, fruit and structure. While not a stunning wine, it was certainly solid and worth 90 points. The Durfort-Vivens came next and was a bit closed and disappointing, despite being a Second Growth. I rated it alongside the Desmirail at 90 points. Sadly, The Marquis d’Alesme Becker was faulty and, unfortunately, no second bottle was forthcoming.
I felt that the 2010 Prieure-Lichine had a touch of Margaux perfume on the nose, but I was let down on the palate. To me it was austere and tough. The tannins had overtaken the fruit and now dominated the wine. I rated it 89 points.
The next wine, Cantenac-Brown, was a much needed step-up in quality. Deeply coloured with a classic Margaux nose, this was full of tobacco and cassis-blueberry fruit. The acidity was fresh and the tannins were ripe. All in all, it was an elegant 2010 and was definitely worthy of 94 points.
Two other wines which greatly impressed me were Chateau Lascombes and Chateau Rauzan-Segla. The former was a dark, sweet, generous and well-structured wine with both good acidity and polished tannins. Another 94 pointer.At Rauzan-Segla, John Kolassa has fashioned a really impressive 2010 that delivers elegance and finesse. The tannins were firm but ripe and were held in check by some very impressive acidity and gorgeous plum fruit flavours supported by notes of plum, blackcurrant, tobacco and minerals. 95 points.
What this first snapshot suggested to me was that this is a vintage that we need to approach with careful attention to selection. Perhaps there is a lack of consistency?
Our next appointment was at the Third Growth (yet generally considered to be “Super Second”) Chateau Palmer. It is always a pleasure to visit Palmer during En Primeur week and today’s tasting was no exception. In 2009, Palmer produced one of the top wines of the vintage, meaning winemaker Thomas Duroux had a tough act to follow. However, I think Duroux may have done it again thanks to the estate’s magnificent terroir, the low yields, strict selection and skilled winemaking. The estate’s second wine – Alter Ego - was outstanding once again and was surprisingly approachable. Palmer has a high percentage of Merlot in its vineyards and the rumour that Merlot had done exceptionally well in 2010 was backed-up by the way this wine performed.
The wine was bright, full, rich and sweet, with just a hint of eucalyptus on the finish – classic Palmer. It was also surprisingly big at 14.4%. However, it also has a very low pH at 3.35 which means that it retains a wonderfully fresh acidity. Great fruit, freshness and structure - easily 94 points.Although the Alter Ego was easier to taste, it was no hardship to sample the Grand Vin either. Surprisingly, the 2010 Palmer had even more Merlot in the blend than the Alter Ego! However, this also meant that the resulting wine was simply breathtaking. This had leather, cream, oodles of black fruit, chocolate, spice, mint and the most fabulous tannin structure balanced by pinpoint acidity. Again, the wine was big and generous (14.5%), but the way it was structured meant that it carried the alcohol quite effortlessly. My thoughts are that this is a 99 point wine and is a definite contender for wine of the vintage.According to Thomas, he believes that the acidity in these wines was the key to their success. ‘It’s the freshness and the acidity which counterbalances the tannin. There’s no question this will definitely be a very long-lived vintage.’ Interestingly, Duroux also said that 2009 was much more voluptuous than 2010, which I would certainly agree with. He also observed that 2010 was actually more like 2000 rather than 2005. ‘Except that, to me, 2010 is a much more concentrated version.’ Make no mistake; this is clearly a “vin de garde”.
Above: Tasting at Chateau Palmer
After our Palmer visit a spot of lunch was urgently required, so we stopped off for a much needed pit-stop at Le Savoie restaurant in the village of Margaux. In the afternoon, we stepped it up a gear or two when we visited both Chateau Margaux and Chateau Haut-Brion. These two estates told us even more about the vintage and the promise of 2010 Bordeaux. I will share my thoughts on them shortly, so check back here soon...
Tags: En Primeur, Bordeaux, 2010 vintage, wine tasting, Stephen Williams, Alter Ego, Chateau Palmer, Leoville Barton, Langoa Barton, Chateau Lascombes, Chateau Rauzan-Segla
En primeur | Travel | Wine tasting
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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