The closest link between the people that make wine and the people that drink it
Apparently the Forth Bridge has been completely repainted and they don’t need to start again at the beginning. Work on Inside Burgundy however is never finished! We eagerly await the launch of the iPad eBook on the Côte de Nuits, to join its sibling Côte de Beaune, launched last year.
The joy of the iPad version (please note it is a book, not an app) is that you don’t have to lug around 2 kilos of hardback when you are visiting the vineyards or indeed just catching up on some Burgundy reading on the commute to work. There are also numerous added attractions – photographs from the hugely talented Michel Joly and Jon Wyand, videos in the vineyards, and some unique individual vineyard maps showing who owns which plot. The map of clos Vougeot is widely available and was in the hardback book but we have added to this Richebourg, Romanée St Vivant, Ruchottes-Chambertin, Nuits-St Georges Les St Georges and Gevrey-Chambertin Clos St Jacques.
It was a fascinating task, working out who owned which plot. The most challenging was Richebourg where figures quoted by other authors on how holdings were split between the two parts of the vineyard, Richebourg and Veroilles, didn’t seem to add up logically. So I prowled round the vineyard and was able to discern the exact detail of each plot by the differing viticultural practices of, e.g., one member of the Gros family compared to another. Anorak stuff perhaps, but deeply satisfying.
The iPad version has also enabled me to update information, with considerable enhancement of the chapter on Marsannay and the addition or expansion of many producer profiles throughout the book. Thus in Vosne-Romanée alone Domaines Confuron-Cotétidot, Forey, Gerard Mugneret, Georges Noëllat, A & B Rion, Jean Tardy and Fabrice Vigot have been added or significantly expanded. There’s always more to be to discovered, another bit of the Burgundy bridge to repaint.
The middle of May is a time normally dominated by the unrelenting force of a Bordeaux En Primeur campaign, however for one afternoon my Fine Wine colleague Martyn Rolph and I were to be wowed by the excellent wines of Domaine Faiveley alongside the food of Philip Howard at his two-star ‘The Square’ in Mayfair.
The wines were presented by Erwan Faiveley, a man who is very much the new generation at this legendary Domaine and if this is lunch is anything to go by will further elevate the already lofty status of this excellent House.
A petit aperitif of their 2011 Rully Blanc ‘Les Villeranges’ paved the way for the 2010 Meursault which showed that the village wines of this vintage can be drunk now, but equally have the capacity to age over the next two to three years at least. The largesse of the mid-palate made a perfect match for Philip’s Mousseron Risotto.
Erwan was keen to show us that the Domaine’s expertise in the Côtes de Nuits and Beaune also translates into Chablis. There could have been few better ways to do this than with his 2011 Chablis ‘Les Clos’. Essentially, the most coveted vineyard in Chablis in a vintage where the region really shone – what could be better? The potential of this wine is clearly huge, with the structure and acidity to underpin many years of development, it is hard to resist top Chablis when it is youthful at the best of times, but with the right food they can really charm. Grilled Red Mullet with Leek Hearts Monk’s Beard and Botarga made this extremely charming indeed.
Moving on to the red wines and two fantastic meat dominated courses to match. Youthful Corton wines can be quite tricky to say the least, often with a distinctly austere edge – this is not the case with Erwan’s 2008 Corton ‘Clos des Corton Faiveley’. After recounting us with the intricate story behind why the name of the Domaine is included the name of the vineyard this wine flourished with its vibrant, rich, crunchy fruit. But also with a structure and freshness which met the Glazed Iberico Pork Cheeks very kindly. The smaller element of development and underplayed oak dovetailed with the Morels and hand rolled Macaroni.
Traditional Burgundy thinking would tell you that now is much too early to broach a 2009 Gevrey Chambertin Premier Cru, particularly one so serious as ‘Combe aux Moines’. However the fruit is so dense and the tannins so fine that with a good decant this was on top form. Its bounding fruit-forward, energetic approach was a contrast to the measured, finely boned and elegant 2007 Echezeaux. A challenging red Burgundy vintage to say the least but one which Faiveley are famed for the numerous successes they chalked up.
Both formed an interesting point of comparison and discussion to a wine made by Erwan’s Father – 1998 Latricières-Chambertin. This displayed distinct developed characteristics on the nose, as you would expect from 14-year-old Grand Cru Burgundy. The palate was a very different story, operating at a different pace of development, just in the middle of its secondary phase and alongside a ‘significant’ portion of Epoisse made for a great finale.
All the wines were fantastic but if forced to proffer a ‘wine-of-the-afternoon’, for Martyn and me, it would have to be the 2009 Gevrey-Chambertin 1er Cru, Combe aux Moines. So much so, we pressed our Burgundy Buyer Jasper Morris MW to secure further stocks – we’re just waiting on the slow boat from Burgundy. More details available from your Cellar Plan Account Manager.
This year was no exception, though we’d decided early on to change our usual venue of the atmospheric, vaulted Napoleon Cellar to our glamorous Long Room in our Townhouse: from a 48 member capacity to a room that seats just 13 guests plus host. Much more intimate!
It’s always wonderful welcoming people into our luxurious Townhouse – which feels like a secret abode in the centre of bustling London – where we enjoyed an initial glass of Champagne to whet the appetite for the evening ahead. Mark Pardoe, Wine Club’s recently appointed head buyer, introduced himself, while we all supped on the deliciously dry Champagne Pierre Peters Extra Brut At this point I sadly left the evening while Mark took on the reins to host the dinner in the floor above.
The five-course menu for the night was once again impeccably selected and crafted by Stewart our head chef (making us wish we could replicate a mere morsel of the dish at home ourselves) :
2011 Viognier, Le Pied de Samson, Vin de Pays, Domaine Georges Vernay, N. Rhône paired with roast & confit quail with a salad of spring vegetables & goats milk purée
2011 Grüner Veltliner Ried Schütt Smaragd, Emmerich Knoll, Wachau paired with seared scallop with morel & wild garlic ravioli, fricassée of new season peas
2007 Côte Rôtie, Domaine Pierre Gaillard, N. Rhône paired with tasting of spring lamb with light curry flavours, carrot & purée
2009 Banyuls Cuvée Léon Parcé, Domaine de la Rectorie, Roussillon paired with millionaires shortbread with caramelised white chocolate & raspberry jam
2009 Mirum, Verdicchio di Matelica Riserva, La Monacesca, Marche paired with aged gruyere tart with rhubarb chutney & hazelnut oil followed by Berrys’ selected coffee & chocolate
Among the candlelight flickers in the decadent red-and-gold Long Room setting, it was a special evening, which I am sure Mark and guests won’t forget for a while.
On Thursday 9th May, we welcomed 28 Cellar Plan customers to our first Cellar Plan Fine Wine and Cheese tasting, hosted by Richard Veal, a stalwart of our Corporate Hospitality team and former employee of renowned cheesemonger, La Fromagerie, and me (a self-confessed cheese nut…). The premise of the evening was simple: to pair selected cheeses and wines, along with introducing some new examples of both; debunk some common myths and confirm well known matches along the way.
The evening started with Richard’s favourite pairing, albeit one that was new to many – Parmesan and Champagne, in this case Vilmart’s Grand Cellier Brut NV. The filigree texture of the fizz, paired with the salty tang and Umami element of the Parmesan, in this case a 24 month aged cheese, were a perfect match and we were off to a flying start.
Another classic pair followed in the shape of Sainte Maure, a goat’s milk cheese from Touraine in the Loire, with Cotat’s 2005 Cuvee Paul Sancerre, an unusual late harvested but still dry Sauvignon Blanc. The richness of the wine was perfectly offset but the lactic freshness of the cheese.
A brace of Chardonnays followed, with Jobard’s 2008 Meursault En La Barre paired with a 24 month aged Comté d’Estive, and 2010 Los Alamos from California’s superstar estate Au Bon Climat matched with Berkswell. The former proved more successful, with the creamy, nuttiness of both the Meursault and the Comté enhanced by each other. Chardonnay would be my preferred option for almost all hard, semi-hard and washed rind cow’s milk cheeses, dispelling the myth that you save a red for the cheese.
A 1991 Tondonia Gran Reserva Rioja Blanco rounded off the whites, matched to Mahon Tierno. I enjoyed the salty tang of the cheese with the gentle, oxidative style of white Rioja, an acquired taste for many though!
Moving onto the reds, a 2009 Chambolle Musigny from Rion was a fine match for Epoisses, proving that if you pair cheeses and wines from the same area you can rarely go wrong. 2007 Ch. Haut Bailly was very well matched with a 2 year old Mimolette, a cheese often overlooked despite its striking orange colour.
A duo of Syrah/Shiraz based wines followed, with Henscke’s 2008 Mt Edelstone in the Australian corner, paired with Cantal, and Chapoutier’s 2007 Hermitage La Sizeranne paired with a Sainte Felicien. The former pair proved a little underwhelming, with the powerful rich fruit of the Shiraz overpowering the Cantal, a cheddar style cheese. The latter pairing made up for this though, with the Sainte Felicien in the running for cheese of the night and enhancing the Hermitage, showing that if you are going to keep a red for the cheese course, the Rhône is the place to go.
Our final selections went down a well-trodden path, with 1996 Ch. Guiraud, Sauternes up against Roquefort and a magnum of 1977 Smith Woodhouse paired to a Colston Bassett Stilton. The perfumed sweetness of the Sauternes counterbalanced the salty, blue tang of the Roquefort in a perfect match, repeated with the Port and Stilton.
A final surprise for the evening was a taste of Black Cow vodka, made in the UK from the whey by-product of a cheddar producer. One to look out for although not an easy match to any cheese!
On a warm evening at the end of April, 100 Wine Club members and their guests descended to the Napoleon Cellar, two floors beneath our historic London shop, for the annual Wine Club Walkaround tasting.
All the wines shown feature in the upcoming May delivery so it was a great way for members to get a sneak preview of what they can expect in their next case.
We showed 20 wines, across 4 tables, split into French and non- French tables. The heart of Wine Club lies in France so the bias is towards French wines; therefore we included wines from Chablis, Bordeaux and the Loire but the rest of the world was represented too with unusual and varied wines from Australia, South Africa, Spain and Italy.
As ever, Berrys staff were on hand to pour the wines and talk guests through the range. We were delighted that Mark Pardoe MW, who has recently taken over from Alun Griffiths MW as Berrys’ Wine Buying Director, hosted one of the tables. It’s always interesting to chat about wines with someone as knowledgeable as a Master of Wine.
I hope that those who came enjoyed the evening as much as I did.
Wine Club events are exclusive to Wine Club members and their guests. If you’d like to discover more about Wine Club please visit our website.
2011 is a sensational vintage in the Douro valley. I remember speaking to one of our producers in December of 2011 and remember vividly their confidence in the harvest (though cautious to point out that a declaration was not to be confirmed until 2013). Reports about the vintage have continued to be enthusiastic and the possible declaration of the 2011 vintage seems to have become the wine trade’s worst kept secret. In eager anticipation a team of six of us flew into Oporto on Saturday 16 March. It was my first visit to the region and I was as excited to meet our producers and experience the famous Douro landscape for myself as I was to get an insight into the 2011 vintage.
Arriving at Oporto airport, the luscious green landscape belies the fact that in summer this is the hottest wine growing area of Europe. Not wanting to miss the England versus Wales, we watched the rugby at the house of Johnny and Helen Symington before driving to the hotel to change for dinner at The Factory House. The Factory house was originally built by the British Port wine shippers as a type of gentleman’s club to discuss their business. Today the members represented are still all British-owned Port companies and they still meet on a Wednesday for lunch, to discuss business and participate in a blind tasting. After a sumptuous dinner, we were totally surprised as the side doors of the dining room opened to an identical twin dining room used solely for the enjoyment of vintage port. Graham’s 1952 Diamond Jubilee Colheita was served alongside 1970 Graham’s vintage port with plates of dried apricots and walnuts. The evening was not complete without a toast to the Queen and the President of Portugal as well as the stories of the Bishop of Norwich. Port is traditionally passed to the left, but when a guest has forgotten to pass the port their attention is called by the question “Do you know the Bishop of Norwich?” Those who are not acquainted with the tradition will be told that he is ‘a good chap, but never passes the Port’. Intriguingly, the current Bishop of Norwich is called Graham….
Berry Bros. & Rudd is, as ever, committed to providing its customers with the best possible overview of the vintage by sending 25 of its sales representatives from the UK, Hong Kong, Japan and Singapore over the next three weeks.
We have just returned from a week tasting where we have visited 57 properties and attended a major private négociant tasting. During the week, we tasted over 100 wines, 80% of which we actually tasted twice. Over a three-week period most of the wines will have been tasted thoroughly by our Fine Wine Account Managers, four to six times overall, which will give us an unrivalled level of expertise on the vintage.
Our duty as a Wine Merchant is to provide the best possible guidance to our customers in helping them to make the right choice. There is no doubt that the vintage has been difficult. The weather in the spring was very wet and resulted in a difficult flowering. August was, however, very hot which helped to re-balancing the vintage. However, mid-October was very wet and made the difference between the good, the bad and the ugly.
St Emilion and Pomerol were largely untouched by the bad weather, as the majority of the Merlot grapes had had time to ripen before the rain. Some of the Cabernet Franc was affected but the overall result should be quite good, and in line with the 1998 vintage. This generally also applies to the best estates in the Graves area. I am generally not a fan of big Merlot wines as I find they can be flabby and alcoholic but this vintage has given freshness to the Merlot and toned down most of the usual blockbusters, resulting in some cracking wines.
On the Left Bank, the weather suppressed the last two weeks of ideal ripening condition ideally needed for optimum ripeness in the Cabernets, which resulted in a patchier outcome. All in all, the châteaux that have produced very good wines are those which have worked tirelessly in the vineyard to make sure that the fruits remained as healthy as possible, and to let the wine make itself in the winery; in other words, those that did not apply over-extraction and make-up in the winery. We left, however, in high spirits in the knowledge that a good 40 to 50 wines are very good to excellent, and 20 to 30 are very good. At the correct price these will represent excellent bargains for the cellar; most of the wines in my cellar are from vintages such as 2002, 2004 and 2008 as these will provide me with excellent, good value and long term drinking for years to come. In the knowledge that there will be little chance of securing such great wines at affordable prices in the coming years, there is no reason why 2012 should not be a great source of drinking wines for years to come.
There are lots of rumours that the châteaux will release early, following a letter from Olivier Bernard (Domaine de Chevalier and president of the Union des Grands Crus) to the major players in Bordeaux highlighting the debacle from last year en primeur campaign where as many as 48 châteaux released in one day. There are actually less than 40 days to release 500+ wines before Vinexpo 2013 on June 16th, so a bit of organisation will be required to make sure that all goes well and everybody has a chance to buy their favourite wines in a stress-free manner. A lot of négociants are still showing round buyers from around the world this week, and therefore we do not expect to see any major releases quite yet – but things are likely to start moving quickly from the 22nd onwards.
We will, of course, keep you updated with the latest news from Bordeaux, and will be ready to offer the best advice to our customers as soon as the wines begin to release.
Having successfully completed and taken the WSET Diploma exams several years ago, I’d thought my formal wine studying days were over. A more relaxed, but still professional, approach to wine beckoned- and with no more blind tasting exams! But after a few years I realised that I missed the intellectual rigour of such study and so embarked on the Master of Wine study programme. This is the toughest wine industry qualification, culminating in a marathon of 3 tasting exams (just over 2 hrs each) and 4 written papers (each 3hrs) packed over 4 consecutive days. Now, just over a year into the programme I recently attended a week-long seminar in the Napa Valley, preceded by a few days visiting several wineries. Apart from the curious (and not unpleasant) sensation of studying in warm sunny climes having left London under snow, it was a fascinating, hectic 10 days.
I was joined by a group of fellow European students for the winery visits, which included three that Berrys deals with: Ridge, Ramey and Frog’s Leap. We were lucky enough to be taken round the stunning 2000m altitude Monte Bello estate and winery at Ridge by Paul Draper himself and his winemaker, who between them were happy to shed light on a number of things for us. This included why the site is so good- a geologists dream apparently – formed in such a way that their winery withstood a minor earthquake a few years previously; and the attention to detail in their winemaking, right down to the unpleasant task of checking the corks they buy for TCA (something Mr Draper is happy to leave to others in his team!) – thousands have been sent back to suppliers.
David Ramey has only just acquired vineyards, so buys in grapes from growers he’s known for years, keeping a very close eye on what and how they do things. Even so, tasting with him was fascinating, as much for his views on the wine industry in general as well as the wines themselves. Frog’s Leap was our last visit just before the seminar began. This organic/sustainable winery is again beautifully situated and showed how it is possible to produce quality, affordable wines in California that aren’t monstrously alcoholic (or sweet) and without resorting to masses of chemicals.
The seminar itself was a pretty packed programme of workshops around the various papers that candidates take – viticulture, viniculture, wine business and ethical/social issues – lectures and mock papers. But the sessions which always cause MW students the most anxiety are the blind tastings. Each day commenced at 8am with a mock 12-wine tasting paper, followed by a sometimes humbling group feedback session. These not only test your grape recognition abilities but also your winemaking knowledge and the wines’ origin. This is not always easy with the cross-fertilisation between countries of techniques and styles. An interesting part of doing the MW is meeting and learning from people working in different parts of the wine trade- winemakers, exporters, sommeliers, buyers, importers, journalists etc. – from all over the world. In summary, a great learning experience during the long haul that is the MW.
Yesterday evening we had the pleasure of tasting at Ch. Léoville-Las Cases and thoroughly enjoyed the flight of wines in the Domaines Delon stable. Chapelle de Ch. Potensac was fine and fruity upfront and promises to be great value drinking wine, whereas Ch. Potensac was refreshingly fresh. Le Petit Lion and the Grand Vin (excellent concentration and beautiful quality of fruit, something for the long-term) have both been notable successes this year. In fact, many of our team rate Ch. Léoville-Las Cases as one of their favourite wines of the vintage.
This morning we spent our last day of Bordeaux 2012 En Primeur week with a 9am start at Ch. la Mission Haut-Brion, tasting both the Grand Vin and La Mission itself, among many others wines such as Quintus and their Blancs. As an overview of the 9 wines we have tasted, the stable is very impressive. Haut-Brion is particularly generous with fruit in 2012 and Quintus, which is now in its second vintage, is quite impressive too. It has a fantastic and seductive nose, and the winemakers have clearly begun to understand the different terroir of this site to produce such a highly thought of 2012.
We visited Carmes de Haut Brion (a certainty for the personal list of Simon Staples) next before arriving at our penultimate property, the recently very impressive Domaine de Chevalier in Graves. The 2012 red Grand Vin is really seductive, beautiful Claret and without question one of the wines of the week. The length is incredible and perfectly poised. The white, as usual, was a classic expression of White Bordeaux. We would also categorise Ch. Haut-Bailly in the highly thought of bracket. Veronique Sanders has been able to produce something special this year, remaining true to the property’s exceptional terroir. The wine has the classic smooth and silkiness, but also shows an abundance of fruit and a steely focus.
2012 was scarcely written about prior to this week and early speculation suggested that the wines would be a challenge to taste. Pleasingly, the producers who have taken great care in their grape selections, prudently tended their vines, picked at the right time, worked with their excellent terroir and attempted to create balanced and fruit driven wines have succeeded. In general, Merlot is especially important to these 2012 wines. In some cases it hasn’t been possible to pick Cabernet Sauvignon at optimum ripeness – resulting jn some acidity and not quite enough fruit on the mid-palate and finish. Many claim that it is a Right Bank vintage, but we have certainly found many instances of good Left Bank/Cabernet Sauvignon dominated wines. It is for this reason that we find general statements about vintages, Left/Right Bank and even communes to be miss-leading and unhelpful.
Good winemakers can produce good wine in difficult circumstances and in a vintage such as 2012 and indeed in 2011 prior, this is especially evident. Our Chairman, Simon Berry, has been discussing this principle during the week and his view that in the future customers could start purchasing wines from particular producers in each vintage, rather than wine from many producers in vintages perceived to be the most impressive, could become the norm. If the prices are competitive and the timing of releases are well thought out, which fortunately all of the vignerons appear to be considering appropriately, then 2012 Bordeaux has certainly produced some suitable wines to be purchased en primeur. To find the right wines for your taste and preference, the role of the Wine Merchant and their teams of individuals who have taken the opportunity to taste all of the wines and discussed the vintage and intentions for each wine in person with winemakers, will be vitally important.
We fly back to the UK this afternoon and plan to spend some time reflecting on the wines we have tasted while the teams who look after our private clients from the UK, Hong Kong, Singapore and Japan also head to the South West over the next couple of weeks. Once all of the opinions are collected, we will release our scores (please remember that we are scoring wines in the context of this vintage, and these scores shouldn’t be compared with those from other vintages) , vintage report, individual tasting notes and details of which wines we intend to recommend in our ‘Best Buy’ categories.
Ch. Montrose started our tasting today and the Grand Vin showed good weight and acidity. The blend for 2012 is 37% Merlot, 57% Cabernet Sauvignon, 1% Petit Verdot and 5% Cabernet Franc. It accounts for 52% of the estates production. Picking took place as late as 13th October for the Cabernet Sauvignon as they sought to find as much ripeness as possible in the grapes.
Following a short stop at Ch. Calon-Ségur (who decided to green harvest in July and have managed to develop a super fruit profile, with subtle tannin and relatively intense acidity), later in the morning we enjoyed visits to Cos d’Estournel (delicious wines with a generosity of fruit and subtly balanced tannin – the kind of fruit profile missing in the less attractive wines of this vintage).
Ch. Pontet-Canet is a large estate that can trace its origins back to 1725. The team at Pontet have excelled again in 2012, creating another wine which defies its classification as 5ème Cru Classé. Cepagé is the same as last year – 65% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot, 4% Cabernet Franc and 1% Petit Verdot and they picked late on 4 October to offer the grapes a greater chance of reaching suitable ripeness, but they harvested quickly adding an extra sorting table. Melanie Tesseron thinks that the taste of the wine is enhanced with freshness and minerality by their biodynamic processes that allow them to be closer to their vines. Since 2005 the property was in conversion phase, they were fully converted in 2010. Their goal is balance in the vineyard and balance in the wine – something they appear to have achieved.
In the afternoon we enjoyed tastings at Ch. Haut-Bages Libéral (70% Cabernet Sauvignon and 30% Merlot, soft, silky and generous – it was so tasty we would be tempted to drink it now. A very nice glass of wine), and Ch. Pichon-Baron which is 80% Cabernet Sauvignon and 20% Merlot. We also tried Ch. Pibran and Tourelles de Longueville, both wines that seem to have got the generosity of fruit right in 2012.
Ch. Lafite Rothschild is notoriously hard to taste En Primeur and Charles Chevalier often mentions when we taste at this renowned property that he would prefer to show his wines later in the year when they become more approachable and reveal their true identity. This year, it was particularly focused, classy and has lots to offer. Ch. Mouton Rothschild (90% Cabernet Sauvignon) was fresh, decadent, intense and the possessor of a lingering finish that you would expect from a First Growth property. It has beautiful finesse. To conclude day three in Bordeaux we tasted at Ch. Latour, home to one of the most impressive tasting facilities I have come across (even if the spittoon is hard to navigate). Despite this property taking the bold and unique decision to not release their wines En Primeur this year, we took the opportunity to taste ahead of their future release, which director Frederic Engerer plans to do when they are approaching suitable drinking windows. We will leave our overall judgement on the First Growths until we taste at Ch. Haut-Brion tomorrow, but indications are that the wines are very well made this year – choosing a favourite may come down to personal choice rather than anything to do with quality.
Thursday has been a really intriguing and enjoyable day. By tasting such highly sought after wines, we are able to really start to understand the vintage and the quality of the wines it has produced. Tonight we taste at Ch. Léoville-Las Cases, one of the largest and oldest classified Growths in the Médoc and another 2ème Cru Classé in name who regularly produce 1er Cru Classé quality wines. Look out for our comments about the wines intomorrow’s blog.
Remember to return to the blog this afternoon for the review of our fifth and final day in Bordeaux and to follow us on twitter @BerryBrosRudd for live news about our tasting experiences and insights from our team and the producers themselves.
Pauillac was our destination as we boarded the minibus and, as usual, Ch. Pichon-Lalande was our first appointment. An estate that has improved impressively during recent years, the wines of 2012 certainly caught our attention. Low yields are found here again – 30hl/ha, with a target for the estate being 45hl/ha, and the requirement for rigorous selection via their optical sorting system (which measures acidity in the juice as well as colourful appearance of the grape) was very important.
Ch. Batailley boasts a long and proud history, with their vineyard planted in classic Pauillac proportions. It is typically a favourite of ours and often one of the best value wines from the commune. We also took the opportunity to taste several other wines from the Borie-Manoux stable including Domaine de l’Eglise and Ch. la Croix du Casse.
5ème Cru Classé estate Ch. Grand-Puy-Lacoste was our last visit of the morning and they have again outperformed their classification with a super 2012. François-Xavier Borie was keen to point out that their dedicated team of pickers ensured that only the best grapes made it to the cellars. The wine has lovely fresh and vibrant red fruits with good length and a lingering finish. Ch. Haut-Batailley was neatly rounded with good length too.
Tasting continued at Ch. Lynch Bages just before lunch, where Jean-Charles Cazes explained that the harvest reception system has been changed once again, with two extra reception lines created to destem/sort and then sort again. The result is a very clean crop. We were very impressed with their 2012 wines, including Ch. Villa Bel-Air, Ormes de Pez and Echo de Lynch Bages, which showed an abundance of fruit and poise that has been lacking in some wines of similar levels that we have tasted. The Grand Vin is a real powerhouse and shows a density of fruit and complexity which we have grown accustomed to taste.
The afternoon began at Ch. Beychevelle in St Julien, a property which boasts one of the most impressive châteaux in the whole of the Médoc. It is a joyful mouthful, with soft and ripe tannins and the yield was 42hl/ha. Our next stop was conveniently across the road at Ch. Branaire-Ducru, often a producer of pure, elegant and classic Claret. Patrick Maroteaux explained that the blend was fairly typical, with more or less the same proportions of Merlot (24%), Cabernet Sauvignon (68%) Petit Verdot (5%) and Cabernet Franc (3%). He believes that the style is the same as the last few years, with pure definition of fruit, freshness and elegance . The management and balance of tannin is quite exemplary.
The 2ème Cru Classé property of Ch. Gruaud Larose tends to produce one of St Julien`s most full-bodied and long-lived wines and this year they have really impressed. The Sarget de Gruaud Larose is nice and soft, juicy and with a splendid perfume. The Grand Vin contains 6.5% Petit Verdot, the whole crop for 2012. The freshness is delightful, with ripe yet delicate tannins all harmoniously integrated, before a tremendously long finish.
Ch. Léoville- and Langoa-Barton (both certainties for our buying list this year), Ch. Léoville-Poyferré (promising fruit, good acidity) and then Ch. Ducru-Beaucaillou (91% Cabernet Sauvignon, showing Grand Cru finesse, being silky and tremendously well-made) finalised our day.
2012, as with recent Bordeaux vintages like 2011, looks set to be a vintage for relatively early drinking in many cases, but one will need to be carefully selective in choosing the wines. Wines will need to be bought based on the merits of each individual property, rather than the commune or the overall impression of the vintage. It is also worth emphasising once again that we are appraising wines in the context of this vintage, where some have been on really very good form, and some less so.
Remember to return to the blog tomorrow morning for the review of our fourth day in Bordeaux and to follow us on twitter @BerryBrosRudd for live news about our tasting experiences and insights from our team and the producers themselves.
Day two began with a tasting at a négociant found on the outskirts of Bordeaux. Trying wines in this environment is quite unlike any other you can imagine. Clever use of lighting, walls which are decorated in contemporary art and tables set amongst a seemingly endless row of racking in the state-of-the-art cellars (it’s really a warehouse, but naming it such really would do it a disservice) all add to the dramatic atmosphere. It is quite unlike tasting at a château, or anywhere else for that matter. Our Chairman, Simon Berry, advises us that it was during a visit to these cellars three or four years ago that the decisions were taken regarding the design and layout of our new storage facility in Basingstoke.
The main benefit of spending the morning at a négociant was to taste a vast number of wines alongside one another. Max Lalondrelle, our Fine Wine Buying Director, made selections from the book (the menu is quite frankly the longest wine list most of us have ever seen) and we set about comparing, contrasting and analysing wines from across each commune. We started in the Haut-Médoc and moved on to St Emilion (to re-taste many of the wines we enjoyed yesterday) before tasting wines from Pomerol, St Julien, Margaux and St Estèphe. A selection of the wines which we thought were particularly engaging include Ch. la Dominique, Ch. Pedesclaux, Ch. Smith Haut Lafitte and Ch. Capbern Gasqueton.
After leaving, we set off straight to Margaux for another afternoon of château-hopping. We began at Ch. Angludet (Ben Sichel suggested that the weather caused some problems for the Cabernet Sauvignon but they have managed to harness the fruit to create a really honest, fresh and natural wine – the perfect ingredients for a vintage like this), which produces a wine that our Chairman, Simon Berry, recognises as one of the most typical of all Berrys’ wines. We then moved on to Ch. d’Issan (home to the legendary moat which surrounds the château) and then 2ème Cru Classé Ch. Brane-Cantenac. Following extensive investment and vastly improved vineyard management, this property has shed its underperforming reputation, and their 2012 was one of our favourite wines of the day, showing good weight of fruit, intensity and precision on the long finish.
The wines of Margaux are often said to possess a haunting bouquet and quintessential elegance, two qualities we found in abundance at Ch. Margaux, whose château is one of the most imposing and famous buildings in Bordeaux. Thibault Pontallier told us that Pavillon Rouge is produced from just 30% of the crop this year and Paul Pontallier (Managing Director) confirmed how important selection has been for the 2012s, hence the reduced quantities. 63% of the blend is Cabernet Sauvignon (the property’s best terroir is planted with this variety) and this proportion has been increasing in recent years. The wine is very smooth, harmoniously integrating fruit with acidity and tannin. The Grand Vin is a product of 34% of the crop, and all of the best Cabernet Sauvignon plots. It has a super, intriguingly perfumed nose and is so elegant, almost silky on the palate. Simon Staples remarked that it was the most extraordinary wine we have tasted so far.
We arrived at Ch. Rauzan-Ségla late in the afternoon. Considered along with Ch. Mouton Rothschild to be among the leading 2emé Cru Classé properties in the 19th century, the 2012 Ségla is another product of strict selection in the vineyard. The Cabernet Sauvignon proportion in the blend is reduced this year and it shows, with generous Merlot fruit dancing on the palate.
Ch. Palmer was our final visit of the day. It was known as a ‘Super Second’ long before many others and often produces as good a wine as can be found in Bordeaux. The yield was just 28hl/ha in 2012, a small crop indeed. Thomas Deroux explains that they had to work hard in the vineyard and sacrifice yields to keep to their traditional six buds per vine. He thinks that Merlot had a classic vintage, whereas Cabernet Sauvignon was more of a challenge, though surprisingly it took just three sessions to arrive at the blending decision. Alter Ego de Palmer offers great power in 2012, with black cherry and menthol fruit coming to the fore. It is the weight of fruit and phenomenal length that impressed us though. The Grand Vin has a gloriously perfumed nose with sumptuous dark fruits and a brooding purple appearance. It is unlike any other wines of the vintage that we have tasted so far; with power and finesse, it is simply exceptional.
We have tasted something in the region of 50-60 wines today and a recurring theme seems to be that strict selections in the vineyard and on the sorting table have been vitally important. Some on the Left Bank struggled to get optimum ripeness in their Cabernet Sauvignon, causing high acidity in the wines. Those who have succeeded were able to balance this acidity with the fruit and oak to create appealing, round and well-structured wines. Merlot looks to be increasingly important and the temptation to over-extract has been ignored in the most promising wines. We would expect that the 2012s will spend less time in barrel this year to preserve the lovely fruit.
The importance of the wine merchant’s role in vintages such as 2012 shouldn’t be underestimated. 25 members of our team will be visiting Bordeaux during the course of the next three weeks, so please do consider our Private Account Managers’ individual advice alongside the views and scores from our buying group this week. We will also endeavour to share as many notes and scores as possible from various sources on bbr.com when they become available.
Remember to return to the blog tomorrow morning for the review of our third day in Bordeaux and to follow us on twitter @BerryBrosRudd for live news about our tasting experiences and insights from our team and the producers themselves.
There is something special about tasting wine at the site where it is created and having the chance to take in a vineyard’s terroir, topography and location. Not only does it enhance the experience, it also focuses the mind, and it is certainly much easier to appraise a wine in such an environment.
As in previous years, we took the opportunity to taste one or two wines from the new vintage on Sunday evening, to whet palates and remind ourselves that we were tasting samples from barrel. Alexander Van Beek, General Manager at Ch. du Tertre and Ch. Giscours, told us that, whilst 2012 isn’t an exceptional vintage, it has certainly produced good wines – the aid of technology, education and greater attention in the vineyard, as well as more focused selections on the sorting table, really means that disastrous vintages should be issues consigned to the past.
We tried many wines at Moueix, but La Fleur-Pétrus and Ch. Hosanna certainly caught our attention. Christian Moueix explained that 2012 was a difficult vintage with challenging climatic conditions, resulting in disease and uneven berries. This ultimately led to a reduction in yields, to almost half the usual harvest. A new addition to the itinerary was to taste at Ch. Pétrus this year; Simon Staples found the 2012 to be racy, harmonious and beautiful. The appearance in the glass was simply stunning as well – so appealing.
Ch. Larcis Ducasse, long regarded as a property possessing exceptional terroir, has created a lovely, serious and well-structured 2012 from its clay and chalk soils found on the famous Côte Pavie. We also tasted many wines from the Thienpont stable, including Ch. Berliquet, Ch. Pavie Macquin (very generous, abundant fruit) and Ch. Beauséjour – all of which suggest that the Merlot in St Emilion could be a success this year.
Ch. Figeac is a favourite of our former Wine Buying Director, Alun Griffiths MW, and we’re sure he will enjoy their 2012. Containing an equal 40% of Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon alongside 20% Cabernet Franc, it is precise, deep, tightly knit and pretty with red berry and blackcurrant fruits combining superbly with impressive tannins.
Our final stop of the morning took us to Ch. Angélus, recently promoted to Premier Grand Cru Classé A status in the 2012 St Emilion re-classification. It is found less than a kilometre from the famous St Emilion steeple. The wine is complex this year, tightly woven and showing effective grip, but it has a thorough backdrop of fruit to please as well. Hubert de Bouard supported the words of Alexander Van Beek with regards to improvements in winemaking, as well as suggesting that, unlike today, 25 years ago such a vintage would have created very average wines indeed.
The afternoon started at Ch. Ausone, one of the most stunning châteaux in Bordeaux, whose vineyards flourish on a steep, south-east facing slope. The wines showed well including Ch. de Fonbel and Ch. Moulin St-Georges. Ch. Cheval Blanc followed, as is customary on these tasting trips, and the Grand Vin displayed a classically crunchy palate of fruit. We really enjoyed tasting the Grand Vin this year.
The two most famous Pomerol estates, Vieux Château Certan (VCC) and Ch. la Conseillante, were our mid-afternoon appointments. VCC is regularly praised by leading wine critics and journalists and Alexandre Thienpont’s wine is on good form as usual. Ch. la Conseillante can trace its history back to 1735 and is always bottled unfiltered. Yields were high this year, so they were able to be very selective, yet still produce more of the Grand Vin than in 2011. Jean-Michel Laporte tells us that it is 89% Merlot this year. It is seamlessly balanced and wonderfully generous, and was a personal favourite of mine from this first day.
Tasting at Le Pin brought our first day to an excellent conclusion; it is the second year in succession that we have tasted at their unassertive new winery. ‘Rare’, ‘expensive’, ‘mysterious’, ‘super-concentrated’ and ‘sublimely elegant’ are all words often associated with Le Pin and Jacques Thienpont has produced another charming wine in 2012. Clean, fresh and full of fruit, it lingers on the palate long after tasting. It is a real triumph.
As we round off our first day, it is difficult to draw too many conclusions about the vintage – especially as we have only tasted in Pomerol and St Emilion – but Merlot appears to have been particularly successful on the Right Bank.
Remember to return to the blog tomorrow morning for the review of our second day in Bordeaux and to follow us @BerryBrosRudd on Twitter for live news about our tasting experiences and insights from our team and the producers themselves.
We were expecting the start of Bordeaux En Primeur tasting week to pass with a little less commotion than we have enjoyed in recent years as we chose an earlier flight than normal to depart from London Gatwick. Surprisingly, the flight still seemed to contain almost everyone else we know from the UK wine trade, which was very welcome and presented the usual opportunity to share thoughts about the new vintage in what is, happily, a rather jovial environment.
Our colleagues from Hong Kong (Simon Staples and Adam Bilbey) and Singapore (Nicolas Pegna) will meet us in Bordeaux later this afternoon, but Jake Dean (Fine Wine Sales Director), Max Lalondrelle (Fine Wine Buying Director)and I are joined in the advanced group this year by a new addition to our usual Bordeaux Buying team, Chairman Simon Berry. Although a regular and almost annual visitor to Bordeaux since the age of 12 when he took part in a school exchange trip, this is Simon’s first visit to taste the new vintage en primeur since circa 1984. Simon recalls how in those days, all of the wines were gathered together in the company’s office in the city for tasting, so it will be fascinating to see how things have changed as we make our way to many individual châteaux during the course of the week.
As we settle down to the first evening at our base in Margaux, discussions have inevitably started turning to the quality and style we expect to find in the wines this week. As was the case in 2011, very little has been written in advance of this Bordeaux vintage. Fortunately, our Fine Wine Buying Director, Max Lalondrelle, took the opportunity to taste several wines and speak to one or two châteaux during a brief visit to Bordeaux in the middle of March. He commented that 2012 is an extremely variable vintage and is not one that he could make any obvious comparisons with from previous years. It also looks to be another ‘Wine Merchant’s vintage’ where price will be a key issue and customers will need all of the advice, expertise and information they can find to select the best buys. In total, 25 members of our UK, Hong Kong, Singapore and Japanese teams will be tasting wines in Bordeaux this year at 57 different châteaux, so we will be able to provide a comprehensive and broad view of the quality and potential of the 2012s when we have all returned and collated our thoughts.
Our schedule hasn’t changed much in recent years, but we are excited about two or three additions to the itinerary this year, Ch. Petrus, Ch. la Tour Martillac and Ch. Belgrave. We start on the Right Bank tomorrow (Monday) and our diary is as busy as usual, with visits to Ch. Figeac and Ch. Angélus in the morning, before Ch. Ausone and Ch. Cheval Blanc among others in the afternoon.
Remember to return to the blog tomorrow morning for the review of our first day in Bordeaux and @berrybrosrudd on Twitter for live news about our tasting experiences and insights from our team and the producers themselves.
The following morning, Jason and I headed to Ch. Léoville-Las Cases where he was taken round the vineyard by the vineyard manager while I tasted the range of 2012s from all their estates (Nenin in Pomerol, Potensac, Clos du Marquis and Las Cases in St Julien). Geordie joined us and we then headed to Ch. Ducru-Beaucaillou. I have spent quite a bit of time in wineries in my career and, after a while, I have to admit that they all look the same – but I am always in admiration of the people behind the wines. Despite modern technology, vineyard workers whose families have been working in the same place for generations use the same old skills, such as racking with a candle and fining with egg whites.
There was an older man there half my size who was lifting empty barrels above his head and stacking them up, whilst another younger chap, who was the second generation, was racking and making a seal made of Jonc (rush) for the ‘bonde’. This is the kind of stuff I really like and admire and we rarely take time to watch. After a lot of watching, Bruno Borie (who is one of the Bordeaux grands hommes, and someone for whom I have a lot of respect) took us into his kitchen for a bite to eat. Bruno loves food and cooking; his kitchen is not any ordinary kitchen, it has all the toys you could ever wish for. We sat down at the table and had some lovely white asparagus (I still do not know why we eat green asparagus in the UK) with sauce hollandaise, followed by a simple but most delicious omelette with spring garlic, finished off with a just-released 24-month matured Comté.
All this with some 2001 Riesling, Cuvée Frédéric Emile by Trimbach (I love this wine) and a bottle of both the 2004 and the delicious 2000 Ch. Ducru-Beaucaillou. We could have stayed there all day but we had our last encounter of the trip with Jean-Charles Cazes at Ch. Lynch Bages to taste his 2011s (2012 is not to be showed until the official date) and a quick tour of the winery. We spent a bit of time in the smaller white wine cellar looking at the different bâtonnage techniques. Blanc de Lynch Bages, like the majority of white Bordeaux, is not talked about much but over the last few years has turned from a quite oaky and heavy style to a great, fresh, yet still very Bordeaux style of wine which I very much enjoy. We said our goodbyes to Lynch Bages and headed for the airport.
Although, I have yet to go round the 57 chateaux that we will visit during the week of the 8th of April, I have now been to Bordeaux twice during the harvest and have tasted a few of the 2012s in their infancy, and my opinion is starting to emerge of the vintage. For what I have seen and tasted so far, I think we might have a better vintage in 2012 than 2011: a better but very different vintage.
When I was there during the harvest, all the vines and bunches looked very healthy and, despite a few problems at flowering and véraison in the summer, the very hot end of August readjusted the imbalance and the vintage looked like it would be saved. Until, that is, just after I left in October, when the heavens opened and never closed. For those who had harvested their Merlot (the majority) all was good but the Cabernets needed a few more days/weeks to ripen to their full potential and, unfortunately, with the dormant rot ready to deploy, they then had to be rushed to the winery. For those with technology this should not be too much of a problem but for others, in the Médoc in particular, the lack of ripeness may come through in the wines. The Merlot-dominant wines will have done well. The same will apply for the domaines which have the best terroirs and where the Cabernets are well-exposed and on higher ground. The work in the winery will no doubt contribute more to success this year than many others, and we will have to be aware of the ‘make-up’ applied to some of the wines.
From Monday, 8th April, we will be reporting fully on the 2012 Bordeaux’s, from vineyard to vineyard. So, for in-depth coverage and understanding of this complicated vintage, follow us on Twitter or look out for our daily blog posts.
I have just returned from a three-day trip to Bordeaux for a quick peek at the 2012 vintage. With me were Geordie Willis, our Brand Director, and one of the leading UK gastronomy photographers, Jason Lowe, who had come along to take some new imagery of the region for us.
As we arrived in Bordeaux, we were disappointed to see that the weather wasn’t ‘au rendez vous’ and was going to be as grim as in the UK for the length of our stay. Not deterred, and hoping that the blue sky would eventually percolate through the clouds, we headed to my favourite boutique hotel, La Maison Bord’eaux. Our bags dropped, we went straight into Bordeaux for a photo-shoot of the old part of town. As the daylight waned, it was time to sit down, do a bit of people-watching and decide where we should eat. In France on a Sunday evening the number of options is very small but there is one that always whets my appetite: L’Entrecôte. This is fast food the French way. It is also the only restaurant I know that has 100 customers queuing outside pretty much every night; they sell the best steak frites you will ever have. The only questions the waitress asks are about how your steak is cooked and the colour of the wine.
The following morning we drove to Margaux in the north-west of Bordeaux. The perceived handicap of the weather very quickly turned to Jason’s advantage as the most dramatic scenery unfolded before us with intensely dark clouds, hail storms and side winds… the lot. In terms of photography, this added the extra dimension and drama that Jason required for some spectacular shots of the otherwise over-photographed, postcard-like château fronts.
We finally arrived at Ch. Palmer where Thomas Duroux, the man in charge, opened the doors for us to take cover. We visited the new, very understated but well-performing winery and were the first outsiders to have the privilege to taste the 2012 vintage. We then sat down for lunch and tasted the (not-quite-secret-anymore), Palmer Blanc, which I must say is rather good and getting better with every vintage, followed by the main course and some 1991 Ch. Palmer. 1991 is one of those forgotten vintages that always surprises me; the frost decimated most of the vineyards that year but for the reminder of the growing season all was well and, although there was little produced, the majority of top 1991s are very good, if you can find them.
From Palmer we drove all the way back across to the other side of the river in Pomerol (a good one-hour journey) to Ch. la Conseillante, where we had a tour of the brand new cuvier. The tour over, we went straight to the new, rather clinical, upstairs tasting room with views over most of Pomerol. We tasted the Duo de Conseillante and the 2012 Ch. la Conseillante while we were there.
In order to maximize my trips to Bordeaux, I sometimes invite a group of bon vivant château owners/managers for dinner in town to avoid having to drive to all the properties. This also allows us to see them in a less formal environment and to share a very open and convivial evening. The closure of my favourite Bordeaux restaurant a year ago was dramatic for me but, fortunately, it reopened a couple of months ago in a new setting in rue Le Coq. L’Univerre is not, gastronomically, the best place to eat in Bordeaux but it is my favourite restaurant because it has excellent, comforting food and the best list of non-Bordeaux wines in Bordeaux. Fabrice, the man in charge, has an encyclopaedic knowledge of wine which would put a lot of merchants to shame. As my guests sat down, I quickly picked up the wine list and set out to choose the wines to serve blind, which included the delicious 2004 Donnhof Spätlese to go with the dessert. The atmosphere was very good and it was a thoroughly enjoyable evening.
To hear about more Left Bank visits and to find out Max’s views so far on the 2012 vintage, read the second part of his blog here.
With our fine wine team about to make their annual pilgrimage to Bordeaux to taste the wines from the new vintage, now’s the perfect time to explain how en primeur works and demystify what looks to be, at first glance, a complicated system.
What is the en primeur system?
In a nutshell, en primeur (or wine futures) refers to the system by which Châteaux sell their wine from the barrel; that is, before it has been bottled and delivered to customers (and also before it’s ready to be drunk). The wine is sold at a keen price, in return for payment up front, which helps the Châteaux fund the next vintage.
It was developed by the Bordeaux wine trade although other regions such as Rhône, Burgundy and even parts of the new world now choose to offer some of their wines en primeur.
The en primeur ‘campaign’ is a yearly event stretching from spring into summer, depending on the vintage. Each April, Bordeaux is besieged by merchants, journalists and enthusiasts, who taste the new vintage and make their judgements, prior to the release of the prices.
Merchants taste the wine and although the wines are still in barrel and are very youthful, an experienced merchant can sense the quality and longevity of the wines and make a corresponding judgement on what is a fair price. Each year we send our sales teams across to Bordeaux to participate and make up their own minds- you’ll soon be able to follow their progress on our blog, Facebook page and Twitter account.
The châteaux then set the price for their wine and release a first tranche (generally a small quantity) for sale. Depending on how this sells, they may release a second, bigger tranche at a slightly higher price. The merchant buys the quantity they think they will sell and offers this to their customers.
It varies from region to region but in the case of Bordeaux, two years after the sale the wines are shipped to the merchant who purchased them and the customer, who purchased them from the merchant, can choose to take delivery or can store them with their merchant for an annual fee.
The terms Left Bank and Right Bank refer to the two parts of the Bordeaux wine region that lie on either side of the River Garonne and the huge Gironde estuary, into which the Rivers Garonne and Dordogne flow. These waters exert a significant influence on both the climate and the soil structures of each sub-region in the appellation, by virtue of their sedimentary deposits.
Starting at the most northerly point of the Right Bank, Bourg and Blaye lie up river near to the southern tip of the great estuary itself, while you have to travel much further south to the banks of the River Dordogne before you stumble across Fronsac and Canon Fronsac, then Pomerol and Lalande de Pomerol, and finally St Emilion and its satellites.
It is the fleshy Merlot grape which dominates this side of the river, which is sometimes supported by Cabernet Franc in the blend (although at the famous St Emilion property Château Cheval Blanc, Cabernet Franc predominates). The soils are more mixed than on the Left Bank, with clay on top of limestone underpinning the rich, fruity wines of Pomerol. Styles vary more in St Emilion, depending on the predominance of sand in the lower lying slopes, or limestone on the hillsides and plateau.
The terms Left Bank and Right Bank refer the two parts of the Bordeaux wine region that lie on either side of the River Garonne and the huge Gironde estuary, into which the Rivers Garonne and Dordogne flow. These waters exert a significant influence on both the climate and the soil structures of each sub-region in the appellation, by virtue of their sedimentary deposits.
Travelling north to south, the Left Bank includes the appellations of the Médoc, Haut-Médoc and Pessac-Léognan which predominantly produce top-class red wines, then Graves where the great dry whites come from as well as some red wines, and finally Barsac and Sauternes which are renowned for their sweet white wines.
Last week I was lucky enough to attend the Fine and Rare Dinner in our Napoleon Cellar, cooked by guest chef Michel Roux Jr. I caught up with him before the dinner to talk though his menu and our wine matches, which you can view in this video, and below I share my detailed food and wine matching notes from the outstanding dinner.
As a grape variety, Chardonnay in its most natural state can be quite simple and basic but its plainness has a wonderful affinity with terroir and soils, particularly limestone. What makes Chardonnay intriguing, despite its fairly neutral character is how that influence of soils, climate, winemaking and wood can change this grape from something somewhat ‘beige’ into one of the greatest grape varieties in the world. Needless to say, its ability to pair with many dishes makes it all the more appealing.
Chardonnay’s fame is long established in sparkling wine production, particularly Champagne, as a vital ingredient for acidity, crispness, elegance and wonderfully balanced sparkle, even without the need for the other two permitted red grape varieties in Champagne production. We were treated to an example of this purely white Champagne known as Blanc de Blancs, from the Taittinger Champagne house as our event aperitif. Taittinger’s Comtes de Champagne Blanc de Blanc was first produced in 1952 as a finely aromatic, rich and creamy expression of the Chardonnay grape. The 2000 vintage accompanied by a selection of fine canapés including Blinis au Caviar, Choux au Comte and Tartelette de Volaille whetted ones appetite on the sloped floors of the St James’s Street store whilst the busy chef’s two floors below us prepared our feast.
After a brief introduction to the event from Mark Pardoe MW and opening words from Michel Roux Jr, we descended the cellar stairs to the long awaited dinner.