The closest link between the people that make wine and the people that drink it
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.
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.
Today we were lucky enough to be able to taste Olivier Bernstein‘s line up of 2011 wines. Below are tasting notes from various members of our Fine Wine team.
2011 Chambertin Clos de Beze, Grand Cru
Gentle, but building, fragrant black fruit on the nose, restrained and regal. Fabulously lush black berry-fruit on the palate with the finest of tannins framing the fruit perfectly, while a lick of crisp acidity freshens the finish. A very serious wine indeed. (Chris Pollington)
2011 Clos de Vougeot, Grand Cru
Dark, rich spicy and fragrant fruit on the nose, beginning to open up nicely. Savoury dark fruit in the mouth with a full, yet in-balance structure, this is a very big, deep wine and is built for the long term. This will be an amazing wine in 5-10 years time. (Chris Pollington)
2011 Corton Charlemagne, Grand Cru
Big, rich and toasty on the nose, which is reflected on the palate, where notes of butter and rich and ripe (but not overripe) citrus fruit are added into the mix. This is more savoury and serious than many a Corton Charlemagne and is a much better wine for it, in my opinion. Both richness and finesse are the hallmarks of this excellent wine, which is balanced by well-judged, mouth-watering acidity. (Chris Pollington)
2011 Chambolle-Musigny, Les Lavrottes, 1er Cru
A characteristically full throttle Chambolle from Bernstein; full and dark, laden with bright blueberry, and black cherry fruits. Well maintained acidity, lovely balance. (Martyn Rolph)
Gevrey-Chambertin, Les Cazetiers, 1er Cru
Good density with a solid core of fruit dark fruit, supported by ripe but firm tannins. There’s attractive bramble spice throughout, and well balanced and so a silky, svelte feel on show here. (Martyn Rolph)
Puligny-Montrachet, Champ Gain, 1er Cru
You’ll be treated to an exuberant nose of apple, melon and toasty oak, but this leads to a more restrained and focussed palate, very typical of Puligny. Fine acidity provides the energy that drives the flavours along, well balance with an attractive finish. There is more texture here than you’ll find in many a Puligny, it will mature beautifully over the coming 3-5 years. (Martyn Rolph)
2011 Clos de la Roche, Grand Cru
Simon Staples in a glass! Big, bold , flashy with finesse, in about 15 years’ time. Lots of dark fruit on the nose. Palate was not the easiest to taste but I’d hope the abundance of red and blue fruits will mature to give one a spectacular glass of wine and with this will come the finesse that was hiding around of many complex corners of this wine. (Ben Upjohn)
2011 Meursault, Les Charmes, 1er Cru
What a wine! Fresh, zingy complex and well structured. Perfectly balanced and although could do with a bit of aging surprisingly approachable now. Would give some of the more well know Charmes a run for their money! (Ben Upjohn)
2011 Gevrey Chambertin
This is very serious village wine, no doubt about it. Laden with fennel and fresh liquorice notes, this is already showing a complex, pure palate. With the trademark Bernstein elegance this is one to enjoy now or over the coming 3 to 4 years. (Gary Owen)
2011 Gevrey-Chambertin, Les Champeaux, 1er Cru
70 year old wines contribute hugely to a precise, very well made Champeaux. The combination of rich oak and round tannins coat the mouth elegantly and this delivers a weighty finish. Detailed throughout with layer upon layer of fruit and sweet spice. (Gary Owen)
2011 Mazis-Chambertin, Grand Cru
First things first – this is top draw, textbook Mazis. Persistent, detailed, & balanced structure yet with lacy sweet red, and almost meaty fruit. There is a distinct sweet ‘Game Larder’ nuance to this most intriguing of wines. Refined, supple yet wonderfully powerful. (Gary Owen)
Charmes-Chambertin, Grand Cru
This was the first of the Grand Cru’s I tasted and the step up was impressive. Oozing the sexy opulent fruit that you would expect from Charmes and the class comes on the finish where everything focusses in with the cherry fruit being joined by spice and texture. (Matt Tipping)
Bonnes Mares, Grand Cru
Dark brooding, very Bonnes Mares nose, palate is laden with sappy dark brambly fruit, lots of layers and this is a big wine that fills the mouth and lasts on the finish for an impressive amount of time. (Matt Tipping)
Look out for our offer of these fantastic Bernstein wines on Friday.
A themed dinner party is a great way to explore food and wine matching. Arguably the most classic route is to pair wines from a certain region with dishes from the same area. After all, these combinations have evolved over centuries so work very effectively and give a neat focus to the evening.
Hosting a dinner for 10 guests with a multi course menu is a daunting task to some but not Wine Club members Neil and Mary. Having decided on an Italian menu, Neil got in touch with me to ask for some suggestions of wines to share the spotlight. Armed with Mary’s delicious menu I recommended some wines to treat the Turfitts’ guests to on the evening of their elaborate festicciola.
I would normally suggest Champagne to start but Prosecco felt like a more appropriate choice, being both Italian and incredibly fashionable at the moment. It’s the perfect way to kick off an evening in style because it offers a frothy, fruity punch of bubbles and gets everyone in the mood with its fresh simplicity.
The menu started as all good Italian menus should: with antipasti followed by a pasta course. Next in line was a rich venison stew and the menu closed with that most Italian of all dishes, Tiramisu.
Following the fizz, a glass of Gavi di Gavi was suggested to match to the antipasti. Combining fresh apple fruit and a softly textured waxy lemon finish, I thought it would stand up well to the myriad of flavours from the antipasti which featured cured meats, delicious olives and sundried tomatoes from a small local deli. As an alternative, Fiano di Avellino offered a breath of Southern air, providing a richer contrast to the Piedmonte Gavi, with its minerally, pear fruited notes.
Pasta was next, coated in a creamy Gorgonzola sauce cooked at the last minute, and I thought a Malvasia from the South would work well; it has a lovely minerality and is good with lighter pasta dishes. Some guests will always prefer red wine with pasta so I also offered a Barbera D’Asti . Its peppery, crunchy red fruit provided a little more intensity of flavour than the white.
The main course was a rich hunter’s style venison stew – in lieu of veal – and Langhe Nebbiolo the suggestion. Made from the same grape variety as fêted Barolos and Barbarescos, this gives a flavour of those great wines at a fraction of the price which is a handy trick when catering for a large number. As the sauce was tomato based, I thought the acidity of the wine would match well.
Vin Santo had to be the pudding wine- this deliciously sweet wine, which is a Tuscan speciality, is made from grapes dried out on straw mats. Delivering a hit of orange peel freshness and honeyed richness, this is a treat not only with rich puddings like the Tiramisu served but also hard Italian cheeses.
If you would like me to recommend you recipes to match your wines please email me at email@example.com
After a very successful campaign in January introducing the 2011 Burgundy vintage we are now preparing for the next round featuring our impressive friend Olivier Bernstein. We look forward to welcoming him to Basingstoke shortly to talk the Fine Wine team through his brilliant line-up, which we will be launching in mid march.
Olivier has come a long way since he first showed me his awesome array of wines in his debut vintage of 2007. He attracted top scores from the international wine press from the outset but that doesn’t mean that there was no room for progress. In subsequent vintages he has fine tuned his methods, searching for more elegance alongside the undoubted power and concentration of his wines.
He has also managed to get closer to his vineyard sources. He now manages the vineyard work for all but one of his sources and – a wonderful opportunity – has managed to buy two of the vineyards he has worked with since the start: Gevrey-Chambertin Les Champeaux and Mazis Chambertin. It is pretty rare for grand cru vineyards to change hands so this is a major coup.
These vineyards follow the common thread of old vines – more than 80 years old in the case of the Mazis – which enables Olivier to work with excellent raw material. During vinification the wines are very lightly handled, with a good proportion of stems included to maintain a lively thread throughout, while the barrels are made to order by master cooper Stéphane Chassin, who comes to taste the new vintage before deciding what type of toasting will suit each individual wine.
The range now consists of six Grands Crus, of which the Chambertin Clos de Bèze, Mazis-Chambertin and increasingly the Bonnes Mares sell through very rapidly, three premiers crus (outstanding Cazetiers and Champeaux from Gevrey-Chambertin and a lovely, lacy, Chambolle Lavrottes, a village Gevrey) and small amounts of white wine – one each from Meursault, Puligny and Corton-Charlemagne.
Mr Bernstein is going places – not least to visit our teams in Hong Kong and Japan, as well as beautiful Basingstoke – and we are excited to be sharing the journey with him. He’s already come a long way from making his wines in a garage in Gevrey-Chambertin to delightful cellars in a classic Beaune town house, which he moved into last year. Congratulations Olivier!
Look out for our live tweets from the upcoming Olivier Bernstein tasting on 12th March and the new wines will be available from 15th March.
It is late Sunday evening when we arrive at Lyon airport for our annual Rhône En Primeur trip. Wet snow starts to fall heavily as we collect our rental car and race down the motorway to Ampuis, the centre of Côte-Rôtie. Monday morning we wake up to one of my favourite views in the world; the frighteningly steep vineyards of Côte-Rôtie that form the backdrop of Ampuis, shrouded in morning mist. Working these vertiginous hillside terraces (they can be up to 60 degrees) requires a good sense of balance and is a labour of love as all machinery fails on these steep slopes. This mythical landscape is home to some of the world’s greatest wines and we are about to taste them!
We are in Ampuis to start our busy four day tasting trip, to understand the 2011 vintage. In many ways, tasting the wines at this stage makes far more sense than the annual Bordeaux en primeurs; the wines have had an extra year of ageing and in many instances are about to be bottled. It is impossible to do justice to all the producers and wines that we have tasted and the Rhône En Primeur tasting on Monday 25th February gave us a good chance to explore these wines further.
The Northern Rhône is dominated by the magnificent Rhône River, which has its source in the glacial Massif of St Gothard in Switzerland and as it twists and turns its way through the valley, so the vineyard exposure turns with it. Day 1 we focus on Côte-Rôtie itself and we start with Domaine Jean-Michel Gerin. Modern in style with lots of oak, the wines show extraordinary depth despite the relatively young age of the vines. Côte-Rôtie, Champin Le Seigneur is concentrated, seductive and a good continuation of 2009/2010. It may lack some of the concentration of the 2009 and 2010, but gives far more pleasure at this young stage. Côte-Rôtie, La Landonne is exceptional with real finesse and a floral note on the finish that goes on and on. It is a good start. Next on the list are the freezing cellars of traditionalist an d ‘Master Grower’ Réné Rostaing, whose carefully crafted high-toned wines speak for themselves. Rene Rostaing calls 2011 ‘a year of terroir not of sunshine, like 2004, 2006 and 2001’. These are not rich, luxurious wines, but precise and focused reflecting the minute differences in soil as can clearly be seen between the masculine dark Côte-Rôtie, La Landonne on soils high in iron oxide and the opulent floral seductive Côte-Rôtie, Cote Blonde from calcareous and quartz soil. At Côte-Rôtie Syrah is grown on the most northern edge of where the grape will ripen (like Cabernet Sauvignon in Bordeaux and Pinot Noir in Burgundy). The result is complex wines that reflect vintage conditions and soil, and it is the vintage difference that makes these wines so fascinating.
The 2011 Rhône En Primeur Tasting was our largest ever, with 30 producers in attendance and several more sending over samples especially for the event. It was a struggle, indeed, to find enough room for all the wines and their ( usually ) eponymous pourers……no mean feat given the Edwardian grandeur of the Great Hall of 1 Great George Street, home to the Institute of Civil Engineers and occasional film set for oeuvres as diverse as Spooks, Bridget Jones and Kavanagh QC…….Plenty of stars evidenced here on the night, mostly of the vinous variety of course, and it all proved to be a more than satisfactorily hors d’oeuvre to our En Primeur Offer, which is now in full flow.
The consensus from our multiple visits to the region over the last year has been that 2011 is to be a charming, relatively accessible vintage, its fruits being wines of breeding and harmony, but with a stylistic heterogeneity born out of the challenges ( and opportunities) of a relatively long growing season. As so it was to prove on the night; a fascinating tasting in so many different respects. The white wines were uniformly impressive, from Condrieu to Châteauneuf, with several agreeable stops en route. As for the reds, if diversity engenders interest and the pleasure of anticipation, then there seemed to be a lot of pleased customers come eight o’clock and, always the acid test, a good number of orders by the end of the tasting. And plenty more the day after. It is hard, perhaps unfair, to select at random, but let’s just say that it was a particularly good night for Domaines Janasse, Combier, Gerin and La Nerthe………I could go on……..All in all, a very good start for a campaign for a very good vintage; one which strikes the same chords as 2006 and maybe 2000 to me, both of which are providing great pleasure and satisfaction now.