Bordeaux 2016: our top cellar-fillers

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Ch. Léoville Las Cases. Photograph: Jason Lowe

In a very good vintage such as 2016, we always recommend putting aside some of our favourite wines – bottles which won’t break the bank but will reap unbelievable rewards with five to 10 years of cellaring. Here’s our top 10 to tuck away

2016 Ch. Angludet, Margaux

This is one of the best Angludets we have tasted in recent years. It possesses lovely, sweet, cool fruit on the nose with a hint of spice. It has a suave, ribbon-like texture with red fruit and violets coming through. It dances across the palate with an elegant, almost Burgundian finesse.

Blend: Cabernet Sauvignon 50%, Merlot 38%, Petit Verdot 12%

Score: 16/20

2016 Ch. Pibran, Pauillac

The 9.5 hectares of vineyards at Ch. Pibran stretch across a well-drained gravel bank that borders Chx Mouton Rothschild, Lynch-Bages and Pontet-Canet. The 2016 has plummy fruit on the nose with dark fruit and cassis. There is a good, leafy crunch with a wonderful, ethereal, silky texture, and it finishes on a glorious fresh note.

Blend: Merlot 55%, Cabernet Sauvignon 45%

Score: 16.5/20

2016 Ch. Pédesclaux, Pauillac

In recent years Pédesclaux has garnered a reputation for making a more interesting, modern style of red Bordeaux. There is a lot of ripe, plump red fruit and it finishes full-bodied, still with the trademark freshness of the vintage, but there is a little more body and joy.

Blend: Merlot 48%, Cabernet Sauvignon 47%, Petit Verdot 3%, Cabernet Franc 2%

Score: 16.5/20

2016 Ch. Cantemerle, Haut-Médoc

When Cantemerle is on form, it is one of the most consistent and well-loved Clarets at its price point. It has an attractive nose of red fruit and finishes with a lovely, mineral savouriness.

Blend: Cabernet Sauvignon 64%, Merlot 28%, Cabernet Franc 5%, Petit Verdot 3%

Score: 16/20

2016 Clos Marsalette, Pessac-Léognan

Dark inky purple, the 2016 Clos Marsalette has notes of dark blackcurrant, coffee with generous, dark fruit, bright fruit and a succulent finish. Very good indeed.

Blend: Merlot 55%, Cabernet Franc 40%, Cabernet Sauvignon 5%

Score: 16.5/20

Ch. Haut-Bailly. Photograph: Jason Lowe

Ch. Haut-Bailly. Photograph: Jason Lowe

2016 La Parde Haut-Bailly, Pessac-Léognan

The 2016 is dark ruby with a delicate nose of red fruit and some floral elements. The palate is very succulent with ripe tannins and good energy from the acidity. It finishes with a pleasing grip and a long finish. Very good.

Blend: Merlot 47%, Cabernet Sauvignon 47%, Cabernet Franc 6%

Score: 16/20

2016 Ch. Laroque, St Emilion

Ch. Laroque dates back to the 12th century and sits on a limestone plateau outside St Emilion. The 2016 is dark ruby, with fine aromatics of mint and blackcurrants. Suave in texture, there is a freshness and lift on the palate with a silky, grippy finish.

Blend: Merlot 95%, Cabernet Franc 4.5%, Cabernet Sauvignon 0.5%

Score: 16.5/20

2016 Moulin Saint-Georges, St Emilion

The soils here are clay-limestone. This is hugely expressive on the nose, with red fruits and blackcurrants. On the palate it has vitality and bright acidity, with ripe tannins which give way to a long, savoury finish.

Blend: Merlot 80%, Cabernet Franc 20%

Score: 16.5/20

2016 Ch. Ormes de Pez, St Estèphe

This has a dark ruby hue. Even before you have lowered your nose into the glass, this comes at you with a wave of dark, black fruit – think Morello cherry, cassis and liquorice. The palate feels “cool” but is full-bodied, with elegant, silky tannins and a long finish.

Blend: Merlot 52%, Cabernet Sauvignon 42%, Cabernet Franc 5%, Petit Verdot 1%

Score: 16/20

2016 Clos du Marquis, St Julien

A dark ruby hue, this has bright red fruit on the nose – Morello cherry. It feels silky and cool on the palate; very precise with tremendous length which just goes on and on.

Blend: Cabernet Sauvignon 73%, Merlot 24%, Cabernet Franc 3%

Score: 17/20

Category: Bordeaux Wine

Seasonal sensations: wild garlic

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As soon as the bluebells blossom, Britain’s abundant wild garlic begins to poke its head through the soil. To honour its spring re-emergence our Head Chef Stewart Turner has whipped up a lovely seasonal velouté, while Richard Veal suggests some appropriate wine pairings

On the table: Nothing says spring has sprung quite like the first appearance of wild garlic in the kitchen. It is a truly unique culinary treat: a wild ingredient that, when in season, grows in sheer abundance. It is an easy starting point for the novice, as well as a forager’s delight. You’ll likely find wild garlic nestled among bluebells, where it is attracted by the moist soil and the shade. In recent years it has become the spring ingredient de rigueur – noisily taking its place among seasonal staples like rhubarb, asparagus and the mighty morel. Though its pungent smell makes it easy to identify, always be sure to double-check that you know exactly what’s going in your pot when foraging.

Just thinking about that smell takes me back to Easter holidays on the Isle of Wight. The house that we used to stay in had a sea of the stuff at the back of the garden, and I used to take the kids down to forage the tasty bounty. Although the scent of wild garlic is powerful, the flavour when cooked is more subtle, and it can be used to make fantastic spring pesto, or as an interesting alternative to spinach.

Though it can be eaten raw, I prefer cooking the stuff to help manage its powerful taste – simply wilt in a little olive oil and butter. I prefer this method to blanching as you keep more of the garlic’s raw flavour – although once heated it shrinks down a lot, so make sure you have plenty to work with. The dish below was the starter from a recent four-course celebration of wild garlic and morels: a truly sensational spring duo.

In the glass: For me, the principle consideration when drinking wines with soup is texture. Just as a sweet dish will make a dry wine taste drier or even sharp and acidic, soup tends to push light, delicate wine into the background. Wines with some weight are obvious candidates then, with the Rhône and Alsace ideal sources.

Despite the wild garlic being toned down, the dish will still burst with flavour, so some intensity in the glass will also be a consideration. Both Les Vins de Vienne’s Taburnum, made with Viognier, or André Ostertag’s Zellberg Pinot Gris would be good candidates.

Outside France there are plenty of textural, exotic wines with requisite intensity. The 2008 Selección de Añada from Pazo de Señoráns or Larry Cherubino’s Laissez Faire Blend would both be fascinating.

Wild garlic velouté with morelsServes 6
  • 1 large onion
  • 2 sticks of celery
  • 1 leek (white part only)
  • 1 large clove of garlic
  • 1 medium potato (about 200g) – finely sliced
  • 5 litres of vegetable stock
  • 1kg wild garlic
  • 100g fresh morels
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • Olive oil
  • Butter

Finely slice the onion, celery, leek and garlic. Pick the wild garlic and finely slice the stalks. Set the leaves and flowers aside separately.

Heat a good lug of olive oil in a wide, heavy-based pan over a medium-high heat. Add the sliced vegetables with a pinch of salt, turn the heat to medium and sweat for 10 minutes until soft. Add the potato and cook for a few minutes, then add the vegetable stock and bring to the boil. Simmer gently for around five minutes until the potato is cooked.

Meanwhile, wilt the wild garlic leaves in a bit of butter (you may need to do this in a few batches), drain and set aside.

Allow the soup to cool a little and then blend in batches with the wild garlic. Pass it through a fine sieve into another pan, adjust the seasoning and – if the soup is too thick – add stock. Cover and keep warm.

Fry the washed morels in a little butter with the wild garlic flowers. When cooked, serve the soup garnished with the morels, flowers and a drizzle of olive oil.

Category: Food & Wine

Bordeaux 2016: the verdict

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Ch. Léoville-Poyferré. Photography: Jason Lowe

As Bordeaux 2016 en primeur gets underway, with the first major release (Cos d’Estournel) today, our Buying Director Max Lalondrelle provides his thoughts on the vintage

It’s been more than two weeks since we finished our annual en primeur week with a late afternoon tasting at Ch. Haut-Bailly and a quick game of pétanque before catching the late flight home. This year was easier than most, as the barrel samples were so easy to taste. There is no doubt in my mind that 2016 is the strongest vintage since 2010, with the best wines displaying freshness, tantalising red fruit, ripe tannins and drinkability.

The barrel samples we tasted, across 56 châteaux, were marked by their purity, elegance and energy. About halfway through the week, I began to think that this was a return to a very fine style of winemaking and maybe a “re-set” for many wineries, away from the over-oaked and over-macerated styles we saw in the early 2000s, moving instead to a more classical style, respectful of the fruit and terroir. The lower alcohol levels are testament to this; the wines combine the freshness of a top vintage Loire Cabernet Franc, with the elegance and intensity of a Grand Cru from Chambolle-Musigny.

If I had to describe this vintage in one word, it would not be great or classic or even very good (although that is two words): it would be “unique”. In many ways this is a truly unique vintage and there are many benchmark wines that collectors will long to have in their cellars.

Quality was high across both Left and Right Banks and we found good consistency among the small amount of properties in the commune of St Julien.

We know the quality of the wine is extremely good in 2016 but as we approach the business end of the campaign, all eyes turn to pricing. Prices are never straightforward in Bordeaux. 2015 was a very good campaign with many châteaux selling out. But only 30 wines or so really sold-out and we can find, albeit at higher prices because of the exchange rate, most of the other wines still in the cellars of the châteaux or Bordeaux négociants. So we believe a similar price to last year in Euros would translate into an small increase in Sterling, which would in turn reflect the uniqueness and high quality of the vintage.

In the US, Donald Trump is threating to impose a 20 percent tax increase on wine imports, Sterling is still weak and Asia is still reluctant to buy wine en primeur. So, with this in mind, we hope that there will no increase in the Euro price, allowing the market to absorb the volumes released and making it a must-buy for consumers.

That said, 2016 is a very special year and, as the wines are released over the coming weeks, we are confident that they will make lovely additions to your cellar.

Category: Bordeaux Wine

Malbec: from lame duck to Latin lothario

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Pulenta Estate, Argentina. Photograph: Jason Lowe

Ahead of Malbec World Day on 17th April, Amanda Barnes explores the grape’s past, present and future

Although best known as Malbec, this grape variety has over a thousand synonyms, according to French ampelographer Pierre Galet. Côt, Auxerrois, Doux Noir and Pressac are just a few.

Its multiple monikers are an ode to the variety’s long history, concentrated in France; however, the fact that we don’t recognise most of its synonyms is a clear sign of its demise over time. Particularly susceptible to frost and rot, Malbec fell out of fashion in preference for more robust varieties. It went from being the great “black wine” of the Middle Ages and the tipple of choice at Eleanor of Aquitaine’s parties, to barely registering in any Bordeaux blends. It, like Carménère, is one of the lame ducks of Bordeaux – allowed, but rarely used.

The only place where Malbec still holds court in France is Cahors, where it has quietly reigned for centuries under the name of Côt. Until recently…

Malbec’s new lease of life: a re-emergence in Argentina

South America’s vineyards were a melting pot of different grape varieties between the 1600s and 1900s as missionaries and settlers brought a wide assortment from their homelands. During that time, some varieties thrived and others faded into obscurity.

While Malbec plantings were diminishing in France, they were gaining ground in Argentina – where a warm, sunny climate suited the variety well. By the 1970s Malbec was widely planted, reaching over 50,000 hectares. But that didn’t last long. Malbec wasn’t very popular in Argentina – it grew well, but it didn’t have any international swagger. A nationwide vine-pull scheme left just 4,000 hectares of Malbec by the ‘80s, as vignerons furiously planted more fashionable international grapes like Cabernet Sauvignon.

In a twist of fate, some of the Malbec wines that were still being made in Argentina started to get international recognition. As sales begin to climb, people started to replant Malbec. “Kicking yourself” would be an understatement, as those same vignerons replanted the variety they had just uprooted. But there was no time to waste with regret. By 1990 there were over 10,000 hectares of Malbec again; by 2000, there were 16,000; and by 2015 there were 40,000 hectares – ten-fold the amount left after the, evidently misguided, vine-pull of the ‘80s.

Malbec was booming and Argentina had given it a universal name. So much so, that today even winemakers in Cahors have rechristened it Malbec. 

The future of Malbec

With over 85 percent of the world’s Malbec vineyards, Argentina is undoubtedly at the centre of the variety’s present and future. The styles that dominated at the turn of the century were rich, plush and plummy wines – ripe, warm-climate Malbec with lavish ageing in new oak. While those styles still have their advocates, the more modern style of Malbec emerging is based on planting at higher altitudes and finding a leaner, more mineral expression. Many winemakers now favour ageing wine in concrete or blending from more neutral barrels to allow the full expression of Malbec’s floral and fruity character.

While Malbec will most likely always be considered “Argentina’s grape”, its international celebration day, April 17th, is called “Malbec World Day” with good reason. Malbec is now one of the top 20 most planted wine varieties worldwide. France still has over 5,000 hectares of Malbec, but Chile just tops them with 6,000 hectares, including many century-old vineyards in the south. Elsewhere Malbec is finding a home in the US, Australia, South Africa, Brazil and Mexico to mention just a few.

Three to try

2013 Ambrosia, Viña Unica Malbec, Gualtallary (£22.50): Coming from calcareous soils at 1,250 metres altitude, this stylish Malbec combines the peppery, dark fruit character of this cool site with a floral and feminine touch from five percent Cabernet Franc.

2016 Pulenta Estate, La Flor Malbec, Mendoza (£12.25): This bright Malbec is a real party pleaser matching well with a wide range of dishes. Fresh red and black fruit notes give it an attractive perfume and in the palate it is juicy, smooth and easy to drink.

2015 Clos la Coutale, Cahors (£9.95): Try Malbec from its ancestral home – Cahors, France – where dark fruit and a spine of refreshing acidity make a lively dinner companion.

Find out more about Carménère on bbr.com. Amanda Barnes is travelling around the world in 80 harvests, find out more about her project and follow her journey here.

Category: Miscellaneous,New World