Thursday, June 26, 2008

Live: Bolomey Wijnimport

Just launched: my own webshop, with only wines that I really like! No big collection, but a personal selection of fine classic wines that I love to offer. This is the address of Bolomey Wijnimport: The site is in Dutch, but I guess that non-Dutch wine lovers won't have a problem finding the wines they like... Also some (interesting) 2007 primeurs, but that section isn't finalised yet. The Bordeaux 2006 section however is complete.

Bolomey Wijnimport
Next month I will visit Burgundy again, and the Champaign area, and after that I will present some other interesting wines. Of course you are very welcome to check back regularly at Bolomey Wijnimport!

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Le Clarence de Haut-Brion

Maybe you have seen the name during the last campaign: Le Clarence de Haut-Brion. It is the new name of the second wine of Château Haut-Brion. Red wine. The second wine of Haut-Brion's white is still named Les Plantiers de Haut-Brion.

In general, the second wines of the First Growths have gained importance over the last years: with the prices of the grand vins exploding, people started to look for the second wines. Those got sought-after, and soon started to be released in tranches just like their big brothers. With a first tranche that is usually sold out quickly, and a second tranche that is − naturally − higher priced. Do take into account that the size of a first tranche is small. Anyway, price orchestration is something these châteaux handle quite well.

Le Clarence de Haut-Brion 2007
It is this climate in which it was time to rename Château Bahans Haut-Brion. For my Dutch ears it has always appeared as a strange, somewhat funny name. Not at all serious, more a clumsy name. In general people had no idea how to pronounce Bahans. Poor Bahans family. They once owned part of Haut-Brion and apparently contributed to the fame of this grand château.

From now on the deuxième vin honours the progenitor of the domain, Clarence Dillon, who acquired the château in 1935. Dillon died in 1979 (aged 96!), but today still seven family members are seated in the board of Domaine Clarence Dillon, to which − since 1983 − also belong La Mission Haut-Brion, La Tour Haut-Brion and Laville Haut-Brion.

I must say: "Le Clarence de Haut-Brion" sounds good, and the new bottle also looks attractive. A few more days to go, and then I will launch my own (online) wine store. Le Clarence de Haut-Brion is one of the wines that I will offer.

Monday, June 16, 2008

The only thing rising in Bordeaux is the rain meter

The rain in Spain may stay mainly on the plain, but in Bordeaux it just stays. And it is getting colder.

"C'est le bordel," is how Jean-Luc Thunevin put it this morning, Monday 16th June. A bordel is literally 'a brothel', but the translation is more along the lines of an effing mess.

Included in the bordel is: the endless rain, the warm temperatures, then the cold ones, the mildew risk, the mud that is making it difficult for the tractors to get into the vines and spray, the wet flowering – although Thunevin says that this has, for some unknown reason actually been OK – and the fact that everyone is working flat out spraying when they can, deleafing and dealing with the fact that replanting in the rain is a pain.

Not included in Thunevin's bordel comment this morning are the primeurs. But they can't be helping.

All the first growths bar Yquem are out now, at the amazing, but not amazing enough apparently, reduction of 26% - meaning 200 euro ex-château, 240 to the trade.

Which makes them lower compared to 2006 but still expensive compared to what they were selling for in 2004 – about 80 euro ex-château. Although, compared to 2004 the big difference is that 2007 is available for sale and the 2004 is harder to find. So you do have to take that into account.

Whether Yquem will come out or not is apparently in doubt. They don't always sell en primeur anyway, but even so, it will be seen I am sure as another indication of a dismal primeur campaign.

A call to Hubert de Boüard was slightly more positive. Yes, the rain is a bordel, or as he put it 'le bazar' – I think that's how it is spelt anyway, it means much the same thing, only without the image of red dresses dumped all over the room. And on the upside Angélus is out – 85 euro ex chateau, 23% down on 2006, 100 to the trade – and the phones are hopping with calls from courtiers. A call to another négociant however reveals that at his end for Angélus, 'the phones are not ringing off the hook'.

The message of lower prices helping sales does seem to be getting through at last however. As I write, Léoville-las-Cases has just come out - down about 29% on last year. That one was also rumoured not to be coming out.

The trouble is that for the campaign as a whole, despite everyone having their individual story about why and how their price is like that, it is, quite simply, overpriced.

And when everyone comes round to buying it in shops it will still be overpriced, compared to other vintages and compared to other wines from France and the rest of the winemaking world.

Please take note: I, and about million other people, foresee great bargains in supermarkets come the Foire-Aux-Vins in September 2009.

But, oh why didn't they lower their prices, goes the chorus. And why, can't the first growths come out first and set a good example? Gnashing of teeth and wailing. Not in our time, the response to the responsorial psalm.

Now, even as we speak a war of nerves is most likely being played out between Cheval Blanc and Ausone as to who will blink first and release a price. Only to be trounced, no doubt by the other. Ausone is expected, by the way at 30% up on the first growths, so 260 ex-château?

Anyway. It is all very well in local terms, and great for gossip, but what does it actually do for the consumer? Zip. But, who knows, I bet if it was all nice, and orderly and according to plan, the greatest out first, with nicely lowered prices, and the rest following, people would be complaining that the romance had gone.

Oh my god. It has actually stopped raining for a moment. No. Sorry. It has started again.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Bordeaux 2007: Latour and Haut-Brion released

We must be in the last week of the primeurs campaign, and there isn't really something like a climax. At the end things should speed up a bit, the whole game ought to wrap itself up with some cool fireworks, but no, the machinery isn't as smooth as in 2006 (the 05 campaign), and the final releases come like the last drips of a rain shower. A few on Monday, very few on Tuesday, and then finally Latour and Haut-Brion today. With the utterly surprising prices of... about € 325,- (consumer price)... i.e. the same as Château Margaux almost a week ago. Down about 25%.

La Mission Haut-Brion, very successful in 2006 and as a result priced as a First Growth, went down with 40%.

The most exciting releases were the few that - like Vieux Château Certan earlier - had the guts to really lower their price (and sell):

- Troplong-Mondot Monday morning: −40%
- Nénin on Tuesday: −26% (and to a lesser extent Pichon-Lalande with −20%)
- Ducru-Beaucaillou: −36%

A few more days to go - luckily we also have the European Championship.

For all ratings and prices visit Bordoverview.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Bordeaux 2007 recommendations II

Thursday and Friday were crazy, many châteaux releasing their prices. Most went down, some kept their price at 2006-level, and some even went up. With the release of Château Margaux on Thursday the conclusion of the campaign is in sight, but we're not there yet. The coming week will be the last week of the campaign with the release of the other first growths and the remaining châteaux that are either slow or too cautious, or maybe consider themselves as first growths (Léoville-Las-Cases, Ducru-Beaucaillou).

Château Margaux came out about 25% lower than last year, and is of course still rather unaffordable with a resulting average consumer price (for the first tranche) of about 325 euro (including VAT). Being confronted with this price, a pharmacist from Geneva, Illinois, wrote on the Wine Spectator forum: "Best laugh I've had in some time...". Taking into account (also) the weak dollar, I think he meant that the wine is expensive. Château Palmer was released yesterday and will cost about 155 euro, 12% less than in 2006.

In addition to my Wednesday posting I add the following recommendations to my personal − perfectly subjective and arguable − list. Wines with an interesting price-quality ratio:

- Domaine de Chevalier (5 June)
- Château Duhart-Milon-Rothschild (5 June)
- Alter Ego de Palmer (6 June)
- Château Clerc Milon (5 June)
- Château Canon-la-Gaffelière (5 June)
- Pavillon Rouge du Château Margaux (5 June)
- Château Branon (6 June)
(release date between brackets)

Château Cantenac-Brown was released 12% below its crazy 2006 price, and is unfortunately still priced above its class.

And unless the fact that 2007 is a tough sell, at the end of this week one could sense the primeur fever with the négociants. Some wines are already hard to get − like in normal years: e.g. Léoville-Barton and Pavillon Rouge are playing hard to get (not to mention Pavillon Blanc).

All the details and prices: check out Bordoverview.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Bordeaux 2007 recommendations

After a short off moment during the second half of last week, the past three days the Bordeaux 2007 primeurs campaign seems to be coming to a conclusion. The good news is that we see some serious price decreases. Also, we see some very interesting wines being released - thus the right moment for some first recommendations.

In my last posting I was complaining about the release price of Château l'Evangile (average consumer release price including VAT € 112). This Monday we saw the most comparable Pomerol château present its price: Vieux Château Certan was released at € 82, an impressive 40% down. A statement. Other major wines were also released at lower prices, but here no statements. Mere necessary corrections. And we shouldn't forget: from châteaux with a fairly stable price tag over the years - such as Léoville Barton - we cannot expect great price drops.

Congenial prices also from Saint-Emilion Premier Cru Classés Clos Fourtet and Pavie-Macquin: both these Derenoncourt-consulted wines are now more or less back on 2004-level. Clos Fourtet (from the new owners of the troubled Poujeaux) was received with varying success; the recently (to Premier Cru) promoted Château Pavie-Macquin stood an excellent chance however.

Big-name-reds with an interesting price-quality ratio are (just some suggestions, and only for the châteaux that have released its price so far):

- Vieux Château Certan (2 June)
- Château Pavie-Macquin (4 June, last minute release)
- Château Montrose (3 June)
- Château Pontet-Canet (22 May)
- Château Léoville-Barton (3 June)
- Château Rauzan-Ségla (4 June)
- Château Haut-Bailly (4 June)
- Château Haut-Bergey (30 May)
- Château Giscours (20 May)
- Château du Tertre (6 May)
- Château Calon-Ségur (3 June)
- Château Phélan-Ségur (21 May)
- Château Gruaud-Larose (19 May)
(release date between brackets)

Note: no original affordable petit châteaux in this list. E.g. from interesting regions such as Côtes de Castillon. Some other time.

By the way: I am not sure how useful it is to buy the "smaller wines" en primeur.

So for now just the Christmas 2012-2020 − or so − bottles. Of course when you think about buying Bordeaux 2007 at all. Check out Bordoverview for all released wines.