Sunday, October 25, 2009

Lovely Burgundy!

I still didn't tell you that my wine-web-shop was chosen 4th best from more than 250 Dutch wine-web-shops. Of course I had preferred to be the number 1, but when I take into account that my company is small and young, and that the numbers 1-3 are big, I am satisfied after all. The only problem is that hardly anyone notices a number 4... but enough about this. In the end it is not the shop that counts, but the wines in the shop.

Arnaud Ente and Benoit EnteMeursault "Clos des Ambres" 2006 from Arnaud Ente [ buy ] and Puligny-Montrachet 1er cru Les Folatières "En La Richarde" 2006 from Benoit Ente.

One of these wines is the Meursault "Clos des Ambres" 2006 from Arnaud Ente which was my contribution to an interesting Burgundy tasting with Jan van Roekel (, Karel de Graaf (Burgundy agent & Meursault winemaker), Frank Jacobs (wine journalist) and Job Verhaar (wine seller & Burgundy lover). We compared this Meursault with a 2006 from his brother Benoit Ente: the Puligny-Montrachet 1er cru Les Folatières "En La Richarde" 2006. They both persuade, but in a different way.

The Meursault comes across younger, with more intensity and energy. It has an imposing corpus with singing acidity, at first on the background, lingering, and then kicking in, structuring a convincing finish. A rich wine with a full and soft-smooth texture. The Puligny is soft par excellence. It is round in the nose, and has a velvety mouth-feel. It seems a little more mature, the oak has blended in perfectly and the wine is balanced and ripe.

Echezeaux 'Les Loachausses' 2007 from Anne GrosEchezeaux "Les Loachausses" 2007 from Anne Gros

Then the reds. My favourite: the Echezeaux "Les Loachausses" 2007 from Anne Gros. This wine is just de-li-cious. Very pure, very forward, very healthy pinot fruit. Very elegant, outspoken and intense. What should I say more? Perhaps that I am glad that there are a few sleeping in my cellar. The wine that follows belongs to different school, but is also from a different time: stil clearly pinot, but this time ripe, rich and mature. And the style is full, round, I'd almost say this wine is 'spherical'. What I am trying to describe: the Corton-Bressandes 1998 from Vincent Girardin.

The next wine was an interesting one as well: the Chambertin 1981 from Louis Trapet. It was not a grand year, 1981, but this Chambertin was still alive. Light and old, matured and modest pinot noir. An elegant old man in a red-brown suit.

The pirate of the evening: the rightfully famous Saumur-Champigny Clos Rougeard 2005 "Les Poyeux". This cabernet franc is difficult to describe, because it is difficult to describe a wine that nears perfection. Also, it was late. My suggestion: taste this very complete wine and you will not be disappointed.

Tonight we will conclude the week (or start the new one?) with... a Burgundy tasting. But this tasting will be work.

Not that it makes any difference....

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Bordeaux 2009, and Bordeaux 2006 revisited

Hardly have I gotten over the fuss of the Bordeaux 2008 primeurs - high quality for interesting prices - and the next carnival procession arrives with infernal noise: we can look forward to another grand vintage. The reason: weather has been perfect this year. Dry and sunny, warm but not too hot, and at the right times some rain, just when it was needed for the vines. Sounds familiar? Yes, it does. Bordeaux 2005 was announced in the same way. One difference: Bordeaux 2009 is supposedly even bigger than Bordeaux 2005...

This might sound a little sceptical, and perhaps it is. Okay, weather data are factual, but so short after the harvest it just comes across a little frenzied to state that Bordeaux 2009 will outperform the legendary 2005 vintage. But don't get me wrong: I am not against a good vintage. And I will soon dive into the subject, perhaps when the vinification has been completed.

Also, already quite a few articles about Bordeaux 2009 were published last week. From what I have seen the most interesting, in-depth read is on the Liv-ex Fine Wine Market Blog Bordeaux 2009 - an insider's view by local grower and winemaker Gavin Quinney.

As said, this topic will be continued.

Decanter Award for Chateau Pichon-Longueville Baron 2006Decanter Award for Château Pichon-Longueville Baron 2006 (Decanter Magazine November 2009): "Very serious, long-lasting, multi-faceted. Fine, tight, long, intense with lovely freshness too. Still a baby, but the real McCoy. Fine-grained, powerful, yet delicious. From 2018." [ buy ]

Next, let's go back three vintages: this year the Bordeaux 2006 vintage has been retasted by various journalists. Early 2009 Robert Parker presented his final 2006 scores, La Revue du Vin de France revisited the vintage in their September issue and Decanter just did the same in the brand new copy of November. For now, let's see if there are any interesting shifts in the RVF ratings. I will look at the new Decanter scores in a later posting.

Kirwan 2006 from 14-15/20 to 17
Pontet-Canet 2006 from 16,5-17,5 to 19
(isn't everyone enthusiastic about this château these days)
Lynch-Moussas 2006 from 11 to 14,5
La Clémence 2006 from 14,5-15,5 to 17,5
Le Gay 2006 from 14,5-15,5 to 17
Latour à Pomerol 2006 from 14-15 to 16,5
Trottevieille 2006 from 14-15 to 16,5
Domaine de Chevalier rouge 2006 from 15,5-16,5 to 18
Domaine de Chevalier blanc 2006 from 14-15 to 18
De Fieuzal 2006 from 13-14 to 15,5
Bouscaut 2006 from 12-13 to 15
Malartic-Lagravière blanc 2006 from 14-15 to 18
Latour Martillac blanc 2006 from 14-15 to 17

Du Tertre 2006 from 15-16 to 13,5
(I do not agree but I am not unprejudiced as I worked at Du Tertre in 2006, I like the wine and I see Decanter likes it too...)
Cadet-Bon 2006 from 15-16 to 13
Guadet 2006 from 14,5-15 to 13

Anyway, most châteaux got some extra credits, and some of these could be interesting buys. We see the biggest shifts in Pomerol, and especially in Pessac-Léognan for the white wines. I am not sure if these variations have to do with the wines, or with the tasters involved.

The new Bordeaux 2006 RVF list is led by Léoville-las-Cases, Lafite-Rothschild, Pontet-Canet, Pétrus, Haut-Brion and Laville Haut-Brion (white) (19), Margaux, Ducru-Beaucaillou, Léoville-Barton, Latour, Mouton-Rothschild, Figeac, Pavie, l'Eglise-Clinet, Trotanoy, Haut-Bailly, Haut-Brion blanc and Climens (18,5) and Léoville-Poyferré, Cos d'Estournel, La Conseillante, La Violette, Angélus, Pavie Macquin, Domaine de Chevalier rouge & blanc, La Mission Haut-Brion, Pape-Clément rouge & blanc and Malartic-Lagravière blanc (18).

Nerdy stuff, these lists, but fun every once in a while.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Visit to M. Chapoutier

Dwayne Perreault - The Rhône is strangely disparaged by some and venerated by others. While everyone seems to blindly agree that Bordeaux and Burgundy make excellent company, putting Rhône wines on the table is like inviting the in-laws to your house: you either like them or you don't. I do, and in fact southern Rhône wines like Gigondas and a good Chateauneuf du Pape (I happen to sell Château Fortia) are some of my favourite wines.

The bridge over the Rhône at Tain l'HermitageThe bridge over the Rhône at Tain l'Hermitage

But it is the northern Rhône which gets the serious wine lover's attention, and this is largely due to its noble grape, Syrah, seen by most to be superior to its thin-skinned southern neighbour, Grenache Noir. In fact, I was told at WSET wine college by a Master of Wine that Grenache is almost to be despised: low in tannins, oxidative and one-dimensional, it is incapable of producing vins de garde. But for the French, opinions are like wines; everyone has some.

As for white grapes, Viognier has emerged from its palace in Condrieu and has now travelled around the world, finding second homes in the new world and in the Languedoc where it is used to make mostly fruity, off-dry vins de pays. Marsanne and Roussanne are lesser known and Marsanne is described by most as being rather flabby and low in acidity, hardly positive references for any white grape. But Marsanne is the grape most commonly used to produce white Hermitage, France's most long-living white wine. Despite its low acidity, this is a grape capable of producing world-class whites which can easily be aged 15 years.

Ripe Syrah grapes at Les GréffieuxRipe Syrah grapes at Les Gréffieux

Camping underneath a rock escarpment near a town called Saou (which sounds like the French word for 'drunk'), I noticed that Marsanne is also a village, and being only a 15 minute drive away I decided to visit. It's a pretty little place on the hot plains of the valley, and I immediately parked myself in a shady spot of the local cafe and asked if their house wine was made from Marsanne. The waitress seemed confused. "We do not grow grapes in Marsanne," she said." It's too hot here. We grow grains, cereals."

"Yes," I replied, "I can see that, but surely you've heard of the Marsanne grape?" She hadn't. Like Jesus, poor little Marsanne is unrecognized in its own village.

No visit to the Rhône would be complete without seeking out one of its top producers, and few (if any) are more highly regarded than M. Chapoutier. Founded in 1808, Chapoutier uses traditional (now biodynamical) methods to produce its wines; in fact, they own the largest area of biodynamical vineyards in the world. I was received very warmly here by Odile Misery, regional export manager, who took the time to show me the vines at Les Gréffieux, with l'Hermite and its chapel at the top of the hill above. Odile pointed out that though the chapel belongs to Jaboulet, all the vines around it are Chapoutier's.

L'Hermite with its famous chapel. The chapel is owned by Jaboulet but the vines are Chapoutier'sL'Hermite with its famous chapel. The chapel is owned by Jaboulet but the vines are Chapoutier's

Seeing how Chapoutier's and Jaboulet's vines are adjacent to each other in places, I asked Odile if Chapoutier, being a biodynamical producer, was concerned about Jaboulet's viticultural practices, for example spraying with pesticides. Her response was diplomatic, downplaying the effect this might have on the biodiversity of Chapoutier's vineyard. "As you can see, it's too steep to use machinery, so any spraying is small and done by hand."

When I asked the same question to Nicolas Joly at the Renaissance des Appellations in Amsterdam, he was a little more direct with his answer: "Chapoutier is doing his neighbour a favour, and his neighbour is doing him a disservice."

I tasted 16 different wines at Chapoutier; that's too many to review here, but here are some of them, starting with whites: St. Péray Les Tanneurs 2007 is made from 95% Marsanne and 5% Roussanne and has a bouquet of straw and acacia honey with a medium thick texture and low acidity. Prominent apple and spice flavours combine with vanilla, almond and wood tones in this full-bodied dry white with 13,5% alcohol.

The Condrieu Invitare 2008 (100% Viognier of course) has great viscosity and a strong attack with smokey, mineral white fruit in the mouth. There is persistent fruit in the long-lasting aftertaste, with wonderfully blended alcohol and minerals: you really can taste the granite.

Chapoutier's Hermitage Chante Alouette (100% Marsanne) is one of the most famous white wines of the Rhône, notable for its longevity. The 2006 had a sweet bouquet of raisins and figs and had a noble taste sensation of fruit poking through incredible alcohol (14,5%). Someone once asked me what I meant when I said at a tasting that a wine had "really good alcohol." This wine personifies what I mean.

The St. Joseph Les Granits 2000 gave me an indication of how Marsanne can age. Made from the oldest vines in the estate, it has a golden bouquet of nectarines and dried flowers. This was drier and more mineral in character than the Chante Alouette 2006, with a delicate balance of fruit and alcohol. I wonder how that Chante Alouette will taste in 2015. I have one bottle and hope to find out.

After a lunch break, we continued with the reds. None of Chapoutier's wines should be underestimated, and that includes the affordable Rasteau 2007 (80% Grenache, 20% Syrah), very refreshing with tangy berry flavours. The Gigondas 2007 (90% Grenache, 10% Syrah) is more complex, with a soft bouquet of sour dark fruit and cocoa and a taste of extremely concentrated dark berries with zesty acidity and a solid tannic structure. Curiously, the Chateauneuf du Pape 'La Bernardine' 2006, made from the same grapes had more red fruits in the mouth, but with solid tannins backing it up. The 2005 had more noticeable mineral concentration, with a hint of iodine and licorice.

The last three wines were sublime. The Côte Rôtie 'Les Bécasses' 2006 (100% Syrah) had stuffy red fruit and something like old socks in the nose. Silky in the mouth, it had amazing tangy red fruit expression with softer tannins backing it up in a long aftertaste. L'Hermitage 'Monier de la Sizeranne' 2006 has a dark, smokey and sweltering bouquet with strong notes of pepper and even goat's cheese. Possessing a strong attack of dark fruit with notes of something indescribable--I thought of truffles--it is mouth-dryingly tannic but with a very long aftertaste. These are wines which clearly deserve ageing.

As a testament to Chapoutier's expansion into other countries (100 ha are planted in South Australia), we finished off with a Portuguese wine, the Extremadura Ex Aequo 2006, made from 75% Syrah and 25% Touriga Nacional. A very well-balanced oak-influenced wine with notes of leather and tobacco in extremely strong and expressive dark fruit.

It was a hot and sunny day, but late into the tasting it suddenly began to pour rain. This was good news; it had been so hot and dry that the rain was needed. I haven't heard how the harvest went, but 2009 was shaping up to be an excellent vintage, far better than 2008 and possibly as good as the exceptional 2007.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

May I have your votes please?

If you like my blog you now have the chance to "express" that. It doesn't cost a penny, just 2 minutes of your time: vote for my web shop as this year's best Dutch Wine Web Shop. Of course you should only do this if you think the shop deserves this praise...

Well, if you do want to vote simply follow this link. The pink-and-yellow banner "Stem nu!" then brings you to the voting form. In the drop down list you find my shop "", and there are some additional questions which are mainly about your own online wine shopping experience.

Anyhow, I hope you will take the time to cast your vote. Thanks!