Monday, December 27, 2010

Bye bye 2010

People take drinking to a higher level in December, hence I was a bit busy the last weeks. Now I'm relaxing, with Bach's Weihnachtskantaten and a lovely Bourgogne Roncevie 2008 from Domaine Arlaud. And the blog gets a little less attention...

I want to thank Doris Vroom from Winefields for the exciting tasting she organised this month, a welcome intermezzo. The Latour 1983 was impressive, in the first place. Fiery, as someone described it. I won't dive into my tasting notes here, but it was great to discover.

The most interesting aspect of this tasting for me was that weaker vintages should not be neglected. We were all surprised by a smokey and lean La Lagune 1991, a seductive La Fleur Pétrus 1992, and a pleasant Lynch Bages 1993.

Jadot's Musigny 1994 that I drank a few days later was good but it didn't have the (expected?) wow-factor. The wine that did have that factor was the Champagne Georges Laval Brut Nature (organic since 1971) which for me renders the essence of Champagne. No make-up, just great purity.

This just got a short what-did-I-drink-this-month posting, and that is it for now.

Thank you to all of you who follow this blog, and hope to see and you again in 2011.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Is Pomerol Pomerol?

Dwayne Perreault — To say x is x is being obvious, yet there is a deeper meaning. X is x is an affirmation of itself, that only x can be x. And so we get France is France, life is life, war is war, that is that. If I say George Bush is George Bush, you know what I mean.

But now try saying, wine is wine. Doesn’t work for me. And I’m not sure I’d say Pomerol is Pomerol either, since I’ve tasted a number of Pomerols now, and each time I seem to taste a different wine. I’ve had heavy, pensive, iron-rich Pomerol, autumnal Pomerol with wet forest and truffel smells, and Pomerol that was so purely neat in extraction that I thought it had something in common with elegant Burgundy.

Château Hermitage Mazeyres 2007 Pomerol
It’s such a tiny area, so how is this possible? Is it because of the capricious Merlot grape, which offers so many different kinds of wines around the world? Is it because of the many small and different winemakers? Or is Pomerol so complex that it takes years of serious tasting to understand it?

Whatever the reason(s), there is much to be desired about Pomerol except its price. If the rule in thumb is, don’t buy a bottle of Bordeaux for under €10, then I guess that becomes about €30 in Pomerol. Let’s not even comment on what top-rated Chateaux like L’Evangile and Pétrus cost.

So I’m happy to beat the odds and present the following splendid wine for €25: Château Hermitage Mazeyres 2007. This is very much a fruit-driven Pomerol made from 80% Merlot and 20% Cabernet Franc, with enough structure to keep it solid and fulfilling yet remain elegant. Having leather and a hint of sandalwood and violets in the nose, it is very expressive with tangy dark berries and medium tannins, round and harmonious, a festive wine to keep you happy through the cold winter months.
Château Hermitage Mazeyres is from Barrières Frères, owners of the St. Julien 4th Grand Cru Classé Château Beychevelle, and the Cru Bourgeois Supérieure Château Beaumont, which I also sell.

Hugh Johnson, in the fourth edition of his Wine Companion, had this to say about Pomerol: “There are wines as potent and majestic as any in France cheek by jowl with wines of wispy, fleeting fruitiness and charm – and dull ones too.” Is Pomerol then Pomerol? Who cares? Good wine is good wine.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

"Bordeaux 2010 probably even better than 2009"

This is not some French sales tiger who's talking, nor a random wine journalist who is trying to attract attention. No, it is the highly respected Kees van Leeuwen, professor in Bordeaux at ENITA (Ecole Nationale des Ingénieurs de Travaux Agricoles) and ISVV (Institut des Sciences de la Vigne et du Vin). Also, Van Leeuwen is the technical director at Château Cheval Blanc. In an article on Bordeaux 2010 in the Dutch magazine Perswijn he states: "2010 is without doubt a grand vintage in Bordeaux, probably even better than 2009."

the Chinese number tenthe Chinese number ten

The story behind the high quality reminds me of 2009. All levels are high again: anthocyanins, tannins and sugars are all at record levels, even surpassing 2009. Combined with a good acidity (and ripeness) we are again looking at a year which is displaying harmony on the highest level—it's like arm wrestling musclemen keeping each other locked in strenuous balance.

Exciting of course... but what does that mean for the prices? (yes, there we go again) On Jancis Robinson's website I read: "Christian Seely, in charge of AXA Millésimes [...] described the 2010 harvest [...] as 'embarrassingly good' but different from 2009. He admitted that in some ways it would have been a lot easier to have had a slightly lesser vintage, more like 2004, to give everyone time to breathe after the highly praised, not to say highly priced, 2009s."

Let's make a small trip into the future and look at three scenarios. Say next year there is general consensus that Bordeaux 2010 transcends 2009 and...

1. Bordeaux 2010 becomes more expensive than 2009. If there are again record-breaking prices it is hard to imagine that the vintage will sell well, also because people have just spent big money on Bordeaux 2009. Probably only the cheaper "great value" wines (up to say 40 euros) sell: their prices are relatively stable and these wines will offer good value for money, just as was the case for Bordeaux 2009 (wines like Gloria, Poujeaux, Du Tertre and Ormes de Pez). The expensive Super Seconds will be difficult to sell if their prices are maintained or increased. When 2010 gets more expensive there will be renewed interest in 2009 and 2008, but also in 2005 and 2006 (and 2007 when on sale). Except for 2007 all prices will be pushed up.

2. Bordeaux 2010 is sold at the same price as 2009. This is difficult. It also depends on expectations. If a rise is expected it might be a relief when prices remain the same. Plus: people tend to get used to prices, even crazy ones. By and large I think you get the same dynamics as with the first scenario, with the difference that there will be a bit more sales and no shift towards 2009. The 2008 vintage remains very interesting, but by mid-2011 the prices for 2008 will be higher than they are now.

3. Bordeaux 2010 is (a bit) cheaper than 2009. This will definitely spark sales, also in the higher echelon. The focus will now be fully on the new vintage as was the case with Bordeaux 2008 when just released.

If the consensus is that Bordeaux 2010 is 'just' another very good vintage, with its own distinctive characteristics, I think the prices should be friendly enough to attract buyers, and to see a lively campaign.

However, with the Chinese joining the game we should be prepared for everything. On 29 October the near 25 year old record for the most expensive bottle was broken threefold in a Hongkong auction: three bottles of Lafite-Rothschild 1869 were sold for £ 437,900, or almost £ 146,000 per bottle (it's the wine presented on the cover of the book of my former teacher Frank Jacobs, who also delivered these auction facts). In general, the whole China phenomenon is pretty weird, see also the recent Liv-ex blog posting on this subject matter.

Let's hope the Bordelais have the wisdom to find the right price; it's not easy. I can only hope for a lively campaign and yes, friendly prices. The 2006 vintage—undoubtedly inferior to 2010—shouldn't be an example. That campaign was plodding sadly in the bow wave of its grand predecessor.

We just prepared the Bordeaux 2010 site for the Dutch and Belgian market. I'm very curious what prices it will show as from April 2011. This will, of course, be continued.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Various things written down on Sunday evening

For my last posting I tasted a ship load of wines, so this posting will be nothing more than a short hello. As I've said before, maintaining a blog takes a lot of work, and time, which I do not always have, especially not towards the end of the year. So this will be an 'easy' posting, mentioning some things that I think are worth mentioning.

WineLife Magazine. For those of you who read Dutch, the new WineLife is out. A special Champagne issue, with only one shortcoming, the great Champagnes that I import (Barnaut, Ulysse Collin and Georges Laval) are not listed. But one of the articles (about Champagne) is from me, and there's a very interesting article about cruising Burgundy by Jan van Roekel.

There was a bubbly party for the launch of this new WineLife issue, and for the presentation of the first book from Huib Edixhoven (sorry guys, again written in Dutch). I will see him tomorrow and I have to admit to him that I didn't start reading yet... But I hope his book will have lots of success!

On our way home from that party, a little light in the head from all Jacquesson etc., we decided we wanted to eat something very French. Unfortunately the very French restaurant was full, but then, at once, we were in total luck: in another street I heard someone say "they have a Beaujolais Nouveau evening". They what? They appeared to be talking about the restaurant across the street, and upon further investigation I saw that they were pouring Château Cambon made by Marcel Lapierre's son Mathieu (read: one of the best Nouveaus around). We popped in and were very happy to hear that there was exactly one last table available!

We had blood pudding and Boeuf Bourguignon, and had a guest at our table! It appeared that the importer of this wine (one of the importers) was present that evening. So we emptied several lovely Cambons with Rein Dieben from Wijnkoperij de Loods (Breda). Needless to say we had a great evening.

In the meantime several of 'my' wines ended up in several publications. Much praise this time for Château Brown rouge 2005 (Pessac-Léognan, as a result almost sold out), Yves Martin's Sancerre Chavignol, Champagne Ulysse Collin, Delecheneau's Nouveau Nez, and even some more wines. I still have to update the press-section of my website...

Well, there's no chance for me to be bored. I also had a great Grand Bordeauxs tasting where the most popular wines were the Clos du Jaugueyron 2006 (as always), the G de Château Guiraud 2009 (also as always) and the Château du Tertre 2006. That year I worked at Du Tertre, so I'm glad it is being received so well! I'm almost sold out for this lovely Margaux, and that's both a good and a bad feeling.

Finally worth mentioning: at my eBay auction a La Tâche 1989 fetched just over 900 euro's. A good catch for the buyer, but what a lot of money! And then to realise: at the time the wine just hit the market, it was sold for 'just' 150 euro!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Bordeaux 2008 UGC tasting Brussels

The Bordeaux 2008 vintage is about to loom up on the horizon. The wines have all been bottled, and the bottles are resting quietly at the châteaux - read: stabilizing and maturing - before they will leave Bordeaux in the course of 2011.

However, some bottles left earlier. They were opened at one of the Union des Grands Crus tastings that are traveling around the world. Yesterday the royal procession halted in Brussels.

Haut-Bailly, Giscours and Du Tertre 2008
It was an interesting tasting, and my intention was to taste all reds. I almost succeeded, but towards the end of the tasting an unexpected turn of events had the effect that I missed some important wines. Among these are favourites like the two Bartons, the two Pichons, Pontet-Canet and Lynch Bages, and all Saint-Estèphes...

The result: this posting cannot be complete. But luckily there are plenty of accounts of these UGC 2008 tastings, e.g. you might check out Neal Martin's stories on the 2008s (login required).

Let's start with a general impression. The picture is good but varies. I have tasted plenty of wines that did not convince me (these I have not listed in this posting). A few were easy and light, OK for the short term but not especially exciting. Some wines were dull without fruit, or without a so-called mid-palate - empty wines. A few were over-extracted and/or were showing unpleasant, unripe tannins. But luckily these failures belong to a minority. Most of the wines range from correct to good, and even to great.

I will pick out the best that I tasted:

PESSAC-LÉOGNAN
- Dom de Chevalier rouge 2008 (8,5+) good sweet-purple fruit, well-structured, good tannins, hint oak, freshness
- Haut-Bailly 2008 (8,5) pure, male, tough, broad, closed, complete, minerality, long future ahead
- Smith Haut Lafitte rouge 2008 (8,5) big and impressive, very dark, black fruit, exciting depth, minerality
- De Fieuzal rouge 2008 (8+) soft, seductive, complete, sort of junior chevalier
- Les Carmes Haut-Brion 2008 (8+) good freshness & structure, attractive fruity juice
- Latour-Martillac rouge 2008 (8) open and inviting, well-structured, harmonious, spirited
- Pape-Clément rouge 2008 (8) seducing, oak & sweetness, souplesse, not my no. 1 but good wine
- Larrivet-Haut-Brion rouge 2008 (8-) animal nose, bit medicinal, attractive minerality, hearty and also a bit hard now
- La Louvière rouge 2008 (8-) good classic wine, bit oaky, complete & good value
- Carbonnieux rouge 2008 (7,5+) bit closed, but pure & hearty juice

SAINT-EMILION & POMEROL
- Pavie-Macquin 2008 (8,5) open, spontaneous berries, inviting, freshness, good mid-palate, slender and powerful 8,5
- Trottevieille 2008 (8,5) lovely tempting wine, round, good freshness, juice & structure, wow
- La Conseillante 2008 (8,5) fresh with a medicinal touch, warmth and breadth, grows in the mouth, convincing
- Canon 2008 (8,5) soft and broad, seducing, good structure, complete, well-stuffed, very good wine
- Canon-la-Gaffelière 2008 (8++) dark fruit, quite fresh, pure, good stuff
- Larcis Ducasse 2008 (8++) fresh and forward, mineral, chalky, nice
- Figeac 2008 (8++) closed, dark, structured, difficult now, long
- Beau-Séjour Bécot 2008 (8++) seductive, freshness, oak, good juice, some sweetness, approachable, energetic
- La Tour Figeac 2008 (8+) open, red berry fruit, hearty, pure and a bit tough now
- Troplong Mondot 2008 (8) seductive yet very powerful, good ripeness, big extraction
- Larmande 2008 (8) again this strikes me as an interesting wine, powerful, well-stuffed, probably good value
- La Pointe 2008 (8) tempting and robust, energetic, mineral, bit chalky
- Dassault 2008 (8-) berries, freshness, well-shaped, quite special
- Clos Fourtet 2008 (8-) freshness on the the nose, but lacks some fruit

Note: interesting wines such as Fonroque and Grand-Corbin-Despagne were not present.

MÉDOC, HAUT-MÉDOC & MOULIS
- La Lagune 2008 (8) elegant wine, slender line, pure and mineral, hint of oak
- Poujeaux 2008 (8) quite closed, depth and mystery, power, good stuffing, freshness, balanced and for later, classical, some licorice
- Citran 2008 (8-) classical wine, freshness and blood, harmonious, good value
- La Tour de By 2008 (7,5+) modest, classic nose, green hint, intense and powerful, freshness, energy, great value value
- Cantemerle 2008 (7,5+) modern Médoc, bit oaky and less pure, but tasteful and fleshy

MARGAUX
- Giscours 2008 (8,5) elegant and convincing, refined, precise, dark fruit, minerality, crescendo
- Monbrison 2008 (8++) fresh and forward, some oak, tempting wine, friendly, pure and stylish
- Brane-Cantenac 2008 (8++) closed, good stuffing, no hardness, quite powerful, complete wine, well-balanced
- Du Tertre 2008 (8+) very open and talkative, interesting, sappy, freshness, healthy fruit
- Rauzan-Ségla 2008 (8+) dark and quite supple, matière, blackberries, energy and power, long
- Durfort-Vivens 2008 (8) modest nose, then spicy, pivotal, striking, surprisingly good
- Rauzan-Gassies 2008 (8) pure, straightforward, supple juice, not heavy, pleasant
- Dauzac 2008 (8) sexy oak, blackberries, warmth, some breadth, quite complete and very approachable
- Siran 2008 (8-) junior Rauzan-Ségla, dark and lively, pure and for later
- Cantenac-Brown 2008 (8-) open, a bit pointed, not so fruity, bit astringent now, but promising whole

SAINT-JULIEN & PAUILLAC (incomplete)
- Branaire-Ducru 2008 (8++) touch of oak, darkness, classic power, very good
- Gruaud-Larose 2008 (8++) dark too, very cabernet, good freshness, well-shaped
- Talbot 2008 (8+) dark power, then friendly in the mouth with healthy, attractive fruit
- d'Armailhac 2008 (8) freshness, good matière
- Beychevelle 2008 (8) again darkness and depth, bit sober, power
- Clerc-Milon 2008 (8-) open, friendly and quite round, then… texture is felt, the future-securing tannins
- Batailley 2008 (7,5+) tempting, round, some astringency, quite good

By the way, this posting would have been incomplete anyhow: there were no premier grands crus to taste… The conclusion: Bordeaux 2008 is a true value for money vintage. Good quality, and 'cheap' compared to 2009. The 2008 prices are gradually increasing now, but there are still some very interesting deals to make.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Tasting weekend in pictures

Last weekend was the biggest Bolomey Wijnimport tasting ever. Preparation took a lot of time, but the result was great. Sunday 31 October some 175 to 200 visitors came to a beautiful penthouse overlooking the IJ to taste 40 wines, and meet the winemakers Coralie Delecheneau (Amboise), Hubert Montigny-Piel (Orléans) and Olivier Collin (Champagne).

Hubert Montigny-Piel with his colleague EleonoreHubert Montigny-Piel with his colleague Eleonore presenting his popular Orléans rouge (pinot meunier, Wijnalmanak 3 stars), his blanc (unoaked, pure chardonnay) and his Orléans Cléry cabernet franc.

people tastingSome serious tasting is going on here; thanks to Saskia Bongaerts (left) from Saskia's Huiskamerrestaurant catering was perfect

Coralie Delecheneau pouring her wineCoralie Delecheneau is pouring her lovely Montlouis Pétillant Naturel 'Nouveau Nez' (organic)

We ended the day with about 25 people in Saskia's Huiskamerrestaurant where we had a great French dinner. I mean: where in Holland do you start with a Salade de Gésiers...?

dinner afterwardsThis is me saying something to Helen at the dinner in Saskia's Huiskamerrestaurant.

The next day, Monday 1 November, was for the sommeliers and the wine writers. A quiet but not too quiet day and I was glad that a number of Dutch opinion leaders on wine had accepted the invitation to come to the tasting.

Bas van der Flier, Hubrecht Duijker, Nicolaas Klei and Dwayne PerreaultBas van der Flier, Hubrecht Duijker, Nicolaas Klei and Dwayne Perreault

Huib Edixhoven (Vindict) talking to Olivier Collin. Also listening: Marijn Smit (Vyne) and Sjoerd de Groot (Perswijn)

René van Heusden, Frank Jacobs, Karel de Graaf and Mark van den Reek tasting with Coralie DelecheneauRené van Heusden, Frank Jacobs, Karel de Graaf and Mark van den Reek tasting with Coralie Delecheneau

Many thanks to all of you who visited the tastings in Amsterdam! And thanks Jan and Igor for all the help! Will be repeated next year.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Beware of pine nuts!

Dwayne Perreault - As David mentioned in his next to last posting, the weekend of October 10th brought beautiful weather to Holland, and we also decided to go “sailing” on my own small boat (a sloep, as the Dutch call it) through the canals of Amsterdam.

It was a beautiful day on board with some delicious snacks and a couple of delicious wines, a white Bordeaux called Grand Bateau and my favourite rosé from Domaine de la Fourmi.

It was later the next evening when I first noticed something was not right. My girlfriend had bought a bottle of Vermentino from Tuscany which she wanted me to try and it tasted horrible. The more I tried to drink it, the more I was assaulted with an extremely bitter, metallic aftertaste.

Figuring it was the wine, I opened a different bottle, a white wine I sell and know well. The effect was the same: it was like I was drinking heavy metals.

The next day was even worse: coffee, juice, water, food and even cigarettes: everything I put in my mouth had a foul taste to it. Coincidentally I had woken up the previous morning with a pain in my side and that, combined with what was happening made me wonder, had I finally destroyed my liver?

But that same evening my girlfriend also noticed the taste in her mouth, and we realized it must have been something we ate. It didn’t take long before we realized it was the pesto, one of the snacks we had on board and bought at Albert Heijn. It turns out that pine nuts, one of the major ingredients of pesto alla genovese, can cause exactly the same taste disturbances we had. I quote here from wikipedia:

A small minority of pine nuts can cause taste disturbances, developing 1–3 days after consumption and lasting for days or weeks. A bitter, metallic taste is described. Though very unpleasant, there are no lasting effects. This phenomenon was first described in a scientific paper in 2001. Some publications have made reference to this phenomenon as "pine mouth". This is a relatively newly noticed phenomenon, which might be caused by the nuts spoiling and having gone rancid. It has been also hypothesised that this bitter side effect is caused by an allergy that some people may have to pine nuts, but this does not explain the recent appearance of this syndrome. Another theory attributes the phenomenon to nuts imported from China. It has been hypothesised that the nut trees are absorbing something and passing it on to the nuts, or the nuts themselves are being treated with something before packaging. Metallic taste disturbance, known as metallogeusia, is reported 1–3 days after ingestion, being worse on day 2 and lasting for up to 2 weeks. Cases are self-limited and resolve without treatment.

I’ve eaten roasted pine nuts in salads for years without a single problem, but I write about this because I know there are wine professionals who read this blog, and they should at the least be aware of the risk of eating pine nuts, particularly before important tastings.

I’m happy to say that after four days, my sense of tasting returned to normal, only now I’ve caught a cold, so I still can’t taste wine. But at least I can’t blame that on pine nuts!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Burgundy trip in pictures

Last thursday Jan van Roekel and I entered an empty freeway at 04h00 at night. The navigation said we would arrive in Meursault at 12h30. So we would have some time to have lunch and relax a bit before our first visit to Arnaud Ente.

All went fine. And around two we sat at Ente's kitchen table to taste all his 2008s. What an impressive range. After the tasting we toured the vineyards.

Arnaud Ente in his 1er cru vineyard La Goutte d'Or, the village of Meursault is on the backgroundArnaud Ente in his 1er cru vineyard La Goutte d'Or, the village of Meursault is on the background

Finally there is a name batch on Ente's doorFinally there is a name batch on Ente's door

Next visit that day: our fellow Dutchman and Ente's almost neighbour Richard Bos from Domaine JanotsBos. With his business partner Thierry Janots Richard vinifies grapes that are bought from several local growers. I was especially enthusiastic about the Santenay 1er cru and both Chassagnes (villages and 1er cru, all wines from 2008).

Tasting the JanotsBos 2008s with Richard BosTasting the JanotsBos 2008s with Richard Bos

In the evening we ate at Le comptoir des Tontons ,and had a very good pick with the rare (red) Monthelie 2007 from Jean-Marc Roulot. Friday we had a slow start, not bad, and at the end of the morning we visited Guillaume Tardy from Domaine Jean Tardy. He was proud to show us his new stainless steel vats.

Guillaume Tardy talking to an employee who was cleaning a vatGuillaume Tardy talking to an employee who was cleaning a vat

Guillaume presented us his 2009s from vat, what a lovely vintage! And we tasted some 2008s from bottle. On the picture Guillaume grabs a Fixin 2008 from a pile of bottles. We left with a loaded car. Had a good lunch with pied-de-cochon, bought some bottles for the private cellar (always some Roncevie from Arlaud and Monts-Luisants from Ponsot, the royal aligoté).

Guillaume Tardy taking a Fixin 2008Guillaume Tardy taking a Fixin 2008

I did not take any pictures when visiting David Clark. I must have been so impressed with his 2009s that I forgot. David's wines are hors classe.

Aurélien Verdet in his (fairly) new vatroomAurélien Verdet in his (fairly) new vatroom

We ended the day with Aurélien Verdet. He let us taste an interesting new cuvée, the Bourgogne rouge. Sort of petit Vosne. I love good ordinary wines, true quality always shows on this level.

Aurélien Verdet in his (fairly) new cellarAurélien Verdet in his (fairly) new cellar

That evening we went to Caves Madeleine. David Clark and a colleague joined us in this candy store of a restaurant. What a joy to dine there, every time again.

Bruno and Isabelle Perraud from Domaine des Côtes de la MolièreBruno and Isabelle Perraud from Domaine des Côtes de la Molière

Saturday we drove up to the Beaujolais. We tasted wines at the small artisanal Domaine des Côtes de la Molière. Bruno and Isabelle Perraud make wines without adding sulfur dioxide, and that's quite exceptional. Very pure wines but almost all was sold out. I'm glad I was able to buy their Chardonnay which I am drinking now. Next year more…!

Bruno Perraud looking at his chardonnay vinesBruno Perraud looking at his chardonnay vines

In the afternoon we went to a tasting in Fleurie with several producers, but all that we tasted didn't even come close to what the Perrauds had presented us, so we decided to drive back to Beaune.

After an evening with a Tête-de-Veau and a very bad red Meursault (forgot the producer) we travelled to the town of Cumières in Champagne to pick up some Brut Natures from Georges Laval (organic since 1971!). After a short talk to the friendly Vincent Laval we headed back to Amsterdam. Altogether, it was a great long weekend again.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Silver Award for Bolomey Wijnimport (and some other facts)

The weekend of 10-10-10 brought extremely good weather in the Netherlands, and the coincidence was that we had planned to spend the weekend with friends on the lakes called De Kaag, between Amsterdam and The Hague. We haven't seen a single cloud this weekend. So we sailed, and drank wine the night long.

Orléans rouge 2009 Clos Saint FiacreOrléans rouge 2009 (new label this vintage) with De Kaag on the background, early in the morning of 10-10-10

But what to drink two long nights (besides beer)? My hobbyhorse that I ride at many tastings is that light red wines are underrated, yet can be the best company throughout a long evening. A heavy wine might impress, but can be tiresome after one glass.

Many wines are simply too heavy, too sweet, or are wearing too much make-up to be pleasant for a full evening. So I brought one of my favourite reds, the Orléans rouge made from the Champagne grapes pinot meunier (80%) and pinot noir. I was curious to see how the wine would be picked up.

First a functional sidestep. October started with two facts worth mentioning. The first: my wines were very well reviewed in the new Dutch Wijnalmanak. Especially the wines from Clos Saint Fiacre (3 stars for the mentioned Orléans rouge) and Delecheneau (2 stars for the gamay and 1 for their rosé). Three stars is quite exceptional, and it was indeed this refreshing red that I brought to the sailing weekend.

Fact 2: my webshop, Bolomey Wijnimport, won the 2nd place in the election Best Dutch Wine Web Shop 2011. Amongst other things, one of the reasons to win silver was the quality of the wine selection. For the complete picture, about 250 shops had participated in this election.

Of course I expected massive sales right after this election, but nothing special happened. It obviously takes more than an election to steer people into the direction of great wines.

Hopefully a tasting works. When you're interested to discover the Bolomey Wijnimport wines, come to the tasting in Amsterdam on Sunday 31 October. The majority of the wines that I import can then be tasted. And both Hubert Piel from Clos Saint Fiacre (the Orléans again!) and Coralie Delecheneau (Amboise) will be present themselves.

Back to the Orléans. The first proof of its drinkability was given during the presentation of de mentioned Wijnalmanak. Some 10 wines were open to be drunk that night, and the first wine that appeared to be finished was the Orléans.

Did I get a second proof of its drinkability at De Kaag? Yes I did, we had a great time.

Got thirsty perhaps? This is the wine I am talking about.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Château Giscours 2007

Where do classic vintages go? That was what I was wondering one day. You see grand vintages being auctioned all the time. Virginal OWC's from 1961, 1982 and 1990, but where did the Bordeaux's from 1968, 1972 and 1991 go? Sometimes I run into a forgotten bottle tucked away deep in an old cellar; however one doesn't see these wines very often in auction catalogues.

Château Giscours 2007
I recently read a story - unfortunately I do not remember where - that gave the answer to this question. The less grand vintages, or euphemistically the 'classic' ones, mostly remain in France. By and large the export markets are just interested in the best vintages, and the remaining vintages are drunk, often relatively young, in France. I.e. not only these bottles aren't exported, they're actually drunk! Many of these wines are enjoyed in French restaurants.

The sad thing about Bordeaux, and especially monumental Bordeaux, is that people forget to drink them. The wooden cases are cherished in impressive cellars, and traded when profitable, or when the owner has died. The older the bottles get, the harder it is to touch them, or I should say to open them.

There are many reasons for me to love France, and one of these many reasons is that the French know how to drink wine. They are not just focused on collecting treasures, but very much also on uncorking pleasant, drinkable, friendly wines. And this is true on every level: from the highly digestible lovely light red Loire wines to the Bordeaux cru classés.

For example, in France people would order a Giscours 2007 with their meal and drink it (as was meant to be) with joy, accompanying food. I doubt if a Dutch restaurant would put it on the list, customers might think "Wow, a weak year…", and probably wouldn't order it anyway.

I decided to act like a Frenchman and enjoy a young 'classic'. In addition, I was very curious to taste a young and fresh 2007. So I opened a Château Giscours 2007 with Jan van Roekel. To start with the conclusion: it's true, 2007 is not a stellar vintage, old news, but what's also true: I very much enjoyed drinking this wine! It's ready to drink now, but it will improve over the next 5 years.

The first nose-impression is that of a dark and spicy wine, albeit a bit locked - at the start not a whole lot of expression, at least no piles of fruit. Let's say this is both the year and the youthful stage. In the mouth the Giscours reveals a good concentration without any hardness, giving a pleasant mouth feel. Marked again is the spiciness, as well as a profound (but not disturbing) acidity. I would almost say the wine comes across a bit stern, showing 'slender power'. But it is a pure wine, with a very modest oak-impression, say 'just right'. There's a hint of bay leaf.

Towards the end of the evening the wine starts to open up a bit, now displaying black fruit, blackberries. Whatever is said about the vintage, whatever this wine might have scored by the critics, I enjoyed it a lot. Perhaps it helped somewhat that my expectations weren't sky high. Anyway, if you run into Bordeaux 2007 bargains in the near future, remember that you might be looking at something very drinkable!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Three Canadian wines

You don't see many Canadian wines in the Netherlands. Everyone knows by now that Canada makes wines, and a few years ago Jancis Robinson publicly praised the Canadian wine industry. (She recently did the same for Dutch wines, and that has left a few people here scratching their heads.)

3 Canadian Wines
There is a specialized importer here, Canada Food, and I know a couple places in Amsterdam that sell a few bottles, but I think Europeans still look to Canada chiefly for icewine.

I was back in Canada this summer and was able to taste the wines in bars and restaurants, and of course from bottles purchased in the government stores. Canadian wines feature prominently in bar and restaurant wine menus, and my experiences ranged from meager to good. At the Hilton Garden Inn restaurant in Halifax, for example, the wine menu featured Lindeman's Bin 65 Chardonnay and Sartori's Soave Biologico for $38 Cdn, ex taxes. The wines are available here in the supermarket or shop for six euros, including tax. On the other hand, the Halifax airport lounge had good wines by the glass for airport-friendly prices.

The following are tasting notes I made for three random bottles I purchased at the provincial liquor store in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan. All prices are in Cdn dollars, without tax.

VQA Okanagan Valley, Osoyoos Larose, "Pétales d’Osoyoos" 2007 ($22.45)

This is actually the beautifully named "second wine" of Osoyoos Larose, a joint venture between the Canadian wine giant Vincor and the French Groupe Taillan, owners of Château Gruaud-Larose. It's very much an assemblage; the back label is a who's who of Bordeaux dark grapes, present and past: Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Petit Verdot. All that's missing is Carmenère.

Possessing a deep bouquet of plum and dark cherry, leather and spice, the taste is dark and full bodied, a bit spicey with notes of blackberries, licorice and some chocolate at the end. This wine is obviously made in a Bordeaux style and strives somehow to be Bordeaux. It comes pretty close, and I applaud the effort.

VQA Niagara Peninsula, Wayne Gretzky Estates, "No. 99 Unoaked Chardonnay" 2007 ($15)

Wayne Gretzky, for those who don't know, was one of history's greatest ice hockey players, and 99 was the number he wore on his jersey. He is a Canadian icon and has earned mega millions as a player and coach. Like fellow famous Canadian Dan Akroyd, he purchased a winery in Ontario and used his name to market his brand.

Of course I had to get a bottle. I wouldn't call it "The Great One", but it's really quite refreshing, an extremely nice wine for the price, slightly full bodied with clean white fruit, pear and green apple that is nicely balanced with medium high acidity. Gretzky scores again.

VQA Okanagan Valley, Mt. Boucherie, Summit Reserve Pinot Noir 2008 ($20)

Mt. Boucherie is British Columbia's largest family owned winery, and the Gidda family has been growing grapes in the Okanagan since 1968. The wine has only a faint hint of cherry in the nose, and some leather. A bit thin in the mouth, tart red fruit not coexisting nicely with hard tannins, unfortunately. Recognizably Pinot but a bit thin, unbalanced with a short aftertaste.

I know that Mt. Boucherie is a respectable producer, and the 2006 Pinot Noir was especially praised, so I assume 2008 is a lesser vintage.

And now that I am back, I wish someone would start importing this beautiful sparkling icewine, which I wrote about a couple years ago, into Holland.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Bordeaux 2010 - about 1.5 week to go...

Bordeaux 2010. Finally there was rain this week. I understand that rain was the only thing people were waiting for in Bordeaux. For the rest the growing season was very good again. With plenty of sun, warmth and dryness. But for photosynthesis to take place, with CO2, water is required, and that was finally provided last Monday, Tuesday and - especially - Wednesday.

There is still about one and a half weeks to go before the harvest of the reds starts, so nothing is sure at this moment. Hence it makes sense that producers aren't too explicit already about the expected quality of the fruit.

And here's a difference with 2009: the tone of voice. In the previous year the excitement started very early, and kept on going for a long time, all the way in to the lengthy campaign with it's unparalleled prices. This year the facts seem exciting, but we do not see the excitement.

Consultant Eric Boissenot tells Decanter "At this stage, when tasting the berries, they seem easily of the quality of 2009, and the forecast for the next week is good." It's a striking observation, but it remains largely undiscussed.

The reason for this must be that it just sounds a bit ridiculous to announce yet another brilliant vintage. We had the grand year 2000, then the perhaps best year ever 2005, then the perhaps even better year 2009, and then… then what?

In a way I hope there will be more rain, to dilute the brilliant juice somewhat, or perhaps to give the fungi a chance to develop a bit. It will make the story about the vintage so much easier to tell: Bordeaux 2010, a classic vintage, good but not as good as the two previous vintages, and thus very friendly prices...

But what if 2010 really turns out to be another victorious vintage? Who will believe that, even if it's true? And also, who is going to spend the same amount of money on 2010 as on 2009?

Well, in the coming weeks we will see how the year turns out to be. But whatever happens, I feel a bit uneasy about it.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Beating Canada's Wine Communists

Dwayne PERREAULT - To this day, most Canadian wine consumers go to the same place Soviet citizens went to get their wine: the government shop, monopoly and cash cow created for and by the state.

Growing up in Canada in the seventies and eighties, I remember the wine section was almost an afterthought in the Provincial Liquor Board shop in my town, one or two aisles filled with mostly Liebfraumilch, Mateus and Baby Duck, a Canadian sparkling sweet wine made from vitis labrusca varieties. It was extremely popular, so much so that Andrés, the company that made it, actually discouraged Canadian vintners from planting vitis vinifera varieties.

The vintners eventually did plant European vines, and the quality of Canadian wine increased dramatically, thereby not only creating a viable Canadian wine industry but also sparking consumer interest in wine in general. The selection in the government shops has grown better: I can buy Grand Cru Classés and even Dom Perignon in my Saskatchewan hometown, and happily I came across some wines by Chapoutier in New Brunswick.

Still, I find it appalling that so many years later, provincial govenment shops still have a monopoly on the liquor industry in Canada. And it is ironic, since the province of Alberta has been quietly showing for the past 25 years that there is a better way. In 1985, the Conservative government there toyed with the idea of privatisation by granting three licenses to privately operate wine stores. By 1988, this had grown to twenty licenses; strangely, the number is now five or six.

I visited Andrew Hilton Wines in Lethbridge, where owner Max Baines holds one of these licenses. It is obvious from even outside the shop that this a store with some individuality, which takes pride in the wines it sells. Compare the following two pictures:

Andrew Hilton Wines in Lethbridge, AlbertaAndrew Hilton Wines in Lethbridge, Alberta

Government store, Moncton, New BrunswickGovernment store, Moncton, New Brunswick

Baines had started a local Opimian chapter in the late 1970s, and I hope in the future to post about Opimian, a very useful and ground-breaking wine society in Canada. He jumped at the opportunity to get one of those early licenses, and now runs a succesful business in the rather unlikely location of Lethbridge, Alberta (pop. 86,659).

According to Baines, real privatisation happened in 1994. “At that time, there were only three private wine stores. (Then-premier) Ralph Klein saw what private wine stores were able to accomplish. So he privatised the entire industry, effectively creating two industries: retailers and wholesalers, including importers and sourcers.

“To sell wine in Canada, producers need to work through an agent. In 1994, we had about 100 agents. Now we have over 400. This allows small producers to find specialized agents. Some of these are small, maybe only bringing in 20 cases a year. But the agents consolidate the orders, which saves costs which is passed on to the customers.”

Max Baines, owner of Andrew Hilton WinesMax Baines, owner of Andrew Hilton Wines

And this is how one competes with a government goliath, by offering top quality wines from smaller producers, creating more variety for the consumer. By instilling a sense of pride and individuality in your assortment, instead of having a huge stock for a homogenous selection available everywhere.

“A government controlled system isn’t able to support the small orders, say five cases, that I get,” says Baines. “But this was the idea of the government: they wanted 50% of my sales to be from own import. They wanted to offer more choice to the consumer.”

And it has worked. There is now seven times as much choice for wine consumers in Alberta compared to pre-privatisation. The private wine store also seems to be catching on in neighbouring Saskatchewan, where two stores have opened. British Columbia has speculative listings, where certain wines not in the common stock may be ordered and shipped through government stores. So there are signs of progress.

What stands in the way? Well, there’s the cash cow thing. It’s not that a government willingly relinquishes a multi-million dollar monopoly overnight. One serious roadblock would be the union. Government store employees work for the government of course, and they have a very strong union that would naturally resist privatisation.

And yet, so much could be gained, not only for wine professionals but especially for the consumer. It would be a big step forward, perhaps creating a renaissance for wine in Canada. I just doubt it will happen soon.

In the meantime, the house wine of choice for most seafood restaurants in New Brunswick is French Cross Pinot Grigio, a blend of Canadian and French wines (one would hope made from Pinot Gris). It tastes as good as it sounds and is available everywhere.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Outpourings: how to sell a precious wine, or not

There's one wine in my collection that I do not often talk about. I'd rather drink it, and I'm afraid it sells out too soon. The last time that I mentioned the wine was in the beginning of March, just before the Bordeaux 2009 frenzy broke loose, so it is about time that I get back to the Burgundian jewels of… David Clark.

David Clark's Bourgogne rouge 2007 from the En Pelson vineyard
First, a sidestep. Over the years I have noticed that writing a posting about a certain wine does not necessarily spark sales. A safe feeling of course, but do I understand it? Not really, to be honest. Or perhaps I do, a bit. What do you think about the following assumptions:

1. Many readers of this blog do not live in the Netherlands (just a fact, but wait, there's more).
2. I have never made a strong commercial "call to action", as it is called officially. Something like: "Are you interested? Then try this wine now and get three bottles for the price of two!"
3. Most readers are wine geeks (or lovers si vous voulez) who decide for themselves when they buy something, and when not. And that is not necessarily right after they have read something, but perhaps some time much later, more as a result of a long term relationship, as a follower of the blog.

I like that last thought. I've been publishing here from October 2007, and ever since I have shared many thoughts with − if I should believe Google Analytics − many people. The vast majority are anonymous readers. I'm perfectly fine with that, and at the same time there is a smile inside when I meet someone who confesses that he or she is following the blog.

Now back to David Clark. As said, I have posted about this former Formula-1 engineer before. David has been making wines since about 2003-2004, and works meticulously on his AOC Bourgogne and several Village-vineyards. I think it is hard to find producers who work in such an extreme perfectionist manner. As I sometimes say: David owns some decent yet not grand vineyards, but tends these as if they were Grand Crus. I even dare to say that many Grand Cru vineyards do not get the same amount of attention as David's vineyards.

David works organically, and his technical background helps him to optimize every bit and piece of the work he's doing. For example he designed his own bottling machine, because the ones available from the shop did not satisfy him. His machine operates gentler (gravity only), more careful (minimal exposure to oxygen), and slower. That asks for some patience, but of course it's only the result that counts (see David's story of the bottling machine).

David's last invention is the solar powered vineyard buggy. This light and clean vehicle enables the farmer to do what he ought to do: work in the vineyard, taking good care of his plants. Only perfectly healthy and well-tended vines are capable of producing great fruit. And only great fruit… well, the rest is obvious (see David's story on the buggy).

Then the wines. What David makes has a distinctive style. His wines are more powerful (and grand) than most simple Burgundies, and at the same time there is plenty of leniency, pureness and freshness in his wines. Sometimes they need some bottle ageing to open up, as is the case with the 2007s.

Apparently the style is so distinctive that it can be recognised blind. My friend Jan van Roekel had brought to Amsterdam the 2008 Bourgogne rouge from one of his many Burgundy-travels, and poured it unexpectedly. He wanted to know what I thought. I said it made me think of a David Clark, yet different from the vintages that I'd tasted so far.

I know, I'm bragging, but it's the truth. Tasting blind is difficult in a world with more and more uniform wines, with industrial yeasts, and plenty of risk-avoiding growers. But these wines simply stand out.

A last thing about the Clarks: they're rare. Most are exported to the UK (Berry's sell the wine), and a bit goes to the US and Japan. In the UK, Clark − being a Brit − is better known, and sold out halfway the year. So I get phone-calls from British enthusiasts asking if I do ship to England. And while I think every wine geek deserves his or her Clark, I have to say no. The small allocation that Bolomey Wijnimport has, should stay here. And thus, such is the situation now: there is a warehouse in Amsterdam holding a few cases of Clarks, and there is an ignorant city roaring around this warehouse...

Sommeliers could be interested of course, but have you ever tried to get in touch with a sommelier? Most of them are too busy, or worse, lack true interest. No, that's certainly not true for all of them! But sometimes I would expect a bit more… curiosity. There are simply too many average wine lists here.

So most Clark's I sell to wine geeks who − curious as they are − surf the internet for rare wine pearls. Or people who have tried to buy at David's door in Morey-Saint-Denis, which doesn't work, because he's got nothing left to sell.

Let me finish. Fellow Dutchmen, here are the wines. I'm curious what happens. No discount, no specials or jokes, just a special wine. And please be modest, as the little pile I own is also my private stock.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Intermezzo on drugs

Last week I was confronted with a less pleasant part of wine: its weight. As a matter of fact, I did something very stupid: I lifted two six-packs, all the way from the floor, while chatting and not paying attention to what I was doing, making a bad move and *tsjak* is what my back said.

It's painful but moreover, it's annoying: I am very limited in what I can do all day.

And I even can't drink. The stuff I that got prescribed is called Tramadol, quite heavy stuff that gives a slightly intoxicated feeling, invokes hot flushes and - just as with smoking pot - gives a dry mouth. Altogether not even that bad with a glass of water within reach, but a refreshing wine would of course be better.

However, alcohol overrules the effect of the tramadolhydrochloride I was told, so I shouldn't do that.

What actually bothers me is that I hurt my back with a case of my favourite wine… Well, I know this is never going to happen to me again. Carrying cases is serious business, obviously.

No worries, my next posting will be about wine again. Or about Port. Yes, I look forward to opening a great bottle of Port soon.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Clos de la Roche Cuvée Vieilles Vignes 1997 Domaine Ponsot

This is an experiment. Just tweeted that Jan van Roekel and I open a Clos de la Roche Cuvée Vieilles Vignes 1997 from Domaine Ponsot, and that we will blog about this (monumental) wine simultaneously. Perhaps an annoying experiment, because it is not the most relaxed way of drinking a great wine... we'll see.

Also posted a picture of the bottle on Twitpic, which I can reproduce here:

Impressive nose! on Twitpic

Stupid: I can rotate this photo in Twitpic, but not save the rotation...!

Anyhow, the wine: as said, the nose is impressive. Warm and a bit matured, round and a bit oaky. I would call this seductive. This is what I love about a good Burgundy: it combines richness with elegance: the wine is not heavy (and it shouldn't be).

For now we prefer the nose over what we taste in the mouth, and I decided to slightly chill the wine. Just a tiny little bit to give this old man a bit of freshness in the mouth. Nose is complex, taste lacks a bit of life now, is a bit austere... but what can we expect?

Jan says: also some vegetal tones in the nose, wet forest floor, tomato juice, a bit spicy and matured.

Some facts in the meanwhile: Domaine Ponsot is the biggest proprietor of the grand cru Clos de la Roche, he owns 3,34 hectares of the total of 16,9 hectares, i.e. close to 20%! Not all of this will be old vines. Ponsot is known for picking very late, one of the latest of the côte. According to Clive Coates, who gave this wine an impressive 19/20 score, the wine should be drunk between now and 2015. Tasting the wine, our impression is that there's no real reason to keep this wine any longer − it would surprise us if this is getting any better than it is right now.

Second glass, slightly chilled. The wine is even getting better! This touch of freshness works well. Especially in the mouth, the wine now displays a fresher round-sweet (yet lean) corpus. Beautifully mature and soft.

Halfway the bottle we receive a Direct Twitter Message from Neal Martin, surprised by the coincidence that we are playing with exactly this wine: he says that he just published a vertical today about this wine. Lucky him, we only have one vintage here! But indeed a coincidence.

Back to the wine. It is just lovely now. I think we will leave it at this, and simply enjoy the wine and finish the bottle. Thanks for your attention.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Michael Broadbent's influence

Despite the warm weather I just uncorked a Bordeaux. Normally I would have poured a slightly chilled red Loire or so, but it is Michael Broadbent who made me long for a Bordeaux today. He wrote in Decanter's Bordeaux issue 2010, the highly interesting special Bordeaux issue that appears once every year.

Let me quote the nestor of wine writing: "It [Bordeaux] is never overpowering; it refreshes the palate […]", and: "Claret gives pleasure; it is contemplative, companionable, subtle, mellow, hospitable. It is for drinking and thinking."

Broadbent is not talking about modern style Bordeaux ("modern, opaque, sweet, fruity, full-frontal reds with a headache-making alcohol content" - Broadbent in the same article), but about the classics. Decanter asked him to list 10 favourite wines and these are the ones he picked, both top end wines and petits châteaux: Mouton-Rothschild (1945), Margaux (1953), Cheval Blanc (1947), Figeac (1949), La Conseillante (1966), Grand-Puy-Lacoste, Cissac, Chasse-Spleen, La Tour de By and Climens (1937).

The fact only that one is able to make such choices…! The wine that I'm enjoying right now is Château Cambon la Pelouse 2004 (Haut-Médoc). Surprisingly good stuff. On the one hand velvety and seductive, with sweetish ripe fruit, and on the other hand leniency, freshness and joy. And a very Bordeaux dark depth.

As a matter of fact, with this I simply finish this posting - to fully enjoy this lovely claret.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Bordeaux 2009 recommendations & top sellers

The long Bordeaux 2009 campaign train has passed. The dust has settled, and what remains is the summer calm.

Well, fortunately this is not entirely true: sales continue. Now that we have the complete picture for the 2009s we see people adding some extra wines, while others are only just now starting to make their pick. I can only say, if you want to buy 2009, do not wait too long as wines get sold out now. For example, yesterday the last Château Latour was sold, today the last Château Clinet.

In this posting I present 3 short-lists: the Bordeaux 2009 top sellers (from the Bolomey Wijnimport offers), and my personal Bordeaux 2009 recommendations, split in one list with affordable wines, and one list with - more expensive - grand classics.

Bordeaux 2009 sales top 15
1. Château Ormes de Pez 2009 (Saint-Estèphe)
2. Château Cantemerle 2009 (Haut-Médoc)
3. Clos du Jaugueyron 2009 (Haut-Médoc)
4. Château Poujeaux 2009 (Moulis-en-Médoc)
5. Château Cantenac-Brown 2009 (Margaux)
6. Château Chasse-Spleen 2009 (Moulis-en-Médoc)
7. La Parde de Haut-Bailly 2009 (Pessac-Léognan)
8. Château Grand Corbin-Despagne 2009 (Saint-Emilion Grand Cru)
9. Château du Tertre 2009 (Margaux)
10. Château Duhart-Milon Rothschild 2009 (Pauillac)
11. Château Pontet-Canet 2009 (Pauillac)
12. Château Raymond-Lafon 2009 (Sauternes)
13. Château Gloria 2009 (Saint-Julien)
14. Château La Tour du Pin 2009 (St-Emilion Grand Cru)
15. Château Léoville-Barton 2009 (Saint-Julien)

Note: this is not a general top 15, but the top 15 for Bolomey Wijnimport (see list). Quantities sold are also the result of the amount that is or was available, and the result of what is recommended. So there is an overlap with the next lists, the recommendations.

Bordeaux 2009 personal recommendations: best-value wines
(recommendations only for wines that are still available)
Château La Tour du Pin 2009 (St-Emilion)
owned and made by neighbouring Cheval Blanc, costs a fraction!
Clos du Jaugueyron 2009 (Haut-Médoc)
biodynamic, small-scale, original & pure, true personal favourite
Château Grand Corbin-Despagne 2009 (St-Emilion)
organic wine, Jane Anson: "the Pontet-Canet of the Right Bank"
La Parde de Haut-Bailly 2009 (Pessac-Léognan)
energetic second wine of the stellar Pessac Château Haut-Bailly
Château Ormes de Pez 2009 (Saint-Estèphe)
one of the Best Value 2009s, from the Lynch Bages team, great!
Château Gloria 2009 (Saint-Julien)
very good and convincing, affordable wine from grand cru vineyards
Alter Ego de Palmer 2009 (Margaux)
lovely Margaux, and a true bargain compared to the grand vin

Highly recommended - and still available - grand classics
− Château Giscours 2009 (Margaux)
− Château Rauzan-Ségla 2009 (Margaux)
− Château Langoa-Barton 2009 (Saint-Julien)
− Château Smith-Haut-Lafitte 2009 (Pessac-Léognan)
− Domaine de Chevalier rouge 2009 (Pessac-Léognan)
− Château Nénin 2009 (Pomerol)
− Vieux Château Certan 2009 (Pomerol)
− Château Rieussec 2009 (Sauternes)

For prices and other details see the complete Bordeaux 2009 offers.

The tasting notes for these wines can be found in the april-postings on this blog.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Bordeaux 2009 - campaign ended with an explosion

Bordeaux 2009, the primeur campaign "Mit dem Paukenschlag". Or better: with annoying fireworks at the finale. I almost regret that I made a modest effort to write something less negative about the high prices (previous posting). Because this last week things simply exploded. There is this Disney image where eyes become dollar signs, and last week some châteaux owners must have looked like that.

The week before last week, just before I wrote my 'friendly' posting, we had seen more or less reasonable releases on Friday (18 June). Most of these wines also sell quite well.

- LEOVILLE-BARTON: +132% on 08, +26% on 05 and +113% on 00
- LANGOA-BARTON: +100% on 08
- DE CHEVALIER ROUGE: +94% on 08, +45% on 05 and +72% on 00
- DE CHEVALIER BLANC: +33% on 08, +25% on 07 and +28% on 05
- DE FIEUZAL ROUGE: +56% on 08, +33% on 05 and +6% on 00
- HAUT-BAILLY: +94% on 08, +71% on 05 and +171% on 00
- SMITH HAUT LAFITTE ROUGE: +121% on 08, +57% on 05 and +102% on 00
- SMITH HAUT LAFITTE BLANC: +31% on 08, +31% on 07 and +36% on 05
- BRANE-CANTENAC: +101% on 08, +37% on 05 and +53% on 00

So the price, on average, about doubled? Terrible of course, but only the brilliant Haut-Bailly surpassed the magic 100 euro line. So most fans can still buy some bottles. If only the price will come down again (same percentages!) for future "classic" vintages!

But then last week (also more or less the campaign's week): let's look at some crazy prices (presented are are average consumer prices including VAT):

- LEOVILLE-POYFERRE ± € 100 (+172% on 08 | +50% on 05 | +154% on 00)
(the result of the Parker 97-100 score)
- LA MISSION HAUT-BRION ± € 740! (+336%! on 2008)
(enormously overpriced wine…)
- LATOUR ± € 825! (+361,5%! on 2008)
(even out-pricing last week's Lafite)
- MONTROSE ± € 150 (+157% on 08 | +64% on 05 | +177% on 00)
(also as a result of a very good rating)
- PICHON BARON ± € 125 (+109% on 08 | +15% on 05 | +114% on 00)
(thus less extreme actually...)
- PALMER ± € 296 (+153% on 08 | +43% on 05 | +139% on 00)
(glad there's Alter Ego which is great too)
- LA CONSEILLANTE ± € 191 (+233% on 08 | +77% on 05 | +51% on 00)
(another wine that has just become out of reach)
- CANON ± € 125 (+150% on 08 | +67% on 05 | +120% on 00)
(bigger raise then sibling Rauzan-Ségla, they came from same price)
- MARGAUX ± € 740 (+315,4% on 2008)
(modest compared to Latour… if the word modest is applicable here)
- PAPE CLEMENT ± € 128 (+42% on 08 | +3% on 05 | +127% on 00)
(seriously modest from Bernard - Billboard - Magrez)
- DUCRU-BEAUCAILLOU ± € 248 (+188% on 08 | +67% on 05 | +213% on 00)
(painful, way too high, doesn't spark much interest from buyers)
- FIGEAC ± € 220 (+290% on 08 | +127% on 05 | +240% on 00)
(miscalculation from a wine dreaming of promotion to 1er GCC-A?)
- PICHON COMTESSE ± € 174 (+223% on 08 | +52% on 05 | +119% on 00)
(trying to cock a snook at the Baron? sad...)
- HAUT-BRION ± € 825 (+300% on 2008)
(following Latour, not Lafite and Margaux)
- ANGÉLUS ± € 289 (+256% on 08 | +36% on 05 | +110% on 00)
(the lunacy continues)
- COS D'ESTOURNEL ± € 289 (+223% on 08 | +75% on 05 | +265% on 00)
(some people said this price wasn't as bad as expected)
- d'YQUEM ± € 740 (+237,5% on 2008)
(in line with Lafite and Margaux)
- LÉOVILLE-LAS-CASES ± € 298 (+173% on 08 | +20% on 05 | +137% on 00)
(also as expected, monumental wine)
- CHEVAL BLANC ± € 960 (+133% on the 2008)
(who can buy this? but I'd really like to drink it…)
- VIEUX CHATEAU CERTAN ± € 215 (+311% on 08 | +63% on 05 | +117% on 00)
(extreme raise, for this brilliant wine)

So the one that we're still missing is Ausone. The wine will probably be released Monday or Thursday. What will the price be? At least as much as Cheval Blanc, but perhaps the Vautiers will make a nice round up to 1.000 or 1.250 euro. We'll know very soon.

[postscript: Ausone was released Monday 167% above the 2008 opening price, people who can find it will see a price of about 1,350 - 1,500 euro]

More pricing information: Bordoverview
Buying primeurs: bordeaux-2009.nl (with buying tips: see the wines that are marked with a yellow or red letter "P")

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Bordeaux 2009 - slowly approaching the finish, finally

It's stupid: one gets accustomed to practically anything. Even Bordeaux prices that explode in a good vintage. We hear and read complaints everywhere, but the complaining is not surprising so we get used to it, and such is the fact with the prices themselves.

The next thing I am going to say is undoubtedly quite politically incorrect: the Bordeaux price level is actually becoming quite Burgundian. Take, for example, the brilliant Haut-Bailly 2009. This is one of the very best Bordeaux's to be found these days. It costs you about € 105 which is what you pay for a good Grand Cru in Burgundy, not even a brilliant one.

One reaction to this could be: in Burgundy prices are more constant. But that is also largely the result of the difference in commercial systems: the open Place de Bordeaux enables the Bordeaux market to function as a financial market. Wines become stocks, and even more so when drinkers become investors.

Needless to say, as a wine lover and merchant I am unhappy with these high prices, as I'm also unhappy to pay that money for great Burgundies.

With what we've seen happen during the last week I can already quote myself after 3 weeks. On 28 april I wrote: "The more expensive the wine, the bigger the relative price raise" (and I added some 'proof' from the 'conquered' 2005 vintage). The average relative price raise this week was about two times as high as it was before this week. All details can be read on the Liv-ex Fine Wine Market Blog.

What I find interesting is that some wines sell, and some just don't, and the aspect relative price (raise) clearly plays a key role here. I always remember the advice from a real estate agent that one should set the price a fraction cheaper than expected so that buyers attack like vultures.

Of course, I should give examples. In my perception smart prices were given to (in no particular order) Du Tertre, Cantenac-Brown and Cantemerle. These wines sell well, they simply rendered value above expectation. The most striking price, in the positive sense, was from Château Raymond Lafon, and as I blogged earlier everyone should buy this beautiful Sauternes, if only to say thank you to the Mesliers for pricing their wine so friendly. Jancis Robinson found the Raymond Lafon one of the best Sauternes she tasted this year!

It is hard for me to understand why a château would set an un-smart price, thus a bit too high. It probably isn't really un-smart, and a strategy behind it might be to reposition a wine, or - what I read somewhere - to make the previous vintages look cheaper in order to push demand for those wines. Interesting, but that seems like shifting the problem to the next vintage.

Some examples of wines that have been released too expensive: Pagodes de Cos, Beauséjour Duffau-Lagarrosse and l'Evangile. The real estate agent's theory: if it doesn't sell, there something wrong, and if there's something wrong, it doesn't sell anymore. With the result that the price will eventually come down. I can imagine it's not what the château-owner wants. As I reported earlier, I heard this already happened with the Pagodes.

For all new prices see Twitter (also comparisons with the years 2008, 2005 and 2000) and Bordoverview. There you will also see Lafite's micro-release at about 755 euro consumer price, so 'micro' that it can virtually be found nowhere.

From a quality perspective 2009 was already a vintage that needs careful selection. For the price it's the same story. As most of you probably know, apart from being a blogger I am also a merchant, and on my offers page bordeaux-2009.nl I indicate which primeurs I think have good value (there's a yellow or red "P" behind the name of the wine). Despite the price, which will make every sensible person think first.

But on second thought the wish to purchase some 2009 might eventually lead to a purchase. And then there are great - affordable - wines to find. It really doesn't always have to be Lynch Bages or Pontet-Canet. What about great value wines such as La Tour du Pin, or Ormes de Pez, or Clos du Jaugueyron, or (there he is again!) Raymond Lafon. Buying these will not lead to your bankruptcy; you will have some splendid 2009s in your cellar.

I hope next week will be the last week of this long campaign. I am actually looking forward to doing some other things, such as playing with my lovely light red Loires. The stuff that costs a fraction of all these Bordeaux's yet can make me as happy as a child.

Beware, next week we will see some extreme releases. We can only hope things won't get too extreme.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Bordeaux 2009, WINElife, and the lovely biodynamic low-alcohol Ze Bulle Zéro Pointé

The Bordeaux 2009 campaign is a long one. But these are fun weeks, with lots of talking about prices of course. Compared to 2008 this year is expensive, but compared to 2005 and also 2000 the difference isn't always so big. Actually, some châteaux present a relatively attractive price, and at the same time some are too expensive. Compare for example the average consumer prices of the the following two second wines of second cru's:

Sarget de Gruaud Larose 2009 @ ± € 17
+14% on 2008
+7% on 2005
+2% on 2000

Les Pagodes de Cos 2009 @ ± € 51 (3x Sarget)
+82% on 2008
+71% on 2005
+151% on 2000

Pagodes is perhaps meant to be a more serious wine for the long term, but at the same time we can say it comes from the less refined Saint-Estèphe terroir... whereas the Sarget is a true Saint-Julien. Also, Gruaud Larose is in very good shape this year. I think it is quite clear which of the two is the better buy...

Before the wines were released I had listed the Pagodes as a possible buying tip, but with this crazy price I will have to take it from that list. In all actuality it doesn't deserve to be sold, and I learned that in the meanwhile the wine is offered at lower prices, implying that it's indeed a tough sell.

Anyway, the coming week some big releases are expected, which I will tweet, including the comparisons with the years 2008, 2005 and 2000. I should mention fellow blogger Gavin Quinney, who said the picture is not complete when the price comparison is limited to the two last vintages only.

Then for something completely different. I would like to promote the new Dutch wine magazine WINElife. I think it's a very beautiful new magazine, with interesting articles, and I happen to contribute to this magazine. But there is one thing that bothers me a bit, and the good thing about a blog is that I can use it to express these bothers, or even: to correct what is not perfectly correct.

The issue: above an article that I wrote about Bordeaux 2009 the editor has placed the title "Special, but not great." If you read the article you can see that this is not an accurate heading. It should have read "Special, and sometimes great." No big deal, but I wanted to have said this. For the record. For the rest my advice to all Dutch wine lovers is to subscribe to this beautiful magazine!

At last, with Bolomey Wijnimport we had a lovely tasting and dinner last Tuesday with two special guests from France, the biodynamic winemakers Philippe and Françoise Gourdon from the Saumur region, and Nicolaas Klei, the famous Dutch wine writer who has been a source of inspiration for me for over the last 10 years. For Dutch readers: if you buy Elsevier this week, you find an article by Klei about the irresistible Ze Bulle Zéro Pointé's from the Gourdons. And if you can't contain yourself... you can even buy these beauties online!

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Vos & Partners tasting

Dwayne Perreault - Not wanting to post about an event far too late, I will now report on the Vos & Partners tasting that was held at the beautiful Duin & Kruidberg estate on March 29th. Representatives from 33 reputable producers were assembled to present and discuss their wines. These are some of my more memorable impressions:

Les Domaines Barons de Rothschild (Lafite) – Eric Getten, Commercial Director

Unfortunately, Château Lafite Rothschild was not presented but we were treated to Duhart Milon Rothschild 2006. David posted recently that a combined western and particulary Asian demand with anything Lafite has driven the price of Duhart Milon 2009 up by 72.7% For what it’s worth, I found the 2006 pretty average.

Jean-Claude Boisset - Gregory Patriat, Winemaker

Gregory Patriat is the wunderkind of Burgundy who was making Romanée-Conti when he was 18 years old. And he has some pretty unorthodox ideas about the closures for his bottles. He’s mad about screwcaps. He points out that they have been in use in Burgundy since 1968, when they were first used in Chalon-sur-Saône. The caps he uses are made by Alcan and are specially designed for bottle ageing. I sell his Hautes Côtes de Nuits 2005 and the wine is as fresh as a summer meadow, with hints of acacia honey and blossom. Notable is the Puligny Montrachet 1cru Champs Gains 2006, aged in one year old barrels. Soft and round already, but should reach its peak in five years.

Domaine Buisson-Battault – Francois Buisson, owner/winemaker

I’m proud to sell a number of these quality white Burgundies, including the Meursault 1er Cru Charmes 2005. The 06 is fabulous, very classical with a refined smell of semolina, and the outlook is also very good for Les Criots 2007.

Domaine de la Laidière – Freddy Estienne, owner/winemaker

I’ve previously posted on this blog about the rosé from this house in Bandol and the wine is as excellent as ever, but I wanted to call attention to Estienne’s Bandol Blanc. Let’s face it, white Bandols are not not nearly as popular here as the reds and rosés and this is not an everyday wine, but it is gastronomically an extremely useful wine made from 60% Clairette and 40% Ugni Blanc, perfect for a baked Dorado.

Château Fortia – Pierre Pastre, manager

This estate in Chateauneuf-du-Pape is a piece of French wine history. It was here where Baron Le Roy de Boiseaumarie first proposed a set of rules to classify the wines of Chateauneuf-du-Pape. This classification system later evolved into the AOC.

Like all southern Rhône producers, Pierre Pastre has a high regard for Grenache noir and cannot understand why the grape is disparaged in some circles. Even so, Fortia makes two different Chateauneuf-du-Papes: the more elegant Tradition 2006 is made from 75% Grenache and 25% Syrah, but the robust Cuvée du Baron 2007 has 50% Grenache, 40% Syrah and 10% Mourvèdre.

Grupo Faustino – Antonio Jose Pinilla / Victor Zaragoza

One of the most recognizable names in Rioja, the Faustino group also has vineyards in La Mancha, Navarra and Ribera del Duero. The Navarra wines labelled Fortius are particularly good wines for the money. The Tempranillo 2007 is very refreshing and would make a great house wine. The Merlot Crianza 2004 is darker and more complex, beautiful but still affordable.

Among the Riojas, most notable were the Faustino de Autor Reserva 2001 and especially the Faustino I Gran Reserva 1998.

And after a full day’s tasting, we sat down and ate a four-course dinner.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Vincent Mulliez of Belle-Vue dies

This evening I read the very sad news that the energetic owner of Belle-Vue, De Gironville and Bolaire died at the age of 44. Unbelievable. Mulliez has done an incredible job improving the quality of these wines over the last - more or less - six years.

I have been working with Château Belle-Vue since I started my import in 2008, and later also with Château Bolaire. In July 2009 I have visited Mulliez, about which I wrote on this blog. Jane Anson reports about Mulliez' death on Decanter.com.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Bordeaux 2009 - the calm before the storm

An event like Vinexpo Hong Kong (25-27 May)... they should do that every year during the futures campaign: what a bliss, this whole week without 2009 releases... finally time for other things!

I have the feeling that - later - we will be talking about pre-Vinexpo releases (part 1 of the campaign), and post-Vinexpo releases (part 2). Like last year we talked about the 2008s released before, and the ones released after Parker's verdict.

What I (and many others) fear is that the prices will get out of hand. If the expensive wines increase with the same percentage as the more affordable ones [have done until now - i.e. at an average increase of 27% compared to 2008] I think we should be quite happy. But the more likely scenario is: the more expensive the wine, the bigger the relative price raise. As we saw happen in 2005:

- Ausone 2005 * 400% above 2004
- Margaux 2005 * 330% above 2004
- Latour 2005 * 285% above 2004
- Larcis-Ducasse 2005 * 295% above 2004
- Troplong-Mondot 2005 * 290% above 2004
- Mouton-Rothschild 2005 * 265% above 2004
- Léoville-Las-Cases 2005 * 255% above 2004
- Lafite-Rothschild 2005 * 250% above 2004
- Cheval-Blanc 2005 * 225% above 2004
- Ducru-Beaucaillou 2005 * 185% above 2004
- Cos-d'Estournel 2005 * 175% above 2004
- Pavie 2005 * 170% above 2004
- Angélus 2005 * 155% above 2004
- Haut-Brion 2005 * 150% above 2004
- Léoville-Poyferré 2005 * 125% above 2004
- Vieux-Château-Certan 2005 * 125% above 2004
- Pape-Clément 2005 * 115% above 2004
- La Mission Haut-Brion 2005 * 105% above 2004
- Figeac 2005 * 100% above 2004
- Rauzan-Ségla 2005 * 100% above 2004
- Lynch-Bages 2005 * 100% above 2004
- Haut-Bailly 2005 * 95% above 2004
- Montrose 2005 * 95% above 2004
- Léoville-Barton 2005 * 85% above 2004
- Canon 2005 * 85% above 2004
- Brane-Cantenac 2005 * 70% above 2004
- Giscours 2005 * 65% above 2004
- Domaine de Chevalier 2005 * 50% above 2004
- Malescot-St-Exupéry 2005 * 40% above 2004
- Sociando-Mallet 2005 * 25% above 2004

The correlation is not perfect, there are more factors determining price (e.g. the 'Parker-effect' for Larcis-Ducasse), and the list is still quite short, but it seems clear that price and pedigree largely determine potential price raise.

And that's why there are speculations today about the premier crus to get even more expensive than they were in 2005... Lafite, Latour, Margaux... they are not just great wines, but luxury brands hunted by the same people how want to drive an Aston Martin and wear Patek Philippe.

The ordinary wine geek will probably only taste these wines upon invitation; so really, it pays to hang out with the new super riches. Too bad only, many of them buyers are from Asia, new millionaires who simply want to impress their (business) peers with the biggest names - c'est tout. We can only hope the Lafite that they pour will not be mixed with cola.

Another price-pushing factor for the premier crus is speculation. Individuals or funds who buy these wines as an investment simply push demand further beyond availability...

Anyway, it might be wise to just forget about the premier cru's; it's a different league - they're out of sight. Like I never think about buying an Aston Martin. Luckily there are lovely alternatives, e.g. the wines that I suggested in my April blog postings. You can also visit Bordoverview to get an idea about which wines might be interesting buys.

The lull before the storm. The first part of this posting was written last Friday. Now it is Sunday evening. As from tomorrow it will probably be a madhouse. For the 'dynamics' of the post-Vinexpo 2009 campaign price will clearly be the determining factor. And perhaps I should add: as always.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Bordeaux 2009 campaign in full swing

The afternoon of 20 May brings the first quiet hours after an avalanche of Bordeaux 2009 releases this week. Before the weekend it was dripping releases - some a bit interesting, some not at all - since last weekend it rained releases. To be more precise: the campaign seriously took off on Tuesday, and the most active day was yesterday (19 May).

And wow, price has really gone up. It's what we expected, but not hoped. In the end, more and more classics will get out of reach for most wine lovers. Furthermore, previous steep price raises did not quite precede good times. Pride goes before a fall... we have seen this happen in 1973 and in 1997.

But let's assume history will not repeat itself. For sure the owner of Raymond Lafon (Sauternes) is not going to be responsible for any trouble. Yesterday the Mesliers were the first and only to release their 2009 at a lower price than the year before (-12,3%). And that with very good notes, especially Jancis Robinson was ecstatic about the wine: "Very deep golden, with great tension and excitement and some green streaks, with layers of botrytis over them. Full and deep with intense botrytis. Great stuff! Unspittable, dried apricots (though so much richer than a Tokaji) and great acidity." With 19 from 20 points even 'outperforming' Climens and Suduiraut, at least according to Robinson. Neal Martin (part of the Parker team) was less enthusiastic with 'only' 92-94 points out of 100.

Chateau Raymon-Lafon 2005 Sauternes
We should all welcome this noble move and buy Raymond Lafon... yes, this move ought to be rewarded by frantic sales! You can start here: bordeaux-2009.nl.

The opposite is Château Duhart-Milon 2009. Better to be called Duhart-Milon-Rothschild. Because that last part explains a great deal of the 72,7% price raise: everyone - especially if they are from Asia - is looking for Lafite. And when the Grand Vin became too hard to find (and even harder to pay) people went to Carruades. As a result Carruades got a crazy price too, so since, I'd say a little less than a year, Duhart-Milon seems to be the next target. This combined with a big Parker-score (94-96), and the bonus of the vintage, resulted in a very high price. Nevertheless, this wine will sell.

The most interesting releases the last four days (purely subjective): Fonroque, Grand Corbin Despagne, Tour du Pin, Duhart-Milon, Poujeaux, Raymond Lafon, Du Tertre and Ormes de Pez.

For all prices of released wines see Bordoverview.com. The actual releases can also be followed via Twitter.