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.