Sunday, February 28, 2010

Bordeaux 2009 according to Bill Blatch (and Mouton 1997 briefly revisited)

Bordeaux insider and well-known négociant Bill Blatch (Vintex) has released his detailed view on the much talked-about Bordeaux 2009 vintage. Also, Blatch has recently launched a blog, Bordeaux Gold, and there you can request his "Vintage Report".

Needless to say, the name of the blog refers to the golden wines of Sauternes & Barsac, and Blatch' preliminary attention is geared towards these sweet wines. That's a good thing, because in general these beauties deserve more attention (in January 2008 I attended an inspiring Sauternes tasting with Blatch).

Bill Blatch's preliminary Bordeaux 2009 vintage report counts 10 pages, and I guess every Bordeaux-nerd wants to read the details for this wonderful vintage. Here I will - as a warming-up - quote his interesting introduction:

*** START QUOTE ***

2009: The first decade of the 21st century goes out in a blaze of glory

A decade with no off-vintages – Bordeaux has never experienced that before - even those all-time great decades, the 1920s and the 1840s had a few misses. In this first decade of the new millennium, all have been successful, four made by end-of-season sunshine (2001-02-07-08), two by heat early in the season (04-06), and four of highly concentrated wines from a combination of good summers as well as good autumns (00-03-05-and now 09, each receiving more acclaim than the previous one). That is a total all-time record.

And this final one has turned out to be the most concentrated of them all. In 2009, we seem to have reached the extreme limit of Bordeaux concentration Yet it was not the hottest year by any means – that was 2003 – nor was it the driest – that was 2005. In 2009, there were no extremes, just good regular heat at the right times, with everything coming in the right order: the vine amply nourished by ground water during its growing period, then, as from 15th June, starved of water – very progressively - during the ripening and concentration of its bunches right through the rest of the vineyard year.

***END QUOTE ***

I can't wait to taste the 2009's myself (which will happen end of March - beginning of April as I mentioned earlier).

Then for something completely different... the Mouton-Rothschild 1997 that Dwayne wrote about in the previous posting - Jane Anson twittered about this posting "love the understated handover moment", and I fully agree with that. It is this kind of selfless spontaneous energy between people that makes life beautiful - say the familiar "small things".

This energy continued its flow into my, and Jan van Roekel's, direction, as Dwayne kindly invited us to share this special bottle with us. Let's start with my conclusion: I found this Grand Vin extremely quaffable, and I don't mean that as an insult. It was so attractive and supple that I found it difficult to sip and taste in a restrained manner, as one might be supposed to do when drinking a premier grand cru classé.

So how would I describe this Pauillac: the nose reveals a mature Bordeaux, with a hint of blood (iodine), wet forest floor and old leather. In the mouth the Mouton comes across soft, mouth-filling and intense. Refined and delicious. The wine is elegant yet quite masculine with dark blackberry fruit. Lovely purple-sweet it is, soft and gripping. A delicious wine and very much à point right now. If you still own 1997s, I would suggest bring these out of your cellar!

(This posting has been written while drinking the Chassagne-Montrachet 1er cru Morgeot 2004 from Jobard-Chabloz. At least the tail of this wine, most of it we have been drinking at Lemongrass, a Scheveningen-based restaurant with an impressive wine list - extensive, and with 'big' wines at very friendly prices. Highly recommended!)

Note that you can also find (most of) Bill Blatch's Bordeaux 2009 Vintage Report on the website of Jancis Robinson.

Friday, February 19, 2010

How Mouton Rothschild found me

Dwayne Perreault - Château Mouton Rothschild is one of the world’s most prized wines and this is reflected in its price which, depending on the vintage, can easily run into hundreds or even thousands of euros per bottle. To put it simply, it’s a bit out of my price range. The best I could hope for would be a sample at an organized tasting, such as the latest Winefield’s auction in Amsterdam, where several vintages of Mouton Rothschild were generously made available. As luck would have it, I was unable to attend that day!

Chateau Mouton Rothschild 1997
But luck swings like a pendulum, they say. So I was astonished to get a phone call a couple weeks later from someone I had met very briefly at a previous auction. We had spoken for perhaps ten minutes, I mentioned that I write about wines for a blog and gave her my card. It turns out she was leaving Amsterdam and had a present she wanted to give me: a bottle of Mouton Rothschild 1997! At first I was perplexed: what had I done to deserve such a gift? But she simply explained that she was moving, couldn’t take the bottle with her, didn’t want any money for it but wanted to give it to someone who could appreciate it. So I told her, “that I certainly can do.”

So this kind soul met me on a snowy day on the Frederiksplein and handed over a 13 year old bottle of Mouton Rothschild, as if it was the most normal thing in the world to do. I thanked her from the bottom of my heart, we chatted a bit more and then she carried on walking her dogs.

Now it would have been gauche of me to drink this wine alone and it was intended for someone who can appreciate it, so I invited two esteemed wine friends, David Bolomey and Jan van Roekel, to taste it together with a Vosne-Romanée 2001 and Gevrey Chambertin 1997 from Martin Noblet. I have a previous posting on this blog about this small Burgundian producer. Here are my impressions:

Since last tasting it in September, the Vosne-Romanée 2001 from Noblet has developed nicely without losing any of its raw vitality. The oak is fully integrated and there is a hint of fur in the nose, along with the peppery cherry. As the Dutch say, this is a wine with boerse elegantie, a farmer’s elegance.

The Gevrey Chambertin 1997 however, was on the way down. Still rich and ripe, but 13 years was all this particular vintage could take. I had described this wine as “powerful and gripping” only half a year ago.

Mouton Rothschild 1997: a dark cherry and blackberry bouquet with a perceptible iodine tint and toasty oak. Very warm, dark and expressive. Bright notes of forest berries, licorice and coffee with very solid tannins and well integrated new oak. It was a pleasure to have met you, Mouton.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Bordeaux 2009 according to Simon Staples

This is the first time that I will copy a complete text from someone else into a posting. And why not if it's interesting? I received the message per e-mail from the world's biggest en primeur buyer Berry Bros. & Rudd in the United Kingdom. Besides that they have many great names from Burgundy in their portfolio, and I am proud to share with them the import of Arnaud Ente (Meursault) and David Clark (Morey-Saint-Denis).

Berrys' Vicky Williams sent out the following update on Bordeaux 2009 and I don't think you will mind that I share this with you:

*** START QUOTE ***

9th February 2010 ... Early indications show Bordeaux 2009 could be a spectacular vintage, says Berrys’ Sales Director Simon Staples, who has had exclusive access to some of the wines.

Simon Staples and Berrys’ Bordeaux Buyer Max Lalondrelle tasted some “brilliant” finished wines and barrel samples, but will leave their final verdict on the 2009 vintage until the main en primeur tastings next month.

Simon says: “What is clear is that we are onto something spectacular again. What we have tried so far are all superb, rich, powerful, sexy beasts with great structure, depth and almost magical promise.”

Simon says the wines they tasted at Ch. Giscours were breathtaking and those from Cos d’Estournel were as good as 2005.

“Both the Grand Vin and Pagodes de Cos were sublime. Cos itself was every bit as spectacular as the magnificent 2005, perhaps a tad fatter but with brilliant balance. Pagodes, with almost half the Grand Vin declassified into it, is off the scale. Without question the most impressive Pagodes I have ever tried and if you didn't have the Grand Vin to compare it with you'd say it was a great Cos!!” says Simon who adds that General Manager, Jean-Guillaume, believes his second wine could rival many of his Grand Vin from years gone by. “And Alexander van Beek of the ever improving Chateau du Tertre and the very famous Chateau Giscours, proclaims his 2009 wines are the finest he has ever produced in his 13 years of managing them,” explains Simon.

Reluctant to speculate about pricing, Simon says it’s already clear to him that 2009 won’t be cheap.

“The ‘market’ dictates what prices the wines sell for and with an ever increasing demand, especially from Asia, Bordeaux 2009 won’t be cheap,” he says, adding: “The wines look to be brilliant and we will find our customers some great value wines, so turn off the heating and sell the car to save up and sign up with us for the rollercoaster ride that will be Bordeaux 2009.”

This year’s team of six Berrys’ experts will kick off the week-long tasting on 29th March. A further nine salesman from Berry Bros. & Rudd in the UK will travel to Bordeaux on 11th April. The following week another nine staff from Berrys in Hong Kong and Japan will also taste the wines.

For the inside track on Bordeaux 2009 follow Simon Staples on Twitter and visit Berrys’ Wine Blog www.bbr.com/blog for news, information, images and videos from Berrys’ team of experts and Bordeaux producers.

***END QUOTE ***

It won't surprise you that I am looking forward to tasting the wines myself during the Bordeaux 2009 primeurs week (29 March - 2 April). Nice detail: that week we will be staying at the guest house of "the very famous" Château Giscours!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Another trip to France

Last Tuesday we returned from a more than 2,500 km round trip to Champagne, Burgundy and the Loire. We (Jan van Roekel and I) could have driven all the way to Turkey. Well, that's the effort you make in order to find the best and most interesting wines.

I've always described our previous travels in detail on this blog. This time I won't.

By now it will not surprise you any more that besides wines I have been hunting French offal specialities like Andouillette (be it for dinner at the lovely Bistrot de la Cathedrale in Chartres, or for lunch at L'Arche), Pig's Trotter (this trip I found the best I ever had, for lunch in Le Bistrot le 7 des Berceaux in Epernay - washed it down with Champagne, makes it even better) or Tête de Veau (Plat du Jour in a Beaune restaurant that for the rest wasn't really special). Of course we went to Caves Madeleine as well, our favourite restaurant in Beaune.

Bolomey Wijnimport is growing. Two years ago I had the time to describe every visit, every wine and so on, and it seems that is not possible any more. The company is getting bigger and I am more and more running out of time. Of course I am delighted that people are picking up the 'Bolomey wines'. It's really been a sort of snowball the last half year.

This last trip we visited 13 domains and 2 salons (bio-salon Greniers St Jean in Angers, and the Salon des Vins de Loire). Some visits did not bring what we were looking for, and those I will simply leave out here. The wines that I will start importing will be presented later, one at the time, once things have been arranged; again there are some wines that are fairly 'hard to get'.

Let me conclude by saying that the ride was worth every kilometre. If you want to know why just follow this blog and the Bolomey Wijnimport website. There are some truly new exciting wines heading North!