Sunday, May 29, 2011

Bordeaux 2010: Operation Escargot

Charlie @bordeauxuncorkd Matthews tweeted 3 days ago that "#BDX10 may be renamed Operation Escargot at this rate". Very true. The wines are spectacular this year, but the campaign isn't. It's boring. We're almost in June and only a handful of key wines have been released so far.

The reason? Probably because the Bordelais think they can afford it: demand has never been so strong - all those new buyers from the Far East who simply want to get their hands on the big names, no matter at what cost... So the châteaux aren't so much in a hurry, they have their great vintage, the lurking demand, and they sit back, smile and wait.

OK, we saw many petits châteaux release their prices, but who really cares? They join the campaign for their yearly 15 minutes of fame, but hardly anyone would have noticed if this one Fronsac or Graves property would have forgotten to release itself. Everyone is waiting for the châteaux-that-count.

Château Petit Bocq was, like last year, the first property to come out, almost one and a half months ago now! Since that day the campaign has been jolting along, every now and then showing a release of some interest. Never before have the observers had so much time to think about the campaign, the wines and the prices. And a lot has been written about it all.

Château BeychevelleThe popular boat on the label of Saint-Julien 4th growth (or 2nd growth) Château Beychevelle

One of the first exciting releases was Château Beychevelle (19th May). The label of this 4th cru from Saint-Julien features a boat and the Chinese like that boat very much. As a result the price went up 22,7% in comparison to the already expensive 2009, implying that — based on it's price — Beychevelle would now be a 2nd growth. Live-ex figured it out, and also for the other cru's: see their 2011 Liv-ex Bordeaux Classification published 25th May.

The more expensive, the more wanted it seems. As the aforementioned Matthews put it: "our allocation of Beychevelle sold in milliseconds". Probably the amount of bottles released wasn't very big either. Often a first tranche is merely used to test the market these days.

Since so much has been written, I should keep it short. The Bordelais know the complaint that the campaign is boring, and after last week's releases of Du Tertre, Chasse-Spleen and Poujeaux I expect that in the coming week things will seriously get rolling. These three are important, indicative (and wanted) smaller cru's, they possess the key to get the campaign going.

I will conclude this posting with the most interesting releases, in my opinion, from a buying perspective. Between brackets is the average consumer price in euro's including VAT, plus the price difference compared to last year.

26-4: Belle-Vue 2010 (value for money, € 16, +3%)
9-5: d'Agassac 2010 (very nice stuff, € 16, 0%)
11-5: Teyssier 2010 (modern, well made, € 17, 0%)
12-5: Clos du Jaugueyron 2010 (pure, bio, convincing, € 17, 0%)
16-5: Guiraud 2010 (delicate, fresh, bio, € 43, -6%)
23-5: Capbern Gasqueton 2010 (petit Calon-Ségur, € 18, 0%)
25-5: Fonroque 2010 (bio, natural right banker, € 27, 0%)
25-5: Lafon Rochet 2010 (grand classic, € 42, +0%)
25-5: Du Tertre 2010 (valuer sûre de Margaux, € 34, + 11%)
25-5: Grand Corbin Despagne (lovely bio St-Emilion, € 25, 0%)
25-5: Monbrison 2010 (elegant affordable Margaux, € 28, 0%)
26-5: Chasse-Spleen 2010 (a classic, € 26, +7%)
27-5: Poujeaux 2010 (modern classic, € 26, +6,5%)
27-5: Lespault Martillac 2010 (new, to watch, € 24, 0%)

As you can see most activity has been last week, so it was time for an update. Hereby.

The last word is about the prices: if these are on 2009 level, it might be an interesting vintage to buy. Bordeaux 2010 is in some cases spectacular (see my earlier posting about it) and my only hope is that there won't be an increase of price increases in the coming weeks. That's what happened last year and I don't think that would be very helpful to revitalise this plodding campaign.

Twitter is a great medium during the primeurs campaign, and you can follow me tweeting the most important releases. Our Bordeaux 2010 offers page is updated several times per day, so please F5 regularly.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Lidewij van Wilgen, Mas des Dames

Dwayne Perreault - It’s a fascinating dream, and who hasn’t thought of it at least once: wouldn’t it be nice to buy a vineyard in France and begin a life as a winemaker? Some people actually do, and just sometimes, it turns out to be a major success.

Lidewij van Wilgen
Such is the case with Lidewij van Wilgen, the Dutch owner and winemaker of Mas des Dames, classed by Jancis Robinson amongst her favourite Languedoc wines. The accolades keep rolling in: her cuvée La Dame received 91 points from Wine Spectator, the highest score in the Languedoc. Tom Stevenson rated it #1 for quality and price in the Languedoc. La Diva won a silver medal at the Decanter World Wine Awards 2010.

But it wasn’t always easy. It meant switching over to biological agriculture and two years of oneological studies in Béziers, which also involved learning how to drive a tractor. Lidewij’s story has just been published (in Dutch) and Het Domein (The Domain) is now in the bookshops.

I was in the Languedoc recently, and after having met Lidewij briefly, she invited me to a tasting the next day for 13 sommeliers from star restaurants in London, including Gordon Ramsay’s Maze, The Connaught and Midsummer House. That grabbed my attention, but as they say, the truth is in the wine and I was very impressed by what I tasted.

To start with, the Mas des Dames 2009, a 100% Grenache blanc with a subtle but persuasive use of oak. Coming from a plot with fossilized oysters (as in Chablis) it has a very dry mineral undertone for a Grenache blanc, and even stranger yet, crisp acidity. White and stone fruits in the mouth, lots of depth and complexity.

The Mas des Dames Rosé also receives a bit of wood ageing, The 2010 will be bottled later this month, so we had a vat sample. Made from Mourvèdre, Grenache and Syrah, this is a more complex, full bodied and I would say culinary rosé with a slightly buttery texture but still very fresh, delicate red fruit.

La Dame 2009 is a beautiful wine made from Grenache, Carignan and Syrah. The bouquet contains cherries and dark fruit, spicy with some tobacco and pepper. Very fruity taste of dark cherries with a strong mineral component and softer tannins which shine in the long aftertaste.

La Diva 2007 is made from Syrah, Grenache (from the best plots), and 90 year old Alicante vines. Dark plum fruit in the nose, with that inky Languedoc extraction again. Also tobacco and oak. Very dark fruit in the mouth, with a sudden intrusion of wild raspberry. I love it. Strong tannins, very good structure with a long aftertaste.

When I heard that Lidewij would be in the Netherlands in May to promote her book Het Domein, I decided on the spot to invite her to host a tasting where she would talk not only about her wines, but also about her life as a winemaker and her just published book. I recently accepted the position of manager for Wijnhuis Zuid in Amsterdam, and this will be the first of a number of winemaker’s tastings we will be holding. This one, however, is special as it is also a book launching with five different wines to be tasted. If you live in the Amsterdam area, you are welcome to join us in the Maasstraat 134 on Sunday, May 15th from 3 until 5 p.m. Please let us know you are coming by using the contact form on our website.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Bordeaux 2010 recommendations

In my previous posting I wrote about my general impression of the Bordeaux 2010 vintage, and I finished with the promise to share with you my personal favorites. In the meantime many wine critics have published their tasting notes, some of which you can find on Bordoverview, and around Wednesday Robert Parker's verdict is expected.

Pontet-CanetI was "Totally blown away by the quality of Pontet-Canet 2010." Here you see the château's new concrete vats perfectly lined up.

But for those of you who are interested in my favorite Bordeaux 2010s, here they are. For some wines I reprint the tweets that I posted right after having tasted the wines. Of course I can rewrite these, polish 'em, but raw like this they're straight from the heart, grabbing the essence.

Lafite-RothschildBeautiful wistaria (and sky) chez Château Lafite-Rothschild

I allowed only one 1er cru to end up in this list

1. Pontet-Canet 2010 "Totally blown away by the quality of Pontet-Canet 2010. Splendid purity, great expression & harmony. Well-shaped, no hardness. Alive! #bdx10"
2. Ducru-Beaucaillou 2010 "Great wines @ Ducru-Beaucaillou! Fourcas & Lalande Borie made for Drínking #mm Croix serious 2nd wine. Ducru grandiose "Beau Caillou"! #bdx10"
3. Vieux Château Certan 2010 "Vieux-Ch-Certan top. Juicy purple fruit, spirited. Mineral, pure. Strength. Other r'ded Pomerol: Petit Village, Conseillante, Clinet #bdx10"
4. Lafite Rothschild "Lafite: natural beauty, nothing forced, subdued elegance. Duhart attract. classic w/ fraîcheur. Carruades pure, lenient, quite lovely #bdx10"
5. Haut-Bailly 2010 "Lunch & tasting @ 1 of my favourite châteaux: Haut-Bailly. Always standing out for its purity and terroir expression. Great Parde too #bdx10"

Lafite-Rothschild tasting roomThe tasting room at Château Lafite-Rothschild. Here we tasted the Lafite, the Carruades and the Duhart-Milon.

monumental wines, price tag neglected

1. Petrus 2010 "Ch Petrus. Breathtaking. The mouth gets paved with luscious layers of dark fruit, velvety tannins, chocolate etc. Oops forgot to spit #bdx10"
2. Ausone 2010 "Ausone impresses. A broad blanket of generous purple fruit & ripe chewy tannins unrolls in the mouth. All is there, veiled, balanced #bdx10"
3. Latour 2010 "Freshness for Latour & Forts: beam of acidity + gravelly character open these ripe wines. More depth & darkness for Latour. Precision #bdx10"
4. Margaux 2010 "Chât Margaux more serious than Pavillon, tighter. Pure, bit chalky. Rare Pavillon Blanc (100% sauvignon) delicious, fresh, rich, soft #bdx10"
5. Palmer 2010 "Today's last visit was Palmer. Fruity convincing Alter Ego, in '10 more power than usual. Great Palmer too. Pure wines, fine tannins #bdx10"

MargauxTasting at Château Margaux. Lovely Pavillon Blanc also!

the ones I couldn't get into the 2 previous lists

1. Grand-Puy-Lacoste 2010 "Grand-Puy-Lacoste & Haut-Batailley beautiful, complete classics with lovely freshness. Calon-Ségur hearty, dark, good. Next: Montrose #bdx10"
2. Trotanoy 2010 "Favourites @ Moueix: Magdelaine, Certan (dMC), Fleur Pétrus, Hosanna and finally, brilliant Trotanoy, liquid terroir wow! Next Petrus #bdx10"
3. Guiraud 2010 Refined, delicate and with a striking, very attractive freshness. A well balanced and elegant Sauternes.
4. Domaine de Chevalier 2010 "Horses in the Dom de Chevalier vineyard. Energetic & lively wines. Blanc: elegant, fresh. Red: hearty juice, spicy, finesse. Recomm'd #bdx10"
5. Léoville Barton 2010 "Last stop this morning: Léoville Barton. Langoa vivacious, fruity, intense. Léoville ripe, racy, tight & fresh. Classic forward style #bdx10"

Cos d'EstournelThe spaceship-alike over-the-top cellar at Château Cos d'Estournel. I liked the wines better than last year, there's more elegance it seems.

not just a 4th list, these are top-buys and some are even affordable

Margaux: Giscours, Rauzan-Ségla, Brane-Cantenac, Pavillon Rouge, Alter Ego de Palmer, Clos du Jaugueyron, Boyd-Cantenac, Issan
Saint-Julien: Léoville-las-Cases, Clos du Marquis, Langoa-Barton, Saint-Pierre, Croix de Beaucaillou, Talbot, Gruaud-Larose
Pauillac: Pichon Baron, Duhart-Milon, Forts de Latour, Carruades, Mouton Rothschild
Saint-Estèphe: Calon Ségur, Lafon-Rochet, Dame de Montrose, Pagodes de Cos
Haut-Médoc: La Lagune
Pessac-Léognan rouge: Smith Haut Lafitte, Latour-Martillac, La Chapelle de la Mission Haut-Brion
Pessac-Léognan blanc: Domaine de Chevalier, Malartic-Lagravière
Saint-Emilion: Canon, Larcis Ducasse, Canon-la-Gaffelière, Trottevieille, Magdelaine, Virginie de Valandraud, Clos Fourtet, La Gaffelière, Tour du Pin, Berliquet
Pomerol: Petit Village, Certan de May Certan, Rouget
Sauternes: Rieussec, Suduiraut, Rayne-Vigneau

Haut-BrionI love Château Haut-Brion's medieval, terse, fairytale-like style. A bit like the compact wines this year.

great value for reasonable prices

Margaux: Du Tertre, Monbrison, La Bessane
Saint-Julien: Gloria, Lalande Borie, Petit Lion
Saint-Estèphe: Capbern Gasqueton, Phélan-Ségur
Médoc & Haut-Médoc: La Tour de By, d'Agassac, Belle-Vue, Sénéjac, Clos du Jaugueyron
Moulis & Listrac: Chasse-Spleen, Poujeaux
Pessac-Léognan rouge: La Parde de Haut-Bailly, Carbonnieux, Lespault-Martillac
Pessac-Léognan blanc: Carbonnieux, Olivier, Couhins, Brown
Saint-Emilion: Fonroque, Clos Badon Thunevin, Grand Corbin-Despagne, Franc-Mayne, Bellisle Mondotte

Domaine de ChevalierThe beautiful, 'open' cellar at Domaine de Chevalier. You don't have to become a mole to work here.

The Bolomey Wijnimport offers can be followed on for those who are interested.