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La parde, les demoiselles, l'esquisse et le jaugueyron

Last week I threw a tasting for a group of friends. We tried quite a lot of Bordeaux's. Before I dive into the details of my personal favourites and/or discoveries, these are the wines that were appreciated the most by the whole group (with the average rating from the group between brackets):

1. Frank Phélan 2004, Saint-Estèphe - 2nd wine of Château Phélan-Ségur (8.4/10)
2. L'esquisse de La Tour Figeac 2001, Saint-Emilion - 2nd wine of Château La Tour Figeac (8.3/10)
3. Château Belle-Vue 2004, Haut-Médoc (8.1/10)
4. Clos du Jaugueyron 2003, Haut-Médoc (8.1/10)
5. Le Jardin de Petit-Village 2005, Pomerol - 2nd wine of Château Petit Village (8.0/10)


All five great wines. My personal favourites partially overlap (Frank Phélan, L'esquisse de La Tour Figeac and Clos du Jaugueyron), but there were two more wines that I found really convincing: Clos des Demoiselles and La Parde de Haut-Bailly. Below you find the tasting notes of my favourite five:

1. Clos des Demoiselles 2003, Listrac-…

Chateau La Fleur Morange 2005

This month an interesting blind retasting of the Bordeaux 2005 vintage was organised by Decanter magazine. Jancis Robinson attended, and reported. I didn't read much about it on the internet - unless the fact that there were some real surprises - so I thought let's make a small posting about it.

The big names did not stand out during this tasting. Where Cheval Blanc 2005 was Robinson's favourite right bank wine at the initial en primeur tasting (19.25/20), this icon was now granted only 15 points with two question marks... so maybe there was a problem with the bottle. But let's focus on the 'winners'. Three wines stood out by far. One well-known, Château Valandraud, Jean-Luc Thunevin's ultimate garage wine (18/20), and two rather unknown wines: Château Fonplégade (18/20) and Château La Fleur Morange (19/20!).


A modern trio. The Valandraud story is well-known. Fonplégade has apparently improved after the American Steve Adams took over the château from Antoine…

Visit to Burgundy, part II

One thing that I do not understand about the French is that they do not have a hook for the shower head (and also no tray for the soap). Combine this inconvenience with old taps that are extremely difficult to adjust, and the result is that you start your day with an annoying fight with your shower. But it also ensures that you arrive perfectly awake at your first domain visit. Which was good, because both visits were highly interesting this day. And fully English spoken, so it was easier to talk about all kinds of nerdy wine details. Both visits are about guys from abroad coming to Burgundy to make an adventurous dream come true. Both in their own way.

Saturday morning 8 Dec: Mischief and Mayhem, Aloxe-Corton
Mischief and Mayhem is the story of two friends starting a winery. One is Michael Ragg, who runs the domain in Aloxe-Corton with his wife Fiona, the other is Michael Twelftree, who flies over from Australia a few times per year, to be present at the key moments in the winemaking p…

Visit to Burgundy, part I

This weekend I visited Burgundy with my friend and Burgundy-connoisseur Jan van Roekel. He is creator of the Burgoholic website and had only been four times to Burgundy this year, so he thought it would be a good idea to visit a fifth time. Today I will write about our first day, later I will add a Burgundy part II story about Day II. In short: we had a number of very inspiring meetings with great winemakers, we visited some mouthwatering wine stores, and we spent quite some time in exciting restaurants.

Friday morning: Domaine Jean Tardy, Vosne-Romanée
On 25 March 2006 I attended a comprehensive tasting in Nuits-Saint-Georges, with many wines from many Côtes-de-Nuits appellations. In the Vosne-Romanée corner Guillaume Tardy introduced me to his wine; it appeared to be my best encounter that afternoon. I asked him where I could buy his wines, but these seemed difficult to find, so he sold me two bottles "under the counter". I promised myself to visit Guillaume in the future. N…

Mood altering cognac

I have always blithely said I preferred armagnac to cognac – which was really just a knee jerk opinion formed years ago due to one brutal hangover from drinking too much cognac, and then, a few years later having one or two glasses of armagnac one day after a long lunch.

Last week I went to cognac. Less than two hours from Bordeaux but a whole different ball game. The grapes are still there, but it is the distilleries, at least at this time of year, that are the stars of the show. The aim was to understand a bit more about the place, and because I have an article to write about their booming sales – 163 million bottles sold in the last 12 months from October 06 to October 07. The most ever since the appellation was founded in 1939.

Two distillery visits were organised by the BNIC – the local cognac board. The first was to Ragnaud-Sabourin, a small family owned operation near Segonzac and the second to Frapin, also family owned, but on a bigger scale, in the same area.

Both are owner/dist…

Cru Bourgeois classification: good news!

After the recent sighs of relief in St Emilion (see my posting from 17 November) there is also good news from the Médoc region. Not that the 2003 Cru Bourgeois classification will be restored (that is not going to happen), but an important step is made towards a renewed use of the term Cru Bourgeois. The Alliance des Crus Bourgeois du Médoc, beaten by the storm that blew away their new classification last February (it was annulled by the Bordeaux Administrative Appeals Court), is clearly scrambling to its feet, and presenting yet another milestone for their New Plan.

SCREENSHOT FROM THE BEAUTIFUL ALLIANCE'S WEBSITE, IT WILL JUST NEED SOME UPDATING

Not being able to use the words Cru Bourgeois was very bad news for many winemakers in the Médoc, and for the Bordeaux wine trade in general. So after having nursed its wounds, the Alliance presented its resurrection. In short: Cru Bourgeois will stand for measurable quality, and anyone can apply for the new qualification. The idea was alr…

Wine energy, biodynamics, Nossiter and Bridget Jones

Having read Jonathan Nossiter's new book Le Gout et Le Pouvoir, and realised that he, like Bridget Jones, is a great believer in wine energy, I am ever more energetically seeking out biodynamic wines.

Nossiter likes energy in his wines, and, is also an advocate of finding new ways of talking about wine, one that is inclusive rather than exclusive.

CHATEAU FONROQUE 2002, BIODYNAMIC GRAND CRU CLASSE OF SAINT-EMILION, PHOTOGRAPH BY NICOLAS PATTE

What could be more inclusive, in vocabulary terms, than talking about a wine having energy or not? We all understand energy and the lack of it. I think he might like to know, however, that it was Bridget Jones who first mentioned the concept of wine energy, when using chardonnay to 'get energy back' due to being shagged out and tired by work and life.

So now, in my latest tasting notes - the ones I speak out loud more often than actually write down - gone are the searches for hints of liquorice, or cinnamon notes, and in are words like en…

Clos Badon Thunevin 2001

It is good to present a cherished wine to your tasting club friends. And it can be confronting also. For example: someone smelling your favourite wine and saying "Mm, a little chemical". What?? But you keep smiling - everyone at the tasting can have his or her say, whatever that is.

At a tasting that I threw yesterday I opened one of my favourite clarets. Not without any risk, having invited a number of unscrupulous tasters - some even with a more or less critical attitude towards the expensive blah-blah wines from Bordeaux. They tried: Clos Badon Thunevin 2001. They knew: it's a Bordeaux, c'est tous.


To my relief - to be honest - most people gave the wine a warm welcome. Maybe especially after the 1988 Vieux Château Certan that didn't come out very well - I think it was some time past its apogée. The Clos Badon was convincingly characterised as a very complete wine, and a wine that is both powerful and unctuous. True, and also true is that this wine combines the m…

St Emilion classification 2006 reconsidered

Without doubt, many St Emilion châteaux will have heaved a deep sigh of relief: earlier this week the Conseil d'Etat abolished the temporary suspension of the 2006 St Emilion classification. It doesn't mean that all problems are solved now, but at least the classification can be used again, and the words (Premier) Grand Cru Classé can be printed on the labels of the 2006 vintage, as usual. This decision from France's highest administrative court in Paris came right in time for the Bordelais.


But the complaints about the new classification - surprisingly all from demoted châteaux - will later still be dealt with by the Bordeaux court. And just to be helpful to all parties involved, and to make things less complicated, Bordoverview hereby presents its own subjective reconsideration of the classification.

The revised list below takes as a starting point the new 2006 classification. And dear reader, please do not hesitate to formulate your reaction to this alternative list.

Premi…

René Gabriel added to Bordoverview

Since today the Swiss wine pope René Gabriel has his own column on Bordoverview. At this moment only on the 2006 left bank page (view with Internet Explorer), but later this week also on the right bank page. And when I have some time left, I will also update the 2005 information with Gabriel's ratings.

As a matter of fact Gabriel should have already been part of Bordoverview, as he is one of the most important European tasters, and the most important taster of the German speaking part of Europe. I have also received a number of e-mails from visitors who were wondering why Gabriel was missing.


Now that his ratings are entered, and can easily be sorted, a number of things directly stand out:

1. For Gabriel, top ratings aren't the exclusive terrain reserved for top wines. A 'smaller' wine can even have a higher rating than a First Growth (Lafite, Margaux etc.). In the eyes of Gabriel Phélan Ségur 2006 (19/20!) outperforms almost all Médoc First Growths.
2. Gabriel's left …

2006 campaign fails, prices likely to come down

Talking to several Dutch wine merchants reveals what was already apparent: the Bordeaux 2006 primeurs campaign has been a failure. Reason number one is that the prices were too high for this 'average' year. The sales volume has sometimes plummeted to only a fraction of what was sold the previous year. Reason two: people have already emptied there wallets for the 2005 primeurs, everyone wanted to get hold of at least some wines of this declared super-vintage. And a year following a great year is naturally overshadowed by its predecessor - this has happened for example to the good 1983 vintage and more recently to 2001 and 2004, both interesting classic vintages. Fact is that most buyers are reluctant to empty their wallet for a second time.

THINKING ABOUT BORDEAUX 2006 IN FRONT OF CHATEAU COS D'ESTOURNEL (5 APRIL 2007)

If we look at the price development of a more or less comparable vintage like 2004 we see that the majority of the wines can later, at the French Foire-Aux-Vin…

Chateau Carteau Cotes Daugay 1999

After just having tasted some acceptable 1996s - Pibran (7+/10), Labégorce-Zédé (7+/10) and Lilian Ladouys (7,5/10) - I came across two splendid 1999's: Château Arnauld (8+/10) and Château Carteau Côtes Daugay (8,5/10). Realising once again the Relativity of good years, lesser years etcetera. But also: for many 1999s I think it is now the perfect time to be opened. The mentioned 1996s aren't very accessible, they are somewhat tough, and some are even a little bit dusty. They do share a pleasant autumnal bouquet, giving - say - the romantic impression of a forest after rain. But the 1999s offer more. This posting focusses on a not so well-known wine: Château Carteau Côtes Daugay.


During the Primeur tastings from last April I noticed that - other than the wines from the left bank - many Saint-Emilions suffer from the same defect: they're overextracted. Unfortunately I did not taste Carteau Côtes Daugay 2006, but I truly hope that the Bertrand family did not alter the style of…

Statistics prove: Parker did not favour his winemaker friends

While yet another fire rages around the head of Robert Parker, lit this time by rebel filmmaker Jonathan Nossiter (Mondovino), French wine geek Bertrand Le Guern presents his proof that one of the main assertions in Hanna Agostini's Anatomie d'un Mythe (published last week) is wrong.


Le Guern dove into the historic data and shows us that there is no correlation between Parker's friendship with a winemaker at the one hand, and the rating he has given for this befriended winemaker's wine at the other hand. He looked at the ratings that Parker and many other wine critics gave for the wines from Jean-François Moueix, Alain Raynaud and Michel Rolland, as compared to the ratings that were given for the wines from other winemakers; the same analysis is conducted for four subsequent years. Le Guern's statistics show that in the 'bigger' years 2003 and 2005 Parker is more enthusiastic about his friends' wines, and with a little hope one might think to find a vagu…

Cantenac Brown 2006 and its crazy price

Talking about interesting wine prices (see my previous post about Larcis Ducasse)... when Château Cantenac Brown 2006 was released on the 4th of June, everyone was in shock. The big question for 2006 was: how much will the price drop. Cantenac Brown decided to turn things around: instead of lowering the price, they doubled(!) the price. Result: the all-inclusive consumer price ended up being around 60 euros (nice graph: 2004 was 20 euros and 2005 30 euros).


What was happening here? Well, there is a new owner: the ambitious Syrian-born English billionaire Simon Halabi, who earlier also bought the Mentmore Towers in the UK. Anyone who knows Château Cantenac Brown will see the stylistic resemblance between these two impressive structures. After the improvements by previous owner AXA Millésimes (conducted by the Lynch Bages dream team of Jean-Michel Cazes, Daniel Llose and Christian Seely), Halabi sees an even bigger future ahead for this Margaux Cru Classé. Most interesting here is the le…

Château Larcis Ducasse 2004

The last affordable Larcis Ducasse? I'm glad it's not.

En primeur the Château Larcis Ducasse 2004 was 'just' 25 euro, I bought the wine two years later in a French hypermarket for only € 26,50 (i.e. before the start of the Foire-Aux-Vins). The 2005 belongs to a totally different league: this vintage showed the freaky price jump of 75 euros to € 100,- per bottle. An unprecedented leap, and the result of a perfectly marketed super-vintage, combined with the exceptional ratings for this Larcis Ducasse 2005. Most well-known tasters were enthusiastic, and the Americans were most passionate about this Grand Cru Classé de Saint-Emilion from the hands of the talented Stéphane Derenoncourt. It was Robert Parker who had already picked out the Larcis Ducasse 2004 as a very successful wine, and a year later the 2005 was given the top rating of 95-98, which he later even revised into 96-100. James Suckling (from Wine Spectator) had directly honoured the 2005 with the ultimate score:…

EGJ President: book Agostini will have terrible effect

François Mauss, President of the European Grand Jury is making a remarkably firm stand against the new book of Hanna Agostini, which contains serious accusations on her former employer Robert Parker. At this place I will not dive into the history preceeding this book (the so-called Geens affair), nor will I look at the actual accusations. But in general: it seems that a lot of vulgar drama is involved here.

With his explicit reaction François Mauss is now adding a new chapter to this ongoing soap opera: "(...) this is the end of an era about the relations of Mr Parker with the Bordeaux world".


Mauss himself is not looking forward to entering this New Era, but in his strong belief that it is simply inevitable that we are heading there, he surely does support the process:

- "My friends: we are entering a tsunami period. It will take time, but it will hurt, and hard."
- "Obviously it is very hard for you to catch the terrible effects this book will bring, first in Eu…

Mouton 1995 lacks in new book Crum & Jacobs

Three months ago I called wine writer Frank Jacobs to share with him a rather hilarious wine story. I did not have this blog yet, and I thought it could be suitable for his monthly wine column in Perswijn. And indeed, the story ended up in the August/September edition of this magazine.

Nevertheless, Frank regretted that he hadn't heard the story before: the deadline for the book he was writing with Gert Crum had already passed... Well, this week the book has arrived in the bookstores (for now in Dutch only). Without the story about our building contractor and his unfortunate bottle of Château Mouton Rothschild 1995.


What happened? Well, our contractor - at the time - is an exuberant man, crazy about good food and about good wine. And a skilled worker also, but his one big problem: planning. We didn't have any idea about when things would be finished. And the project lasted, and lasted... But we still felt that in the end everything would be fine, and to express our trust, for Ch…

Thomas Barton, Barton & Guestier and Anthony Barton

This week the winners were announced for the Dutch wine contest Klassiek Europa, Classic Europe, organised by the Dutch wine magazine Perswijn. The good news: everyone seems to see a trend 'back' to the original values of classic Europe. Many interested wine drinkers know by now that outside Europe people really know how to make wine - ripe and accessible, and often modestly priced... but the real adventure lies in the idiosyncratic wines from the old regions where the indigenous grape plant is performing its never-ending battle with nature. With varying results from year to year. Exciting.

But of course we've learnt from the newcomers also. About marketing for example. Branding wines: not just making accessible wines, but also accessible labels. See the label of Thomas Barton, one of the winning wines at Klassiek Europa (not to confuse things: it is the wine that has accounted for the prize, not the label!).


The Thomas Barton Médoc Réserve 2005 (submitted - and sold - by Kw…

La Tour de By 2000

Why not open this blog with a great normal wine: Château La Tour de By. If only as a tribute to Marc Pagès, the owner of the château who died in July this year. For me this is one of the best examples of a fine classic Bordeaux for a friendly price. La Tour de By comes across very sympathetic, and I follow - and drink - the subsequent vintages with pleasure.

We can only hope that Pagès' grandson, Frédéric Leclerq will continue to deliver wines in the spirit of his grandfather, with the same great price-quality ratio. Leclerq has already been involved in the wine making for a number of years, so there is a good chance that the character of La Tour de By will be preserved.

I tasted the 2006 vintage en primeur - Pagès' last vintage - and it outperformed most its competition.


Yesterday I opened a 2000. Supposedly a legendary year, but lots of wines that I taste from this year do not (yet) live up to the high expectations (don't get me wrong: I've tasted beautiful wines - one …

Opening: Bordoverview Blog

Today I'm starting this Bordoverview Blog. What to expect? Just all kinds of news issues, be it an update on the soap opera called Classification, an interesting change of ownership, or a tasting note that I want to share with you. As a matter of fact I'm not really sure what exactly I'm going to offer, I guess we will have to see also.

The stupid thing: I have the idea that almost nobody will read a first post. Probably Google will only have indexed this blog after a couple of days, and I still have to go around on the internet asking webmasters and moderators for a link to my new blog. Maybe I first have to write something before they will want to exchange links... chicken and egg.

Anyway, let's hope this blog will be a big success!