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Some last thoughts, and Bruno Clavelier

I say goodbye to 2011 with fifteen random personal thoughts & remarks.

1. Being a wine merchant and a wine blogger is a difficult combination in December (hence the 20 days of silence).
2. Beaujolais Nouveau in general is not very popular these days. But Natural Bojo Nouveau of raving beauty appears to have a (small) group of very devoted followers!
3. The pivotal role of scent in wine is comparable with its role in sex.
4. My favourite website on wine is Chris Kissack's winedoctor.
5. This year's most popular posting on this blog is the Bordeaux 2010 recommendations posting of 2 May.
6. Bordeaux 2010 was, other than expected in the first place, a success: customers were again willing to buy at high prices.
7. If Bordeaux 2011 is going to be a bargain vintage like 2008 sales will be good, otherwise it will be very quiet.
8. Unfortunately raising prices in Bordeaux is easier than lowering prices; it's always 2 steps up and 1 step back. Sort of cheating.
9a. For a truly interesti…

Winemaking Apprenticeship, Mas des Dames 2011, part 1

Dwayne Perreault - It seems only natural to me that anyone seriously involved with wine would want to do a winemaking apprenticeship. It’s an idea I’ve had for some years now. Since I work in wine, I spend most of my waking hours with it. It is my profession and in the evening it is my joy and solace, a continually changing mystery: originating from all over the world, constantly differing and charming in so many ways.

Yet what is it, really? Fermented grape juice would be the most prosaic answer, yet in many cases I feel that good wine, like food, is art, the personal expression of the winemaker using grapes as material. It is the divine act of the alcoholic fermentation, the ancient alchemical transformation of grapes into a Bacchanalian elixir which has been a part of our history for 8,000 years, that interests me.

Lidewij van Wilgen at the sorting table

I’ve already written about Lidewij van Wilgen, owner/winemaker of Mas des Dames, who I met this past spring, while vacationing in …

Today's RVF ranking of the 1855 classification

I can imagine that most non-French readers of this blog don't have La Revue du Vin de France, France's most well-known and probably most influential wine magazine. The latest edition (No. 557, Décembre 2011) presents in bold big letters the following question on its cover: Que vaut aujourd'hui le classement de 1855? Translated that is: What is today's ranking of the 1855 classification?

My guess is that the readers of this blog would be interested to know which crus are hot - and which not - according to RVF, or at least according to Olivier Poels who put together this overview. Poels' judgment is largely based on the tasting of the following 5 vintages: 1990, 1996, 2005, 2008 and 2009.

For every wine RVF also presents the percentage price increase from 1990 to 2010, an interesting number. For more stats, and for Olivier Poels' story behind the ratings you should find a copy of the magazine yourself.

Apart from the usual suspects there are surprises too. Some n…

Bordeaux 2009 UGC tasting Brussels

Last week Jan van Roekel and I drove up to Brussels to attend the annual Union des Grands Crus Bordeaux 2009 tasting with a line-up of 110 crus. These traveling UGC tastings are always very interesting, as you get to try the recently bottled Bordeaux vintage about 1,5 years after having tasted them at the UGC primeur tastings in Bordeaux.



It's also an extensive tasting and you need the full opening hours if you want to taste most of the wines. To try them all is nearly impossible, unless you are a red-toothed speed freak who doesn't care what people around you will think.

There's no doubt that you're attending a tasting of the Union des Grands Crus Bordeaux: there are many people in suits. Mostly dark suits. And some fancy suits but that usually doesn't make things better. Well let's not get into that.

The best thing about the tasting is that you get a good impression of the vintage. It is not the place to taste all your favorites top-down. Not because you won&…

Summary of annual tasting. And coming up: Beaujolais Nouveau evening in Le Garage!

The 23th of October was one of the highlights of 2011 for Bolomey Wijnimport. Six producers from France visited Amsterdam to present their wines, and over 200 people came over to taste. Shall I be honest? It was a great day!


David Butterfield presenting his Meursault

I don't have a lot of pictures - at least I didn't have the time to shoot any - but these three will give an impression of the tasting. In this first picture David Butterfield is telling about his lovely Meursault, or about his Beaune 1er cru that was presented in Amsterdam for the first time. David is a rising star in Amsterdam, and you might find his wine in one of the restaurants here.


Eddy Oosterlinck presenting his Coteaux du Layon Faye

As you can see we had the luck of having a beautiful sunny day, with a great view from the tasting penthouse over the IJ, the water bordering the old harbor of Amsterdam. In the above picture the Belgian Coteaux du Layon producer Eddy Oosterlinck probably explains why his wines …

Château Rauzan-Ségla 2009

I have been neglecting this blog for 20 days, one the longest periods since October 2007. But the reason is good: the import of fine French wines is taking more and more of my time. A week ago 6 winemakers visited Amsterdam for the grand annual tasting, and over 200 customers came to explore the Bolomey Wijnimport selection. You can imagine that this resulted in some extra work, to put it mildly.

I will put up some pictures of the tasting later on.

This month Bordoverview blog has been around for 4 years. But we're not the only one celebrating. Château Rauzan-Ségla was founded in 1661 and has been producing wines for 350 years now. To celebrate that, the 2009 vintage of this wine has a special, very different label, drawn by Karl Lagerfeld.



Rauzan-Ségla even made a video presentation about the release of the 2009 vintage.

In November I will taste this 2009 - along with many other cru classés from this famous Bordeaux vintage - at the UGC tasting in Bruxelles. I am looking forward …

Winefield's 20th auction in Amsterdam

Dwayne Perreault — Winefield’s Auctioneers completed their twentieth wine auction in Amsterdam on Sunday, October 2nd at a new location, the Diamantslijperij. It was once again a very successful day, with over 88% in value being sold.

This is an encouraging result, considering that auctions in 2011 have been challenged to repeat their record setting performances of 2010. Last weekend, Sotheby’s held their worst auction ever in Hong Kong. They have also closed their Amsterdam office, except for sourcing.

A couple trends seem apparent: the crazy prices for Lafite Rothschild have seemed to plateau, but Mouton Rothschild has come on strong, a shift of Chinese allegiance perhaps? Could it be the decision to use a Chinese artist for the 2008 label is helping promote interest in China, whether Mouton intended it or not?

The top 5 selling lots were as follows:

1. Château Lafite Rothschild 2000 (12 bottles), €20,880
2. Château Le Pin 2000 (6 bottles), €15,360
3. Château Pétrus 2003 (8 bottles), €10,…

Sunday 23 October: meet the winemakers

Some people will only know me through this blog. But in real life I'm a wine importer in the first place. Bolomey Wijnimport is the Amsterdam-based company, and we import wines from France (only), from the classic regions Bordeaux, Burgundy, Champagne and Loire Valley. The focus: natural, typical wines with lots of of energy and freshness. The majority is from small-scale production.

This October will mark the start of a new tradition: once a year, in October, I invite the winemakers to Amsterdam. This year will be the second time, hence the start of a tradition. Te winemakers that I work with come from different regions, and make different wines. But they share the same spirit, they share certain ideas about viticulture (say, natural) and winemaking (that is: don't intervene too much).

I am excited to tell you the following six winemakers will be coming to Amsterdam in October:

- Damien DELECHENEAU (Amboise)
- Vincent CARÊME (Vouvray)
- Hubert MONTIGNY-PIEL (Orléans)
- David

"We will sell no wine before its time"

Dwayne Perreault — If you are old enough and from North America, you may remember the wines of Paul Masson, and the TV commercials from the 1970s featuring Orson Welles. These were some of the first wines I remember drinking, but strangely the memory was half buried and the name was forgotten. I thought the wines were from Paul Mas, but as Brigitte Barreiro, Paul Mas’ marketing manager wrote to me, “Paul Mas wines were not yet available then, but you were already dreaming of them!”

No, it was Paul Masson, who moved from Burgundy to California in 1878 and released his first “champagne” in 1892. Masson eventually became known as “the Champagne king of California.” The commercials featuring Orson Welles are priceless. At this point in his life, Welles was eating and drinking far too much, and the results were sometimes comical. Here is an actual commercial from that time:



If you looked closely, you noticed that Welles was not actually talking but the audio was dubbed over the footage. Th…

Harvest 2011 at David Clark, a summary in pictures and 2 movies

Last weekend Jan van Roekel and I paid a flying visit to our beloved Burgundy to participate in the two-days harvest of David Clark. This posting is a summary, focusing more on image than text.


Friday morning we started with David's most prestigious, and ripe, vineyard, the Vosne-Romanée. Harvesting is not just picking, so we got some explanations.

We picked with a small but very international team: the pickers had flown in from Canada, the US, Scotland, Holland (ourselves) and of course France. Besides picking we exercised in drinking great wines. The blast of the weekend was the Echezeaux 1966 from Domaine Leroy, a fascinating wine of unbelievable beauty. Thanks Gavin (an Australian living in Beaune) for sharing!


The smallest vineyard of Domaine David Clark (based in Morey Saint Denis) is the Morey Saint Denis vineyard: just the three northern rows of Les Porroux, a villages vineyard close to Chambolle. The production: one barrel.



In this first video you see the sorting and then I w…

Elk Run Vineyards, Maryland

Dwayne Perreault — It’s a simple fact, most people here equate American wine with Californian wine. There’s California, and then there’s Oregon and Washington state. Some quality wines are also made in New York state, in the Finger Lakes region (where Château de St. Cosme recently entered in a partnership with Forge Cellars) and on Long Island, but these wines are mostly consumed locally and never make their way overseas.


But the U.S.A. is a big country. Eastern U.S. wines are not limited to New York, as Virginia has over 120 wineries, and there are another 44 in Maryland. A recent trip there brought me to Elk Run Vineyards on Mount Airy, in Frederick County.

Fred Wilson (photo) began the first all vinifera winery in Maryland in 1980, after studying under Dr. Konstantine Frank in the Finger Lakes region for serveral seasons. Chardonnay, Riesling, Gewürztraminer and Pinot Gris were planted, along with Pinot Noir, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah.


Elk Run produces 5,000 cases …

Visit to Château Guiraud, Sauternes

On our way from Château de Pressac (previous posting) to Château Guiraud we stop for lunch in the ancient village of Castillon-de-Bataille. We’re always looking for that certain place, and our nose to find that certain place is getting better all the time.

And there it is, no doubt. We see the sign saying “andouillette” and it is as if the car parks automatically. There’s no discussion. Once inside it is crystal clear that we made the right choice: half of Castillon is having lunch here.


When the waiter hears us say “three times andouillette” his face changes. “Wow, you’re sure?” From that moment he is our friend. We have to come and see the sausages being grilled on an open charcoal fire.


And at the table something happens that I have not seen before: with a sharp knife the waiter makes a perfect incision over the length of the andouillette (in Holland we do that with a frikandel to stuff it with curry, mayonnaise and onions, and call it “an open leg”). Next he scatters freshly cut o…

Visit to Château de Pressac, Saint-Emilion

At the east end of Saint-Emilion, perched at the top of an impressive limestone hill, we find Château de Pressac. An unknown little gem on great terroir: steep limestone slopes all around, reminiscent of those from the premier grand cru classés that we find on the famous hill a bit to the west, indeed the one with the town of Saint-Emilion on top. It is early August.

The view from Château de Pressac down towards the Dordogne valley

While looking down over the terraced slopes, and overlooking the Dordogne valley – what an impressive view! – owner Jean-François Quenin elaborates on De Pressac’s unique location, and it doesn’t take much to convince us. He tells about the connection between the limestone around the town of Saint-Emilion, and the limestone here at De Pressac. Later Quenin shows us Kees van Leeuwen’s map with the Saint-Emilion soil types, and yes, that map serves as a sort of proof: the De Pressac hill is like a limestone bulge at the right side of Saint-Emilion.

Kees van Le…

Visit to Paul Mas, Part 2

Dwayne Perreault — To continue from my last posting, on visiting Domaine Paul Mas near Pézénas in the Languedoc, the red wines were presented by Cédric Deniset, European Sales Manager.

We first tasted the Vignes de Nicole Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot 2009 (€8.50). A very fragrant, ruby red wine with cherries and some strawberry jam in the nose. Tart red fruits, also some black currants, quite full bodied and very pleasant to drink.

Château de Conas, seated within the Domaine Paul Mas

The Vignes de Nicole Cabernet Sauvignon/Syrah 2009 (€8.50) is much darker, both in its colour and bouquet, but the taste is still predominantly red fruits, with very strong tannins backing it up. This is a solid wine.

The next two wines were both Languedoc grand crus. Many people may still be unaware that the Languedoc has grand crus; there are now ten. According to Rosemary George MW, the complete list is:

- Minervois la Livinière
- Corbières Boutenac
- Saint Chinian Roquebrun
- Saint Chinian Berlou
- Terras…

Visit to Paul Mas, Part 1

Dwayne Perreault — I sell a lot of Paul Mas wines, as these are very well made Languedocers ranging in price from €5 to €9, which come in a broad range of varieties and styles. It is not uncommon to see a full pallet arrive at the shop door, only to have to order more the next week. But of course, I’m not the only one. In fact, Paul Mas exports to more than 40 countries.

The modern business begins with Jean-Claude Mas, son of Paul, who together with his brother inherited 70 ha of vines at Château de Conas, just outstide of Pézénas.

Jean-Claude expanded the estate by acquiring Domaine de Nicole (40 ha) by Montaignac overlooking the Herault valley, Mas des Tannes (40 ha, half of which are certified organic), and Domaine Astruc (70 ha) at 300 metres in Limoux, with a cooler mid-Atlantic climate which favours white grapes, as well as Pinot Noir.

That’s a total of 220 ha, but that’s not all. Jean-Claude also contracts 80 growers who run a total of 780 ha to produce 500,000 cases per year of …

Understanding Fine Wines: Frank Smulders

Dwayne Perreault — Frank Smulders MW received his degree in 1992 and is to this day Holland’s only Master of Wine. I was his student while doing my WSET Advanced course, and I’ve also made a posting on this blog about a memorable Austrian wine trip Frank organized.

I was able, with great pleasure, to sit in on a recent lesson Frank gave, as part of his course on Understanding Fine Wines. The theme was Syrah, Grenache and Tempranillo, so there were top bottles from the Rhône, Rioja, Ribera Del Duero, Priorat and Australia to be tasted.

We began with a discussion of Tempranillo and a tasting of some top Spanish specimens. Tempranillo recently overtook Garnacha to become Spain’s most planted grape, and its character is very much determined by the climate. Frank underlined how important this is, by pointing out that Tempranillo produces clearly different wines in each of the three best known regions where it is grown: Rioja, Ribera del Duero and Toro.

In Rioja, Tempranillo has an almost Pino…

Not a Bordeaux 2010 wrap up (but some last personal, subjective recommendations)

It is a day after the fair to post about the wrap up of the Bordeaux 2010 campaign. It's over, for days already. I am finalizing things, the last sales, and lots of paper work.

A little while ago an anonymous reader replied to one of my posts wherein I suggested some 'good value primeurs'. He wrote something friendly like "you seem to see good value everywhere". He wasn't too happy about the high prices, plus he thought that I, as an importer, wasn't the person to give buying advice: I simply couldn't be objective.

And he is right, this anonymous reader, I am an importer, and I am subjective also. As is every critical taster with a clear preference. The good news: as an importer I decide what I buy.

With primeurs the choice is broad, and there's definitely no need to confine oneself to a limited array of wines (that need to be pushed). No, we visit Bordeaux for a full week, taste a shipload of wines, and then I share my personal thoughts with the rea…

Short trip to Burgundy, a summary

It's the Monday after the Vinexpo week, it is gorgeous weather, but the Bordeaux trade is locked in behind the computer because, as expected, the finale of the lengthy Bordeaux 2010 campaign is still being played. This morning Cos d'Estournel kicked off with 'friendly' price of - more or less - € 275 average consumer price. Friendly, because the price dropped a bit, by 5,7% to be precise.

Cos was followed by Margaux. The first rumours said the ex-négociant (the ex everything) price was € 500 (-7,4% on 2009) but after some discussion on Twitter it was 'agreed' that the first tranche was released at € 600 (+11,1% on 2009). Perhaps some very lucky guys were able to buy at € 500, but the general offer clearly was at € 600. A tiny offer, and there will soon be a second tranche.

The second wine, Pavillon Rouge du Château Margaux, was released at around € 150 consumer price, which is 80% on the 2009. Dramatically on the one hand, but in light of the recent price rises o…

Vinexpo? No, Burgundy!

Time to take a break. Last week was extremely busy with Bordeaux 2010 primeurs being released. They all came at the same time, very convenient (just to be sure that there's no misunderstanding: I'm not serious: to process all these wines was quite a job). But things are rolling now and that's good.

I've been micro-blogging all the time so readers who follow me on Twitter have seen the releases flooding in, but I will repeat the major ones here (reds and Sauternes only, prices are compared to the 2009 vintage).

Tuesday 14 June
- Léoville-Barton @ ± € 100 (+15,2). Still relatively good value.
- Smith-Haut-Lafitte @ ± € 107 (+24,2%). Good but expensive.
- Gloria @ ± € 40 (+15%). Recommended!
- Climens @ ± € 100 (0%). Not tasted, but will be great.
- Lagrange @ ± € 56 (+6,5%). Quite modest price rise.
- Grand-Puy-Lacoste @ ± € 81 (+20%). Superb!
- Canon-la-Gaffelière @ ± € 83 (0%). Good wine, good price.
- Clos Fourtet @ ± € 100 (+20%). Liked this one also.

Wednesday 15 June
- Beau-Sé…

Bordeaux 2010 campaign finally accelerated

Finally some fireworks last week. After a quiet Monday we saw a number of interesting releases on Tuesday 7 June, a/o De Fieuzal, Haut-Bages Libéral, Quinault l'Enclos, La Tour du Pin, Gruaud Larose, Haut-Batailley and Latour-Martillac.

But things really started going on Wednesday 8 June when the hottest wine of all came out: Château Pontet-Canet. This "flying fifth" flew in with a 38,9% higher price than last year's, and this first tranche sold out in one day: hot cakes at about € 140 per bottle. Extreme, but it must be said, the wine is of extraordinary quality.

The annoying thing is that it seems perfectly normal that prices are up again. As if the châteaux forgot that the 2009 prices were extreme already. The defence will be that the market has changed with the new demand from China. But for some wines it almost seems as a natural reflex, not every wine is a Pontet-Canet.

The average price rise so far isn't too bad actually. I was surprised to see that we'r…