Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Chateau Lafite 2008

Very interesting developments from Chateau Lafite Rothschild. Their wine has been at the forefront of speculation and investment from the emerging fine wine drinking markets of China and Asia. This has pushed the prices significantly higher for their undoubtedly excellent First Growth wine from Pauillac. I have certainly noticed many Chinese people gawking at the gates of Chateau Lafite Rothschild when I visit the Chateau to taste the wine as part of

The Rothschilds have recently invested in a 25 hectare vineyard project on the Penglai peninsula in Shandong province of China. This area 800 km south of Shanghai could be very interesting for future wines.

The latest devolopment from Chateau Lafite Rothschild is to feature the Chinese figure 8 on their 2008 wine. This has immediately shaken the fine wine market, as earlier this week there was an incredible 10% rise in the price in one day. The bubble of fine wine has certainly not burst.....yet!

There is also an interesting article here in Decanter Magazine.

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

2008 Bordeaux

Wine maturing in the barrel cellar at Chateau Lynch Bages, 5th Growth Pauillac.

Earlier this week I was fortunate to taste 100+ wines from the 2008 Bordeaux vintage. The tasting was held at the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden, London by the Union de Grands Crus de Bordeaux.
It was a great opportunity to assess and discuss the wines, which I had previously tasted in Bordeaux as barrel samples in April 2009. These are now finished wines in bottle and ready for the market.
Overview: The 2008 vintage has been generally acclaimed to be of good to very good quality. The yields were severely reduced due to coulure and millerandage, which effect the vines at flowering. These two factors reduce the quantities and size of the eventual grapes on the bunches, but not necessarily the quality. There was also mildew, which is not un common in the humid Bordeaux area. The crucial time of September and October were exceptionnally good in 2008, which really saved the vintage. The yields are the lowest since the frost effected 1991 vintage.
The Markets:The wines were received by the international buyers and journalists in Spring 2009. The initial response was surprisingly positive after the doubts over the 2007 quality.
The only issue at the time was the fragility of the financial ca change! And whether anyone would buy them after so many people had filled up with 2005 and 2006 wines.

Here are my personal views of a selection of the wines tasted:

The Wines:
Chateau Lynch Bages 2008....incredible classic cassis Cabernet Sauvignon. Dark cedar character with a very fresh vibrant pure fruit style.
Chateau Pichon Longueville Comtesse 2008....very elegant lifted fruit style. Freshness. A bold style with excellent balance and oaky wrap.
Chateau Pichon Longueville Baron 2008....a rich dense brute. Full power and depth but also layered fruit and finesse. Seems like a long ageing wine.
Saint Julien
Chateau Leoville Barton 2008....Velvet smooth harmony between fruit and oak. Dark brooding fruit. Great texture and firm assertive tannins. Graphite, pencil shaving in mid palate.
Chateau Lagrange 2008....a full rounded style. Slightly creamy wrap of oak around the fruit. Good dense style, but also fresh.
Chateau Rauzan Segla 2008....Very bright fresh fruit. Clean spicey and powerful cassis/cedar.
Chateau du Tertre 2008....Rich bold style, but elegant too.
Chateau Poujeaux 2008...Good deep plummy style. Richness and balance, dry tannins after. A big mouthful!
Chateau Fourcas Hosten 2008....Light fragrant elegant style. Good balance and finesse.
Pessac Leognan
Domaine de Chevalier Blanc 2008....Wow. Absolute class. Broad Sauv Blanc structures, not at all like commercial Gooseberry, nettles. This has a harder backbone of stone fruit and balanced oak ageing. Zippy acidity but evolving tropical fruits. Mango, green apples, pineapple. Would love to see this wine evolve.
Chateau Haut Bailly 2008...Superb balance of fine elegant plum/damson fruits and rich ripe tannin wrap. Classy.
Chateau Malartic-Lagraviere 2008....A modern style of deep spicey fruit, but balanced with a velvet texture and good oak.
Saint Emilion
Chateau Canon-La-Gaffeliere 2008....Very good dark spice and fruit. A powerful style.
Chateau Petit Village 2008....Very lifted fesh dark damson, plum spice. Excellent texture and a deep layered palate. Velvet smooth finish.
Chateau Clinet 2008...Excellent deep cassis/plum style.
Chateau Climens 2008...almost hints of toffee on the nose, but also tropical fresh fruits.
Chateau Coutet 2008...excellent fresh zip from Coutet. Clean defined ginger spice.
Chateau Doisy Vedrines 2008.....Fresh bright almost flinty initially but with a great even depth of sweet fruit and long finish.

I tasted many many more wines! But these were the wines that grabbed my attention.

Impressions: The vintage is generally looking very good. The Saint Emilions were slightly disappointing...having shown so well in Spring 2009. Maybe the merlot has just tightened up. The Lynch Bages was spectacular, when it was less opulent than the Pontet Canet at the Primeur tastings (April 09). Pauillac and Saint Julien seemed to have the best consistency. The under rated (in the UK at least) Pessac Leognan area had some stellar wines...Haut Bailly, Domaine de Chevalier.

If I had two wines to choose.......

Domaine de Chevalier Blanc 2008
Chateau Lynch Bages 2008

Sunday, 3 October 2010

2009 Bordeaux, Facts and figures

A selection of Chateau La Gaffeliere, Premier Grand Cru Classe Saint Emilion tasted at the Chateau in August

This year has been truly remarkable. When I read Jancis Robinson's small article about 2009 growing and harvest conditions back in October last year I could sense that something was happening in Bordeaux.
The last 10 vintages of Bordeaux have all been of good quality. Perhaps the peaks have been 2000,2005 and 2009. But the troughs have not been disastrous either. The 2001, 2002, 2004 and 2007 will offer very good drinking wines, whilst the 2006 and 2008 are exceptional. The 2003 was the heatwave vintage, which has slightly more variability....but selectively there are some fantastic wines...mainly from the Left Bank.
But the real long term 'Great' wines will come from the 2000, 2005 and 2009 vintages.
I have been lucky enough to taste many of the top wines at the Chateaux from 2005 and 2009. In fact I have been in Bordeaux tasting and guiding with Bella Wine Tours almost 20 times this year.
The majestic Chateau de la Riviere, where we often stay on Bella Wine Tours.

The global wine trade has witnessed some extreme price increases for the 2009 Bordeaux wines, but sales have continued at great pace.
Here are some interesting stats for volume and value from Farr Vintners, who trade a lot of wine!

2009 £53m (30,000+ cases)
2008 £10.7m (12,000 cases)
2007 £5.5m (5,400 cases)
2006 £10.6m (9,000 cases)
2005 £24.7m (29,600 cases)

The figures are not precise. However the marked difference in value (for roughly the same volume) between the 2005 and 2009 vintages gives an indication of the price increases for the 2009 wines.

There are still wines available to buy from the 2009 vintage. The purchase is still Primeur, which means that the wine is in barrel and will be released in bottle from 2012. In fact I have been tasting some really interesting 2009 wines at the lower early bottled wines from Entre Deux Mers and the 'satellite' appellations rather than the big boys from the Cru Classe areas. The quality of ripe dense fruit and class is exceptional. Even at the lower levels (and more affordable levels) there will be some delicious wines available.

The immaculate vines at Chateau Petrus maturing nicely for the 2010 vintage (August 19th, 2010)

And just a thought.......I have been witnessing a very good growing season so far in Bordeaux for the 2010 vintage. The summer has been very good. The harvest is currently in full flow, so we will be able to assess the quality in a few months time.....but what will the prices be? Will it be a 'Classic' or a 'Great' or a 'Very Good' vintage? We shall see.............