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Liv-ex on Lafite

Date: Thu, Aug 13, 2009 Wine Tasting Wine Business

Back in Bordeaux after almost three weeks in England, and greeted by sunshine and heat that apparently has been around since we left.

I read this morning a very interesting report from Liv-ex ( www.liv-ex.com ) on Lafite Rothschild, which confirms a trend that I have increasingly noticed over the past few years. If you would like to follow this year's harvest at Lafite, have a look at the video I took for Decanter.com http://www.decanter.com/specials/286633.html

I am doing the same tomorrow morning for Latour...

Anyway, here is Liv-ex on the Fate of Lafite:

The strong demand from Asia for all things Lafite (which includes the second wine, Carruades de Lafite and the Lafite-owned Fourth Growth Duhart Milon) has been a much-discussed trend for a
number of years now. In previous years, however, Lafite has simply been the most visible of a whole host of wines that saw large price gains. In 2009 this trend has been different: Lafite and its stable mates are arguably the only wines to have shown consistent and significant price growth.
The demand for Lafite is ably demonstrated by a quick look at the trades going through on the Liv-ex trading platform. In the year to date Lafite has accounted for 22% of all transactions by value – if you include Carruades that rises to 26%. Furthermore, demand is yet to shows signs of
flagging. Indeed, July saw the 1982, 1999, 2000 and 2001 vintages trade at all time highs. And although some vintages, such as 1995, 2003 and 2005 are still some way of their peak values, they are all showing signs of life.

To quantify this price growth we created a Liv-ex Lafite Index of recent vintages (2000 to 2006) of both Lafite Rothschild and Carruades de Lafite. The index components are priced using the Liv-ex Mid Price, with each new vintage added to the index in June of the year it became physical.
The index is price weighted and was based at 100 in January 2004. The index has performed significantly better than any of the main Liv-ex indices, finishing July almost 140 points (or
60%) higher than the Liv-ex 100 Fine Wine Index. What is arguably most impressive, however, is the extent of the brand’s recovery from last autumn’s price slump. Indeed, the Liv-ex Lafite Index is now just 4.4% off its all time high. No other wine has recovered from the price slump of last
autumn so quickly and completely. Taking Carruades alone, the story is even more extraordinary: on average, recent vintages of Carruades are now 22% more expensive than they were at the peak of the market in June last year.

It seems Lafite is increasingly leaving behind its First Growth peers, whose prices it has closely tracked historically. This is most clearly demonstrated by the 1982 vintage, where Lafite, recently downgraded to 97 points by Parker, is almost three times the price of the 100-point Mouton Rothschild.

Questions remain over the sustainability of price differentials such as this. Will the market support Lafite being so clearly priced as ‘first’ among supposed equals?
The key to this question depends on whether the Asian markets, and Hong Kong and China in particular, keep on buying. What we do know is that the Lafite price bounce has coincided with an upturn in financial market conditions in Asia. Below is the Liv-ex Lafite index plotted against
Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index, with both indices based at 100 in June 2008, the high point of the wine market.

Perhaps those with large positions should keep as close an eye on Asian financial indicators as they do on the scores of Robert Parker.


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New EU Wine Regulations

Date: Mon, Aug 3, 2009 Wine Tasting Wine Business

This story comes care of Rebecca Gibb, writing on decanter.com, but is definitely worth reproducing here (thankyou Rebecca!)


The European Union's new wine regulations have come into force, ushering in a new era for the European wine industry.

The hotly-debated plans - agreed by agriculture ministers in December 2007 - aim to modernise the European wine trade and improve its competitiveness in the face of a growing challenge from the New World.

The reform will also bring in new simpler labelling laws. From August 1, all wine labels are now allowed to mention grape variety and vintage on the label. The French AOC becomes AOP (Appellation d'Origin Protegée) and the equivalent of vin de pays wines will now be known as IGPs (Indication Geographique Protegée).

A voluntary, three-year grubbing-up scheme to encourage uncompetitive producers to leave the industry will be put in place. Subsidies for crisis distillation will also be phased out as an added measure to reduce overproduction.

Mariann Fischer Boel, European Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development, said: 'Member States and producers have a great opportunity to make the best use of the new wine regime to build on Europe's international reputation for excellence. I truly believe this marks a turning point in our wine sector's history.'

The money used to fund distillation subsidies will be redirected to wine promotion and the modernisation of vineyards and cellars.

The New World has seen its share of global wine sales rise from 3% in 1990 to 30% in 2008, according to the OIV.


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Where all the best Bordeaux goes...

Date: Sat, Aug 1, 2009 Wine Tasting Wine Business

I had an excellent visit to Octavian Vaults in Wiltshire this week (www.octavianvaults.co.uk), the largest fine wine storage warehouse in England.

I have wanted to visit this place, housed 100 feet underground in 30 acres of disused limestone mines, for a few years, but was prompted into finally making an appointment because of writing about the Bordeaux City Bond ( www.decanter.com/news/news.php?id=284790 ), and wanting to understand better just what they are up against.

The first sign that you get of the scale of the operation at Octavian is when you arrive at the heavily-guarded entrance. A security guard issued reflective waistcoats for the trip down to the cellar, and checked off our names (if I had been a customer, or moving any wine, I would also have had photos taken, not just of me but also the number plate of the car). We were met by Laurie Greer, operations director, who gave an excellent presentation of what they do, and for who, and were then given torch, oxygen masks (in case of fire or mine collapse), and then sent down the 157 steps down to the cellars (access in only by foot, which makes going back up a pretty good workout).

IMG00203 (1)

In the cellars, there are over 750,000 cases of wine, and from the section I saw, it seems at least 80% French (the official figures are 70%). The vast majority, unsurprisingly, are from Bordeaux and Burgundy, with row upon row of Lafite, Latour, Haut Brion, Petrus... this must be the biggest stock of classified Bordeaux in one room anywhere in the world. Among the most exciting bottles I saw were a 1983 magnum of La Tache, and several cases of Romanee Conti 1982. Some lucky private client had palates of all the first growths from 2005 - all five, plus Cheval Blanc, Ausone, and Pavie (interesting that Pavie made it in there). Apparently Octavian received 135,000 cases of Bordeaux 2005 last year, compared to a normal en primeur campaign when around 30,000 cases would come in once the stock has landed.

The oldest bottle of wine in Octavian is a 1775 bottle of sherry, the oldest dated bottle from the Massandra collection that fetched a record £37,000 at Sotheby's auction in 2002, and there has previously been a 1791 Lafite.

The majority of clients are trade such as Farrs (who have their own entire vault), or private cellars of trade clients (so Farrs would have wines of their own, and wines that they are storing for their clients), or private customers who go direct to Octavian. It is a seriously large and impressive business, and also a rather nice way to spend a few hours, calculating the value of that pallet of Petrus, and hoping that whoever is lucky enough to own it is going to actually open and enjoy a few bottles...


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Bordeaux UNESCO Status Threatened

Date: Tue, Jul 21, 2009 Wine Tasting Wine Business

Bordeaux was officially declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site back in July 2007 ( http://www.decanter.com/news/127668.html ) and has since seen a rise in visitor numbers of around 25% according to figures from the Tourist Office at the end of 2008.

Unesco recognition is well known to enhance tourism and therefore the economic development of an area. In recognition of this, in 2008, the Unesco Heritage Center received a World Tourism Award for its outstanding achievements in the travel industry (for a very interesting look at this, read http://www.unausa.org/Page.aspx?pid=1334 )

The problem for Bordeaux are the plans to build a new bridge across the Garonne river in the city centre, between Bacalan and the Bastide. It is badly needed, because there is currently only one main bridge in the centre of town (in the photo below, and yes it is rather attractive, while the new one will be much more modern in design), and traffic is usually snarled up around it. But for the UNESCO committee, it will affect the look of the historical centre, that was awarded UNESCO status for its perfect preservation of its 18th century heritage.

bordeaux 003

Mayor Alain Juppe has said he favours the bridge over UNESCO, if he has to choose, but is doing everything he can to find a compromise. The local newspaper this morning reported that work may begin as early as September. Negociations with UNESCO took place throughout June (although reportedly Juppe came back early from one of the them in Spain so as not to miss the Fete de la Fleur, very sensible man). There were suggestions from UNESCO to create an underground tunnel between the two sides of the river rather than a bridge but that idea has been rejected because of cost, and also the effect on cylcists and pedestrians.

They have submitted new plans that modify the bridge and allow boats to pass underneath and is (they hope) more aesthetically pleasing, but are still waiting to hear what UNESCO decide.


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Sailing on the Garonne Estuary

Date: Mon, Jul 13, 2009 Wine Tasting Wine Business

As summer gets fully underway, I thought I would highlight another excellent wine tourism opportunity that is going on in Bordeaux this summer.


I spent last Friday afternoon, with my sister, father and our families, onboard the 'Coeur d'Estuaire' boat, on a three hour cruise around the Estuary from the Citadel de Blaye down to Bourg, where we got to eat an enormous platter of seasoof, and drink the lovely Chateau la Rose Belleuve with the owner Valerie Eymas ( www.chateau-larosebellevue.com ).

This cruise won the Jury Prize at the Best of Wine Tourism awards last year ( www.greatwinecapitals.com ), and I had wanted to try it ever since being at the awards ceremony and seeing Valerie and Jerome win. Last year they had a smaller boat, that was fully open. They decided this year to raise the stakes, and upped the boat to a small private motor-boat, about 15 metres, with a retractable sun cover and a sun deck (the definite highlight for the children on board).


This tour was 35 euros per person, plus 40 for the seafood platter - but the same company offers other excellent tours that are less expensive, such as the Balade Autour des Iles that is a guided tour around the monuments of the Estuary lasting just an hour for 12.50 euros, and a Balade Ile Margaux, which I want to try later in the summer. This one goes to the Ile Margaux, one of the small islands that you can see in the Estuary between the Medoc and Blaye, where there is a small wine estate, Chateau Tour de Castillon. This two hour trip stopes at the island and you get to do a tour of the winery, then leave with a bottle of wine. This tour is 38 euros per person with a picnic, 28 euros without.

Information on these tours www.coeurdestuaire.com , 06 82 17 58 22.


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Bordeaux sweetens up its wine tourism

Date: Thu, Jul 9, 2009 Wine Tasting Wine Business

The new Sweet Bordeaux association (twitter followers, see @sweetbordeaux ), has had the excellent idea to group together its wine tourism offers for the rest of 2009.

Just to recap, the 11 appellations of moelleux and liquoreux wines of the region are Bordeaux supérieur, Côtes de Bordeaux Saint-Macaire, Graves Supérieures, Premières Côtes de Bordeaux, Sainte-Foy Bordeaux, Cadillac, Cérons, Loupiac, Sainte-Croix-du-Mont, Barsac, Sauternes.

And the tourism on offer is:
May 16 to October 11 : contemporary art exhibition Chateau Guiraud in Sauternes. 40 works of art from major contemporary figures from the 1970s onwards (owned by bordelaise private collector Louis Nègre.
Free guided tour. Château Guiraud - ' 05 56 76 61 01 ; http://chateauguiraud.com

June 14 to September 15 : 'Sauternes au fil de l’eau'
Take a canoe trip along the Ceron river from the 'Base Nautique' at Bommes, for around one hour. Arrive at Domaine de Carbonnieu (AOC Sauternes) for visit and tasting.
Departures at 10h30 and 3pm, reserve at tourist office. 12 €/pers.
Langon : 11, Allées Jean Jaurès 33210 LANGON – ' 05 56 63 68 00 ; langon@sauternais-graves-langon.com
Sauternes : 11, Rue Principale 33210 SAUTERNES – ' 05 56 76 69 13 ; sauternes@sauternais-graves-langon.com

18July : Cinema night at Château Bastor-Lamontagne in Preignac
Drinks and snacks at 7.30pm (reserve ahead, 9,50€ per pers.) then free showing of Sideways.
Les Ateliers des Trois Rivières : Mairie 33210 Preignac - ' 05 56 76 86 29

August 21-23 : Walks through Cadillac
Animations, music, street theatre, Cadillac car rallies and wine tastings. Fireworks over the Garonne on Sunday night.
Free access. Informations : 05 56 62 12 92 ; http://baladesencadillac.free.fr

August 29-30 Medieval Weekend in Saint Macaire.
Free access except to banquets and tavern, which should be booked ahead. Programme sur le site http://www.medieval.dropt.org

Friday July 24 : Bielsa Family (variété) ; vendredi 31 juillet : New Bumpers (jazz band) ; vendredi 14 août : Groove Factory (jazz-rock) ; vendredi 21 août : Le Grand Ordinaire (fanfare). Office de Tourisme de St Macaire : 8 rue du canton 33490 Saint Macaire - ' 05 56 63 32 14 ; saintmacaire@entredeuxmers.com

Aug 29-30 : Harvest Sounds at Château Majoureau in Caudrot
Photographer Florence Moëgling and music group will be leading the show, from 3pm on Saturday afternoon. Vignobles Delong : Mathieu Delong ' 05 56 62 81 94 ; familledelong@hotmail.com

September and October, Harvest Weekends in Premières Côtes de Bordeaux et Cadillac
Cultural and wine discovery, take part in harvests, visit and stay in properties, visit the Cadillac Bastide 141 € par pers. Office de Tourisme de l’Entre-Deux-Mers ' 05 56 61 82 73 ; info@entredeuxmers.com

October 3-4 Journées "Chai ouvert" à la Cave de Quinsac
Cave de Quinsac ' 05 56 20 86 09 ; contact@cave-de-quinsac.com

Early October: Harvest Day at Château de Rolland in Barsac, from 9-4, take part in harvest, then tasting and lunch.
30 € par pers. Château de Rolland ' 05 56 27 15 02 ; info@chateauderolland.com

12-18 October: "Apprenti-vigneron" at Château Dauphiné-Rondillon in Loupiac. Workshop for children from 4 years old about viticulture and wine. Château-Dauphiné-Rondillon ' 05 56 62 61 75 ; info@vignoblesdarriet.fr

October 17-18: Open Doors Weekend, AOC Graves Supérieures
Maison des Vins de Graves ' 05 56 27 09 25 ; http://www.vins-graves.com

Autumn and Winter: Tasting Introductions at Cadillac.
Automne et hiver : initiation à la dégustation à Cadillac. 9-11am & 2-4pm http://www.closiere.com - Inscriptions : maisondesvins@closiere.com



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Shortlist for the Louis Roederer International Wine Writers’ Awards 2009

Date: Tue, Jul 7, 2009 Wine Tasting Wine Business

I heard today that the shortlist has been announced for the Louis Roederer International Wine Writers’ Awards 2009, and am absolutely thrilled to have been shortlisted.

The full shortlist this year is:

International Wine Feature Writer of the year 2009
Jane Anson
Articles from Decanter

Tim Atkin
Articles from Wine & Spirit; The Observer

Chris Losh
Articles from Imbibe

Margaret Rand
Articles from Decanter

International Wine Columnist of the Year 2009
Tim Atkin
Columns from OLN, The Observer and Intelligent Life

Michael Broadbent
Columns from Decanter

Robert Joseph
Columns from Meininger's Wine Business International

Joanna Simon
Columns from Classic FM Magazine and The Sunday Times

Louis Roederer Award for International Wine Book 2009

Neville Blech, Philip Williamson and David Moore
A Guide to the Wines of England and Wales

Kathleen Burk and Michael Bywater
Is this bottle corked?

Oz Clarke

Robert Parker
The Wine Buyer's Guide (7th Edition)

Champagne Writer/ Presenter of the Year 2009

Giles Fallowfield
Articles from Harpers Wine & Spirit and The Drinks Business

Jane Parkinson
Articles from The Drinks Business

Tom Stevenson
Articles from Wine & Spirit, The World of Fine Wine
and Meininger's Wine Business International

John Stimpfig
Articles from Financial Times & How to Spend It

Online Wine Writer of the Year 2009

Julia Harding MW
Articles from www.jancisrobinson.com

Natalie MacLean
Articles from www.nataliemaclean.com

Neal Martin
Articles from www.erobertparker.com

Kate Thal
Articles from www.greenandbluewines.com

Regional Wine Writer of the Year 2009

Christine Austin
Articles from Yorkshire Post

Will Lyons
Articles from Scotsman on Sunday

Hamish Marett-Crosby
Programs from BBC Radio Jersey

Liz Sagues
Articles from Ham & High

Helen Savage
Articles from The Journal

The Panel of Judges
Victoria Moore
Author, Feature Writer and Wine Columnist
Simon Berry Chairman of Berry Bros & Rudd Ltd
Tom Cannavan Wine Writer and Journalist
Andrew Jefford, Journalist, Author and Presenter
Charles Metcalfe, Wine Writer, presenter, co-chairman of the International Wine Challenge, Chairman of the Panel of Judges

The awards will be presented on Monday 7th September 2009 at The Gherkin,
30, St Mary Axe


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Provenance Wine Bond: new ways to store your Bordeaux wine

Date: Mon, Jul 6, 2009 Wine Tasting Wine Business

I had a very interesting visit this morning with Pierre Antoine Casteja of the negociant company Joanne this morning. It was the first time that I had visited their offices, in Fargues St Hilaire just outside of Bordeaux (a very nice gourmet village on the outskirts of Entre deux Mers) with one of the best poissoneries in the Gironde) - and also the first time I had properly met the owner, although we happened to be sitting next to each other during the recent Masseto tasting at Vinexpo and it turned out that we both had a shared love of all things Japanese.

I was there to look at this new bonded warehouse, to be called Provenance in Bond (not Chateaux Bond as they had previously thought). Joanne are one of the investors in Bordeaux City Bond that I have written about recently, but have also decided to set up their own version. They already had extensive warehouse facilities at their offices, so clearly decided that they would be missing a trick if they didn't make the most of them.


The warehouse for the new project is 3,500m2, has three different systems of security, and like Bordeaux City Bond will cost 6 euros per case per annum to store wine, plus insurance. The thing that seems most attractive is that all wine will be insured at the price on the Place de Bordeaux, which is always pretty much the best highest price worldwide for older wines, and therefore very attractive for anyone storing their wine there.

The fact that there are now two very good alternatives for storing wine tax-free in Bordeaux (with surely plenty more on the way), will I feel sure change the dynamics of Bordeaux, and make it less of an archaic place for purely trading en primeur wines. In theory, it should make it a viable world-wide centre now for not only trading but storing and therefore re-selling wines over a longer period of time. And in a bonded warehouse where wine gets delivered with perfect traceability straight from the chateau, with no carbon footprint. So good to finally have an example of Bordeaux acting in a commercially-minded, modern manner!!


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Hubert de Bouard takes over as president of Premiers Grands Crus Classés de Saint-Emilion

Date: Thu, Jul 2, 2009 Wine Tasting Wine Business

There is always one dinner at Vinexpo that you really wished you had made it to. Last time (2007) it was Chateau Haut Bailly's opening celebration, which is generally renowned as being the best opener in recent years (I didn't make the same mistake twice, and accepted their dinner invitation very quickly this year).

This Vinexpo, it was the Dîner Millésimes de Collection, held on June 23 at Château Angélus, where everyone ended up drinking Premier Grand Cru Classes of Saint Emilion from various old vintages of the 20th century, with food cooked by Michel Troisgros. I had decided to have a night off formal dinners and gone to the (very enjoyable) Clos des Quatres Vents in Margaux, but clearly missed the best night of the week...


Anyway, that dinner was the occasion for Eric d’Aramon, the President of the Groupement de Premiers Grands Crus Classés de Saint-Emilion to announce his departure. After 13 years at the head of the Groupement, which comprises twelve of the Saint-Emilion First Classified Growths, Eric d’Aramon, the Managing Director of Château Figeac, has decided to step down.

Hubert de Bouärd de Laforest, owner of Chateau Angelus, has been appointed as the new President. The new presidency will come into effect July 3. He stepped down as president of the St Emilion wine body a few years ago, and was clearly missing the local action!


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Bordeaux Museum Curator to be tried for child pornography charges

Date: Wed, Jul 1, 2009 Wine Tasting Wine Business

I received this press release today from the Bordeaux Museum of Contemporary Art (the CAPC), and think it is worth reproducing in full, in support of the museum's (former) director and curators who are being affected by a judge who sounds to have not moved on from Lady Chatterley's Lover. It concerns an exhibition that was held at the excellent CAPC museum back in 2000.

"Presumed Innocents", the trial: 10 years later

Bordeaux Judge Reopens Decade-Old Child-Porn Charge Against Curators Marie-Laure Bernadac, Henry-Claude Cousseau, and Stéphanie Moisdon

Indicted at the end of 2006, after six years of investigations, a long period during which no element was produced that could have fed the prosecution (the specialized unit for minors and the rectorship gave a favourable opinion) and after the attorney general of Bordeaux called for a not guilty decision in march 2008, the trial judge Jean-Louis Crozier has just decided to refer before the magistrate's court Marie-Laure Bernadac, Henry-Claude Cousseau, and Stéphanie Moisdon, for having, within the exhibition entitled "presumed innocent- contemporary art and childhood " organized 2000 in the CAPC contemporary museum of art in Bordeaux exposed " violent and pornographic art works "*.

With this decision—which, in an extremely unusual move, disregards the conclusions of a Parquet investigation—the entire national and international artistic and professional community, together with the cultural image of France, have come under attack and stand accused, offended.

For the first time in France, two museum directors and a curator are to be tried in a criminal court for exhibiting works of art that have already been shown throughout the world or put on view since the Bordeaux exhibition in art shows that have not elicited the least unfavorable reaction from the public. The thinking that went into preparing the incriminated exhibition, focused on a major subject of art history, was developed collectively and was shared by the relevant state oversight authorities.

This court case from an earlier century, fiercely, relentlessly prosecuted by a single judge in contempt of artistic creation and individuals' right to accede freely to all forms of art, is indicative of a dangerous obscurantist attitude. The trial will take place in Bordeaux under pressure from a local child protection association named La Mouette, in turn supported by an extremist press that has already been found guilty of libel against one of the accused.

How is it possible that what is considered viewable and acceptable everywhere else should not be so in Bordeaux? What will be put on trial in the Bordeaux magistrates' court a few months from now is the work and personal and professional conviction of three figures of the world of art and culture unanimously recognized for their commitment to that world. They have already received thousands of messages of support from all horizons.

This attempt to "criminalize" artists and other actors for their creative work, together with the cultural sites that diffuse that work, requires us to be extremely vigilant about censorship of this kind, whose perpetrators are ever ready to use noble causes such as child protection to authoritarian, liberticidal ends.

* including works by Christian Boltanski, Gary Gross, Paul McCarthy, Mike Kelley, Cindy Sherman, Nan Goldin, Robert Mapplethorpe, Elke Krystufek, Carsten Höller, Annette Messager, Ugo Rondinone…..


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The Yale Whiffenpoofs to sing at Chateau Kirwan

Date: Tue, Jun 30, 2009 Wine Tasting Wine Business

When I heard that one of the world's most famous all-male choirs was coming to the Medoc, I have to admit I was besides myself at the thought of seeing the London (or San Francisco for the matter) Gay Men's Chorus...

Unfortunately, that wasn't to be (but please some friendly chateau owner be the first to offer them a berth). Instead, it is the Yale Whiffenpoofs, who are celebrating their centenary as a group of all male acapella singers from Yale University.

They will be singing at Château Kirwan in Margaux on Wednesday July 22nd, as part of a world tour that started last month. The choir was formed in January 1909 - originally as a quartet who met for weekly concerts, but today there are 14 of them, who will be singing things from Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra and others.

They are singing as part of the Musique au Coeur du Medoc programme that is held every summer, and will also be appearing at Rauzan Segla.

The concert starts at 8.30, with a tasting of course afterwards. For info call Kirwan on 05 57 88 71 00



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14 Vintages of Masseto

Date: Fri, Jun 26, 2009 Wine Tasting Wine Business

This iconic Italian wine, the Petrus of Italy as it is known, is owned by Tenuta dell'Ornellaia and is made from a single vineyard of seven hectares. It is 100% merlot, and has been gaining in notoriety ever since its first vintage in 1986 - when it was decided to vinify this particular plot of merlot separately, from mineral-rich clay soils, because it was showing such promise.


The reason that this large tasting was taking place at Vinexpo is because Masseto has just started being sold through the Place de Bordeaux. To celebrate this, the winemaker (Axel Heinz), general manager (Leonardo Raspini), and oenologist (Michel Rolland), held a tasting of 14 vintages, attended by many of the negociants who will be selling it, and a few journalists. The order is slightly unusual - the winers were presented first went by year, and then those wines ready to drink now, then finished with four Icon Vintages.

The gathered Bordeaux palates may have been expecting a merlot that they recognised from Pomerol, but Masseto is very different, with an opulence and fleshiness to it that comes from the hotter weather (the average alcohol was 15%, although the balance was such that you barely noticed). They were keen to acknowledge this: 'Our wines are born under the sun and we don't want to hide that,' said Heinz. 'We know that our merlot is not in Bordeaux, and we want to show the warmth in our expression of the grape, but no great wine works without balance, and we hope this tasting shows that balance and great acidic backbone that makes Masseto a wine for ageing aswell as for pleasure.'

Each year, between 30,000-32,000 bottles are produced. The cost upon release varies from around 90 euros up to 160 euros, depending on vintage, and quickly gains secondary value. The 1998, for example, was 114 euros on release, and is now worth over 500 euros.



1987 Wonderful tertiary aromas in the wine, of white truffles, bracken, lots of warm autumnal flavours, but this is at its plateau I would say. A lovely powerful finish, but one to enjoy today. This was the first vintage to have the name Masseto on the label - the previous (inaugral) year, 1986, simply called this wine 'Merlot.'

1990 Again a lovely open nose, still good fruit and good acidity, some spicy undertones, nice dryness and gorgeous layers of flavour. Masseto usually spends 24 months in new oak, but by this stage it is fully integrated, with melted tannins and very flattering.

1994 - I tasted this right at the end of the tasting (had arrived late), so after I had been drinking the big, concentrated wiens of later years. It was a lovely contrast, still well structured but the texture was silky, gentle and very warming, open nose, leather and roses.

2002 - Heinz on this year 'we had to have the courage not to make a wine that the vintage didn?t allow. The weather didn't give naturally great concentration, so it spent shorter time in new oak than usual'. The wine in this year is delicate and fresh, but underneath the initial delicacy there is real impact and great length.

2003 - No rain at all during this growing season, so early ripening of course. Difficult to get the correct ripeness so as to keep freshness. They have never not produced a Masseto since its first vintage, but in this year did only make 40% of normal production (so around 22,000 bottles), so as not to have any merlot that was raisiny and over-ripe. There are touches of over-ripeness, but still good aromatics and some smooth tannins. Rolland said, 'very pretty, cigar box.'

2005 Also a difficult vintage in which to manage the heat, but great wine. This being Bordeaux, of course everyone expected the 05 to be stunning, but the 2004 and 2006 were apparently better in this region. This was the first vintage that Heinz arrived at Masseto. The vintage started well, but rain in mid-September threatened the grapes. Lots of liquorice, very powerful ' we listened to Michel Rolland who was advising us to wait, and he was right as the sun returned and there was no rot. We picked on September 30, which was very late for Tuscany'. Rolland 'You can't have perfect grapes every year of course, but this is still an excellent drinking wine, very good with food, still another five years before it will really be ready to start drinking.'

1995 Rainy early, then very good weather. One of the first Massetos that is really coming to fruition right now. There is opulence and ripeness but not over-ripe and with a nice spiciness. Gives a good impression of how the great Massetos taste when they are at their peak. Rolland, 'This is not a blockbuster, but a wonderfully balanced wine that is getting ready to drink. Tobacco, chocolate, cedar all coming through.'

1997 Good to drink now, but again a challenge because of very high temperatures. This is very opulent, plush even, and very soft and smooth. This is out of a magnum bottle so ageing more slowly, still very good flesh. A showy wine, but luscious and enjoyable, very appealing (was early on considered a great vintage). 1997 was the beginning of a new era in Tuscany, and this is a strong and powerful wine. I like the desntiy of it, big concentration of tannins. But for me I thought the tannins were a little rough and dry on the finish compared to some of the other years on display.

1998 Another hot one! But seemed easier according to Heinz coming straight after 1997. Masseto is located in coastal Tuscany and this was a very good vintage for the properties that benefited from a coastal breeze. Rich and chewy but more refined tannins, and a minty freshness that adds a lovely skip. Again the slightly dry tannins of a hot year, but there is better balance and freshness in this, and it is very lively. Balsamic and spice, can wait a long time to drink this. Very good quality - my favourite so far in the tasting.

2000 A textbook interpretation of a hot vintage, and according to Raspini 'so pleasant to drink now that I find it hard to wait. Not because it doesn't have potential, but because it is just so pleasant'. I was fully in agreement w A hint ofover-ripeness and dry tannins, but one of the most approachable of all Massetos, giving immense pleasure straight away, very balanced, very Mediterranean. I loved this one, gorgeous ripe damson plums, rich and spicy, good flesh and little punches of freshness sending waves down the palate. 94.

The Milestones
Rolland A fantastic vintage is when everything comes together, when mother nature is very generous and winemaking becomes easy.

1999 Rolland 'so alive and moving in every sense'. True aromatic complexity, density, complexity, longevity. Integrity of the fruit and the tannins are still very closed.

2001 Another great vintage. Thomas Duroux (now of Palmer) was winemaker at the time, as he joined in July 2001, so he stood up at this point to talk about it. 'Winemaking is very different at Ornelaia and Masseto. You have to have nerves of steel, and be prepared to wait. Alcohol is more than 15% and you can worry about balance, but it is there and you have to trust the wine. There is very good balance because the acidity and tannic structure fully balance out the alcohol.' This is incredibly deep and intense in flavour, but no hint of heaviness, not out of balance, all rich and lush but all in check. Power and elegance.

2004: Interesting vintage, this time with Axel Heinz as winemaker. Natural balance in this wine, perfect growing season, meant the wine is well in balance, there is a thickness to the texture, it is heavy and still very very young, but smooth. The grapes were perfectly ripe an everything went well - this is clearly going to age very well, it is strong, a big wine right now, but plenty of potential for serious ageing.

2006 Very dry growing season, no rain from April to September. But that was probably key to the quality because natural concentration, then had the warm winds in September that further concentrated things, then one weekend of very hard rainfall (close to 200mm in one weekend, when Rolland happened to be visiting!). Apparently having a short, intense burst of rain like that is less damaging to the vines than having a little bit fall every day or two for a long period, because much of it runs off immediately, not the same dilution effect. This again has very long ageing ahead of it dry tannins and the en, almost resinous. Very big tannins, but good ripeness, high acidity.


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Fete de la Fleur: Fireworks and Michael Jackson

Date: Fri, Jun 26, 2009 Wine Tasting Wine Business

Vinexpo finally ended last night, after five days of non-stop walking, working and socialising.

Any attempts during the opening Lafite press dinner to keep things understated were definitely thrown to one side at Chateau d'Issan, where the Fete de la Fleur was held last night.

Over 1,500 people gathered at the beautiful Chateau d'Issan in Margaux, where owner Emmanuel Cruse is the Grand Maitre of the Commanderie de Bontemps. This commanderie host the Fete de la Fleur evening, and last night was their 60th annivesary. Among the guests were Sophie Marceau and Christophe Lambert, along with Bordeaux mayor Alain Juppe and pretty much every major wine buyer who had spent the week at the fair. I was next to a very nice wine buyer from Korean Airways who told me they are currently pouring Leoville Poyferre and Pontet Canet 2002 in first class.

Last night we were served Haut Bailly 2003 to start the evening (after white Graves cru classes on the lawn, where I had Larrivet Haut Brion), then Lagrange 2001, Chateau d'Issan 2000, Mouton Rothschild 1988 and finally 1986 Climens. All the wines were brought into to either opera music or songs by Placido Domingo, the highlight for me being his duet with Frank Sinatra of My Way.

Oh, and then Bollinger champagne after we had watched the fireworks and moved into the brilliant vaulted cellar that had been turned into a nightclub. It's hard to beat the sight of Olivier Bernard, Dominique Befve and various other chateaux owners letting off steam after a week of Vinexpo by dancing to the Eurthymics and - of course - lots of Michael Jackson.

fete de la fleur

The news broke for us at around midnight, when Marina Cazes' sister called from New York. Previously, the main celeb entertainment had been watching Sophie Marceau and Christophe Lambert getting very cosy at the next table to me, but the Michael Jackson news spread through the room very fast.

I left at around 3.30, but I hear the very last guests made their way home around 5.30 this morning. A really wonderful Fete de la Fleur, and a magical setting.

A few other Vinexpo highlights:
The enormously oversized glasses on Bernard Magrez’s stand. By far the weightiest and largest glassware on display in Hall One, so many congratulations to him.

Two 100% malbecs were launched from Chateau Magdeleine Bouhou in Blaye Cotes de Bordeaux, an interesting development that I'm sure we will see more of.

Of course, the wonderful couldn't-have-been-scripted spat between Vinexpo and Italissima – having an oversized marquee too near to the site ‘it’s obvious they want to make the most of vinexpo without paying’. For full details of this story, read Oliver Styles excellent news stories on http://www.decanter.com/news/news.php?id=285010

The final press release claiming that the drinking in moderation wine and health forum was well attended and one of the most popular events. I know that is politically expedient to show how committed vinexpo is to this subject, but I was there and believe me it was far from well attended. I counted maximum of 40 at any one time, while the same conference room the next day for the wine tourism forum was bursting at the seams.

The wines of course - among the highlights were the wonderful Masseto tasting (tasting notes asap), plus at dinners Yquem 88, Haut Brion 88, Lafite 78. And an excellent tasting with Viniportugal yesterday.

And finally, a vinexpo success story; sometimes the walk between stands and especially halls is distinctly annoying, but a friend told me that he met new a client, talked about establishing a contract and finally shook hands on deal while walking from one end of Hall 1 to the other - great example of how we should all be maximising our time at these events!


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Flying French Winemakers

Date: Wed, Jun 24, 2009 Wine Tasting Wine Business

I went to an excellent tasting at Vinexpo yesterday, showing the wines that French winemakers have made at their own estates in other parts of the world.

Over 13 different countries were represente, with wines such as Opus One from Napa, Chapoutier's wines in Australia and Portugal, Michel Laroche in Chile and South Africa, plus Francois Lurton, Bruno Prats, Louis Roederer.

I asked David Pearson, director of Opus One, whether he thought the idea of the tasting was sound - was there really such a thing as a French-influence wine?? His reply was, 'There are certainly cultural styles that impose themselves on the winemaker, and he or she inevitably brings things from their upbringing to their role, so yes I think there is an influence. It may be heresy in France, but I believe that there are things beyond the terroir that influence the quality of the wine, and the winemaker and his philosophy is very much one of those things.'

It was a fascinating tasting, and I wish I had managed to get round all of them, but was mainly concentrating on Portuguese wines for my Hong Kong article. However, did get round a few, a few tastings notes below:

Bodega Diam'Andes, Uco Valley 2007 (approx 40 euros)
Owned by the Bonnie family of Malartic Lagraviere in Pessac Leognon, this is 70% malbec, 25% cabernet sauvignon and 10% merlot. They have planted some syrah in the vineyard so expect to see some in the wine in the near future. Diam'Andes is part of the Clos de Los Siete project with Michel Rolland. Rich and smooth on the palate, with plenty of coffee and toasty oak. Good crunchy fruit, with the power of an Argentinian malbec, but some good restaint shown also. According to owner Severine Bonnie, they shipped out the same small trays used to harvest the grapes in Bordeaux, and many of the same vineyard practises are followed in the two estates.

Opus One, Napa 2005 ( www.opusonewinery.com )
As of this vintage, Opus One has been an entirely independent entity, although still owned by 50% Baroness Philippine de Rothschild and 50% Constellation Brands. What a pleasure to get to taste this wine; velvety, very intense fruit but with a rich mocha sweep through the mouth, with beautiful structure and length. Very impressive. 88% cabernet sauvignon, 10% merlot, 3% cabernet franc, 1% malbec. This year had a late harvest that finished on November 2nd, bringing full phenolic ripeness and depth to the fruit. Barrel aged 18 months in new French oak. It is of course always interesting to taste these 'icon' wines in a general lineup, but I think they can be quietly confident that they acquitted themselves well!

Francois Lurton, Quinta do Malho, Duoro 2007, www.francoislurton.com
Francois bought Quinta Beira Douro estate in 2006, set on the banks of the Duoro river and just 10 hectares of vines. This Quinta dp Malho has now been establishe at the same place but at a higher altitude, in middle terraced vineyards that has vines dating back to pre-phylloxerra. It uses unusual varieties such as Souzao, Tinta Amarela and Tinta Francisca - good spiciness to the wine, very well structured and intense, but nothing harsh about it, no let up in mid-palate.

Duas Quintas 2007, Duoro Red www.ramospinto.pt/
Quality collection of wines from the Ramos Pinto port house, that is today owned by Roederer hence the French connection, but run by an entirely Portuguese family, and same family that has been running the estate since its inception. They were among the very first to make still wines in the Duoro. This has Roriz 50%, touriga national /touriga franca 50%. A lovely tempranillo nose, quite high in alcohol so slightly unbalanced on the finish, but lovely sweet fruit in the mid-palate.

Ramos Pintos Collection 2006, Duoro
40% touriga nacional, 40% touriage franca, plus others. Better balance here, more weight of fruit, lovely depth and a very pretty wine. 14.5%ABV, but less intrusive than in the first wine, the alcohol sits very well against the fruit and the structure - an easy-drinking wine, but with punch.

Duas Quinats Reserva, Duoro 2005 (25 euros)
80% touriga nacional, 5% roriz, plus others. Evidently up the quality scale, lovely crisp fresh fruit, excellent structure and aromas, really a good wine and no harsh edges or difficult tannins. An excellent example of why the Duoro is rapidly gaining notoriety for its reds.

Ex Aequo, Domaine Bento and Chapoutier, Vinho Regional Estremadura 2006
A joint venture between Rhone legend Michel Chapoutier and Portuguese winemaker Domaine Jose Bento Dos Santos. The estate was apparantly a 'coup de coeur' for Michel Chapoutier, located just south of Lisbon towards the Altentejo. Chapoutier is of course a syrah lover, as his family has made syrah in the Rhone for over 200 years and he makes some of the best examples in France, all farmed biodynamically. This wine is 70% Syrah, with the balance made up by Touriga Nacional. Gorgeous and soft, very silky, a lighter structure than the Duoro reds not suprisingly, giving a gossamer structure, but with a core of juicy ripe blackberries and an excellent structure. This is the first year of their joint venture, and I'm looking forward to trying others.

Laroche – L’Avenir Grand Vin Pinotage 2006 (20 euros)
Famous for his Chablis, Laroche is now making very good wine in both Chile and South Africa. I tried an excellent 100% Chenin Blanc also from Stellenbosch, but am including this one review here because I have a very hard time finding pinotages that I like, so was genuinely surprised and happy to taste this wine. I usually find with the pinotage grape that the ‘earthy’ (they say), ‘medicinal’ (I say) side of the grape dominates over the fruit, but they have worked this one sufficiently that it is very much the spicy, ripe black fruits that come through. Seriously good wine.

Quinta do Tedo AOC Duoro 2007 (14%), www.quintadotedo.com/
Won the Decanter Trophy under £10 northern Portugal trophy at the world wine awards, this is made by Vincent Bouchard of Bourchard Pere et Fils and was bought in 1992. 55% Touriga Nacional, 25% Tinta Roriz and 20% Touriga Franca. 12 months in 225-liter French oak barrels, 35% new oak and 65% 1-year old oak. Enjoyed all of his wines - they combined being very easy to drink with a real sense of personality, and presence. Use traditional lagars with foot-treading, malolactic in rotating steel tanks (40%) and in barrel (60%).

Quinta do Tedo Reserva, 2006
Only made in good years – after the initial nine months in barrel for all the wine, he decides on best barrels and keeps for further 13 months approx (two years in total). Lovely intensity, prunes, great length, mouth-watering crunchy fruit, very nice wine.

Quinta do Tedo, Gran Reserve 2005
No difference in ageing between Reserva and Gran Reserva, more the quality and intensity of the wine. No legislation governing the use of these words, but he selects the years that are richer and more intense to go into his Gran Reserve.


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