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Cantenac Brown returns to reality

Date: Wed, May 6, 2009 Wine Tasting Wine Business

Chateau Cantenac Brown in Margaux announced that it was releasing its 2008 wine at 18 euros ex chateau, a drop of just over 43% from last year.

Parker called it the best wine he has tasted from the property, so well done to them for not letting that go to their heads and raise, or even keep the prices the same as last year (step forward Chateau Clinet yesterday and La Gaffeliere today).

My review during the primeurs said:
Chateau Cantenac Brown, Margaux
Like the elegance on the nose and the lovely restrained but rich colour. Much better than many of the samples in this tasting – good weight of fruit but the lovely acidity makes it seem light. 60% cabernet sauvignon, 40% merlot, and will spent its ageing in 60% new oak. One of the nicest so far. I have now tasted this twice, once at the chateau and once again during this blind tasting, and have been very impressed with each sample. They harvested from October 1 to 19. Now let’s see what they do with the price this year, as it has pretty much dropped off the radar due to its crazy pricing strategy. 92-94.

There are a lot of prices coming out this week after the Parker scores, and a few other interesting ones are Chateau Yquem down 59% at 160 euros, Chateau Figeac 35 euros (42 last year so down 16.67%). Overall, biggest price drops so far Lafite 45%, Margaux 45%, Mouton 50%, Latour 45%, Angelus 41.18%, Haut Brion approx 41%, La Conseillante 28.57% and now Cantenac Brown 43%.

Besides Clinet, others who have gone the wrong way are Chateau Larrivet Haut Brion Blanc 19.30 this year (up from 16.8 so 14.88% rise) and Chateau Forcas Hosten (very unfortunate for them as they brought their price out last week and then got a very low Parker score of 79-81...)

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French government to pay for your cheese and wine party...

Date: Sat, May 2, 2009 Wine Tasting Wine Business

Great story that was picked up in the Wall Street Journal last week about global cheese and wine parties to be held on June 4, courtesy of the French government...


An excerpt here (article by Max Colchester):
'France has long played up its culture of culinary excellence. But now the government fears the country's highbrow food traditions may have alienated the average consumer. So, in an effort to boost sales of wine and cheese -- two of France's more lucrative exports -- it is trying to promote the laid-back apritif, a moment before dinner when the French kick back with a glass of wine and some finger food.

To get the message across, the French Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, along with various wine and cheese producers, is spending around €1.6 million ($2.1 million) to sponsor cocktail parties in 19 countries across the world, including the U.S., Canada and Spain. The French government will cover 60% of the overall cost of the program, and the wine and cheese companies involved are underwriting the rest.

"Some people are terrorized by French gastronomy, especially French wine," says Marie-Nolle Guerin, head of external relations at Sopexa, a food-marketing company hired to organize the events. "We want to show that French cuisine can be relaxed too."

(... successful applicants...) will receive a hamper of French-themed party gear, including a corkscrew, an apron and a CD featuring pop singer Carla Bruni, wife of French President Nicolas Sarkozy.

In return for the gifts, the hosts must hold a party, take photos and blog before and after, in an effort to help create a buzz about French wine and food. After the party, they will have to answer a questionnaire seeking their opinion of the products they tasted.'

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Parker releases his 2008 Bordeaux scores

Date: Thu, Apr 30, 2009 Wine Tasting Wine Business

Robert Parker at The Wine Advocate ( http://www.erobertparker.com/ ) has finally released his 2008 scores. They went online late last night, and everyone is of course talking about them here in Bordeaux today.

He has scored a huge number of wines this year (compared to last, when he gave scores but no notes, and merely summed up his view of each appellation). Over 400 red wines have been noted for 2008, and many of them have received very high scores.

In his opening remarks, he says, 'It did not take me long to realize that the 2008 vintage was dramatically better than I had expected. It had all the qualities that make an excellent and in some cases, a great vintage so special: exceptionally dark opaque colors, gorgeously ripe fruit, stunning purity almost across the board, great freshness (because it was a cool year), slightly higher acids than normal, and remarkable density as well as concentration.' He compares many of the wines to the 2005 and to the 2000 vintages - something that many producers had reported him saying during the tasting week, and which they must have been relieved to see translated into print.

His top scores went to Lafite Rothschild (98-100), Ausone (96-100), Petrus (98-100) and Trotanoy (96-100). Also doing well are Pavie (96-98+), Pontet-Canet (96-98+), Ducru Beaucaillou (96-98), Troplong Mondot (95-97) and Le Dome (95-97). He gave Montrose a very high 95-97 also.

My tastes don't always coincide with Parker, but I do always enormously enjoy reading his highly intelligent reviews, and of course the inevitable digs that he gets in at other journalists in his opening remarks are worth the price of subscription alone. This year particular vitriol is reserved for blogs 'authored by anybody who can string a noun and verb together, and by many who can’t' and those who are 'totally obsessed with breaking the Bordelais, and demanding that prices come down, irrespective of quality.'

It will be interesting to see whether those well-scored wines that are yet to release will seize upon those remarks...

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Sushi and Magrez's Japanese Wine

Date: Thu, Apr 30, 2009 Wine Tasting Wine Business

I went to a really interesting food and wine matching evening last night at the boutique in Chateau Pape Clement, where Magrez (not actually in person, as he was in London at a tasting) was pairing his range of white and rose wines with some of the best Japanese food in Bordeaux from SushiShop ( www.sushishop.fr/ ). Magrez is running these food and wine matching evenings regularly at the shop and his wide range of international wines make them quite different than many in Bordeaux. There is one coming up in June for example on his Spanish wines.

On display were the Pape Clement Blanc (we were lucky enough to be given a fantastic vertical of the 2002 to 2008, the second vertical of this wine that I have had in the past month and confirmed again what a seriously impressive wine it is, personal favourites being the 2004, 2005 and 2007), the Rose version of the Prelat de Pape Clement, Domaine des Songes sweet wine from Bergerac and Magrez's joint venture in Japan, Magrez-Aruga, which is dry white from the koshu grape.


One of the reasons that I wanted to go last night was because I have visited Katsunuma Winery in Japan (in the Yamanashi Prefecture, at the foot of the Japanese Alps in the Kofu Valley which is becoming a mini Napa - ie the centre of the Japanese wine industry). I was writing a piece at the time for Wine and Spirit magazine, and had heard that Yuuji Aruga was one of the leading quality winemakers in the country, so headed out to see him at his very traditional wine shop, complete with rice-paper sliding doors in a low-rise wooden framed house. The winery itself is far more modern, and located in a different part of the town. He had just signed up to do a joint venture wine with Bernard Magrez, but at the time I tasted his own wines, but not this one as it was still on the vine!

This is a review that I wrote for Business Destinations about a rival French-influenced Japanese wine that gives a hint of the difficulties quality Japanese wine is up against:

Cuve Denis Dubordieu 2005, Millesimes Koshu Project
Japanese wine hasn’t exactly set the world alight until now. Partly because of the climate (up to 2,500mm of rain annually in some parts of the country), partly because of the viticulture (wine in Japan was traditionally made from the leftover table grapes that had been deemed unsuitable for consumption and then, once made, sold to people who couldn’t afford sak). But the Koshu Project is looking to change all that – this wine is the first to be made from 100 percent Japanese grapes, and is hoping to receive a ‘Certified for Export’ stamp, making it the first Japanese wine to be suitable for sale in the EU. Unoaked and very delicate, this has pale green hints and a fresh, citrus nose. Just 11 percent alcohol means this goes perfectly with fresh dishes such as sushi or even a mozzarella and tomato salad.

And the review that I wrote last night for Magrez's wine:
Magrez-Aruga Koshu, Isehara 2007
The first vintage of this collaberation between Bernard Magrez and Yuuji Aruga, and a very good example of how far Japanese wine has progressed in recent years. This is slightly richer and rounder than the Denis Dubourdeiu Japanese wine that I tasted a few years ago. Although still pleasantly light in alcohol at 11.5%, there is good mouthfeel, weight and texture to the wine. Isehara is the name of the plot, which has deep gravel, and the grapes are trained in pergolas traditional to the area known as Tanashiki-saibai - the height is important as there is high humidity through much of the year, so keeping grapes well aerated and far off the ground lowers the risk of rot. There is a light floral nose, good citrus flavours and a lovely minerality on the finish.

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A humane foie gras farm?

Date: Fri, Apr 24, 2009 Wine Tasting Wine Business

After Haut Brion coming out yesterday (125 euros exit price, see http://www.decanter.com/news/281329.html ), everything has gone very quiet today. Waiting for Parker scores? Just wanting to take advantage of the gorgeous sunny weather before the rain comes back tomorrow?? Who knows...

It gives me time, however, to share with you a very interesting visit to a foie gras farm that I made earlier this week. I am going back there this afternoon to watch the ducks being fed, as I have been assured that it is totally humane and I want to see for myself.

ducks out

This foie gras farm is nestling in a beautiful valley by the village of Cocumont in the Lot-et-Garonne, and they still work entirely traditionally. At Ferme Gassiot, ducks are given large fields to roam around, and are hand-fed rather than forced into an individual cage when undergoing the gavage (a French word meaning to gorge, where the ducks are given a meal of vitamins and softened-up corn that will swell up their livers to up to five times their usual size). This traditional method means that they can feed 70 ducks in one hour, unlike the usual method where 200 ducks can be fed in an hour.


(picture above of a traditional cage used for holding the ducks while feeding them, not used here)

‘It is slower, and you need patience,’ says Francis Menville, the foie gras producer, ‘but the ducks are not stressed, and that comes through in the flavours. This method of farming is a noble part of our heritage, and we are proud to do everything here on the farm; from growing the maize to make the feed, to rearing the Pyrenean ducks from just one day old (there are only male ducks here, as the livers of the females are not smooth enough), to producing the many final products.’

foie man

A look in their farm shop shows you that they really do make use of every bit of the duck - you can find rows of everything from pate du terroir, foie gras, confit de canard and garbure soup of vegetables and duck meat, to cassoulet, a stew of beans, pork and duck products that is one of the signatures dishes of the Lot.

It’s tough farming in this traditional manner – up for the first gavage at 5am, then the second 12 hours later, for weeks at a time and with only two months’ break through the year – but Menville sees the work as part of the heart and soul of the region. ‘There’s no secret to this work, just respect for the animals and a lot of hard work. But the privilege of working close to the land, and of being part of a tradition that has continued unbroken since Eygptian times, is something I will never tire of sharing.’

duck cage

(Rather than individual cages, the ducks are put into these larger cages for around one hour twice a day for two weeks, while the gavage takes place. To be fed, each duck is taken and held by hand, and then fed for 30 seconds).

I am going to see the feeding for myself tonight, and can't pretend that it isn't an uncomfortable idea (not just for the ducks). I don't eat much foie gras personally, but I can appreciate that many people see it as a great delicacy, and I was very happy to find a producer who at leasts nods towards the welfare of the animals... of course, however happy they are during their lives, at four months they are done and dusted, so I'm not sure Ferme Gassiot is going to be winning any great awards from the RSPCA.

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Chateau Palmer takes a gamble

Date: Wed, Apr 22, 2009 Wine Tasting Wine Business

I was surprised to hear about the release price of Chateau Palmer yesterday - an average consumer bottle price of €115 (I think exit price was just over €80, bringing it very close to Chateau Mouton Rothschild at €100).

Although it is a gorgeous wine this year, and I gave it an excellent review, this seems to be crazy pricing compared to what everyone else is doing. As Farr Vintners say on their website: '2008 Palmer is now available at 1020 case, which makes it rather hard to recommend with a number of good and mature vintages available today at well below this level.'

I wonder what their reasoning is - I guess they really are cash-rich and don't feel the need to sell this year.

The other bit of strange pricing this year has come from two English merchants - Berrys and Farrs, so two highly significant players, who offered Lynch Bages at well under other merchants, and well under the 'recommended resale price'. So where most merchants (according to Liv-ex) were offering it at arund 385 per case, Berrys and Farrs offered it at 360. Doesn't sound like a big difference, but it meant smaller guys were not able to compete, and is exactly what the chateaux are supposed to avoid during the first tranche of en primeur releases.

A look at Liv-ex today tells you that 360 has now become the standard selling price of Lynch Bages 2008, because everyone readjusted their pricing to the lowest point. A good thing for consumers of course, but I wonder if anyone is making any money on this wine at all now? Would love to hear from any merchants!

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Liv-ex Survey on Bordeaux 2008 Vintage

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

Fine Wine Exchange Liv-ex have been surveying their members in recent years about the perceived quality of Bordeaux vintages, and have just published their 2008 results, which make for pretty interesting reading:

According to their clients:
Lafite Rothschild is the wine of the 2008 vintage.
Pontet Canet tops the “value for money” category.
Montrose was the most disappointing wine.
The vintage scored 91 (out of 100) on average.
Release prices are expected to be down on 2007 by 38% on average.

Their questions:
List in order of preference your top wines from Bordeaux 2008.
1. Lafite
2. Latour
3. Ausone
= 4. Cheval Blanc
= 4. Mouton
6. Haut Brion
7. Lafleur
8. Le Pin
9. Leoville Las Cases
= 10. Petrus
= 10. Palmer

The results above show the top 10 wines of the vintage according to the experts irrespective of price.

List in order of preference your top value wines from 2008 (value wines are wines with an expected release price of less than 350 per case)
1. Pontet Canet
2. Leoville Barton
3. Leoville Poyferre
4. Talbot
5. Dom. de Chevalier Rouge
6. Malescot St Exupery
= 7. Calon Segur
= 7. Langoa Barton
= 9. Armailhac
= 9. Grand Puy Lacoste

List your most disappointing wines from 2008 with the most isappointing first.
1. Montrose
2. Margaux
3. Gruaud Larose
4. Pichon Lalande
5. Giscours
6. Beychevelle
7. Mission Haut Brion
8. Pape Clement
9. Pavie
10. Pavie Macquin

Using the Parker scoring model, what score would you give to the Bordeaux 2007 vintage overall?
91 points (average out of 100)
The average score attributed by the membership for the vintage was 91 points, with a range of 86 to 94.This is significantly higher than last year’s 88 and on a par with the 2006 vintage.

6. At what prices, in Euros per bottle, ex-negociant, do you expect (not want!) the following wines to e released in Bordeaux?
Based on their
expectations, prices will be down by 38.3% on last year's levels, and 56.1% down on 2006.

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Young European Winemakers

Date: Sat, Apr 18, 2009 Wine Tasting Wine Business

My latest wine column for American Express magazine Business Destinations has just gone up online... thought I would post a copy here also.


Wine should be an exciting experience from beginning to end – from the packaging to the story to the taste." This comment, from the owner of an excellent new wine shop in the centre of Manchester, England, started me thinking. It can be so easy to fall into the habit of drinking the wines you know you like, from producers you know you can trust. I’m certainly guilty of that far too often. And if we do step out of our comfort zone, we tend to look to the New World for the most exciting young winemakers.

But one of the perks of my job is discovering wines that I might never have come across if they hadn’t been lined up in tastings run by importers or retailers, so I am highlighting here some of the most exciting young winemakers from old Europe. Some are from well known regions that can often be dismissed, such as Beaujolais, and others from emerging areas that deserve to be better known.

Vilosell, Tomas Cusin, Costers del Segre 2006 (12.50)
A great label, like a Paul Smith shirt, and definitely a wine where the taste is as exciting as the presentation. Wonderfully fragrant from the first sniff, this comes from a small DO located at 2,300 metres above sea level in the Catalonia region of Spain, Costers del Segre. It was the spot that Tomas Cusin, a winemaker who has been quietly gaining plaudits over the past 20 years, chose when he decided to found a winery under his own name in 2003. The wine itself has new oak, plenty of vanilla, and it is sweet and smooth but with a really spicy edge. Its silky tannins make it highly easy to drink, without belying the clear quality of the winemaking.

Domaine Jean Marc Burgaud, Morgon Cote du Py, Beaujolais 2006 (11.50)
If ever there was a wine region that needed to listen to a more dynamic, younger generation, this is it – and growers like Jean Marc Burgaud are exactly what Beaujolais needs. Young, talented and ambitious, Burgaud has mae a wine with a finesse that is more typically associated with Burgundy. But that is not to say that this is a difficult wine to enjoy – it still has the classic sour cherry taste of a Gamay from this region, and at 13 percent it has a light-weight mouthfeel that makes it a great early evening livener.

La Legua Roble, DO Cigales 2006 (7.10)
Emeterio Fernandez’s winery is located in DO Cigales, in the Castella-Len region to the north of the more acclaimed Ribera del Duero. This is by no means a start-up winery – they have been producing wine here for around 300 years, but all the same, things are changing fast. A modern winery has recently been built on top of the old underground cellars, and the chief winemaker, Adolfo Gonzalez is one of the youngest and most acclaimed in the area. On the palate, there is an attractive toast from the new oak that is never overpowering, and it is packed full of bright brambly fruits. A mix of Tempranillo and Grenache, this is a sleek, vibrant wine that is asking to be shared with good friends.

Martin Codax, Cuatro Pasos, Bierzo 2005 (approx 10)
A slightly unusual wine from a co-operative cellar in Leon in northwest Spain. Mencia is the indigenous grape variety of the region, and it makes up 100 percent of this wine, from 80-year-old vines set at altitude in the Bierzo mountains. But enough background – this is a wine that you want to get on with drinking, right from the moment you see the distinctive paw prints on the label. It is almost black in colour, and at 14 percent does pack a punch, but it is so smooth and soft that you barely notice the alcohol. This was again a very popular choice in the tasting, full of rich plums and vanilla from the American oak.

Chante Cigale, Vignes D’Alexandre, Vins de Pays Mediteranee 2007 (approx 9)
Winemaker Alexandre Favier took over the family estate in the village of Chateauneuf-du-Pape from his father Christian when he was in his early 20s, and is now just 27 years old. In five short years, he’s managed to win the regional Rhone trophy at the International Wine Challenge and clock up numerous other garlands from various critics and competitions. Definitely a young winemaker to watch. There is a slight red blush to this, from the red-skinned Roussane grape, blended with Clairette and Grenache Blanc. It is well restained and unoaked, rounded out with rich apricots and white pears. A real slugger, this was perhaps the most popular wine around the table during this tasting.

GD Vajra, Dolcetto d’Alba, Piemonte 2007 (approx 14)
Proving that even the established appellations can hide some of the most exciting new winemaking, this is a seriously wonderful wine from the Barolo region of Italy. Right now it is way too young to really do itself justice, but there is such depth and opulence in this wine that it will be worth the wait. The son of the current winemaker is taking over here from this vintage, and he’s extremely passionate about the future. The wine itself is vibrantly purple, full of brambly fruits, with tight dense tannins and plenty of layers to unpick at your leisure. Definitely one to leave open for a few hours before tucking in.

Podere 414, Morellino di Scansano 2006 (13.50)
Podere 414 is an estate that straddles a river in the western part of Tuscany towards the sea and near the town of Scansano, with a rocky soil where pretty much nothing would grow but vines. Owned by Simone Castelli, the son of a well-known Tuscan oenologist, with his wife Mara. Just over 85 percent Sangiovese (the name of the DOC is in fact a synonym for the grape variety), with the balance made up of Ciliegiolo and Grenache. The first thing that strikes you is the quality of the fruit – this is full of ripe young blackberries and whole clusters of luscious black cherries. The tannins here are very light, so it’s ready to be drunk despite being so young, and at just 13.5 percent alcohol, a highly seductive wine.

La Casita, DO Arribes 2006 (approx 12)
Also known as Little House (a direct translation of La Casita) the first vintage of this wine was bottled in 2005. Owned by Englishman Jon Dowson and his Spanish partner Jesus Bartolome, this wine is from the Arribes region (which is now a DO as of 2007). The area has excellent levels of sunlight and temperature that make it a high quality red growing area. It also has a number of indigenous grape varieties that are used in the wine, mixed with Tempranillo, namely Juan Garcia (the dominant variety in the area), Rufete and Brunel. It is a charming wine, with plenty of cherry and summer fruit flavours. Easy to drink but with real character.

La Casita – buy direct from the winery www.lacasita-wine.com
Le Legua - Berry Bros and Rudd - www.bbr.com
Chante Cigale, Cuatro Pattos, GD Vajra - Reserve Wines – www.reservewines.co.uk
Vilosell, Podere 414, Domaine Jean Marc Burgaud - The Wine Society, www.thewinesociety.com

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End of a busy en primeurs week...

Date: Fri, Apr 17, 2009 Wine Tasting Wine Business

Second week of the en primeur campaign, and you could be forgiven for thinking it's all over! Four of the five first growths out (just Haut Brion to go, although I just heard that it might be out this afternoon), and other big hitters such as Lynch Bages (down 20%), Angelus (down 40%), Leoville Barton (down 10%), Pichon Comtesse (down 40%), L'Evnagile (down 25%)... all already out. In a usual campaign, you are having to wait til at least the end of May for these guys, often until June.

As Simon Staples at Berrys just told me, 'We usually come back from the en primeurs week in Bordeaux, get our customers all excited about what we have tasted... and then wait... and wait... and waste three months of our lives waiting for the chateaux to make up their minds.'

Some of the biggest price drops this week have been 40% for Pichon Comtesse, and of course 50% for Chateau Mouton Rothschild, releasing at 100 euros, exactly half of its 2007 price, making it, according to Jancis Robinson, the wine of the vintage.

From what I hear, some wines have been getting a great reaction (Leoville Barton as always, that released 85% of their production and have already sold out), while others have found it a big more difficult - even Chateau Angelus at 40% down has been criticised for still being too expensive. I read an interesting comment on Twitter yesterday from a Californian wine merchant (sorry, can't remember who, please enlighten me if you know): 'Now do you believe that these wines are over-priced??' - it's a good point, if they can all come down this much, who were they kidding at the prices over the past few years?

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Jean-Guillaume Prats and the Great Glass Elevator

Date: Thu, Apr 16, 2009 Wine Tasting Wine Business

I finally got to Cos d'Estournel last Friday, a week after the primeurs finished. The new cellars had been the talk of the week (along with, but of course, the golf buggies at Mouton and a rumoured - but not witnessed by me - Nespresso room at Brane Cantenac), so I was excited to see them.

It's quite an adventure getting into Cos at the moment, as the general landscaping of the gardens isn't going to be finished until the summer, and nor is the tourist entrace to the cellars. But the musuem is open for business, and looks great, and the cellars themselves were every bit as impressive as I had heard.

cos, cap ferret 059

Covering around 2,000 m2 of floor space, with 1000 m2 of passageways, it is quite hilariously high-tech (well, in a low-tech way, since everything is gravity-fed, no use of pumps anyway for the wines). 72 stainless steel vats, 48 of them from 100-150 hectolitres big, and 12 that are from 19-60 hectolitres, but with two-floors in each, so effectively 24 small vats. All conical in shape, and double-lined for the thermoregulation no interior heating coils. For the vats that are on two floors, there are two 'chimneys' so you can vinify them both at the same time at different temperatures etc. Apparently this is the only vat-room in Bordeaux with this capacity.

After the (manual, naturally) grape sorting, the grapes are frozen down to between -40 and -60 degrees, so they can have the stalks taken off without releasing any juice or damaging the grape skins. They then go onto another sorting table and into little stainless steel wagons, where they are wheeled off to the vats and gently poured in (still cold, so still intact).

cos, cap ferret 063

But the really interesting bit is the pumping over (which is in fact delestage, or 'rack and return'). No pumps are used for this, and it is all done by gravity. To achieve this, the juice comes out of the vat into a little vat on wheels (the marc stays in the big vat), this is then trundled over to a glass elevator (there are four around the cellar) which goes up one floor, and the juice is trundled back over to the original vat and poured back in over the marc.

Down one more level, and you're in the barrel cellar, that can store 2,000 barrels. An inner chamber that I wasn't granted access to contains barrels for the white wine, that is kept at a lower temperature throughout ageing. The barrels are all underground, and the whole cellar reaches 30 metres at the highest point, and goes 10 metres below ground at the lowest point.

cos, cap ferret 064

At the wine tasting before the visit, Prats told me that they had made 78% first wine this year, compared to 55% first wine last year, and that he ascribes that (besides a better quality vintage) to the precision possible with the new winery. It certainly tasted good - my review of the wine is here:

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Latour Hefty Price Drop

Date: Tue, Apr 14, 2009 Wine Tasting Wine Business

I spent a very enjoyable easter weekend in Cap Ferret at Maison du Bassin www.lamaisondubassin.com - a lovely New England style hotel that is minutes from the beach and has a great bar and restaurant (home made rum which is very dangerous).

Anyway, a quick roundup - Latour out this morning down 45%, Forts de Latour out this afternoon down 20% (have they come out early to get their wines to market before news of a sale becomes definitive??)


And I have put up pretty much all of my primeurs scores now, finishing up with Maltus, Pomerol and Cos d'Estournel.

I include here my La Conseillant notes, for its 'co-innoculation'...
Chateau La Conseillante, AOC Pomerol
Big, fruity nose, exuberant, more new oak and fresh fruit. 86% merlot, 14% cabernet franc. 90% new oak, but all the cabernet franc in tanks, giving a lovely juicy character. Harvesting from September 26 to October 1 for the merlot, October 7 for the cabernet franc. This underwent a four-day cold soak, and four days total maceration, from harvest to running off – quite long for this property, but they were very happy with the quality of fruit this year. Small amounts of micro-oxygenation during early fermenation, just to feed the yeasts (pumping over also just on first phase, then stop to keep freshness). For the first time this year, they also did co-innoculation, adding yeast and bacteria at the same time to carry out alcoholic and malolactic fermentation at the same time (a technique that is far more popular in the New World than Bordeaux, and I have only heard of one other estate in the Medoc that does it). Whatever the techniques, this is an enjoyable wine. On the palate, there is firm red fruit, redcurrants and black cherries, very textured, very big but successful. A pleasure. 94-95.

And finally, please picture the scene... I am researching for some Flavours from France articles at the moment, one of which is on foods from the Gironde Estuary. In search of a good story, I went out at lunchtime today to look at the oyster farming in Cap Ferret, walking across the mudflats with my six year old daughter to meet Yoan and Matthieu the oyster farmers.

'Stick to the water channels' said Catherine Roux, the only female oyster farmer in the Cap. Got there no problem, had great interview, then turned round to walk back. Which channels exactly were we supposed to be following?? First one boot, then the next, gets stuck in the mud. Poor old Lauren started panicking slightly as we were stuck fast, but my dad was on hand back at base to wade through and carry her home. I had to use hands and feet to get through the mud... and both of us sat down in it more than once...

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Has Angelus scared everyone off?

Date: Fri, Apr 10, 2009 Wine Tasting Wine Business

After the flurry of early releases on Monday, most notably Chateau Angelus at 59 euros ex-negociant, or 40% down on 2007, everything seems to have gone eerily quiet.

I heard that L'Evangile came out on Tuesday morning, but don't have confirmation (apparently it makes such small quantities that very few negociants get it, so the price is not sent out widely).

I have been on a number of chateaux visits this week, including to Phelan Segur, Pichon Comtesse de Lalande, Teyssier in Saint Emilion and Siurac in Lalande de Pomerol. I've also called a number of negociants and UK merchants, and the story seems to be the same everywhere - that while de Bouard should be congratulated for setting the tone with a big price drop, he came out too early, before anyone was really back in the ofice and ready to think about buying.

It seems that noone really took up the offer (still too high?? even at 2004 prices?), and other properties have been scared off releasing. Are they now planning to wait for Parker to bring out his scores?

I have also heard that some merchants are happy with the Angelus price, but because they expect a quick campaign, and because they know that demand is not going to be enormous this year, they are waiting until everything is out before deciding what to buy. Others are saying that key chateaux are closer and closer to thinking they will not release any wine this year (obviously they have acess to some rosy vision of the economy in 2010 that the rest of us aren't party to). I read a statistic in the excellent Bordeaux book by Stephen Brook, that after the 1973 oil crisis, Bordeaux prices dropped by 70% - so maybe certain property owners are being overly optimistic that the drop in prices is just a momentary hiccup.

Personally, I hope that chateaux continue with sensible price releases as of next Tuesday, after the easter bank holiday... but Bordeaux always has the capacity to surprise...

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Chateau de Seuil: Wins Best Graves White 2007

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

I was really happy to hear that one of my favourite Graves white wines, Chateau de Seuil, has been chosen as winner of the "Trophee Des Crus Des Graves". This is a competition in which all wines produced in the Graves appellation are submitted. The Chateau du Seuil Graves Blanc 2007 picked up the top prize, as best Graves white from the excellent 2007 vintage.


The owners of this 7 hectare property are Welsh-New Zealanders, and the wine is 60% semillon, 40% sauvignon blanc. Despite this very classic Bordeaux blend, I've always found a slight Kiwi signature in the wines, in their extreme fruit-forward freshness and minerality. I feature them as one of the chateaux to visit in the Southern Graves and Sauternes chapters of Wine Travel Guides: http://www.winetravelguides.com/regions.asp?id=1#4

The same chateau has picked up several medals in recent wine competitions. The top two scoring wines were the Chateau du Seuil 2006 Crons (late harvest sweet) from the 2006 vintage and the Chateau du Seuil Graves Blanc 2007.

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Pape Clement, Angelus, 2008 Primeurs

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

I was teaching at the Ecole du Vin today, so annoyingly missed the first price releases of this campaign... unbelievably Chateau Angelus coming out at 59 euros (price sold by negociants)...

I'm teaching again tomorrow, so let's hope the first growths dont come out!! (went to Pape Clement this afternoon, and tasted a more enjoyable en primeur sample. Will put up Pessac Leognan notes tomorrow. Also saw a an oak barrel that Magrez is using for his 2007 wine, that was planted in 1681, cut down in 2003, and apparently was used by Marie Antoinette for shade while she lived in Versailles).

As it happens, I have just put up my review of Chateau Angelus, and the rest of the du Bouard properties/consultancies onto http://www.newbordeaux.com/documents/angelus_and_de_bouard_08.html

Here is Angelus:
A fairly large vineyard for Saint Emilion, at 23.4 hectares, on clay limestone and clay-sand-limestone. This year was 58% merlot and 42% cabernet franc. Beautiful rich colour with glass-staining vibrancy. Very, very nice. This is so juicy, so beautiful perfumed with strong notes of violet that you rarely get in such concentration. Mouth-watering finish, terribly elegant, tight tannins, and gorgeous acidity. This is a very successful wine, with no let-up in mid palate, and a very long, controlled finish. Excellent. Picking dates from Oct 6 until Oct 26. De Bouard on the vintage, ‘Had good ripeness, but not over-ripeness, especially on the skin. Ripe berries but very fruity and fresh skins.’ To maximise this, they worked on punching down, pumping over to work with the skin from the beginning until mid-fermentation, but they slow down to avoid over-extraction. With cold maceration below 10 degree, then very long maceration, but static, with no battonage. 94-95.

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