Tuesday, 29 December 2009

So what wines do we really like......

As the last week before Christmas was ticking along and everyone was getting tired and at times a little ratty I thought it would be a good idea to do some research….what is the ranking of the great regions and countries amongst the team here. To discover this I took a cross-section which included all the private customer and trade sales people (10 in total – 9 male, 1 female), the “3 Marketeers” (all female) and the buying team (8 – 2 male, 6 female). Then asked them to……”Please rate the regions/countries in each of the sections below (Red, White and Other). Please do them as three separate sections scoring your favorite 1 and going down the list from there”.

Yes, yes you can argue there should be a sweet Loire and a white French region section and what about Switzerland and Rose in general but I can’t keep everyone happy…..One other important point it that this was asking for peoples overall wine preferences NOT a reflection on the wine C&B has in the categories etc

Burgundy, Bordeaux, Rhone, Loire, French Regional, Italy, Spain, Portugal, USA, Australia, South Africa, New Zealand, Argentina and Chile

Burgundy, Bordeaux, Rhone, Alsace, Loire, Germany, Austria, Italy, Spain, USA, Australia, South Africa, New Zealand and Chile

Port, Madeira, Sherry, Tokaji, Sauternes, Sweet Alsace and Champagne

And now for the results……..

Reds in Order
New Zealand
French Regional
South Africa

Burgundy averaged a score of 1.9 with 11 people voted it number 1. Bordeaux averaged a score of 3.1 with 4 people voting it number 1. Italy, Rhone and Spain was possibly the most competitive area and there wasn’t much between them at all, scores varied widely. From there we had the (predictably?) top two new world countries which to me were no surprise…New Zealand showing rare(?) elegance for the new World and Argentina’s brilliant “Old vine” fruit showing well. The rest indisputably produce some great wines but may be the style (Australia?) and possibly price (USA?) have an effect on their popularity. Overall pretty predictable.

New Zealand
South Africa

Burgundy (averaging 1.52) first the rest NOWHERE…only 6 of the 21 managed not to give Burgundy the nod here (and they all ranked it – 3,3,4,2,3,2). I suppose the dominance should not be a surprise but given there are people and some merchants too with a real fear for this category I was delighted to see this. Germany just beat Alsace by 2 points (interesting as our Alsace and German rages are quite limited, I don’t think this is or would be rare in the wine world) and then the next 5 countries were a smidge apart, from there we are into countries that really produce red but do a bit of white on the side…one common thread is that the countries more renowned for oaked wines seem to feature more lowly. Poor old South Africa again bottom…may be the test series (they are 59/6 as I write this) and the last Lions tour make for some prejudice??

Sweet Alsace

This was always going to be the most contentious category with a certain lack of logic as some are Aperitifs and some Afterdinner and some both! Interestingly neither Sauternes or Tokaji got anyone’s vote as favourite which is especially weird given that Sauternes came second in the category. I take Madeira coming last as a personal challenge…if there is a better value drink out there then what is it?

I can’t go without a mention of the living legend that is Kauto Star…what a great run in the King George and when you combine that with Barneveld’s 9-darter at the Ally Pally last night you have sporting gold…..anyway need to keep an eye on the racing results….Menorah, Go Native and What a Friend have made it a decent punting Christmas….just need Diamond Harry to do his thing now! Have a great New Year.

Friday, 11 December 2009

and they're off......

First blog entry since the site has gone live although there are plenty of blogs from the last few months - Dinners, Tastings, Burgundy trips etc - I have been getting things ready for a while!!

It’s been a hell of a week.

Last Friday saw the release of Domaine Leflaive 2008 and the vast majority sold that day which made for quite a buzz around the office as the phones rang and the emails flew (is that the right terminology?). Fraser then did the Sloane club Rhone dinner in the evening which went well by all accounts. I won’t bore you with the weekend details other than the fact that Twist Magic winning at Sandown finally got by betting back on track.

Before I knew it Monday was on us and there was still some Domaine Leflaive business to do which was good but telling customers that many of the wines had all gone is never easy or enjoyable. There was a hint that the new website (which you will have seen if you’re reading this!) would go live over night………..but no there was a slight integration (hate that word!) niggle and another 24 hours would be needed.

Tuesday was an extraordinary day – Adam and I both manned the C&B Table at the first Royal Warrant Holders Christmas Fair which was held in the Ballroom of Buckingham Palace for 1000 members of the Royal Household and their guests. A great day meeting some fascinating people including the Queen, not something you can say everyday. Once out of the Palace, no blackberry/mobile action in there, I saw that the site was minutes from go live. The amount of work has been mind blowing from tasting notes to pricing to functionality…….

Wednesday, quick interview first thing…always like to see and stay in touch with people who write in and may be of interest in the future…after that it was looking at the selection of wines for the post Christmas Bin-end, working on a few teething issues on the web (it needs a period of “running in” so the speed should improve!) and setting the offer Calendar for next year. Exciting reports of a spectacular tasting at Clos de Tart have a started to emerge, it looked at vintages spanning an amazing 116years, I have attached these below….they reinforce what I feel, which is that the estate is a stunning terroir and now under the control of Sylvain Pitiot is going from strength to strength…very exciting times for the estate (see Burgundy Day 5 for the Clos de Tart 08's tasting notes).




With the first full day of the web done it was time for a drink!

Thursday dawned and it was time to re-focus on wines for Christmas and all the offers we have out at the moment….almost too many toys to play with. Joined the Board for a drink at lunch time, Flor de Pingus ’99 showing brilliantly and ready from now onwards, Corton-Charlemagne 2003 from Bonneau du Martray which is opulent but not too 03ish and to start (not sure why I’ve done the wines backwards) Delamotte Blanc de Blancs NV which, loyalties aside, I love.

And so to Friday….one of those frustrating start everything, finish nothing days, but given that this time in two weeks I’ll have a glass of something fizzy in my hand it can’t be too bad.

Over time I will introduce various aspects of C&B life and the characters here but we have to lead off with Darth!! Guess who got this as their Secret Santa last year?

Right time to cycle home!

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Moueix Monday..........

It was a Moueix Monday this week with the great man himself, Christian, in London for our Moueix Dinner at The Groucho Club. This was an evening as much about Moueix the merchant as Moueix the owner, and lets face it when you have Petrus, Trotannoy, Magdelaine, Hosanna etc in the stable it is easy for people only to think of these very great names. Their own website explains well what they do (www.moueix.com) but essentially Moueix are Château owners (producing, marketing and distributing their own wines), Wine Merchants (buying, maturing and selling the wines of other right bank estates) and also a Negociant dealing on the Bordeaux marketplace in the futures market. Interetsingly they never get involved in whites wines, focusing purely on red (not black!!) wines.

The tasting dinner was planned to co-incide with our Christmas offering of Clarets sourced by Moueix exclusively for us. The format was a relaxed walk around tasting of the six wines below :

Lafleur Beauséjour 2005, Côtes de Castillon – Ripe but classical and drinking well now will improve for decanting.
B de Belair 2001, Saint-Emilion – The third wine of Belair St.Emilion, now re-named Belair Monange and also owned by Moueix (but wasn’t when this was made), starting to develop but not earthy, good fruit and structure, perfect now.
Haut Roc Blanquant 2002, Saint-Emilion Grand Cru – We joked that this was a super blend between Haut Brion, Roc de Cambes and Cheval Blanc (ok the Cheval bit was too ludicrous even for us) but actually it was the surprise of the night for me, glamourous, well fruited and with a kiss of oak. I am not a 2002 fan but this was very good.
L’Hospitalet de Gazin 2006, Pomerol - Second wine of Gazin and a wine I know well…..really good honest Pomerol that is versatile and very reliable (why does that sound bad ?), try it...
Capet-Guiller 2005, Saint Emilion – I hadn’t tasted this in a little while and it is a surprisingly serious wine, earthy and structured and in need of more time in my opinion, very good potential.
La Grave à Pomerol 2004 – I have always had a soft sport for the relatively easy charms of La Grave a Pomerol, soft and succulent but with lots of life left too.

A really good tasting of wines that are easy on the palate and good with food but have little pretence to profoundity.

Dinner Menu & Wines
To wash the palate and accompany the Crab Risotto we had a glass or two of Mâcon-Verzé 2007 Domaines Leflaive, still only the fourth vintage but already becoming an old friend, just starting to fatten out too, if you have 2 cases, start one!

We then moved on to two vintages of Certan Marzelle the 2003 & 2004 with slow cooked rump of lamb, mashed potato, pea purée, glazed beetroot, thyme jus. Certan Marzelle is 100% Merlot and when Moueix bought Certan Giraud (last vintage 1998) the estate was split as there were two distinct soil types, one half was made into what is now the mighty Hosanna, the other portion became Certan Marzelle. Both vintage are showing well and for those that like younger Bordeaux, starting to drink well, the style is one I like. Christian, who was on sparkling form all evening, possibly helped by the bottle of Certan Marzelle Adam and Christian shared at lunch, wanted the floor to vote on which wine they preferred. This vote went to the 2003 in a 2:1 ratio. Myself and Paul (Marus) were firmly in the 2004 camp, Adam firmly in the 2003 camp…some things never change.

Next up……Latour à Pomerol 1999 & La Fleur-Pétrus 2003 – a lovely contrast of vintages and properties. A vote would have been interesting but it was not to be. I thought the Latour a Pomerol was absolutely spot on, combining savoury nuances with sweet gamey fruit character and finished with a mineral edge. The La Fleur Petrus had a very un2003 nose, pure fruit, but to me was just not as balanced as the Latour…I think a vote may have been 50:50.

A great evening and not a mention on 2009!!

Thursday, 19 November 2009

Peter Sisseck @ 1 Lombard Street

Last week was a hell of a week with three dinners amongst the many releases and offers we were putting out at the minute. There was no doubt about the highlight though….the Sisseck tasting and dinner at 1 Lombard Street. The format of the evening was a relaxed walk around tasting of the recently bottled 2007’s and the 2008 cask samples. The wines were stunning although well structured as you would expect. For me the highlight was the simply awesome length of the 2008 Pingus. The Psi 2008 and Flor de Pingus 2008 were still very youthful and not yet giving away much but the mouth feel (I hate that expression but it is useful here) and texture show that it is all in there. The 2007 finished wines got better and better in glass and had a real richness and power but with a freshness under it all, quite an achievement at 14% and more. The Psi 2007 is growing in stature with every tasting and as Peter said almost apologetically “I’ve made quite a serious wine here”…not necessarily the aim but more of that later.

From the tasting it was a glass of Delamotte NV from magnum en route to the dining room, everyone seemed to agree the Delamotte was on fine form, the perfect “refresher” before moving on to the dinner wines. Adam then introduced Peter having given a brief history of the relationship between Corney’s and Peter which goes back to the very beginning of the Pingus Estate and beyond as Peter’s uncle, Peter Vinding-Diers, is an old supplier and friend of the company. Peter then spoke about the 2008 and 2007 vintages and the “PSi project”. Psi – taken from Peter’s initials – is a project aimed at helping small vineyard owners who have no real interest in making a wine but have some great old-vine fruit. Peter helps them to produce the best they can (organically or a near as) and pays them a fair price, we then get a cracking wine that drinker earlier than Flor de Pingus…it’s a winner all round!!

At dinner we had Flor 2003 and 2001 with Game Pithivier with Cabbage, Foie Gras and Truffles. I loved the combination, there seemed to be something of an agreement that before eating the Flor 2003 was possibly the pick of the two but I think it became clear when combined with the food that the 2001 although still young was more complete and had such harmony. Both mighty impressive and starting to drink but if I had a case of each (sadly I don’t!!) I would wait 2 years and have another look then. The Flor 1996 is stunning now and there is no doubting that the raw ingredients of Flor are better now than then. It is worth mentioning that all the dinner wines were carefully double decanted at about 4pm the same day using the tried and trusted out of the bottle and back in again technique! See the Pictures.

Then we had Pingus 2004 & 2001 with Peppered Loin of Venison wrapped in Speck. This was stunning, the food being the perfect foil. The 2004 - being Peters first 100pointer (his wines are always in the 92-100range and love or hate scores they are a validation of achievement) - was stunning but very tight…it had been quite incredibly fruited when we had first decanted it - and was still going well 2 days later – this is a wine to marvel at but then leave alone for 8-10years and more (much more). The 2001 Pingus was as with the 2001 Flor more integrated and nearer to drinking but still very youthful. If you can find 2001’s snap them up. Cheeses followed and the tasting wines came out again. All in all a very memorable evening and certainly not a standard Tuesday!!

Note to self.....make sure your camera flash is working!!
Next week "Moueix Monday"

Thursday, 12 November 2009

Burgundy - Day 5 - d'Angerville and Clos de Tart

As the photos below suggest our last morning was a cold, foggy and damp one….I had been looking forward to both the day’s visits - d’Angerville and Close de Tart - as I have recently met both Guillaume d’Angerville and Sylvain Pitiot in London and both struck me as charming yet serious “Winemen”, a nice balance I think.

Earlier in the week we had managed to take a picture (left) from the very top corner of the Clos de Ducs Monopole for which d’Angerville is best know and it really showed the different aspects and the unique nature of the vineyard, not to mention the steepness! As soon as we arrived Guillaume suggested a tour of the vineyard, Alison and I jumped at the chance and go into Guillaume’s run around. First we went through the Village and out the other side straight into Taillepieds (the north eastern corner of whch is in the photo on the right) which sits just above the larger Champans. As much as anywhere in Burgundy you really get the feeling in Volnay that the various vineyards have such different slopes and aspects and soils. It was a fascinating tour including some new holdings (Clos des Anges 1er Cru). After the tour we were back at the Domaine to taste the 2008’s. Starting with the Bourgogne Rouge, which doesn’t come into the UK, and working our way all the way up to the Clos de Ducs before trying the one white, Meursault 1re Cru Santenots. The overall impression was of a sleek, feminine and above all pure vintage. The wines gradually climbed in stature with it hard to differentiate in scoring terms but easy in taste terms. The Taillepieds and Caillerets possibly pipped it for me with the stunning Clos des Ducs the most clearly in need of time. The Meursault was stunning too…one to buy for me! It was very kind of Guillaume to give us so much time and this was another visit that left me impressed by Volnay.

And then for the weeks last visit…..Clos de Tart. Sylvain Pitiot met us at the immaculately kept domaine and we went straight into the vineyard, the first thing you notice, or at least you should, is how the vines run north-south rather than east-west. This helps to prevent soil erosion on the slop, it is also much harder to work the vineyard but then it is not the easy life that Clos de Tart wants it is all out for quality. Surprisingly the size of crop will be almost exactly the same in 2008 as it was in 2007, most other domaine’s were down in 2008. Sylvain explained that this was down to a massive amount of work in the vineyard that meant there was very little selection to do when the harvest was brought in. Each plot of the vineyard, there are 6 distinct parcels, is vinified separately. Really there is only one wine produced here (there is sometimes a La Forge de Tart from young vines but whether this is made is not decided until much later), we tasted three different cuvees, one the young vines, one from whole bunches and one 50% de-stemmed. A really interesting exercise, the young vines combined red with black fruits and good concentration, the “whole bunch” pressed wine tasted more structured (as logic would dictate) with a touch of white pepper and spice, great length. The 50% de-stemmed was a little more subtle with a classical nose, delicious mix of red and black fruits, big but balanced…impressive. It is the continual experimentation and questioning of the status quo that makes Clos de Tart so exciting.

And that, as they say, is that, the car (no C&B limo) was left at Dijon station…..slept on the train to Paris, lugged my half broken bag back home and now Burgundy makes a whole load more sense……I’ll be going back.

Burgundy – Day 4 – Negociant, Varoilles part 2, Darnat & Cyriot Buthiau

The sun was well and truly out again, first visit was at a Negociant house we don’t deal with but that we had been asked to visit / taste at by a UK contact. The wines were good and as the range is wide and the use of oak subdued there may be some business to be done in the future but probably more with a view to restaurants who need to buy regular stocks rather than anything more but I guess we’ll see, very worth while though.

We were then due at Domaine de Varoilles to taste some older vintages with a view to getting some for a pre Christmas offer. It is a difficult task sometimes to balance doing well selling wines on release but then also having something to get your teeth into for drinking a year or two later. Varoilles (as well as few other Domaines) keep some stock back for just this reason. Essentially we tasted the 2001’s and 2002’s. What was interesting was that the 2002 were starting to show a little “animal” development where the fruit and the body were becoming one and the farmyard aromas start to come through, with sweet fruit this makes for good balance and great food wines. The 2001’s by contrast were more obviously Pinot and more primary with definite red fruits on the nose and palate. Clos de Varoilles 2001 was a real highlight. A delicious contrast and we will definitely me buying!! There was one curveball of a wine which was 2007 Yvorne L’Oraille from Varoilles sister estate in Switzerland…my note has Chablis meets sancerre…it was a nice “lunch-time” style wine

Back to the main road and down to Meursault for a quick lunch in the square before getting to see Henri Darnat (Pictured). Marc-Emmanuel Cyriot, who’s own Domaine (Cyriot-Buthiau) in Pommard we were to see later, looks after the commercial side for Henri. The wines Henri makes, always with classical music in the background, are almost Chablis-esque in minerality and there is little or not new oak (5% at most). The colour is very light and the wines are beautifully elegant, definitely good decanting whites. It was the 2008’s first up there are two Pulignys; Villages (17) and 1er Cru Champ Gain (17-18) and two Meursaults; Clos du Domaine (17), a Liet Dit that includes Henri’s back garden and 1er Cru Richemont (17+). Having tasted the lithe and tight 2008’s we then tasted the same wines from 2007 which is such a classical vintage that it really plays to Henri’s style….a Domaine to get to know if you like producers like Matrot and Javillier.

From Henri’s we went over and up the road to Pommard following Marc-Emmanuel (left, talking with Henri and Alison)in our trusty car (see Day 5 for photo – we may have Warrants but we’re not proud!). The Cyriot-Buthiau Domaine was newly formed in 1989 but from holdings that essentially go back to the 1920’s. From 1999 a decision was take by Marc-Emmanuel and his wine maker brother to invest and change the winemaking, 100% de-stemming in most vintages (possibly not in 2009), with 5 days cold maceration and pigeage not remontage. The Domaine is not certified BO (organic) but has not used any fertilizers in over 8years. As we tend to buy the Cyriot-Buthiau wines when finished and in bottle we tasted the 2007’s which will in time follow the 2006’s we currently sell. The wines were very true to their appellations – Santenay, Volnay and Pommard. There is an elegant structure about them and I can see them getting better and better.

Only Day 5 to go but what a day…..D’Angerville and Clos de Tart

Monday, 9 November 2009

Burgundy - Day 3 - Trapet, Javillier, Rossignol Trapet, De Vogue & Lafarge

Bit misty this morning but it burnt off eventually.

As for day 2 we started in Gevrey - Domaine Trapet was first up with Jean-Louis and Andree as welcoming as ever. The tasting was big (24 wines) and diverse. There is so much to like about the Trapet wines, Jean-Louis’ inquisitive nature means there is always something new being tried (1998 saw an early move to biodynamics) and this year it is a “Flowform Mixing System”, which sounds more Ibiza than Burgundy, but actually it is a mixing system for biodynamic “preparations” used for amongst other things, actively aerating organic compost tea, creating liquid fertilizers, improving water quality in ponds and mixing of juices. The basic idea is of two rotating paddles that go in opposite directions therefore creating an infinite flow in the vat. Anyway enough technical stuff the actual wines (2008’s) were mighty impressive, the relatively humble Marsannay being a real star. Moving up through the Gevrey’s (Ostrea a bargain I think) to the Chambertin you have really great balance and very much proper Burgundy. We then tasted through the 2007’s. I think that comparing 2007’s and 2008’s over the next decade or so will be a really enjoyable; there is a similarity between the vintages in terms of weight but a very different style. The 2007’s, having been in bottle for a little while were a bit more reserved and suggested a little time was needed but there was a sublime balance. Then we were onto the 2008 whites, the Marsannay with 10% Pinot Gris, they were opulent and almost drinkable now. Following that we tasted the Trapet’s Alsace wines – I think I will write them up another time. A good tasting!

The emphasis then shifted towards whites as we sped down the road to Meursault to find Patrick Javillier, this is not easy as there is a shop in Meursault with his name on it, a sign to his house but no signs to where we were tasting. Alison decided to use “the force” and managed to locate it straight away…this became a theme whenever we over thought about where things were we got lost but as soon as we just drove it all seemed to work!! We were supposed to be tasting with Patrick’s Canadian agent but sadly he was ill. The tasting with Patrick and his daughter Marianne was very informative. The Javillier style is all about pure citrus fruit and minerality with incredibly subtle use of, mostly older, oak. We discussed decanting and Patrick is very much a fan of giving his whites, when young, 30 minutes in a decanter – I certainly advise this too…the fruit really comes out. The watchwords on 2008 here were “vivacity, acidity and typicity”. We started with his two Bourgogne Blancs, in my opinion two of the finest there are, Cuvee Forgets and Oligocene, lovely elegance and minerality. We then tasted his Savigny and the Meursaults – Clos du Cromin (elegant, no new oak), Tillets (lovely), Clousots (a blend of Les Crotots & Les Clous), Tete de Murger (a blend of Les Caisse Tetes for minerality and Murger de Monthelie for power). Lovely balanced understated wines for the true burgundy lover.

And then……back to Gevrey again!!

Interestingly we were now tasting at Rossignol Trapet. Interesting because there was initially one Trapet in Gevrey but in 1990 the family domain was split into the two Domaines of today Trapet as tasted above and Rossignol Trapet. The styles are slightly different but the quality at both very high. Brothers Nicolas and David met us and we tasted with both. Due to a cycling injury to his hand Nicolas couldn’t wield the pipette. The style especially at the more entry level is for quite big broad wines with the fruit more on the black side than red. The Bourgogne rouge and Beaune Teurons were both masculine and structured. We then tasted the 4 Gevrey’s – Villages, Etelois, Clos Prieur 1er Cru and Petit Chapelle 1er Cru – the quality and complexity climbed through the four. Latricieres Chambertin and Chapelle Chambertin were next with the Latricieres showing a lot of structure and coming across as a “vin de garde”. Chapelle showed a little more fruit and flesh but was also brooding. The Chambertin followed and was decadent with an element of fruitcake, very impressive. We had a taste of the Etelois 2007 which was more feminine; this was followed with a real treat in the form of Latricieres 2004 (18-19+ gorgeous), Chambertin 2004 (stunning and for anyone who is unsure of 04 they should try this). The very last wine was Petit Chapelle 2003 true to the style of 2003 and therefore rich but with a way to go. When you look at the relatively humble prices of the Grand Cru’s here I think it is a Domaine to follow!

De vogue was next on the agenda so what had already been a good day was just getting better. We taste through the reds with Francois Millet (winemaker) the whole production of this very famous estate comfortably fitting into a room half the size of a tennis court with only two barrels high – the minute amount produced by the Domaines takes viewing to believe. Francois described 2008 as a “watercolour” vintage in artistic terms, by this meaning it is an elegant and graceful vintage with everything balance and nothing overpowering. The finesse of the wine was quite staggering with each one building in stature of the previous but always with a grace and reserved charm. In Francois’ own words 2008 was no easy vintage and until September there had been “only five days of BBQ”. My tasting notes just finish with the phrase “so true and elegant”, not released until march next year, these will be mighty fine wines.

Next up was Domaine Lafarge in Volnay and I was intrigued as to what this would like. My previous experience of the wines was incredibly limited. After two hours of tasting (19 wines) and conversation, with the father and son team of Michel and Frederic, I can honestly say I have never enjoyed a tasting more and came away glowing and feeling I had discovered a new favourite!! The cellars are very old fashioned in the sort of way that makes you wonder how they know what is what and where it is! There were bottles of 1958 (Frederic’s birth year) on a step that had so much fur you could barely make out the bottles at all. We tasted the 2008’s from Aligote (awesome for an Aligote if atypical) to Volnay Clos du Chateau des Ducs which was a 20/20 in my book. The style has everything, structure but charm, fruit but also minerality. Simply staggering!! I’ll be buying what I can afford!

Friday, 6 November 2009

Burgundy - Day 2 - Roty, O.Leflaive & Bonneau du Martray

The day broke with blue skies again, perfect for getting the all importance sense of location and space. The autumn colours were showing every vineyard in a different shade, a real patchwork effect. On route to our first tasting we were stopping at signposts to take pictures for the marketing team who had demanded, well, asked anyway, that they were needed for offers the website etc. C&B embracing the modern era. Having spent the second night in Dijon it was also time to decamp to Beaune but this would have to wait until after the first visit of the day.

I had been really looking forward to seeing and tasting at Roty, Domaine Joseph Roty and Philippe Roty (pictured, below) are both producers that we have worked with for ages but so sought after are the wines that we rarely have any to taste in bottle, having sold them all on release. Really this is one Domaine with two names the only difference is that Philippe’s wines are made across the road (literally) whereas the Domaine Joseph Roty wines are Philippe, his mother and sister as a collective. A little like Gilles Jourdan this is not for those wanting any sort of marketing or “showroom pampering” this is about good winemaking with good ingredients and top quality results. It’s also not a small tasting with 19 wines all from 2007 – 2 whites, 1 rose (the only one of the trip…in my eyes a good thing) and 16 reds. Roty release their wines a year later once in bottle hence tasting the 2007’s not 2008’s. The winemaking is kept simple with, generally, 18 months oak for the reds (little of it new) and 100% de-stemming. Philippe said that 2007 was “very much their sort of vintage”. The whites were very mineral and will repay patience as is the case with the majority of 07 whites. Interestingly the Bourgogne Blanc is a blend of Pinot Blanc and Chardonnay. The rose was good but not my sort of thing – apologies but I’m not a rose fan. Moving to the reds there is a very “Pinot” feel about them with the fruit always expressive and backed up with a genuine but not over powering structure and a really wonderful minerality. There are four Marsannay’s, a lot by anyone’s standards, but they are mighty fine and I have “buy” written large by the Marsannay Ouzelois. Likewise for the Cotes de Nuits from Philippe’s own vines. Having said that there is a real step up to the Gevrey’s with the Champs Cheny tasting superbly. The Gevrey La Brunelle (picturd on right) is a Clos (walled vineyard) in the “garden” out the back of the Roty’s house and it very much has it’s micro climate. The Chambertin Grand Cru’s of Mazis, Griottes and Charmes were all superb with all three scoring 18-19+ with me. Philippe and family gave us lots of time and the visit was a revelation, for me one of the highlight’s of the whole trip.

We then dropped our bags in Beaune despite parking trouble that meant the car park was shut for a Fete that never actually appeared all week, grabbed a quick lunch and set off for Puligny.

Franck Grux (below) met us at Olivier Leflaive and offered a very kind and massively useful trip round the vineyards. For me this was a real education as Franck knows every inch of the finest white wine vineyards in the world, argue over it if you like, but from Meursault down to Chassagne has to be the place for the world’s greatest whites. We set off from Puligny towards Meursault looking at how the slope and aspect largely determines the classification – which wherever you go nobody seems to disagree with. In general the flat land at the bottom of the slope is Bourgogne Blanc then as the slope starts you have villages, then on the middle of the slope we are into 1er Cru or in places Grand Cru and then at the top you have an assortment of vineyards that can be real gems, St.Aubin above Montrachet or Auxey-Duresses above and beyond Meursault. Once we had been round Meursault, taking in Clos du Cromin (below right, with Meursault behind), we made our way up to Auxey-Duresses along the top of the Puligny 1er Cru’s to St.Aubin and then back down to the crossroads (left) where you have Le Montrachet top left, Batard Montrachet top right, Criots Batard front right and Chassagne Blanchots bottom left - all just showing how intricate a region Burgundy is. Having done the tour we jetted back to Oliver Leflaive to taste. As we have already offered the 2008’s Olivier Leflaive wines Franck decided, sensibly, we didn’t need to taste them all but instead we would look at three 08 Liet Dits (named single vineyards but not 1er Cru’s) and then compare them to three 1er Cru’s. The first three were Meursault Clos du Cromin, Puligny Les Meix (a personal favorite) & Chassagne Les Blanchots – all tasting well with the Puligny just the pick for both Alison and I. We then compared them to Meursault 1er Cru Poruzots, Puligny 1er Cru Les Referts & Chassagne 1er Cru Abbaye de Morgeot – the step up was abundantly clear in the texture and length as much as anything – a good experiment. We finished off with Puligny 1er Cru Les Referts 2005 which whilst still young was starting to show well, to drink now I would decant first. We then had to leave in a little bit of a rush to head north but managed to say hello to Olivier himself on the way……Thanks go to Franck for his time and energy!

Next stop was currently the most northerly Grand Cru white (can you name the one that is further north but not currently produced?) – Bonneau du Martray, somehow in nearly a decade of working with the wines of Bonneau du Martray I have never met Jean-Charles Le Bault de la Moriniere. We arrived in darkness which was a shame but it did have the advantage of Jean-Charles saying I must come back to see the vineyards…..that is an offer he wont need to repeat. Having discussed the market and presented the “fresh of the press” offer - the 2008’s are already all but sold out – we went through next door to taste. To say that Jean-Charles is a perfectionist is almost not strong enough a phrase, everything is examined and considered every step of the way. The barrels used for ageing the wine (a third of which is new oak) are all hand selected and the coopers even return to taste the wines from their barrels. Since 1969 Jean Charles has only missed one harvest, the hot 1976. We tasted (short notes):

Corton Charlemagne
2008 Elegant and fine with beautiful texture.
2007 Still tight and very classical, all there but hiding! Beautiful.
2006 Broader (relatively speaking), more lush and a little more flashy, still very Bonneau.
2005* Some smokeyness, a little closed, texture is superb. Delicious with Pata Negra - top tip from Jean-Charles
2003* Such a charmer, opulent but not overblown, delicious
1999* Very much my sort of Burgundy, lovely and beginning to drink well
1991* Good texture but possibly to my mind the one wine that had suffered from being open so long.
*opened 3 days previous – we like to do this in the tasting room here too, gives a good idea of the wines potential and pedigree, we encourage producers to do it too

There is always a wonderfully crystal clear and light colour about the Corton Charlemagne that is often not seen in other wines, the style is all about elegance but with a taut core that allows for gracious aging.

2008 Good structure, white pepper and dark fruits
2007 Classical Pinot nose, rd fruits and violets, impressive
1995 Some age showing in a good way, red perfumed fruit with slightly degraded cheesecloth….good wine!

The tasting did not finish until 8.30 and Jean-Charles was very generous with his time. We very much hope to do another dinner or Masterclass this year, I was delighted to have finally made it to Bonneau. Next years release (2009) will be our 10th anniversary – I can’t believe how quickly that has come around.

Over dinner we discussed the wines and tried a 2005 Volnay from Lafon that was dense tight and not for drinking now (as seems the way with so many 2005’s now). The group on the table next door to us were in Burgundy tasting on a trip from Canada and very kindly offered us a taste of their Vosnee Romanee 2005 from Meo Camuzet which sold the same story….good but not now!

Monday, 2 November 2009

Burgundy - Day 1 - Jourdan, Arlot, Matrot, Varoilles and Ch de La Tour

Having arrived in Dijon on Sunday afternoon via the Eurostar the evening was spent planning the week: tastings and visits, charging cameras, laptops and phones. Alison (C&B Buyer) has been many times before but as it was my first visit I was less sure what to expect.

Day 1
En route to Gilles Jourdan in Corgoloin we drove down the Route des Grand Cru taking in the various communes as we went. I found this invaluable as a way of getting my bearings and trying to make the maps in my head make more real sense. If you are after pomp and ceremony
Gilles Jourdan is not the man for you (The U2 ring tone was a surprise!) but if good burgundy at a good price from a smaller commune is, then he’s a producer to get to know. Gilles was first introduced to C&B by Clive Coates MW and it has been a great little partnership since. The cellar is small the holdings not grand, by Burgundy standards, but the results are elegant and superb. There are a few wines in the range but the main ones have become real team favourites; Bourgogne Rouge, a Cotes de Nuits Villages and then two single vineyard wines (also Cotes de Nuits) – La Montagne and La Robignotte. The 2008’s were really good with great contrasts between the wines. We also re-tasted the 2007’s which Gilles is very proud of. The last wine tasted was a bottle of La Robignotte 2000, really showing what Gilles can do. A good visit to a grower I have bought from myself.

From Corgoloin we went back up the RN 74 to our friend Olivier Leriche at Domaine de L’Arlot in Nuits St Georges (NSG), Olivier had been over to London recently and it was good to seem him again. We tasted the wines in the cellar as is the usual drill in Burgundy especially when tasting straight from the barrel. The NSG Clos du Chapeau got things going and right through that to the Petit Arlot (young vines of Clos de Arlot), Les Petit Plets (young vines of Clos de Forets St Georges) and onto the Clos de Arlot and Clos de Forets St Georges themselves the wines gradually got better and better. There is a really elegant style here with balance the key…very good wines. Olivier was kind enough to show us the Vosnee Romanee Suchots and the Romanee St Vivant as well, both of which showed the Domain at their very best. Having “done” the 2008’s we discussed the older vintages and as L’Arlot keep a little back (we’ll offer some soon) we chose to try a couple of wines from a trickier vintage, 2004, Les Petit Plets and Clos des Forets St Georges where both developing well with great red fruits and a touch of decadence. As a contrast next on the agenda was a Clos des Forets St Georges 2003 – hedonistic and my tasting note starts Rich, Rich Rich. From there we decamped to Olivier’s living quarters for a “light” four course lunch with his charming wife Florence – lunch was accompanied by the 2008 whites we hadn’t yet tasted, NSG La Gerbotte and Clos de Arlot, both were stunning and in many ways the La Gerbotte stood out (great salad of walnut, leaves, light walnut oil, cheese and apple worked really well). The lunch was brief but there was just time to try another tricky vintage in the form of Clos de Arlot 1998 which was elegant, harmonious and sensibly “under” extracted……an estate making good wines and in very good hands.

Down the road to Thierry Matrot in Meursault……already running a little late - a feeling we got used to!! Thierry started by saying how difficult a year it had been – not quite the positive marketing we’d hoped for….but actually what he was saying was very true…the harvest looked like it was going to be very awkward but then as September arrived so did the sun and three glorious weeks made for perfectly ripe grapes. Thierry has a lovely area in the cellar in which to taste - Thierry’s range of wines is expansive from Bourgogne Blanc (fresh and ready to go, in screw cap) to Meursault Charmes, the tasting note for which starts “YUM!”. If ever someone deserved to have some Grand Cru vineyards it is Thierry. I thought the white highlights were St Aubin (such an under-rated appellation), St Romain (had a few good ones during the week, value to be had), Meursault Charmes and Puligny Les Combettes. There is real refinement here and never an over oaking of the lemon fruits. Having said that there is one “Technical” wine (Thierry’s phrase) that has a real oaked richness and is called Puligny Quintessence, 50% Chalameux 50% Garennes and 50% new oak…something lost in translation possibly but the point is there. The reds were good too, particularly the Volnay Santenots and Blagny 1er Cru Sous les Bois. Thierry’s wife Pascale (the Domaine is Thierry and Pascale Matrot) was also about and I look forward to seeing them in January in London.

Back in the car and up the road this time, not doing so well on the Carbon footprint, past Gilles Jourdan and Arlot to Gevrey Chambertin to see Domaine de Varoilles – we were met by the ever Charming Swiss owner Gilbert Hammel, I think Varoilles is a really good Domaine that is much lesser known than it should be. The wines have a more opulent rich and hedonistic feel than many of the Domaines we follow, later in the week - Day 4 – we tasted the 2001’s and 2002’s with great results, this was about the 2008’s. The wine showed well and Gilbert gave us something of a master class in oak barrels by showing us samples from the many different types of barrels, some with differing lengths of seasoning and others with more of less toasting. The differences at this stage can be quite marked but later when the blending has been done harmony can be achieved. All the wines except the Charmes Chambertin are Gevrey Chambertin; Clos de Meix des Ouches (a Monopole) and 1er Cru Champonnet were both structured and rich with good tannin but there was a real step up to the 1er Cru Monopoles of La Romanee and Clos de Varoilles itself with the Grand Cru Charmes Chambertin doing as you would expect, by the time we’d finished tasting it was dark but there was still one visit to do and dinner to follow.

I was starting to get a bit of first day palate fatigue but arrival at Francois Labet’s Chateau de La Tour situated in the Clos Vougeot vineyard seemed to perk me up. Francois views that differ from some on winemaking and has two separate “hats” – one Chateau de La Tour Clos Vougeot and the other Domaine Pierre & Francois Labet based mostly around Beaune. Francois has been organic since 1992 and this year started to encourage the growth of natural grasses between the vines to compete with the vines. He also sees 2008 as like 1996 and said there was a very long fermentation for the whites. There is no green harvest (taking bunches of the vines to help others ripen) and no de-stemming (grapes and stalks go into the vats). Francois’ whites where lovely and opulent. We then moved onto the reds and saw a really good concentration and a tight structure..these aren’t even “born” yet after all. There was a new wine though, a Gevrey Chambertin Vielles Vignes from 3 different locations. The Clos de Vougeot itself was impressive with big fruit but also real balance and charm. The Clos Vougeot Vielles Vignes even more so…we then had a small taste of the 2009 Clos Vougeot which was little more than impressive grape juice at this stage – it has been through fermentation but not Malolactic..and so off to dinner back up the road in Dijon at Francois lovely house. Whilst on the topic of Dijon it is so weird that the city all but ignores its closeness to some of the most prized vineyards in the world…more interested in Mustard and Museums!

Dinner was a real treat with Francois his lovely wife Miriam and daughter Lorraine, we were very well looked after….we started with Meursault Tillets 2006 – Taut lean and just as I like it served with Chestnut soup and truffle shavings…delicious. Clos de Vougeot V V 1990 - Touch of age on the rim but otherwise good colour to the core, eucalyptus and licorice with a lovely fruit sweetness, masculine and in great spirit will last and last. Served with awesome truffle mash (there’s probably a phrase for it but that’s what it was) and the most tender Lamb….stunning. Then as the cheese was readied Francois inleashed a bottle of Clos de Vougeot V V 1959 – most encouragingly there was a really similarity of character with the 1990. The wine was alive and well, served blind I do not think I would have said it was older than 1970…thank you Francois. Dinner was rounded of with Lorraine's chocolate pudding and some Vin Jaune. A wonderful evening and a great way to end the first day in Burgundy!!

Friday, 23 October 2009

A great meal........14 bts of quality....well 13

Tuesday was UGC (Union de Grand Cru) day when the trade and press gathers to taste the recently bottle vintage in this case 2007.

I felt the wines were better than I expected. My picks of the reds were Domaine de Chevalier, Gazin, La Lagune and Leoville Poyferre.

The sweet whites were stunning as was expected. The level of sweetness really varying though from intense (de Fargues) to balanced and more elegant (La Tour Blanche). My overall impression was of genuine wines that are, sadly, over priced compared to the cheaper and generally better 2006’s & 2008’s.

I looked on UGC as a warm up for a big fine wine evening the following night chez Hargrove…..format was very relaxed – Darts and Backgammon to go with the wine (all served blind).

To get things going - Delamotte NV in magnum with 3 years or more bottle age – delicious, not over serious just great drinking

Chablis 1er Cru Butteaux 2003, Raveneau - corked…gutted especially as I love Chablis and this would only have been my second Raveneau.

Then followed 4 different 2002 Germans with the scallops and Chorizo:

Urzinger Wurzgarten Spatlese, Christoffel
– elegant and delicious now and the guys were all quite close with guesses most getting Spatlese and vintages between 01 & 03.

Brauneberger Juffer Kabinett, Fritz Haag – deliciously Mosel in character and my favorite but interestingly not as good as the 2001 I had recently, good producer one I’ll watch, guesses good again.

Keseler Nieschien Spatlese, Karlsmuhle – A little lacking in character and not that exiting but a the price £10ish a bargain all the same.

Hocheimer Riechstel Kabinett, Kunstler – A curve ball of a wine. Everyone baring one person though it was Auslese, alcohol was only 7.5%, colour dark and most guesses were in the 90’s (‘93-‘00). Weird!

With Leg of Lamb and then cheese we assaulted the reds:

Barolo Brunate 1970, Marcarini – Wine of the night by common consensus – seriously complex and tasting younger than 39 years of age, I got it from a mate in the trade who had tasted it recently and enjoyed it. Makes me more sure that Nebbiolo I a grape I need to buy more of. A real highlight!

Five left bank 1996’s – JM realised early it was a 1996 Horizontal so just looked smug!

Branaire Ducru – Fine but just not exciting, proper claret good fruit and structure but no more
Calon Segur – Slightly tighter and with away to go, nice
Pontet Canet -
Leoville Poyferre - Showy and in all honesty a bit of a one glass wonder…a little over fruited
Cos d’Estournel – Very classy and TB spotted in immediately, a lovely wine that is great now but has a long, long future

Overall I think we were a bit too critical of these wines. 13 year old clarets from a good vintage, they were structured and if there was a fault it was that they lacked charm (a little like).

With a couple of tarts (Apple and Plum!!):

Rieussec 1975 - 2bts – My birth year and the first 1975 Sauternes I have had. Both bottles were good and very similar (not always the case) lovely texture and superb with the tarts and remnants of cheese. Very honeyed and complex but with acidity. I hadn’t planned to have two bottles but it was worth it!

By the time the glasses were cleaned it was 3am!! A great night.

Thursday, 22 October 2009

Les Carmes Haut Brion.....little known gem

It’s been a manic old week but I have to report back on a tasting of Les Carmes Haut Brion with Didier Furt at our offices on monday. This was a massively exciting tasting for me as I have been raving about and buying the wines from Les Carmes Haut Brion for many years. I often think that it is missunderstood as a second label of Château Haut-Brion, after all it can become confusing with "La Mission", "Larrivet", "La Tour", "Bahans" etc that are all produced nearby. Château Les Carmes Haut-Brion is in fact the direct neighbour of the illustrious First Growth. The history of the estate actually shows that it was part of Haut Brion (zoom in on the map on the site http://www.les-carmes-haut-brion.com/gb/le-vignoble-les-carmes-haut-brion.asp.)

History - As one might expect, the origins of the estate have ecclesiastical roots. Jean de Pontac, owner of Château Haut-Brion, guaranteed his untroubled entry through the Pearly Gates (at the age of 101!) by donating vines (now the walled vineyard) to the "Carmelite nuns", just prior to his death in 1584. They owned the estate until 1789 when it was seized by the State during the Revolution and eventually sold to the Chantecaille family, who were Bordeaux negotiants. The aesthetically pleasing château was constructed in the 19th century, surrounded by landscaped gardens. The current director is a descendant of this family: Didier Furt who has replanted 50% of the vines during his tenure and renovated both the cellars and vat room in 1987.

The Vineyard - covers 4.66-hectare on a top soil composed of sand/gravel and clay above a bed of gravel. The vineyard is planted with 55% Merlot, 25% Cabernet Franc and 20% Cabernet Sauvignon with an average vine-age of 40 years.

Vinification - Grapes are harvested by hand and are then fermented in small stainless-steel vats, ranging in size from 40hl to 80hl for two to three weeks depending on the vintage. The wine is then transferred into barrel for 18 months where the malolactic fermentation takes place. Approximately one-third of the barrels are renewed annually and the wine is finally fined with egg-whites before bottling. A minute 2,000 cases of Grand Vin are produced.

The tasting: We decided to go oldest to youngest – I prefer this way as you can loose the subtlety of the developed wine otherwise

1998 – 17++ Savoury core with a touch of earthy spice, would be superb with Lamb I think. Good acidity and structure and a lovely sweetness. Now -2014

2001 – 18 For me and many other the very best of a good bunch. A very slight smokiness with lots of fruit (dates, figs and blackberry). Lovely structure and acidity…. A brilliantly balanced wine. Now- 2020

2002 – 16+ A simpler nose and a more straight forward wine, enjoyable if a little monosyllabic. I struggle to find charm in any 2002’s. Good but no more. Now – 2013

2003 – 17+ A “Chaise Longue wine” according to Didier and I know what he means. Decadent and hedonistic with that bruised fruit character so true to the vintage. Mature finish. Now- 2020 depending how you like your 03’s

2005 – 18 A more fruited and youthful colour. The first vintage made by Didier’s daughter Penelope. Very rich, very primary and a very very young wine. 70% new oak and with a long life ahead of it. 2014-2034

2006 – 17++ In many way the most pleasant surprise, I remember it being good a year ago but this was even better. Red, black fruits a little like 2001 but chunkier. Fresh. 2013-2023

2007 – 17 A good effort in a less that great vintage. Red fruit to the fore and elegance (the only thing to aim for in 2007). Very balanced and very pessac in style.

The overall impression was of a Chateau on form and rightly beginning to get the plaudits it deserves.

Sunday, 18 October 2009

Great wine week in prospect....

Sipping F.Haag 2002 Brauneberger Juffer-Sonnenuhr Kab. Great, starting to develop the second half tomorrow will probably be best.

The week ahead is possibly the most exciting I've had in years from a wine perspective:

Monday - 6 vintage tasting of Les Carmes Haut Brion spanning the phase from 1999 to 2007. It is a Chateau I love (and buy for myself) and the idea of tasting so many of their wines is thrilling. They only produce approx 2000 cases a year!! I will report back.

Tuesday - UGC (Union de Grand Cru) 2007 Bordeaux London Tasting. The full range of 2007 Bordeaux now that they are bottled, some top right bank names missing and the first growths don't play the game but pretty much everyone elase does. There may be a flurry of activity after the tasting but it is now an awkward vintage as the prices of those "better" vintages either side of it are lower in the main. I expect, as with vintages like 2007, there will still be some gems and the sauternes were superb so will definitely try those.

Wednesday - A normal day but then I have the team round for dinner at home...I won't say what the wines are (they may read this) but there are a lot of them - two flights or batches of wines that should make for some interesting comparisons. I will publish the full line up here.

Thursday and Friday - Clearing by desk, which with Christmas offers, Bonneau du Martry 2008 release and the imminent new website, will take some doing. I

Saturday - pack and organise....

Sunday - off to Burgundy!!

On other topics a not such a good week of rugby betting. The horserace betting is very much on the back burner until the decent jumps horses start to run...this should be soon. Sebastiano has a small injury to a muscle in his bum (no horseman me) but that should only set him back a couple of weeks and with the ground still firm it makes little difference as he wouldn't run on that ground. My club (Finchley RFC) are off an running both 1's and 2's winning yesterday. I can't play for the next 4 weeks with work etc which is gutting as at my age the match fitness I now have takes a while to get back!!

Monday, 12 October 2009

The measure of a wine.....the "lesser" vintages - Trotanoy

I am a firm believer in the idea that it is the wines produced in less that perfect years by an estate/chateau/domaine that really reflect how good it is overall. This was the mindset I took when tasting a four vintage vertical of Trotanoy at our tasting last thursday (more about which later).

Background - The name Trotanoy (pronounced Trotanwah apparently....I prefer Trot!!) is derived from trop ennui - referring to the fact that working the heavy soils here is just too much work. The dense mixture of clay and gravel is treacherous when wet but bakes like concrete when it dries. It is easy to imagine how the name came about when one thinks of working the land with a horse-drawn plough. made from 90% Merlot & 10% Cabernet Franc fermented for between 1 week and 10 days in small concrete vats, followed by 1 week’s maceration with the skins. Aged for 20 months in 50% new oak barrels. The Chateau is positioned on the plateau of Pomerol, 130 feet above sea level and is 8 hectares planted with 6,200 vines per hectare; averaging 35+ years.

The Wines:

2001 - A really good vintage to be honest, often forgotten amongst the hype around 2000. The dense and full nose was classical Pomerol with a hint of savoury, earthy leather. Serious stuff. Sweet ripe attack but then savoury again with black fruits. Enjoyable now but if I had a case I would leave alone until the wines 10th birthday. 17-18/20

1999 - A charming drinkers vintage, never profound but generally reliable. Slight colour development compared to 2001, a touch of the gamey character of older wine on the nose with a hint of red fruit and licorice coming through. Palate was more delicate and less masculine than the 2001. Good now, Savoury balance. 17/20

1997 - A vintage that was overpriced when released and bombed as a result, never serious but some good, elegant wines. No brownness but more age to the rim than 1999. Cedar and a touch of spice on the nose with just a bit of the classic Pomerol brown sugar. Lighter than the 1999 but very balanced. Almost more in the style of serious Burgundy than Bordeaux. Alive and well. The most pleasant surprise of them all. 17++

1994 - A vintage that was a massive relief after the three "washouts" of 1991/2/3 and the first vintage I really sold in the wine trade! The wines have often lacked charm with structure more evident than anything. Some age showing on the rim but still a good solid colour in the core. Subdued nose not giving much away. Palate was very "clarty", a phrase I use for slightly old school claret character. Honest and drinking well now for those who like fully maturity, the most in need of food, I am not convinced that this was the best of bottles of this wine. (15-16+)

The general feeling I got was of masculine styled wines with good structure and a richness in the more old fashioned savoury sense.....really encouraging from these *** or **** star vintages. In the best of years 1998, 2000, 2005 Trotanoy often rivals the mightly Petrus.........

Monday, 5 October 2009

The week ahead, Camping, The Arc and Spread betting

A busy week in prospect as we have our Annual tasting on Thursday at the Tower of London (2mins walk from the office), 250+ trade and press in the day then 300+ private customers in the evening…usually a hard but rewarding days work, all rounded off with a few glasses with the producers that kindly travel from all over the world to be there. There are wines at all levels from House labels to Dominus 2005, Corton-Charlemagne Bonneau du Martray 2003 and even, if you ask very nicely, Salon 1997.

I got back very late last night from a weekend camping, yes camping in October! Our first visit to The Orchard Campsite in Wickham Market (near Ipswich) - http://www.orchardcampsite.co.uk/ - it’s a rarity for a UK site in that you can have campfires to your hearts content, to be honest this was the reason we went, without fires October just gets too cold! The drinking was mostly G&T’s and Beer (Adnams up there) but a bottle of Dom de Saissac 2006, Vin de Pays (a real old C&B favourite) was great of Friday evening with Spag Bol!!

And so to sport……Sea the Stars was spectacularly breathtaking yesterday in the Arc, I had fancied a small buy of Getaway and Vision d’Etat on the spreads but fortunately we were having a late Sunday lunch and I thought it too rude to disappear for a bet so I let them run without my support, a good thing as neither would have produced a result for me (although Getaway ran well). Saturdays spread betting had gone much better – I thought Leicester vs Worcester had dour game written all over it so sold total points at 38, game settled at 33 so that was a result. Then I thought Bath vs Harlequins would also be tight and when the time of first try was priced up at 24-26 I thought a buy had very little potential downside, reading the paper on Sunday morning it was nice to hear that there was no try until the 76 minute!!

Tuesday, 29 September 2009

Bordeaux 2009 the hype has already started but….

to be honest there is very little reason, so far (the vintage is just over half done), not to hype (a verb??).

It's been a textbook growing season “2005 with knobs on”, classically warm with good sun and cool nights. The quality looks equally good on both “banks” and the crop is an average size if not a fraction larger, all good stuff.....

Half our buying team (which gave the team a briefing this morning) came back yesterday whilst the other half stays to see the week out…so there will be more updates to come.

Meanwhile we are in the middle of Spanish season with the release of Psi, Flor de Pingus and Pingus 2008, see entry back in August for tasting notes and comments.

I need to get my IT sorted for a trip out to Burgundy (from where I will blog and twitter!) at the end of October.

My punting hasn't gone well so far this month, roll on the rain and "proper" (Jumps!) racing. Sebastiano should get a run at some stage in October as long as a bit of the aforementioned rain arrives. Plan this season is a couple of runs in Novice Chases. Then we'll see from there whether he sticks to chasing or possible reverts to hurdles (over which he had a good season the year before last with a win and a decent second). The good news is that both his Chase and Hurdle handicap ratings look "win-able-off" if that serves it's purpose as a word!

Rugby wise, my club Finchley has not started well (nothing new there), yesterday I had the chance to meet a hero of mine in Jason Leonard - what a brilliant bloke, a legend of the game! No anti-climax there!

Thursday, 24 September 2009

September Slumber? Juicy wines.....

September is never the month it threatens to be for some reason, credit card bills and that "back to school feeling" may be. Trade has been good but not exciting. Cecily in HK has a big launch tasting coming up which has been booking up fast - great news.

There have been a series of tastings in the last few days which has meant great bottles to try.

Dom Leflaive P-M Village 07 - stunning, complex, rich yet pure a stonking bit of burgundy value. Just my sort of wine.

Corton GC 2001 Bonneau du Martray - drinking perfectly from now on, red fruits combine well with good soft structure and a lovely minerality.

Clos de Tart 2006 - Big, full, masculine but with charm, all encompassing yet "slick" structure...will last and last and be superb, a special treat.

CNDP (Chateauneuf du Pape) Cuvee Felix 2006, Versino - The more Rhone 06's I have the more I like them, this could fool you into think it was "ready to go" as the fruit on the nose is bright, lively and delicious but then you realise the structure on the palate and it take on a whole new level of seriousness...with food now you would be ok but this in 5+ years will be a real treat.

Roc de Cambes 2004 - Juicy, slightly tarty and a real pound for pound champion, great anti-snob wine from the cotes de bourg that, served blind, causes many of the big names of Bordeaux a problem or two.....

Trotanoy 1999 - A wine I have had a few times and a good "proper Claret" for drinking now. This was the only wine that will have been better yesterday than now.

After this little array we looked at the 2008 Chablis range from Vincent Dampt (I am unashamedly the self-appointed chairman of his fan club) and compared some (Vaillons & Les Lys) of the 08's to the 07's. Cote de Lechet 08 was corked..another is on the way.

Les Lys 07 - good, tight and structured, not giving much away, I won't drink mine for 2 years 16-17
Les Lys 08 - taut, but fuller than 07, minerla but approachable very good, will buy 17-18

Vaillons 07 - fatter than Lys 07 but still tight, a sleeper, 3 years needed? 17

Vaillons 08 - one of the best 1er Cru Chablis I have tasted at this stage and instantly brilliant, as case to drink soon and a case for 3+ years, 18+

Bougros 08 - From Maison Dampt (Vincent and his brother) from grapes they buy rather than their own vines. Richness from some oak (not sure of the type, new/old etc yet) but not in a cloying way just in a "needs it way", very good wine and more Burgundy than Chablis if that makes sense.

Tomorrow Mr Bird gets married and Mr Eddleston ventures to our/the sister Champagne houses of Salon & Delamotte (250yrs old next year).

Thursday, 17 September 2009

on yer bike....

Why is it so hard to title a blog entry without giving in to cliches?
2009 everywhere (ok all over France at least) is looking brilliant...this isn't really an entry about wine......

At C&B we have a lot of cyclists but which I mean people who have road bikes and cycle to work and back and like the idea of doing a bit more. I'm not quite sure why we have so many, something to do with exercise justifying the increased alcohol intake or the crap London traffic, but any way we do. So this got a few of us talking and now an idea has been born, amazingly without any alcohol in the system at the time.

The idea: Cycle from Champagne to Chateauneuf (let's say 450miles) in a four, possibly five, days. Stopping at (and staying with) producers who we represent. Haven't asked any of them yet but I don't want details getting in the way just now.

Who: Me, Fraser (Senior sales, Suffolk living Rhone freak, father of three with a blemished travel record at best), James (On trade manager, cyclist, windsurfer and our only technical bod).

Logistics: Hoping to delegate this one! actually my father in law and his Land Rover are a distinct possibility. Logistics being important when you can't carry much on a bike (especially when doing 100 miles a day!) and you're staying somewhere different each night. Will need to get help from our friends in the buying team to makes sure we can stay with the producers we'd like to but I'm sure we can charm our way round that one!

Potential problems: Navigation, injury, logistics, fitness (lack of), drinking too much(wine)/not enough (water), arguing, weather, blogging, twittering etc as we go.....going to stop now as don't want to focus on this area
When: May or June 2010 - only problem being that this is when the Bordeaux 2009 (very good..see top of page) is released and being sales people we don't like to miss out.....
I think it's all quite exciting but I don't underestimate the miles involved. I've done 100m+ three times but never day after day!
It'll (before, during and after) be reported here and on twitter!!
Bon weekend all, time to cycle home......

Friday, 4 September 2009

a long short week

Last week was supposed to be a quick short one (bank holiday and all that) but somehow it became a long one...

Tuesday - Decanter Wine Awards dinner in the evening - with Adam (MD), Davina (marketing manager) and Rebecca (commercial buyer) - was good but when you have the first award at 7.30 and the last at 11.15 it can be a long one. I'll return to awards and their effects another time I guess, mixed feelings really but good to see a few people.

Wednesday - tired after a late night but I'd been looking forward to the day for a while as I was spending it with Giles (London On-trade manager) to have a session looking at each others plans for the respective business streams. Even with nearly 11 years at C&B I've never really got involved in the Restaurant side of things so I guess it was just about time for a bit of education. Managed to cram in lunch at The Luxe (Commercial St) which has just opened (on one floor) will be a good venue when fully operational - bar in the basement and "fine" dining up the top.

Thursday - Tasting of a possible new (and potentially exclusive) agency for C&B - can't say who yet but you'll be the first to know, always an exciting time but especially when the wines hit the spot. Just before the Staff summer party managed to cram in a tasting of the Tattinger Champagne range which was good and not something I have done before - the style in general is very balanced. The Comtes de Champagne Blanc de Blancs 1998 was a lovely nutty Meursault like Champagne that would be great with food, not a long term keeper I feel but very good now and over the next few years. The Staff party was a good laugh, held at the C&B Bar at Jewry Street - there are supposed to be some photos, will post any interesting ones.

Friday - Release of the latest Giacomo Conterno wines - Barbera 2007 and Barolo Cascina Francia 2005 - I like to think Roberto Conterno (the winemaker, owner, manager) is "the" man in Barolo making "old school" Barolo (i.e. big old barrels for a long time rather than small new oak barrels). I much prefer this more traditional style, Nebbiolo is very different from Pinot Noir in character/taste but it has a similar tendencies to be spoiled by over oaking I think. The other similarity, other than pale colour, is a very good tendency to portray the characteristics of its location i.e. terroir. Friday also saw Kieran Fallon return to the saddle after three years - a very talented jockey and good to see him back.

Saturday - Rugby season really under way, last warm up games before the league starts next saturday. Australia beat the Springboks which generally has to be good for the very young Aussie side. No bets on the racing or Rugby, decided to keep the powder dry!

Sunday....not sure yet that's where I am now! Roast Chicken later so the great Red vs White wine decision to be made.

Wednesday, 26 August 2009

Some early thoughts on Bordeaux 2009

Ok so it hasn't even been picked yet, but I managed to grab Adam (C&B, MD) on his first day back in the office yesterday to find out how the vintage was looking. Adam visited Christian Moueix in Bordeaux whilst on holiday last week. It has been a good summer generally in South West France (my two weeks at the end of July/beginning of August were certainly good!) but this has continued and the raw materials (the grapes!!) are looking good. The days have been warm and sunny (light being amazingly important as well as heat), mostly between 26 & 34 degrees. None of the savage heat of 2003 but otherwise ideal. harvesting, at this stage, looks like it will be early (mid september ish). The production/yield/crop levels look good too, despite some hail earlier in the year, so all in all very exciting...all we need now is the exchange rate to sort itself out and it'd be happy days.

As we get new back from our friends in Bordeaux I will update ou all immediatley!

Tuesday, 25 August 2009

Peter Sisseck 2008's, rugby, camping & the goss on Bdx 2009

Now this is a real annual highlight...getting to taste the soon to be released 2008 - Pingus, Flor de Pingus and PSi. The offer will be out in late September. My first impressions, wine by wine, below:

Psi 2008 - Only the second Vintage of Peter's new wine from the Ribera, other than Peter's hand in the winemaking there is no direct vineyard link to the Flor and Pingus. The Psi is from different vineyards and growers around the region. The 2008 was rich in colour but also bright. The nose was opulent and generous but in no way OTT. A combination of red and black fruit with a classy layer of creamy toastiness. The palate is full but again with a lightness of touch, almost crisp, fabulous. 17.5-18 out of 20. Drink 2011 - 2015+ (the 2007 is currently available and delicious but this is even better)

Flor de Pingus 2008 - The strength, quality and perception of Flor de Pingus in the fine wine market is finally where it should have been all along. I've always felt it is the wine that actually shows Peter's brilliance. 2008 - Colour, a touch more saturated than Psi but still has a brightness and avoids the boring saturated black colour of over extraction. For such a young wine it has a magnificently complex nose, putting a single fruit to the aroma would be largely pointless. The fruit is more black than red, this isn't supposed to be anything but a "complete" wine and it is already some way to being there. Silky structure and delicious palate that has backbone but is a supportive rather than a "look how big I am" way. This is a serious wine but a fun one too. 18+ Drink 2012 - 2019+ (I think this will be a great wine to try a bottle every year or two from 2012 onwards, the 1999 Flor is delicious now)

Pingus 2008 - The "main man" and a real privilege. Like so often in these scenarios the Flor is easier to judge at this stage, regardless, this is a mighty fine Pingus with a brilliant future ahead of it. A little more viscous than the Flor but otherwise similar in colour. Very serious, complex, dark, dense and brooding nose that combines black fruit with savoury notes. There is chocolate, fruit and spice but not too much of any one characteristic. The initial "hit" on the plate is of redder fruits and a touch of fruity sweetness but then you realise your mouth has been coated in structure, there is no aggression about this but it is clearly a wine for several years time. The palate finishes with a wonderful savoury edge. 18-19+ Drink 2015 - 2020 and well beyond

On other news, life has been busy with the Rugby season not far away and therefore Pre-season training well under way. Anyone interested in playing rugby in London and wanting a club that offers everything from mini rugby to vets (over 35's...not me....yet!!) with a good first and second team and several beers after, then look no further than Finchley RFC http://www.pitchero.com/clubs/finchley/ anyway enough shameless promotion!!

Off to a meeting now about our Harlequins wine sponsorship for the upcoming season....now there is a club in the news!!