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

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) - - 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!!